Hungary addresses Holocaust after accusations it 'whitewashed' past

Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:00pm EST
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarians collaborated with Nazis in sending nearly half a million Jews to their deaths, Hungary's president said on Sunday in a rare public acknowledgement of a war-time past that Jewish groups say is often glossed over.

Earlier on Sunday, an American historian said he was returning an award he received from the previous head of state in protest at what he called the government's attempt to erase Hungary's role in the Holocaust.

In a statement prepared for Monday's Holocaust Memorial Day, President Janos Ader said that if the war had gone according to the plans of Adolf Hitler and his Hungarian fascist allies, Jews would have been exterminated completely from Hungary.

"Auschwitz may be hundreds of kilometers from Hungary but it is part of Hungarian history," Ader wrote. "This death camp was the scene of the inhumane suffering, humiliation and death of nearly half a million of our compatriots."

Jewish groups have criticized the center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban for what they see as its lackluster attempt to fight anti-Semitism.

A Jewish group has threatened to boycott Holocaust commemorations over plans to erect a monument to the German occupation in 1944. It said that pushed the blame for the genocide solely onto Germans, obscuring the role of Hungarians.

Orban, favorite to win re-election in April, has said he would do everything to stamp out growing anti-Semitism in a country where a far-right party, Jobbik, again openly uses anti-Semitic rhetoric and last November unveiled a statue of wartime leader Miklos Horthy, an ally of Hitler.

"Seventy years ago, after our nation's German occupation, the Nazi overlords and the Hungarian authorities that collaborated with them seemed to fulfill the will of Hitler's Nazi Germany," Ader wrote.   Continued...