Anti-Semitism taboo under threat in Hungary

Wed May 21, 2014 2:45am EDT
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Budapest's Jewish community is vibrant, visible and patriotic; and yet seven decades after the Holocaust, the taboo about expressing anti-Semitic views is breaking down among many fellow Hungarians.

Some Jews and academics blame this on the far-right Jobbik party, which has come from nowhere to become the second most popular party as one recession after another has held Hungarians' living standards far below the European average.

Jobbik, which is expected to perform strongly in European Parliament elections this weekend, denies accusations that its rhetoric is allowing open anti-Semitism to become accepted in modern day, democratic Hungary.

But surveys show a remarkably large minority owns up to harboring beliefs - such as that a secret Jewish conspiracy controls political and economic life - that were common in the 1930s and 40s but were supposed to have been banished to the extremes by the horrors of the Holocaust.

This saddens members of Hungary's Jewish community which numbers around 100,000 in a country of 10 million.

"I am deeply disappointed that we have come to this, that society tolerates tough talk again and tough talk spreads," said Gyula Foldes, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor.

"Obviously economic hardship and unemployment help stoke this, but I am disappointed still," said Foldes who as an 11-year-old boy narrowly evaded capture in Budapest - not by German Nazis, but by their Hungarian fascist allies.

Budapest today appears typical of European Union capitals where diverse communities live side by side, including Jews.   Continued...

An Orthodox Jewish boy visits a Holocaust memorial at the Danube river in Budapest March 24, 2014. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh