Budapest, Hungary – A top Hungarian cultural official has sparked outrage and is facing calls to resign after comparing Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros to Adolf Hitler.
Hungarian cultural commissioner compares Soros to Hitler
In an op-ed published over the week-end, Szilard Demeter, who heads the state-funded Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest and also serves as cultural commissioner for the Hungarian government, called Soros – a Hungarian Jew and Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States after World War II – “the liberal Führer”.
Demeter wrote that Europe was Soros’ “gas chamber” and that “poisonous gas flows from the capsule of a multicultural, open society, which is deadly to the European way of life.” He also claimed that Hungarians and Poles were the “new Jews” whom liberals were trying to kick out of the EU – referring to the current standoff over the bloc’s budget and rule of law conditionality.
The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long turned George Soros into its principal scapegoat and bête-noire, regularly accusing its critics of being part of an elusive “Soros network” allegedly working behind-the-scenes to facilitate the mass immigration of Muslim refugees to Europe.
“No place in public life”
The op-ed published in pro-government outlet Origo quickly sparked outrage, with the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities calling it “a textbook case of the relativisation of the Holocaust […] incompatible with the government’s claim of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism”.
The Democratic Coalition, one of Hungary’s leading opposition parties, called for the immediate sacking of the cultural commissioner and museum chief. “The Democratic Coalition expects from the government that Szilard Demeter should be unemployed by the end of today. A man like him has no place in public life, not just in a European country but anywhere in the world”.
Also calling for his dismissal, former Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai argued that “Hungarians and the rest of the world will obviously consider [his] statement as the position of the Hungarian government” if Demeter isn’t removed from his post.
The Israeli embassy in Budapest weighed in on the issue, noting that “there is no place for connecting the worst crime in human history, or its perpetrators, to any contemporary debate, no matter how essential”.
In the face of the major backlash, Demeter assured on Sunday he would withdraw the article “independently of what I think”. “I will grant that those criticizing me are correct in saying that to call someone a Nazi is to relativise, and that making parallels with Nazis can inadvertently cause harm to the memory of the victims”, he said in a statement published on Origo.
Approximately 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.