Jewish leaders have welcomed the Hungarian prime minister’s decision not to support a statue honouring a fascist who helped facilitate the deportation of Jews during the Holocaust.
The life-sized statue of Balint Homan, widely seen as an architect of anti-Jewish laws in the 1930s, was scheduled to be unveiled in the central city of Szekesfehervar on 29 December to commemorate the 130th anniversary of his birth.
Ronald S Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said a statue dedicated to former government minister Balint Homan would have been “an affront to the many Hungarian victims of the Holocaust” and praised Prime Minister Vikter Orban for voicing his opposition.
Lauder said: “Prime Minister Orban’s clear statement on this matter comes very late, but it is nonetheless welcome. I thank him for making the standpoint of the Hungarian government very clear: No honours must be given to those who prepared the ground for the mass murder of 600,000 Hungarian Jews by Nazi Germany in 1944.
“It would have been a travesty if the taxpayer, including more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews, would have had to contribute toward a statue for a man who not only hated Jews, but who helped actively in their persecution.”
Homan was a prominent historian and civic leader who called for the deportation of Jews from Hungary in 1944 while part of a fascist Hungarian government installed by Nazi Germany.
After the war, Homan was handed a life sentence for his role in approving Hungary joining Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. He died in prison in 1951.
However, a Budapest court in March found there had been a lack of evidence for his conviction, after which Szekesfehervar City Hall approved the statue plan.
“An openly anti-Semitic, fascist politician should never get a statue anywhere in this country,” Andras Heisler, who heads Hungary’s largest Jewish group, told protesters on Sunday.