Hungary: Monument criticized by Jewish community starts construction
In Budapest the construction of a monument marking the 70th anniversary of the German occupation of Hungary has begun despite strong criticism of it by the Hungarian Jewish community. The MTI press agency reports that the Hungarian Government announced the start of construction today.
Critics say the memorial is part of efforts by the cabinet of Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán to push acknowledgement of wartime Hungarian officials' responsibility for the deportation of Jewish people a bit further into the background. The online news server index.hu and the radio station Klubradio, both media outlets critical of the government, were the first to report that construction had begun on the property at issue.
These media reported that the place where the monument is slated to stand had been fenced off during the day by construction workers. They also reported that the implementation of the Government's intentions had been confirmed by the town hall of the relevant municipal department in the capital.
The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) is strongly opposed to the building of the monument. At the start of February Mazsihisz made it known that it would not attend this year's official events commemorating the Holocaust until such events more clearly represent the role of Hungarians in the deportation and murder of Hungarian Jews.
One of the reasons for that boycott was the planned memorial to the German occupation. Critics consider the erection of such a monument, originally planned for 19 March of this year, as part of the Government's efforts to obscure the responsibility of the former representatives of Hungary and its security forces at the time for the deportation and death of many Jewish people during the Second World War; in June 1944, not long after the German occupation, the Hungarian authorities decided to send roughly half a million Jewish people to the Nazi death camps.
In a letter sent to Mazsihisz by the Hungarian PM on 20 February of this year, he informed them that he would delay the construction of the memorial by two months. The postponement was due to the parliamentary elections, which were held last Saturday and were overwhelmingly won by Orbán's party, the Hungarian Civic Union (Fidesz).
The Hungarian PM has evidently not kept a promise made to the Jewish community in that letter to continue negotiations with them about the controversial project after Easter. The Orbán cabinet's decision to erect the memorial evidently also did not take into consideration a request from the World Jewish Congress to reconsider its construction.
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