Hungary: Village unveils statue of Horthy with 1 000 nationalists in attendance
A statue of the controversial Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, Miklós Horthy, was unveiled today in the Hungarian village of Csókakő. The event was attended by roughly 1 000 nationalists. Reuters reports that the event is a sign that radical nationalism is feeding off of economic difficulties in Hungary.
Under Horthy's leadership, Hungary strove to partially revise the Treaty of Trianon. After the First World War, the monarchy lost significant territory as a result of the treaty and went on to become an ally of Nazi Germany. Horthy, according to his advocates, demonstrated his patriotism during the bloody clashes that led to the establishment of the Hungarian Republic in 1919, which was supported by the Soviet Union. It is still disputed whether Horthy wanted to protect Hungarian Jews or whether he was responsible for the anti-Semitic legislation that was adopted there, as well as to what degree he contributed to the Holocaust.
Nationalists in paramilitary garb bearing the flags of the ultra-right opposition party Jobbik and representatives of various nationalist groups convened on Saturday in the village of Csókakő about 90 kilometers west of Budapest. Mayor of Csókakő György Fürész said the statue is intended to spark debate about Horthy. "The country was unfortunately divided between two strong dictators, so it had only one bad and one worse option to choose from," Fürész said during the unveiling. He also noted that the square on which the new statue is located will now be named Greater Hungary, a reference to the borders of Hungary prior to the First World War.
A park in the town of Gyömrő was also named after Horthy this year. In the western Hungarian village of Kereki, a life-sized wooden sculpture of the former leader was also recently erected.
Admiral Horthy joined the royal military flotilla in 1886. From 1909 – 1914 he worked as an adjutant to Emperor Franz Josef. After the First World War began, he served on several battleships. During operations his exceptional gift for command was demonstrated, and by the end of the war he was the last commander of the monarchy's wartime flotilla. After the rise and fall of the first "dictatorship of the proletariat" in Hungary, he was declared Regent of Hungary, a position he held from 1920 - 1944. The primary aim of his foreign policy was the revision of the Treaty of Trianon, and in the interests of achieving that, he attempted alliances with Germany and Italy. Even though he and Hitler held grudges against one another, Horthy did not see how to achieve Hungarian interests other than through armed collaboration with Germany. He was not even dissuaded from this course by the suicide of Hungarian Prime Minister Pál Teleki, who was a friend of his. Horthy tried to keep Hungary's military contribution to Germany to a minimum. Starting in 1942 he even held secret peace negotiations with the Anglo-Saxon powers.
Horthy distanced himself on the domestic political scene from both the far left and far right but refused to realize that both the army and the younger members of the officers corps were striving more and more, despite multiple edicts against such activity, to achieve their own political aims. They saw the representation of their interests in the ranks of the radical movements. After the Germans occupied Hungary, Horthy's field of operations significantly narrowed. He tried to keep the country out of war, but his efforts failed, and on 15 October 1944 he transferred power to Ferenc Szálasi. He was first taken prisoner by the Germans and then by the Americans after the war. He later moved to Estoril in Portugal, where he passed away at the age of 89. He was never brought to trial.
Horthy was responsible for ordering the deportation of Jewish people from Hungary and was a convinced anti-Semite. Dávid Turbucz, a young Hungarian historian and expert on the topic of Horthy, says that: "Even though Horthy openly espoused anti-Semitism, his concrete actions cannot be evaluated on a black-and-white scale. The collapse of the monarchy and Trianon, the governments of Mihály Károlyi and Béla Kun, or rather, the fact that 60 -70 % of the people's commissars of the Hungarian Republic were Jewish, fed the anti-Semitic tendencies of Horthy's era. In the spring of 1920, the radical right-wing daily Szózat published an interview with the newly-elected Regent in which Horthy said the following of the Republic: 'That terrorist system could only come about thanks to the dregs of Jewishness, obsessed with their megalomania and enriched by the war.' The fact that Béla Kun and his collaborators were not members of the Jewish faith and had completely distanced themselves from their Jewish roots because they considered themselves communists and revolutionaries was of no interest to Horthy. He saw no difference between the Social Democrats and the adherents of the Bolsheviks. He was convinced that all of the events of the recent past were being managed by Jews from afar."
A joke from the Horthy era in Hungary once ran as follows:
When Hungary's declaration of war was delivered to the US Secretary of State, he had to look on the map to see where Hungary was. After that he received the Hungarian Ambassador and they had the following conversation:
Q: How is your state organized?
A: It's a monarchy.
Q: Who is king?
A: We don't have one at the moment.
Q: Who do you have?
A: His Excellency Admiral Miklós Horthy.
Q: Aha, so you have a sea?
A: No, we don't.
Q: Does your country have any territorial demands to make of the United States?
A: Not even.
Q: Of whom are you making territorial demands, then?
A: Of Romania.
Q: Why don't you take action against Romania?
A: We can't, they're our allies!