Activists and sympathizers of the far-right, openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party.(Leigh Phillips/flickr)
Activists and sympathizers of the far-right, openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party.
(Leigh Phillips/flickr)

Hungarian Anti-Semitism—Trendsetting for Europe?

December 17, 2012  •  From
Is it the 1930s all over again?

Martin Gyongyosi, the leader of Hungary’s third-strongest political party, said on November 26 that the government should draw up a list of Jews who pose a national security risk. “It is high time to assess how many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security risk to Hungary,” Gyongyosi said in front of parliament as he described how Jewish parliamentarians had influenced Hungary’s foreign policy concerning Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. The Anti-Defamation League has described Jobbik, the party Gyongyosi represents, as openly anti-Semitic in its policies. Jobbik is the third-strongest political party in the nation. The fact that such an openly anti-Jewish party is supported by nearly a tenth of the population should set off alarm bells.

Last Wednesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi condemned Gyongyosi’s remarks in the strongest terms, calling them “completely unacceptable.” Gyongyosi’s comments have galvanized usually-polarized Hungarian politicians. Representatives from the ruling Fidesz party, as well as the socialist and centrist parties, spoke at a rally on December 4 to show support and solidarity with Hungary’s strong Jewish minority. But the real story is in how long it took the government to say anything at all about the radical politician’s racist remarks. It took a week for Prime Minister Viktor Orban to personally speak out against Gyongyosi’s pre-World War ii-style invective, and that was the day after the December 4 rally in front of the parliament building. Nine days after the Gyongyosi’s comments, the foreign minister came out with his condemnation.

The Economist noted the government’s obvious reluctance to strongly condemn Gyongyosi: “As outrage grew over Mr. Gyongyosi’s speech, Fidesz’s political calculus seemed increasingly squalid. Even usually reliable allies turned on the government. A stinging article in Magyar Nemzet, a conservative daily, called on the country’s right wing to ‘wake up’ about the danger from the extremists.”

The Economist concluded that Gyongyosi’s comments have served to unite Hungary against anti-Semitism. But is that really the case?

Historically, Hungary has been an inhospitable place for Jews. They were persecuted going as far back as 1092, when the Roman Catholic Church decreed that Jews could not intermarry with Christians. In the late 17th century, the Habsburg dynasty forced Jews out of major cities. But in spite of the persecution, many Jews still migrated to Hungary from Poland and Moravia for its economic opportunities. When World War i began in 1914, over half of all Hungarian merchants were Jewish.

Anti-Semitism in Hungary continued into the 1920s, when numerous laws were passed that limited Jewish participation in society but weren’t openly anti-Semitic. The first so-called “Jewish law” was passed by the Hungarian Parliament in 1938 and placed quotas on how many Jews could be employed in certain sectors of business and industry. In 1939, new Hungarian legislation limited Jewish participation in commerce to 5 percent. The hatred grew on into World War ii. From 1941 until the time of German occupation, some 63,000 Hungarian Jews were killed. Another 400,000 were relocated to Jewish ghettos by Adolf Eichmann starting in 1944. An estimated one out of every three Jews killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp was Hungarian.

History shows that anti-Semitism has been a staple of Hungarian politics and sentiment. And in the lead-up to both world wars, anti-Semitism gained in both popularity and political standing. The Hungarian prime minister may have publicly denounced Martin Gyongyosi’s desire for a list of dangerous Jews, but his slow reaction time speaks volumes.

Anti-Semitism may not be the vogue that it was in Europe leading up to World War ii, but anti-Israel sentiment is high. The Anti-Defamation League released a report in March measuring the attitudes toward Jews in 10 European nations. The League asked people to respond with “probably true” or “probably false” to these statements: 1) Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country, 2) Jews have too much power in the business world, 3) Jews have too much power in international financial markets, and 4) Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.

According to the report, “The data indicate that large percentages of Europeans continue to question the loyalty of their Jewish citizens.” More than half of the Hungarians interviewed felt that violence toward Jews is a result of anti-Jewish sentiment, as opposed to anti-Israel sentiment. The report also indicated that anti-Jewish sentiment has increased dramatically since 2009, especially in the UK, Spain, and Hungary.

The overarching message of the March report and the recent bold statements from Hungary’s far right is that anti-Semitism is not just increasing in a few isolated places, but across the majority of the Continent—a trend that is eerily similar to the 1930s. History tells of what came after that. But the good news in the midst of the gathering storm is that the world is gearing up for its final war—a globe-encompassing war that will culminate in the return of Jesus Christ. (For more information on the hope contained in the increasing troubles of this world, read our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like by Herbert W. Armstrong.)