Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
Recent days have seen considerable controversy in Hungary over the remarks of Sándor Szakály, Director of the Veritas Institute. His statements regarding the tragic and unforgivable 1941 deportation of thousands of Jews from Hungary to Ukraine where they were massacred in the notorious Kamenets-Podolskii atrocity have sparked outrage and deep concern across Hungary and beyond.
The Lantos Foundation is aware that Mr. Szakály has acknowledged that his statements were wrong and ill informed. This is an important step and we welcome it. Nonetheless, questions remain as to whether Mr. Szakály is the appropriate person to serve as the Director of an institute of historical research.
We are also aware of the statement issued by the Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s office, Mr. János Lázár. This very brief statement merely asserts that the views Sándor Szakály expressed do not reflect the opinion of the Prime Minister’s office. One would hope that this was self-evident, and while appreciated, this modest comment is by no means an adequate repudiation of the offensive and inaccurate comments of Mr. Szakály.
The deeper question remains regarding Hungary’s willingness to come to terms with its complicity in the deportation and murder of over half a million Hungarian citizens during the Holocaust. This painful issue is one that must be honestly faced, not only for the sake of Hungary’s past, but more importantly for the sake of Hungary’s future.
The Lantos Foundation sincerely appreciates the powerful and courageous speeches of Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics and Foreign Minister János Martonyi at the October 2013 conference on resurgent anti-Semitism that was sponsored by the Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest, We also appreciate the eloquent and strong remarks of Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi, at the recent opening of the United Nations exhibit commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust. Such speeches reflect the integrity and decency of the Hungarian people. Furthermore, going back a decade, the Hungarian government established the Holocaust Memorial Center on Páva Street, which is one of the most impressive such museums anywhere in the world. In addition, many important initiatives are planned to memorialize this tragic 70th anniversary and to teach the lessons of this terrible time in Hungarian history to a new generation.