Representative Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP) and leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, was joined by 29 other Jewish senators and representatives in calling on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to reconsider his current plans for the construction of a controversial monument in Budapest commemorating the victims of the Nazi occupation of Hungary.
In the letter, the lawmakers expressed “deep concern over [the] government’s decision to move forward with the construction of a controversial monument commemorating the tragedies suffered in Hungary under Nazi occupation.”
“Hungary is an important ally and partner of the United States. But we believe that partners need to speak frankly with one another,” said Rep. Engel. “The Hungarian Jewish population suffered perhaps worse than anyone else in Hungary during the Nazi occupation, and any commemoration has to be sensitive to that. We think that the Hungarian government should build an appropriate memorial that tells the entire Hungarian story of the Nazi Occupation, not one that whitewashes the truth.”
The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) recently decided to avoid official commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Nazi occupation over the design of the monument, in addition to a number of other contentious issues. Critics argue that the monument diminishes the prominent role the pro-Nazi Hungarian government had in the deportation of more than half a million Jews during the Holocaust, most of whom were murdered in Auschwitz.
“Hungary is a valued NATO ally and European partner with a long, impressive history — but one that includes a dark period of complicity during the Holocaust,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, adding: “I am concerned that this proposed monument glosses over the role played by Hungarian authorities at the time in deporting its Jewish population, and it is my hope that Prime Minister Orban will work with Hungarian Jewish organizations to design a memorial that respects the experience of all Hungarians during World War II.”