(JTA) – The foreign minister of Hungary defended his prime minister’s praise for Nazi collaborator Miklos Horthy while also criticizing Horthy’s anti-Semitic policies.
The statement Saturday by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjártó followed Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s assertion during a June 21 speech that Horthy, who was an ally of Adolf Hitler, was one of “a few outstanding statesmen,” thanks to whom “history did not bury us beneath itself after all.”
Horthy passed anti-Semitic laws and oversaw the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
“History must be respected, and the historical facts indicate that the activities of Miklos Horthy as governor included both positive and extremely negative periods,” Szijjártó told the MTI news agency following condemnations of Orban’s praise by the Mazshihisz umbrella group of Jewish communities and the World Jewish Congress.
Szijjártó added: “However, it is extremely negative and belongs in the category of historical sin that despite his oath he did not protect Hungary’s Jews, who were part of the Hungarian nation. It belongs in the category of historical sin that laws which discriminated against Jews were introduced during his time in office, and that hundreds of thousands of Jews fell victim to the Holocaust.
“Our government is one of the European governments that has done the most to combat anti-Semitism. While Hungary has its current government, the Hungarian Jewish community can be sure that the government will protect them in every respect.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Hungary later this month.
Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, Yossi Amrani, also sought clarification from Hungarian government officials regarding the Orban statement.