Hungarian official retracts article comparing George Soros to Hitler
After facing strong condemnation, a Hungarian commissioner on Sunday begrudgingly retracted an article comparing American-Hungarian billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, a staunch critic of Hungary’s government, to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
“Europe is George Soros’ gas chamber,” Szilard Demeter, ministerial commissioner and head of the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest, wrote in an opinion article Saturday in the pro-government outlet Origo. “Poison gas flows from the capsule of a multicultural open society, which is deadly to the European way of life.”
The comments drew outrage from Hungary’s Jewish community, including the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, which called the article “tasteless” and “unforgivable.”
The article “is a textbook case of the relativization of the Holocaust, and is therefore incompatible with the government’s claim of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism,” the group wrote in a statement.
In a statement Sunday on Origo, Demeter said he would retract his article “independently of what I think” and would delete his Facebook page.
“I will grant that those criticizing me are correct in saying that to call someone a Nazi is to relativize, and that making parallels with Nazis can inadvertently cause harm to the memory of the victims,” he said in a statement.
In the article, Demeter, appointed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to oversee cultural production, compared Soros to Adolf Hitler, writing that Soros was “the liberal Führer, and his liber-aryan army deifies him more than did Hitler’s own.”
Soros, who was born in Hungary and is a Holocaust survivor, is a frequent target of Orban’s government for his philanthropic activities that favor liberal causes. Government media campaigns targeting Soros have led to charges of anti-Semitism.
The article addressed a conflict over the European Union’s next budget, which member states Hungary and Poland are blocking over provisions that could block payments to countries that do not uphold democratic standards.
Demeter referred to the two countries, both of which are under EU investigation for undermining judicial independence and media freedom, as “the new Jews.”
The government of Israel, a close ally of Hungary, condemned Demeter’s comments. The Israeli Embassy in Budapest tweeted, “We utterly reject the use and abuse of the memory of the Holocaust for any purpose. … There is no place for connecting the worst crime in human history, or its perpetrators, to any contemporary debate.”
Gordon Bajnai, Hungary’s prime minister in 2009-2010, wrote on Facebook on Sunday that if Demeter wasn’t removed from his post by Monday, “Hungarians and the rest of the world will obviously consider [his] statement as the position of the Hungarian government.”
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