I have numerous writing projects I’d rather be working on right now, but, yet again, I’m seeing people misrepresent the piece of history which I spent a great deal of time researching and writing about. To write something every time someone wrote an article with outright falsehoods, mistakes, and over-generalizations about Miklos Horthy and the 25 years of his administration in Hungary, from 1920 to 1944, would take up way too much of my valuable time, so it’s not worth the effort. However, I cannot ignore it when a member of my country;s government does this, while simultaneously attacking one of the only strong leaders in modern Europe, Viktor Orban, I cannot ignore it.
I’m tired of this, and my time is limited, so I’m going to very, very succinctly make my responses to Yair Lapid’s lies and mistakes. For a more in depth analysis of these common falsehoods pushed regarding Horthy and his administration, see my blog post here. Additionally, sometime soon, I’ll be publishing my Master’s thesis, in which I did my best to discuss and analyze this period of history as objectively as possible, which hopefully will get more accurate history out there.
Anything in italics is from Lapid’s op-ed, my writing in bold.
He is also one of the founding fathers of modern anti-Semitism. Within his first year he passed the “numerus clausus,” which limited the number of Jews who could enter academia. Long before Hitler or Mussolini, he was one of the twentieth century European leaders who started the trend of anti-Semitic laws that limited the access of Jews to academia, and then later also to government jobs, the business sector and the media.
The first statement is patently false. No historian worth his degree will accuse Horthy of “founding modern antisemitism.” Modern antisemitism is defined as the race-based antisemisitsm used by Nazi Germany to determine who was Jewish. The early Hungarian anti-Jewish laws Lapid mentions did not discriminate in that way. Additionally, Horthy, while calling himself an antisemite, both had Jewish friends and was an antisemite of a different age, one who took issue with Jewish over-representation in key fields, and things like that. The argument cannot be made that he was an antisemite in the Nazi sense, seeking to murder people. Horthy very much tried to minimize the impacts of anti-Jewish laws, and did not cooperate with Hitler when the latter pressed him to deport all of Hungary’s Jews. Additionally, these early laws, and even those passed in the mid 1930s, were very laxly enforced, because Hungary’s government for most of that time was of the conservative right, which sought to minimize the impact of these laws; they viewed the world through a class-based lens, not a race-based one, and primarily cared if people were doing good for the country, regardless of background.
It got progressively worse. Horthy made anti-Semitism a central tenet of his regime and from 1933 saw Hitler as a natural ally. In 1940 he led Hungary into the ‘axis’ with Hitler and deepened his policy of anti-Semitism. First, tens of thousands of Jews were sent to forced labor camps. Then deportations began to the death camps. Among the victims were many members of my family, all of them loyal Hungarian citizens whose only crime was being Jewish. Between May and July 1944, more than half a million Hungarian Jews were murdered. Miklos Horthy is a war criminal and is no less responsible for those murders than the Nazis.
The first statement here is an abject lie. The second, regarding Horthy;s view of Germany, is grossly oversimplified. First economic ties with Germany were made by Prime Minister Gyula Gombos, who was further to the right than Horthy, and had been appointed as a concession to Hungarians’ increasingly right-wing lean. Gombos and Horthy did not see eye to eye on many things, and Horthy had made him promise not to give incitement anti-Jewish speeches while prime minister. While they got along well in their first meeting in 1936–not 1933–Horthy had a low opinion of Hitler, and there are records of them getting into loud arguments on at least two occasions, as Hitler pressed for Hungarian concessions regarding the Jewish issue, among other things. The economic, and then political, alliance with Germany was made because Hungary needed a local trading partner, with the new states created after World War I hostile to them, and then as a means of recovering lost territory as well as resisting communism, which Horthy and most Hungarians utterly despised. Horthy very reluctantly made Hungary a participant in the war, acceding to Germans requests as compensation for restored territory–and then in 1941 declared war on the USSR after an alleged attack on a Hungarian town.
It is true that several thousand Jewish men were drafted into forced labor battalions (not labor camps), in which they were mistreated by officers who were far more pro German and right-wing than Horthy and his inner circle, and many died during the campaign in Russia–as did a great many Hungarian soldiers. Then, we get to where Lapid conveniently leaves out many details. Deportations to death camps began only after the Nazis occupied Hungary, and Horthy for a time withdrew from dealing with daily affairs (reasons for this can be debated, and there is certainly room to criticize Horthy here), but what is not up for debate is that Horthy never signed off on deporting Jews–pro-Nazi Hungarians took charge during those months, and happily collaborated. Horthy, in fact, once learning conclusively through foreign sources and the Auschwitz Protocols brought to Hungary by escaped Auschwitz inmates, stepped back in and stopped the deportations by means of his armed forces–a wholly unique occurrence in the German sphere during the war–and forced Adolf Eichmann to leave the country. Horthy, thusly deserves a fair amount of credit for the survival of most of the Jews of Budapest, both due to this action and for making it easy for people like Raoul Wallenberg to help protect and save Jews. He was not tried at Nuremberg, and in fact provided information to the tribunal regarding defendants with which he had had contact, though he was not asked to testify in person. Horthy is certainly not immune from criticism, but saying that he was as responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews as the Nazis is a laughable statement.
Giving credit to Horthy as a statesman, for his role in stabilizing and overseeing the rebuilding of newly independent Hungary after World War I, is very much deserved. He was far, far from perfect, both as a statesman and in regard to the Jewish issue, but he was not an evil man, and Hungarians should be free to recognize his achievements.
That’s all I have to deal for now, so I’m going to leave an open message for MK Lapid. Stop misrepresenting history, and stop trying to drive a wedge between our country and one of the few European nations resisting the Muslim invasion. Hungary and Israel share an enemy at this period in time, and we are both defenders of Western values. I hope that our prime minister not only goes to meet Prime Minister Orban as planned, but strengthens ties between our two countries. We need no apology from Orban, or any member of the Hungarian government.
There, that;s done, and I hope to not have to do this again. I’ve wasted enough time here; back to my regularly scheduled projects.
Get your damn history right, people.