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Koscher leben...
Jüdische Weisheit

“It is not easy and not pleasant to see into this deep heinousness, but I believe we must take a look at it, because whatever could take place yesterday may happen again tomorrow, perhaps to us or to our children.”

Primo Levi: The Drowned and the Saved.
Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó,1990 p. 63.



Dr. Tibor Szeszlér

This is the third volume of our collection of essays entitled Anti-Semitic Discourse in Hungary.

Acrobat Reader herunterladenAfter the first collection of articles about the year 2000 [antisemitism-2000.pdf] and the second one about 2001 [antisemitism-2001.pdf], we have now compiled one volume for 2002 and 2003 [antisemitism-2002-2003.pdf].

After the reception of the first two volumes, the organizer of the documentation efforts which begun in 1999 and the editor of this series, the Budapest Lodge of B’nai B’rith, became convinced that documentation and the reports made and published are necessary and important. Many people believe that the mirror we held up to Hungarian society provided an important portrait of an era as well as a diagnosis. It seems we have not worked in vain and the mirror we are holding is not distorting: one can recognize a number of phenomena in Hungary at the turn of the millennium.

We pointed out in the first two volumes and have continued to emphasize that the language used in anti-Semitic speech in Hungarian public writing and/or “orations” is a peculiarly coded one. Anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, which can unmistakably be felt in these texts, appears in devious sentence structures, in obliquely expressed, and sometimes references transposed multiple times. Whenever this concealed meaning is exposed, it generally triggers some pseudo-indignation and objection from people using this language, saying: we are not anti-Semites! We did not say that, but you see, Jews – and Jew-hirelings – cry anti-Semitism for anything! (See, for instance, the article published in the August 9, 2001 issue of Magyar Fórum, given the untranslatable title Zsidózakata [”Jewish rattling”]).

Despite the fact that anti-Judaism is veiled, these texts carry a clear message, understandable for everyone. The repeated appearance of century-long elements of anti-Semitism in 19th and 20th century Hungary is much in evidence in allusions, names and references. A good example is an event discussed in this book, namely, the Hungarian Justice and Life Party’s (MIÉP) wreath-laying in Tiszaeszlár. Those to whom Tiszaeszlár, the village where the 1882 blood libel case happened, means nothing (especially if they don’t live in Hungary) will not understand MIÉP’s symbolic act. (For this and other reasons it is difficult to translate the encoded anti-Semitism written in Hungarian into any other language.)
We strive to include all relevant communication heard in public or broadcast in the media into the database of documents forming the basis of B’nai B’rith’s publications on anti-Semitic public discourse, and collect all written material that primarily appears in the press and subsequently on the Internet. (We do not follow Internet forums where, under the cover of anonymity, anti-Jewish hatred sometimes breaks out with such crushing force that it makes one wonder if anything has changed in people’s head after the Holocaust on this matter.) The limited size of this volume, which has been compiled from part of the documentation, will not allow for the discussion of every single phenomenon of the period in question. Our goal is to point out characteristic events of the period.

We aspire to avoid repeating ourselves, so we do not make comments on and “dismiss” cases that would involve response to repeated racist manifestations of the same persons or periodicals. However, in some other cases – for instance, in the case of Lóránt Hegedûs Jr. – we deemed it important to recall and continue the account of events, especially because in this latter issue the developments also had implications on Hungarian legislation in 2003. During the preparations of this material, covering two years, we found that, firstly, the number of openly anti-Semitic manifestations decreased after the 2002 parliamentary elections, and, secondly, that it was pushed back to certain well-definable forums of public life. We thought that if our goal was documentation – as it is –, we also had to document reduction in anti-Semitic discourse. Unfortunately, we still had abundant “source material” available. Recent events such as the street demonstration turning into an open anti- Semitic demonstration in front of Tilos Radio’s building1 in early 2004 imply that the positive change of sentiments was temporary. It became proven again that dormant anti-Semitic feelings might be warmed up by using any kind of excuse under the appropriate circumstances and with the contribution of “adept” speakers, and anti-Jewish emotions – in the strictest sense of the word – can be ignited2 (The case will be discussed in more detail in our next volume documenting anti- Semitic discourse in 2004.)

In the Foreword to our previous volume we quoted some lines of appreciation written by Professor Randolph L. Braham about our work. We are citing from another work this year. A distinguished person published his essay on the Holocaust at a distinguished place, including his opinion on our book. The following quotation is from György Poszler’s3 writing entitled Hát értik ezt? (Who can understand this?) (Vigilia, Budapest, 2003/7, pp. 528-530):
“Two collections of documentary essays: Anti-Semitic Discourse in Hungary in 2000 and the same in 2001. And another collection of essays: Túl a bûnön és bûnhôdésen (Beyond crime and punishment) by Jean Améry.4
I’ve been mulling over them for half a year…
…these books evoke demons. It’s worth summing up a few elements from them.
They point out that in 2000 and 2001 the voice which used to be more tentative and sporadic became stronger and more frequent. That is, a kind of turn took place in public discourse. Its carriers are certain newspapers and radio programs, almost creating a sense of specialization. There are also selections of texts and quotations. These selections are the most astonishing, yet most convincing parts of the two volumes. Also, there are bibliographies of “literature” republished in recent years. The authors range from “classical theoreticians” to “classical practitioners”, e.g. from Henry Ford to Ferenc Szálasi. And from good-humored, “patriarchal” anti-Semites of the day before yesterday to illhumored, anti-patriarchal murderers of yesterday. There are references to earlier myths of blood libels and subsequent hysteria of Freemasonry. They discuss the spectacular scandals of recent years.. . An intensifying tendency in all this is the contraposition of “us” and “them”, and then on to explicitly worded exclusion. (…) The tone has progressively degraded. It would be worth – and there’s an attempt for – comparing these texts with the phraseology and metaphors of the extreme right-wing press of 60 years ago. The books are becoming ever thicker. It is probably not the length of the analysis but the size of the material to be processed that grows. What will the next volume be like?” Here it is. This is what it’s like.

Dr Tibor Szeszlér

On Behalf of the Executive Board of the
B’nai B’rith Budapest Lodge Budapest, March 2004

- 1 This media law case was not finally closed at the time of editing this volume.
- 2 After the speeches held at the demonstration, some participants set Israel’s national flag on fire and burnt it, but – obviously – not as a sign of objection to Israel’s politics.
- 3 György Poszler: member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, university professor, aesthete and literature historian.
- 4 Budapest: Múlt és Jövô Kiadó, 2002.

Anti-Semitic Discourse in Hungary:
Five Questions - Five Answers
We have followed the developments of anti-Semitic discourse in Hungary since 2000. The time that has passed and the publication of this present volume are bound to raise some questions... 16-12-2003

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