In the wake of protests from the Hungarian Jewish community and the World Jewish Congress, Budapest Mayor István Tarlós has ordered a review of the decision to name a street in the Hungarian capital's Second District after the writer Cécile Tormay (1876-1937), who was openly anti-Semitic and one of the favorite authors of Miklós Horthy, the regent of Hungary from 1920 to 1944. Maria Szucs Ciuc, a spokeswoman for Tarlós, told the news site 'FN24.hu' that the mayor had ordered a re-examination of Budapest City Council’s decision to name a street after Tormay. Both the World Jewish Congress and the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz, had protested against the decision. Hungary's Local Government Act allows the mayor may reverse decisions that are deemed “offensive.”
Under Horthy, who was an ally of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, several anti-Jewish laws were passed and the deportations of Hungarian Jews to the Nazi death camps started.
WJC President Ronald S. Lauder had reacted with consternation to the news. “This decision by the Budapest city government [...] puts into question the pledge given to the Jewish community that anti-Semitism will be fought vigorously by the Hungarian authorities,” the WJC president said in a statement last Thursday.
During the Horthy era from 1920 to 1944, several anti-Jewish laws were passed, Hungary became an ally of Nazi Germany and the deportations of Hungarian Jews to the Nazi death camps began. Cécile Tormay’s book ‘An Outlaw’s Diary’ (Bujdosó könyv), published in 1921, is full of anti-Semitic stereotypes and blames the Jews for the crimes committed during the Hungarian revolution of 1919.
Lauder declared: “Earlier this month, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest that anti-Semitism is ‘unacceptable and intolerable’ and that ‘history taught the Hungarians that anti-Semitism must be recognized in time.’ Let’s hope that the authorities in Budapest realize that it was the political and intellectual climate and the open anti-Semitism of Horthy and his disciples, such as Cécile Tormay, that preceded the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews to the Nazi death camps.
Also on Thursday, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz) said it was "shocked to learn that on the 75th anniversary the first anti-Jewish law that came into effect", the city government of Budapest was renaming a street after an anti-Semitic author. Mazsihisz Executive Director Gusztav Zoltai called on Tarlós - who is close to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - to revoke his decision in accordance with public statements of the Hungarian Government that were issued by Bence Retvari during this week's Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem. Retvari said that in the past three years, the government of Hungary had always spoken out and acted against manifestations of anti-Semitism. "Based upon these thoughts we ask the Budapest mayor: Don’t name a public place after a person whose life and work is questioning the commitment of the Hungarian government on fight against anti-Semitism," the federation said in the statement.