World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder on Wednesday praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s decision not to support a statue in the city of Székesfehérvár to honor the late Bálint Hóman, a government minister in the 1930s and 1940s who was the driving force for anti-Jewish laws in Hungary and a supporter of Nazi Germany, with taxpayer funds.
Lauder welcomed Orbán’s statement in parliament on Monday in which the Hungarian prime minister also voiced his opposition to the erection of statues to honor Miklós Horthy, in whose government Hóman served. Horthy ruled Hungary from 1920 to 1944 and after 1933 aligned it with Hitler Germany.
“Prime Minister Orbán’s clear statement on this matter comes very late, but it is nonetheless welcome. I thank him for making the standpoint of the Hungarian government very clear: No honors must be given to those who prepared the ground for the mass murder of 600,000 Hungarian Jews by Nazi Germany in 1944.
“It would have been a travesty if the taxpayer, including more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews, would have had to contribute toward a statue for a man who not only hated Jews, but who helped actively in their persecution."
Lauder added that the statue “is an affront to the many Hungarian victims of the Holocaust.”
The WJC president also thanked the US government, and in particular the State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira N. Forman, for opposing the statue. “Ira Forman was in Hungary in the past few days, and he spoke out against the statue very clearly. I want to thank him, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, for raising this issue with the Hungarian authorities. Clearly, their efforts have paid off,” declared Lauder.
On Sunday, Forman had a Hanukkah candle lighting and protest in Székesfehérvár organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz).
From 1931, Bálint Hóman, an academic and historian, served as a minister in several Horthy governments. He played a significant role in the drafting of anti-Jewish laws adopted in Hungary during the late 1930s.
The life-size bronze statue honoring Hóman is the brainchild of the Székesfehérvár-based Bálint Hóman Foundation, but it was to be funded in large parts by a grant from the Hungarian Justice Ministry.
The foundation now wants to postpone the unveiling of the statue, initially planned for 29 December 2015, and start a fundraising campaign to pay for it privately.