World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder strongly denounced anti-Semitism and criticized Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party in his keynote address in front of thousands at this year’s ‘March of the Living’ in Budapest in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.
“The March of the Living reminds us what happens when the world is silent,” said Lauder. “We will never be silent again. And when it comes to anti-Semitism, the Hungarian government must never be silent.”
“Today, when the world looks at Hungary, it does not see its great culture. It does not see its beautiful cities. It does not remember its great and glorious past,” continued Lauder, adding: “Today, the world sees Hungary, and it sees Jobbik. It sees an extremist party that promotes hate.”
On its website, Jobbik calls for fighting “Zionist Israel’s quest for world domination." In the past, some of its leaders questioned whether the Holocaust took place and called for drawing up a list of Jewish lawmakers who may pose a “national security risk.” In 2013, the party held a protest rally against the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest.
Later on Sunday, Jobbik party scored a narrow victory in a by-election, marking a breakthrough in its challenge to the Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. With more than 99 per cent of ballots counted, Lajos Rig, Jobbik’s candidate, topped the poll in the district of Tapolca, with 35.3 per cent of the vote.
In his speech, Lauder also condemned acts of anti-Semitism. “There are statues of shoes along the Danube. They are there as a memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered there. No-one has the right to spit in those shoes. No-one. In this great city we send one clear message to the entire world: The Hungarian Jewish community is alive and well. And the Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain.”
About 560,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, most of them in 1944. Today, Hungary’s Jewish community numbers around 100,000 and it is still the largest in Central Europe.
Lauder highlighted the contribution of Hungarian Jews to their country. “Jews helped make this country great. When Jews are part of a society, any society, countries prosper. Jews win Nobel prizes. Jews create jobs and they cure diseases. Jews build -- they don’t tear down! Anti-Semites tear down, they destroy, they create nothing, they save no-one. And when Jews are forced to leave, they take their success with them,” he told the crowd in central Budapest.
The ‘March of the Living’ in Hungary is organized every year by the March of the Living Foundation, with the support of the MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary. Thousands participated in today’s event.
Transcript of the speech by Ronald S. Lauder at the March of the Living, Budapest, 12 April 2015
I stand here today as a proud Jew. Proud of my ancient heritage. Proud of my people. Proud of what we have created. I am also proud of my Hungarian heritage. But I know that if my grandparents had not left Hungary, if I had born here in 1944, I would have been one of the tens-of-thousands of Jewish children gassed at Auschwitz.
That is why we are here today. That is why we march together. Not just because of what happened 70 years ago, but because of what is happening here today.
70 years after Hitler and Auschwitz and the Arrow-Cross Jews are targeted once again. 70 years later, we see the same signs that we saw before. I stand here today to tell you that no one, no political party, no thugs in the night, No-one has the right to threaten our people. No-one has the right to deface our synagogues. No-one has the right to hurt our children.
There are statues of shoes along the Danube. They are there as a memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered there. No-one has the right to spit in those shoes. No-one.
In this great city we send one clear message to the entire world: The Hungarian Jewish community is alive and well. And the Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain. The March of the Living also reminds us of what happens when the world is silent.
Silence allows the lowest forces of mankind out in the open. We Jews learned this lesson the hard way. We know what happens when the world is silent. And the price we paid was too high. For that reason, we will never be silent again. I will never be silent. I will not be silent when Jews are the target. I will not be silent when Christians are the target. When any group is singled out by hate, I will not be silent. And when someone spits in those shoes along the Danube and the Hungarian government does not condemn that, it looks like the government agrees. When someone stands up in Parliament and wants to put Jews on lists, the government must not be silent. When it comes to anti-Semitism, the Hungarian government must never be silent.
Sometimes people forget the important role Jews played in Hungary. Jews helped make this country great. When Jews are part of a society, any society, countries prosper. Jews win Nobel prizes. Jews create jobs and they cure diseases. Jews build they don’t tear down! Anti-Semites tear down, they destroy, they create nothing, they save no one. And when Jews are forced to leave, they take their success with them.
Jobbik may think they are true Hungarians trying to save Hungary. But Jobbik hurts Hungary. In the eyes of the rest of the world, people see Jobbik, they see an extremist party that promotes hate. Jobbik does not even realize that they hurt Hungary’s future. Today, when the world looks at Hungary, it does not see its great culture. It does not see its beautiful cities. It does not remember its great and glorious past. Today, the world sees Hungary and they see Jobbik.
And when businessmen want to invest in Hungary, they also see Jobbik and they are afraid to come. Jobbik hurts Hungary. Do not allow a small percentage of the population to destroy Hungary. The people of Hungary are too good for that. This march is being covered by hundreds of news organizations.
In this world of instant pictures and the Internet, news is flashed around the globe in an instant. And when there is an act of hate against anyone that is the news that people see outside of Hungary. Everything good that Hungary did in 1956 and its push for capitalism, all of that is forgotten. In the end, you must decide the image you want to send to the world.
Look around you. Today, there are thousands of Hungarians, Jews and Christians, marching together against hate. You march together for a better future. That is the image you want people to see. You want people to know that Jobbik is not Hungary.
Hungary has a bright future. Hungary and the Jewish people are tied together. Thank you for standing with us. I believe strongly this is our only choice. We stand together and we say enough! Enough anti-Semitism. Enough hatred. Enough death and destruction. Today we turn an important corner and we start building together.
To everyone here I say: Thank you for standing against anti-Semitism and hate. Thank you for standing with the Jewish people. Thank you for remembering. And I say again: Jobbik is not Hungary. Hungary is the thousands of Christians who are here today to support the Jewish community.
Today we honor life, not death. This is the March of the LIVING! We will work together to make our world a better place. We look forward not backward. But we will not be silent.
Photos: Doron Ritter