Israel has Tough Time Finding a Hungarian Leader who’s not Identified with Antisemites

Last month, Knesset speaker uninvited his Hungarian counterpart because of his attendance at a memorial for an antisemitic author; as it turns out, his replacement, the Hungarian president, is guilty of the same offense.


Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is having a difficult time finding a suitable Hungarian representative to attend an official ceremony honoring the righteous Gentile Raoul Wallenberg at the Knesset, due to the support shown by senior Hungarian government officials for known anti-Semites.

Hungarian President Janos Ader and Parliament Speaker Laslo Kover.

Hungarian President Janos Ader, second right, stands alongside Speaker of the Parliament Laszlo Kover, right. Photo by AP

Three weeks ago, Rivlin cancelled an invite to his Hungarian counterpart after finding out that the latter had participated in a memorial ceremony for an anti-Semitic author in Hungary. However, it turns out that the Kövér’s, Hungarian President János Áder, also participated in a ceremony honoring an anti-Semitic artist convicted of war crimes during the Holocaust.

Late last month, Rivlin sent a harsh letter to the Hungarian assembly speaker, in which he informed Kövér that he is not welcome in the Knesset. Rivlin’s notification came after it was revealed that Kövér, the speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary, had participated in a memorial ceremony for the anti-Semitic author József Nyírő.

Nyírő was a member of an anti-Semitic political party that cooperated with the Nazis during the Second World War. “Your public show of support for a man whose party cooperated with the murderous Nazis in their plan to destroy the Jewish people,” wrote Rivlin, was the reason Kövér is not welcome in the Knesset.

“Whoever could participate in an event of that nature cannot take part in an event meant to honor a man such as Raoul Wallenberg, righteous among the nations, a symbol of humanitarianism, who endangered his own life to save Jews, and personifies the struggle against the Nazis and those who cooperated with them, for whom you’ve chosen to show support.

Hungary was quick to choose an alternative representative for the ceremony to be held in Israel. It was decided that Hungary’s recently elected president, János Áder, would be the representative. Rivlin praised the decision. “His participation is a brave and moral message to the Israeli people and the Jews of the world,” said Rivlin, two weeks ago.

Haaretz, however, has learned that Áder also expressed support for a controversial figure from the Holocaust, Albert Wass, a nationalistic anti-Semitic writer found guilty of murdering jews. In 2008, when he served as the Vice Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary, Áder unveiled a statue of the popular author, and said words of praise.

In 1946, Wass was tried in absentia in Romania, sentenced to death and branded a war crminial. Among other charges, Wass was found guilty of involvement in the murder of two Jewish sisters in Romania in September of 1940, as Hungarian forces reached northern Transylvania. The sisters were murdered while they attempted to escape from Wass’ ranch.

Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel, claimed in a letter written to Kövér last month that Wass “cooperated heavily with the fascist Hungarian regime.” Many official documents, belonging mostly to the United States Congress and the Holocaust Museum in Washington confirm that Wass was a “convicted war criminal.”

After the war, Wass resided in Germany. During the 1950’s Wass moved to the U.S., where he resided and worked until he died. Despite Romanian appeals for his extradtion, U.S. authorities claimed that there was not enough evidence to put him on trial. In 1998, Wass committed suicide in Florida, due to an illness.

On Tuesday, Hungarian President Áder is set to participate in the Knesset ceremony honoring what would have been the 100th birthday of Raoul Wallenberg.

In response, Knesset Speaker Rivlin’s office released a statement, which read

“The decision to send Hungarian President János Áder to the event commemorating the 100th birthday of Raoul Wallenberg instead of the Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary, was received well and appreciated by the Knesset.

First of all, the fact that President Áder is the Hungarian head of state, displays the great importance that Hungary places on the ceremony to be held in the Knesset on Tuesday.

No more or less important, Hungarian President János Áder  serves as chairman of the committee which coordinates events honoring Raoul Wallenberg in Hungary. Ader is also known for his positions and declarations against anti-Semitism.

Also, following consultation with Yad Vashem, which will also take part in the important event commemorating Raoul Wallenberg, it was determined that the historical information in question has not been completely confirmed. As such, the event will proceed as planned on Tuesday.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin places the utmost importance on commemoration of Raoul Wallenberg, and believes the Knesset event will help raise awareness, and combat anti-Semitism in Europe.”


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