One Step Forward

Below is an Orange Files translation of excerpts from a speech that President János Áder of Hungary delivered on April 28, 2014 during the annual March of the Living Holocaust memorial at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland (source in Hungarian):

Dear Commemorators, Dear Polish Friends and Hungarian Compatriots!

Yesterday in Rome Pope John Paul II was canonized a mere nine years after his death. Karol Wojtyła, the first Polish Pope, left us with an important and eternally valid lesson when on several occasions he bore witness to the conviction that Christianity is not compatible with anti-Semitism. He was the Pope who characterized that which took place at the Auschwitz death camp as the triumph of Satan and the darkest chapter in history. He was the Pope who described Auschwitz as a place that serves as a memorial for posterity of the tragic consequences that occur when the spirit, the soul and the heart fall under the power of darkness. And he was also the one who warned us that people must be liberated from the nightmare of racism, ostracism, servitude and xenophobia.

No virtuous person on Earth could disagree with this. Those who attempt to justify, relativize or question sin are committing an act of immorality. And they, themselves, become sinners in doing so.

Because every concession, every self-absolving or self-justifying gesture leads to where we stand at this moment. And that which should have never happened can happen again.

Dear Commemorators!

Those whom were carried off to this place did not know where they had come. They had no means of defending themselves and had no chance to escape.

Those who exited the suffocating congestion of the cattle wagons arrived to this place already humiliated, frightened and deprived of almost all their belongings. And after passing through the gates of the camp they came face to face with their cynical executioners, who then systematically deprived them of their remaining dignity.

. . .  . . .  . . .  . . .

Every third victim at Auschwitz was a Hungarian Jew. Almost a half million of my compatriots met with death here. These are the people whom were shut into ghettos with systematic brutality and then deported here, to Auschwitz, within a period of just a few weeks with the cooperation of Hungarian state organizations following the German occupation of Hungary.

This place is Hungary’s biggest cemetery.

. . .  . . .

Dear Commemorators!

We have to look at ourselves in order to understand the tragedy of 1944. Even if we know that the imposition of the Final Solution was the diabolical plan of the German occupiers. That the Hungarian state did not resist this intention and in fact came to its service is the source of anguish felt to this day. The Hungary occupied on March 19, 1944 failed to defend its citizens. Its authorities engaged their services to those who conspired to kill our compatriots. That this took place in many other countries in Europe as well represents neither an excuse, nor an explanation.

Because no explanation of any kind can return the possibility of life to our dead. Nobody can return them to our nation. For us, Hungarians living today, this represents a common loss, common pain, common mourning. And common loss, common pain and common mourning for those who come after us.

Common fate.

Common fatelessness.

Because those who humiliated our Jewish compatriots and sent them to their deaths humiliated the Hungarian nation as well and caused an irreparable loss to our entire nation. Whether they did what they did as Nazi Germans or as Hungarians serving Hitler’s ideology does not matter.

There is no forgiveness for a state that turns against its own citizens.

Dear Commemorators!

When we stand here, one and a half million human souls speak to us and ask: why? Why did this fate befall us? How could this horror take place in twentieth-century Europe? How could man have become so depraved that he built death factories for the purpose of carrying out the pre-mediated murder of his fellow human beings? There is no explanation. There is no answer. Because there are no words to describe the tragedy of Auschwitz.

. . .

Dear Commemorators

Let us bestow a joint minute of silence upon their [the victims’] common remembrance.

Though before we pay our respect, please think about what would happen if we were to bow our heads in silence before the memory of every victim of Auschwitz for just a single minute? To even say it is inconceivable! This silence would have to last for nearly three entire years in order for us to honor every victim of Auschwitz. And now the moment has arrived to jointly commemorate those whose silence surrounds us in a one-minute silent prayer according to our personal faith or conviction. . . .

———————–

President Áder speaking at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

President Áder speaking at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

President Áder’s speech at Auschwitz was perhaps the most candid expression of remorse for the Hungarian government’s complicity in the Holocaust ever pronounced on the part of a head of state or government from Hungary.

The speech did, nevertheless, contain some passages aimed at the customary deflection of responsibility for the deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz in the spring and summer of 1944 from the Hungarian government onto the German occupying forces. The following paragraph, for example, would have been more accurate—and thus more cathartic—had it directly specified the Hungarian state as the actor that carried out the deportations:

Every third victim at Auschwitz was a Hungarian Jew. Almost a half million of my compatriots met with death here. These are the people whom were shut into ghettos with systematic brutality and then deported here, to Auschwitz, within a period of just a few weeks with the cooperation of Hungarian state organizations following the German occupation of Hungary.  

The more precise version:

Every third victim at Auschwitz was a Hungarian Jew. Almost a half million of my compatriots met with death here. These are the people whom Hungarian state organizations shut into ghettos with systematic brutality and then deported here, to Auschwitz, within a period of just a few weeks with the cooperation of the Nazi SS following the German occupation of Hungary.

However, President Áder’s speech still represents a significant step in the direction of coming to terms with the unresolved trauma of the Holocaust among the citizens of Hungary, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. The next stride forward: deliver this same speech at home rather than abroad in order to send the clear message that it is not intended partially or entirely for foreign consumption. 

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