Propaganda Camp

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán prepares to speak at Tusnádfürdő on July 24, 2016 (photo: MTI).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán prepares to deliver annual speech in Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tușnad) on July 24, 2016 (photo: MTI).

On July 24, 2016, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held his annual speech at the Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp (Tusványos Nyári Szabadegyetem és Diáktábor) in Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tușnad), Romania.

Orbán, both as head of government and opposition leader, has long used the speech he makes at this camp in the predominantly Hungarian-inhabited Székely Land (Székelyföld) region of Romania to explicitly articulate his domestic political vision and his viewpoints on international affairs (see Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State).

Prime Minister Orbán expressed two novel opinions in his 2016 Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp speech: first, he became the first leader of a sovereign state to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States; and second, in answering a question following the speech, he advocated the creation of a common European military.

Below are Orange Files translations of several passages from Prime Minister Orbán’s July 24 speech in Tusnádfürdő (source in Hungarian).

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Thank you for permitting me to be here among you again with the passing of another year. The experience of seeing you again is, in itself, valuable and sets one’s heart in motion. This, in itself, would be a sufficient reason and motive for the existence of the free university [the Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp], although the free university has for many years—for more than two decades—performed another function that truly manifests itself here only when the incumbent prime minister of Hungary speaks to you. That is to say, a situation has come into existence, a free-university space in which it is possible to speak about politics in a different way, in which it is possible to speak about difficult and complicated matters in a different way from that which politics, as a profession, forces [one to speak] the other 364 days of the year. Problems arise from this afterwards as well. Because European politics has already made steady use of the form of speaking about politics and major European affairs that maybe nobody other than the speaker understands, but which at least does not bring trouble down upon the heads of the speaker. The world of a free university is, however, different. If we don’t speak frankly here in a way that we, too, can understand about the dilemmas that torment us, which incidentally are not just our dilemmas, but which, as you will hear later, are dilemmas tormenting all of Europe, then the free university isn’t worth anything, then it’s not a free university, but a propaganda camp.

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We would not have previously thought this [to be possible], but it is now looking more and more like they have pushed Hungary out of the European mainstream and they have tried to interpret everything that we have done as not being an accepted part of European politics. Be it our constitution strengthening Christian foundations, be it our demographic policies, be it cross-border national unification—now, in retrospect, with the passing of a few years, these look more like advantages than disadvantages. Nobody can at this moment say for certain that over the coming years the European mainstream won’t proceed [along the path] onto which they tried to drive Hungary away from the European mainstream. This is how the black sheep become the flock, how the exception becomes the main direction.

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As I was listening to Bishop Tőkés [the previous speaker, Reformed bishop and Fidesz Member of the European Parliament László Tőkés] I realized that I shouldn’t have been at a loss for what to do last night [when I wrote this speech], but I should have called him up on the phone, because he provided the phrase that I should really be talking about here as my point of departure. He quoted Nehemiah: “Do not be afraid, but fight!”

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If I told an English, German or French young person that if you abide by the laws, respect your parents, finish your schooling normally and work diligently, you will surely get ahead, get farther and you will live better than your parents did, I am afraid that they would laugh at me. This is the promise of European life that has been shaken, which has been lost—and this will have serious consequences.

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Since we are members of the European Union, today I will speak about what the European Union must do differently in order for fear and uncertainty to disappear from the lives of Europeans. First of all, it must quit doing a few bad things. In the West they call one of these things denationalization, presenting in a positive light something which I think is a bad thing. In my opinion reducing national sovereignty in favor of [increased] European spheres of authority represents one of the greatest dangers in Europe today.

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The European Union has today become a regional player. At best, it is capable of influencing events that take place in its environment, though slowly we are seeing that [it is capable of] not even this this much, since the main player in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict is not the European Union, but the United States. We see that the European Union doesn’t play the main role in shaping events in the uncertain region of Syria, the Middle East and Iraq, but the United States and the Russians. Thus we must state that today the European Union is deceiving itself when it views itself as one of the global players in the global political space. We must recognize that today, if we even have the ability to influence world events outside our own territory, this is restricted to the region [immediately] surrounding us.  

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We [Hungarians] have no identity problem. Not even as much as the British, who don’t themselves know exactly if they are European or not. For a Hungarian, this is not a question: if you are Hungarian, then you are European. We have been, are and will be [European]—this is the motto of the camp.¹

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Migration represents a threat, it increases terrorism, increases crime; migration on a mass scale changes the cultural profile of Europe and migration on a mass scale destroys national culture.

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I am not Donald Trump’s campaign manager, I never would have thought that the notion would occur to me that among the full-fledged possibilities he would be the best for Europe and Hungary. I never would have thought it, but it is nevertheless the case that I listened to this candidate and I must tell you that he made three proposals to stop terrorism. I could have hardly expressed  better as a European that which Europe needs. He said that the world’s best secret service must be established in America, that this is the precondition to everything. I agree with this. [. . .] The second thing the straightforward [derék] American presidential candidate said was that the policy of exporting democracy must be stopped. I couldn’t have expressed this more precisely, because, in the end, why are a massive number of migrants coming to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea at this moment? Because the Europeans and later the Westerners [Western powers] acting under the auspices of the UN, they successfully—we successfully—managed to crush the undemocratic, though from the standpoint of border defense extremely stable, Libyan system without making sure that a new government capable of providing stability came into being. We did the same thing in Syria, we did the same thing in Iraq too. The notion is true, therefore, that if we continue to place democracy-building in the forefront instead of stability in a region in which the success of this is extremely doubtful, then we aren’t going to build democracy, but cause instability.

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This [the failure of democracy building] is a big lesson with regard to the current Turkish events as well, which I naturally do not want to qualify, though if they ask me what our greatest expectation is, what Hungary’s greatest expectation is toward Turkey, then we will put stability in the first place. Of course the quality of political life there is not indifferent for us. Neither are human rights indifferent for us, especially because it is a question of a country that formally still wants to join the European Union, where these are fundamental, expected preconditions, though all in all, from the perspective of current life, it is more important that several tens of millions of people not tumble down upon the European Union with no screening, control or impediment of any kind.

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This [data showing the projected population increases in Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia and Nigeria by the year 2050] clearly show that the truly great pressure is going to arrive to the continent [of Europe] from Africa. Today we are talking about Syria, today we are talking about Libya, but really we must prepare for population pressure from the region behind Libya and the magnitude of this is going to be much greater than that which we have experienced so far. This warns us that we must steel our wills. Border defense, especially when fences must be built and people must be stopped there, is a difficult thing to interpret aesthetically, but believe me, we cannot defend borders and therefore ourselves with flowers and stuffed animals. We must face this thing. At the same time, it is very important, and for us also very important from the perspective of the image that the outside world formulates of us, that we make it clear that we are not heartless people, thus we are able to make a precise distinction between migrants and migration. In most cases the figure of the migrant—of course not including the terrorists— is a victim, whom the unfortunate situation, the increasingly difficult possibilities for subsistence at home, bad government, our bad, enticing migration policy and the human smugglers have made into victims. We understand this, we know this precisely. However, migration, as I said, is killing us. And migration is embodied in the person of the migrant, thus no matter how much we empathize with them and see them as victims, we must stop them at our fence and make it clear that whomever enters illegally must, according to the laws, be put in prison or expelled from Hungary. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, esteemed free university, there is no friendlier form of defense. Of course [it must be] in a human, lawful and transparent manner, but we must resolutely do this.

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After all this I must state, summarizing what I have said so far, that Europe has lost its global role, has become as a regional player, is not capable of defending its own citizens, is not capable of defending its own external borders and is not capable of keeping the community together, since the United Kingdom has just left it. What more is needed for us to say that the European political leadership has failed. It cannot achieve a single one of its objectives. Thus when we convene in Bratislava in September, we don’t need beauty spots, sweeping under the carpet and whitewashing, but we must clearly state that we must come together and talk about the future of Europe because Europe’s present political leadership has failed. We must make it clear that our problem isn’t in Mecca, but in Brussels; for us, the Brussels bureaucrats represent the obstacle, not Islam.   

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Today “old Europe” means Europe that is incapable of change. They [old Europe] are the founding members of the European Union, they are they are the ones who introduced the eurozone and are very visibly stagnating. And there is another Europe, those whom were admitted to the European Union later, whom are said to be the “new Europe.” This, on the other hand, is viable, full of energy, capable of renewal and is looking for answers to the new challenges and thus forms an important part of our continent. This is why I think that perhaps the differentiation between the old and the new Europe is much less offensive for us now than it was previously.

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Today in Poland there is no economic crisis. In Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary—I don’t dare comment on the case of Romania—young people think that the old European dream is still valid: if they abide by the laws, if they respect their parents, if they listen to them and their advice regarding the future, and if they work diligently, then a Polish, a Czech, a Slovak and a Hungarian young person will certainly live better and get farther ahead than his [or her] parents. This is the European dream, this is still valid in the new Europe, in Central Europe.

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In response to a question following his speech, Prime Minister Orbán stated that NATO, though an “important and good thing,” is no longer capable of guaranteeing peace in Europe, thus he advocates the establishment of a common European army that could function “without the Anglo-Saxons [the United States and the United Kingdom] and the Russians.”

Orbán also expressed support for the creation of a common Visegrád Group army, though rejected the notion of expanding the number of members in the alliance composed of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The prime minister said that the prospective common European and Visegrád Group armies were needed to defend Europe in the “east and south” and would be closely connected to defense of the continent against terrorism and migration (source in Hungarian).

 

¹ The motto of the 27th Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp: “We were, are and will be at home here in Europe” (Itthon voltunk, vagyunk, leszünk Európában).

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Prime Minister Orbán’s March 15 Speech

Prime Minister Orbán waves to audience following his speech on March 15, 2016 (photo: MTI).

Prime Minister Orbán waves to audience following his speech on March 15, 2016 (photo: MTI).

On March 15, 2016, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered his annual speech outside the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest commemorating the anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against Habsburg rule. Below is an Orange Files translation of the speech (source in Hungarian).

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Esteemed celebrators!

Europe is not free, because freedom starts with the statement of truth. Today in Europe it is forbidden to state the truth. Even if made of silk, a muzzle remains a muzzle. It is forbidden to state that those who are currently arriving are not refugees, but that a mass migration threatens Europe. It is forbidden to state that immigration brings crime and terror into our countries. It is forbidden to state that those who arrive from other civilizations represent a danger to our way of life, our culture, our customs and our Christian traditions. It is forbidden to state that instead of assimilating, those who arrived earlier have built a separate-entry world for themselves with their own laws and their own ideals that pry the millennial European frameworks apart. It is forbidden to state that this is not an incidental and unintentional chain of consequences, but a planned-out and guided action, a mass of people directed upon us. It is forbidden to state that in Brussels they are currently scheming to transport foreigners here as quickly as possible and to settle them among us. It is forbidden to say that the objective of this settlement is to redraw the religious and cultural patterns of Europe, to rebuild its ethnic footings, thereby eliminating the nation-states that represent the last impediment to the Internationale. It is forbidden to state that Brussels is today stealthily swallowing more and more slices of our national sovereignty, that in Brussels many are today working on the plan for a European United States for which nobody ever granted them the authority.

See entire speech.

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Taking the Ball

Jobbik President Gábor Vona (Orange Files photo).

          Jobbik President Gábor Vona           (photo: Orange Files).

On January 31, 2015, President Gábor Vona of the radical-nationalist party Jobbik presented his annual “appraisal of the year” (évértékelő) address in Budapest (source in Hungarian). Below is an Orange Files translation of an abridged version of Vona’s speech:

Hungary is in trouble. How often do we hear this on the street, in our everyday lives, on the television, everywhere. For this reason, this phrase has become worn out, often it means almost nothing―it is an empty cliché. I would nevertheless begin my speech with it: Hungary is in trouble. And what’s more, big trouble. . . .

(For the entire translation, see Gábor Vona Appraisal of the Year Speech—January 31, 2015). 

Jobbik President Vona’s address was similar in theme, outlook and tone to those that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has delivered for years, even as Fidesz president before his return to power as head of government in 2010 (see: Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State; Prime Minister Orbán’s Speech to National Assembly – May 10, 2014; Prime Minister Orbán’s Speech to Supporters – May 10, 2014; Vlad Beyond Reproach; and Notable Quotes: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán). The Vona speech shares the following specific attributes with many Orbán speeches: 

—Emphasis on the notion that “Hungary is in trouble” in order to exploit the ingrained political hysteria of Hungarians as a means of garnering political support (see The Phony Realist);

—The claim that “the type of liberal democracy that gained power over Hungary in 1989 is not a functioning system” and that “the system of the past 25 years became exhausted and failed” and “was built upon lies”;

—The allegation that “Brussels currently rests on profit-oriented foundations from which the West can exploit the eastern states and as glass beads offer a little support in exchange”;

—The precedence of the “community” of the Hungarian nation over the individual (“the multitude of people”);

—Reference to God and Christianity forces unifying the Hungarian nation;

—The assertion that “dramatic international transformation” has placed Hungary in a perilous position “at the intersection of global conflict”; 

—Rejection of the “the unilateral world domination of the United States”;

—The insistence that “Hungary must develop and independent Russian policy” and “remain neutral” in the renewed conflict between the West and Russia.

—And the contention that “the fate of a quarter million Hungarians in Ukraine has come into doubt” and criticism of the policies of the latter country toward its Hungarian minority because it has “humiliated and threatened them and circumscribed their rights.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking to supporters outside the Hungarian Parliament Building after taking his oath of office for the new parliamentary cycle beginning in 2014.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking to supporters outside the Hungarian Parliament Building in May 2014 (photo: Hungarian News Agency).

Both Vona, as the leader of Jobbik, and Orbán, as the leader of Fidesz, have long articulated these common attitudes and positions (see Follow the Evil Twin). However, the speech that Vona delivered on January 31, 2015 lacked the central element that distinguished the Jobbik president’s previous discourse from that of Prime Minister Orbán: expressions of collective antipathy toward Hungarian Jews and Gypsies (see Notable Quotes: Jobbik President Gábor Vona).

Over the past few weeks, Vona has distanced himself from anti-Gypsy and -Semitic racism. On February 9, 2015, he issued a statement condemning “in the most resolute manner possible” the anti-Gypsy Facebook posts of a newly elected Jobbik municipal-council member from Mezőtúr and required him to move into the house of the Gypsy leader of the party’s local chapter in nearby Hajdúszoboszló for a period of three days (source in Hungarian). On February 11, 2015, Vona said during an interview on the opposition television station ATV “Maybe I expressed myself somewhat angularly on certain matters, but I don’t think that I [ever] made any anti-Semitic statements” (source in Hungarian)

Vona has presumably attempted to divest himself and Jobbik of the mantle of racism in order to appropriate in its full material and spiritual form the political program that propelled Fidesz to landslide victories in Hungary’s past two National Assembly elections in 2010 and 2014, but which the Orbán government has been compelled to moderate considerably over the past few months as the result of pressure from the United States and the European Union, specifically Germany (see Back in the Fold?, The Spectacular Fall and Teutonic Shift).

Gábor Vona’s gradual transformation into the leading proponent of many of the Hungarian nationalist tenets and policies that Viktor Orbán skillfully employed to attain an unprecedented degree of power for a head of government in a Western democratic state after 2010 has arguably been one of main factors behind Jobbik’s steady rise to all-time highs in opinion polls since October and Fidesz’s drop to multi-year lows over that same period (source in Hungarian).

The phenomenon of a political leader renouncing his formerly explicit racism in order to consolidate his authority is not without precedent in Hungarian history: in his first speech after becoming prime minister in 1932, the former leader of the anti-Semitic Racial-Defense Party (Fajvédő Párt), Gyula Gömbös, declared “To the Jews I openly and frankly state: I have revised my opinion. I wish to regard those Jews who recognize a community of fate with the nation as brothers and sisters in the same way as I do my Hungarian brothers and sisters” (source in Hungarian).

And indeed, although he did much to incorporate Hungary into the authoritarian political sphere of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, Prime Minister Gömbös initiated no measures that served to directly impair the rights or otherwise harm the interests of Hungarian Jews during his four years in office from 1932 to 1936. 

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The Orbán Speeches

Prime Minister Orbán speaking at the Hungarian Parliament Building after taking his oath of office for the new parliamentary cycle beginning in 2014.

Prime Minister Orbán speaking inside the Hungarian Parliament Building on May 10,  2014.

On May 10, 2014, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave two speeches—the first in the Hungarian Parliament Building before the newly elected National Assembly after taking his oath of office as head of government for the new parliamentary cycle; and the second immediately afterwards outside the Hungarian Parliament Building before a large crowd of his supporters.

Prime Minister Orbán highlighted the following themes and messages in the speeches:

1) The message that Fidesz’s election victory in 2010 represented a “revolution” ending the two-decade “post-communist era” following the System Change in 1989-1990; 

2) The theme of National unity, particularly with regard to that between Hungarians living in Hungary and those living as minorities in neighboring countries;

3) The theme of Christianity and religion as a unifying force among Hungarians;

4) The message that Hungarians must support Fidesz in order to prevent the internal enemies who controlled “post-communist” Hungary from undermining the country and possibly returning to power;

5) The theme of fighting for national dignity and self-determination vis-á-vis the European Union, embodied in Fidesz’s 2014 European Parliament election slogan “Respect the Hungarians!” 

6) The message that criticism of the Fidesz-adopted electoral system, which gave the party another two-thirds majority in the National Assembly on just over 44 percent of the popular votes in the 2014 national election, is invalid; 

7) The message that the electorate’s reconfirmation of Fidesz’s two-thirds majority in the National Assembly in the 2014 general election represents a mandate to end debate surrounding the validity of the government’s policies and the Fidesz-adopted Fundamental Law

8) The theme of moving toward the political center and fighting extremism in implicit response to the strong showing of the radical-nationalist Jobbik party in the 2014 National Assembly election;  

9) The message that the term “extremism” can be defined very broadly to include such elements as “economic-policy proposals that lack common sense and reason” and “policy that aims to sacrifice the one-thousand-year-old Hungary on the altar of some kind of European United States”; 

10) The theme of anti-liberalism—the subordination of the individual to the collective in the form of the Hungarian nation; 

11) The message that post-revolution Ukraine must provide Hungarians living in the country with autonomy and collective rights; 

12) The message that Hungary’s population decrease must be reversed naturally, through emphasis on the traditional family. 

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking to supporters outside the Hungarian Parliament Building after taking his oath of office for the new parliamentary cycle beginning in 2014.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking outside the Hungarian Parliament Building on May 10, 2014.

Below are links to Orange Files translations of the speeches with the portions related to the themes and messages outlined above highlighted. These speeches provide a very accurate reflection of the spirit of the Fidesz system and its architect and unqualified master. These speeches will become increasingly interesting as Prime Minister Orbán transforms the ideas and messages expressed in them into concrete policy and action over the coming years and, perhaps, decades.   

Speech 1: to the National Assembly inside the Hungarian Parliament Building (source in Hungarian).

Speech 2:  to supporters outside the Hungarian Parliament Building (source in Hungarian).

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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. . . .

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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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Fill in the Blanks

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Viktor Orbán speaking on June 16, 1989.

Twenty-five years ago this week, on June 16, 1989, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, then the spirited leader of the liberal, anti-communist Alliance of Young Democrats (now a conservative, Christian-nationalist party known only by its acronym Fidesz), gave a speech at the reburial of 1956 revolutionary Prime Minister Imre Nagy on Heroes’ Square in Budapest that vaulted him into the center stage of Hungarian politics, a position that he has occupied ever since. This is an Orange Files translation of that speech (video of speech in Hungarian):    

My Fellow Citizens! 

Since the beginning of the Russian occupation and the communist dictatorship 40 years ago, Hungarian people once had an opportunity, once had adequate courage and strength to attempt to reach the objectives articulated in 1848: national independence and political freedom. To this day our goals have not changed, today we still have not relented on ’48, just as we have not relented on ’56 either.  

Those young people who today are fighting for the establishment of liberal democracy in Hungary bow their heads before the communist Imre Nagy and his associates for two reasons. We honor them as statesmen who identified with the will of Hungarian society, who in order to do this were able to relinquish their holy communist taboos, that is, the unquestioned service of the Russian empire and the dictatorship of the party. For us, they are statesmen who even in the shadow of the gallows refused to stand in file with the murderers who decimated society, statesmen who even at the cost of their lives did not disavow the nation that had accepted them and placed their confidence in them. We learned from their fate that democracy and communism are irreconcilable. 

We know well that the majority of the victims of the revolution and the retribution were young people of our age and kind. But it is not only for this reason that we feel the sixth coffin to be ours. Until the present day, 1956 was our nation’s last chance to step onto the path of western development and create economic prosperity. The ruin that weighs upon our shoulders today is the direct consequence of the fact that they suppressed our revolution in blood and forced us back into that Asian impasse from which we are again trying to find a way out.  

It was, in truth, then that the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party deprived us, the young people of today, of our future. It is for this reason that not only the corpse of a murdered young person lies in the sixth coffin, but our next 20—or who knows how many—years lie in there as well. 

 My Friends! 

We young people do not understand many things that are perhaps natural for the older generations. We are at a loss to explain how those who not long ago stood among the chorus vilifying the revolution and its prime minister have today unexpectedly realized that they are advocates of Imre Nagy’s reform policies. Neither do we understand how those party and state leaders who commanded that we be taught using textbooks falsifying the revolution are today jostling to lay a hand on these coffins like some lucky talisman.  

We believe that we owe no gratitude for the permission to bury our dead after 31 years. Nobody deserves thanks because today we are able to operate our own political organizations. It is not the merit of the Hungarian political leadership that it has not acted against those demanding democracy and free elections, though the weight of its weapons would permit it to do so, using methods similar to those of Li Peng, Pol Pot, Jaruzelski or Rákosi.  

Today, 33 years after the revolution and 31 years after the execution of the last legitimate prime minister, we have the opportunity to peacefully achieve all that the ’56 revolutionaries attained for the nation through bloody conflict, if only for a few days. If we believe in our own strength, we will be capable of bringing an end to the communist dictatorship, if we are sufficiently resolute, we can force the ruling party to submit itself to free elections. If we do not lose sight of the principles of ’56, we can elect for ourselves a government that will initiate immediate talks regarding the quick withdrawal of Soviet troops. If we have the mettle to want all this, then, but only then, we can fulfill the will of our revolution. 

Nobody can believe that the party state is going to change on its own. Recall that on October 6, 1956, the day of László Rajk’s burial, the party newspaper Szabad Nép proclaimed in colossal letters on its front page “Never Again!” Just three weeks later, the communist party’s ÁVH officers opened fire on peaceful, unarmed demonstrators. Not even two years later after the “Never Again,” the HSWP sentenced innocent hundreds, among them their own comrades, to death in show trials similar to that of Rajk. 

It is for this reason that we cannot be satisfied with the promises of communist political officials,  promises that oblige them to nothing at all. We must ensure that the ruling party cannot use force against us, even if it wants to. There is no other way to avoid more coffins and overdue funerals such as today’s. 

Imre Nagy, Miklós Gimes, Géza Losonczy, Pál Maléter, József Szilágyi and the nameless hundreds sacrificed their lives for Hungarian independence and freedom. Young Hungarians, before whom these ideas remain inviolable to this day, bow their heads before your memory. 

Rest in Peace.

There is a striking similarity between the conflict-centered, aggressive rhetoric of Orbán’s iconic Imre Nagy eulogy and that which he uses today as the head of the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party government. Only the objects of his antagonism and sympathy have changed in the two and a half decades since the 1989 speech. The Orbán of today would not classify “Russian,” “Asian” and “Li Peng” among the former, just as he would not classify “Western” among the latter. However, the speech still represents one of the greatest instances of twentieth-century Hungarian political oratory, boldly and explicitly articulating the widespread antipathy felt in Hungary at the time of the System Change toward the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party and the role it had played in the suppression of the the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the post-revolutionary campaign of retribution that entailed the execution of Imre Nagy and hundreds of others.

The question is: to what degree does Orbán’s building of an authoritarian state in Hungary as prime minster since 2010 negate the contribution he made to bringing one down twenty-five years ago?  

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