The article “Holocaust remembered” (The Budapest Times, 1-7 February 2013) incorrectly states that 550,000-600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the final year of the Second World War “the vast majority after Nazi Germany invaded its ally and installed a quisling Hungarian fascist party in power”.
The 16 October 1944 abdication of Miklós Horthy appointing Arrow Cross leader Ferenc Szálasi “nemzetvezetõ” took place three to six months AFTER the deportation of some 437,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz during the prime ministership of Döme Sztojay with Horthy’s knowledge and consent. What Horthy did not know was that a majority of those deported to Auschwitz were to be gassed upon arrival.
The presence of German troops on Hungarian soil notwithstanding, Horthy eventually succumbed to international pressure to stop the deportations and at one point actually deployed Hungarian troops to prevent trains laden with Jews from leaving Budapest.
The notion that the Hungarian government somehow looked on haplessly while the Wehrmacht rounded up and deported 437,000 Jews (mostly women, children and those too old or infirm to serve in forced-labour battalions) ignores the fact that the deportations were organised by the Hungarian government at the behest of the German government with the knowledge and consent of the Hungarian Parliament and the active participation of some 200,000 Hungarian citizens.
The short-lived government of Ferenc Szálasi is directly responsible for the death of some 10,000 to 15,000 Jews, many of whom were dragged out of their homes, shot in the back and thrown into the icy waters of the Danube by members of the Arrow Cross. The number of Arrow Cross victims could easily have exceeded 100,000 but for the extraordinary actions of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who, in addition to issuing Swedish passports and setting up safe houses, is credited with preventing the liquidation of the Budapest Jewish ghetto in the final weeks of the war.
If President of the Republic János Áder truly wanted to honour the memory of Hungarian victims of the Holocaust he would acknowledge the active role the Hungarian government played in their persecution and murder. At the same time he should acknowledge the efforts of hundreds of Hungarians to protect Hungarian Jews, often at great risk to themselves and their families.