Bowing to international pressure, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday that he opposes a plan to build a statue in honor of a notorious Holocaust-era anti-Semite.
The statement came a day after senior U.S. State Department officials and leaders of Jewish organizations, convening in Budapest, issued strong denouncements of the plan to place the statue of Balint Homan, a well-known proponent of anti-Jewish legislation and a staunch supporter of the Nazis, outside a local school in his hometown.
In a statement issued by MTI, the official Hungarian news agency, Orban was quoted as saying that he would not support dedicating a statue to any official who had served during the period that spanned from March 1944 to May 1990 – when Hungary was not under sovereign rule. Homan served as minister of religion and education before and during the war. “There can be arguments about reasons, extent and quality of collaboration with invading powers but the government of Hungary shall not support erecting a statue for a politician who cooperated with the oppressors,” he said.
Behind the plans to erect the statue of Homan is a private foundation that had received government funding for the project. The government has requested that the money be returned, and the foundation is now looking for alternative sources so that it can carry out the project.
According to the Hungarian news agency, the Balint Homan foundation intends to move ahead with the plan, although it has meanwhile postponed the unveiling.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who has been leading the international campaign against the project, said that although it had come late, Orban’s response was nonetheless welcome. “I thank him for making the standpoint of the Hungarian government very clear,” Lauder said in a statement. “No honors must be given to those who prepared the ground for the mass murder of 600,000 Hungarian Jews by Nazi Germany in 1944.”
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