U.S. Antisemitism Envoy Decries Orban's 'Inexcusable' Remarks Evoking Nazi Ideology

Deborah Lipstadt said she was 'deeply alarmed' following the Hungarian prime minister's 'peoples of mixed race' comment

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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U.S. antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt.
U.S. antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON - U.S. antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt on Wednesday sharply decried Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban's remarks where he alleged Hungarians "do not want to become peoples of mixed race."

The far-right politician also apparently joked about gas chambers at Nazi extermination camps, saying "the past shows us German know-how on that" in the context of a European Union proposal to ration natural gas.

"Deeply alarmed by the Hungarian prime minister's use of rhetoric that clearly evokes Nazi racial ideology," Lipstadt said. "Nearly 75 [years] after the end of the Holocaust, it is inexcusable for a leader to make light of Nazi mass murder, especially one who claims zero tolerance of antisemitism."

Lipstadt's condemnation is the latest outcry aimed at the Hungarian leader over his remarks. Longtime Orban advisor Zsuzsa Hegedüs resigned following the speech, calling it "a pure Nazi text" that was "worthy of Goebbels." Orban defended himself saying he had a "zero-tolerance policy" toward antisemitism, though Hegedüs, who is Jewish, invoked her family's experience as Holocaust survivors noting that people died as a result of others staying silent.

A leading Hungarian Jewish group requested a meeting with Orban over his remarks, saying it "triggered serious concerns within the Jewish community." The International Auschwitz Committee of Holocaust survivors, too, called his comments "stupid and dangerous." More than half a million Hungarian Jews were systematically exterminated during the Nazi Holocaust in World War Two. Today, there are about 75,000 to 100,000 Jews in Hungary, most of them in Budapest.

Orban has previously stressed the need of maintaining "ethnic homogeneity" while imposing laws assailed by human rights groups. He has also targeted Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros as an avatar for conspiracy theories that many have accused of venturing into antisemitism.

Orban is still slated to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas next week despite the backlash. “Let’s listen to the man speak,” conference organizer Matt Schlapp told Bloomberg News.

Orban's anti-immigration measures have kept out migrants and helped his Fidesz party win elections in 2018 and 2022, but led to repeated clashes with the European Commission.

His language appears fashioned to absorb a policy on the far right abandoned by the radical opposition party Jobbik, which has moderated its message and lost much of its support in recent years.

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