One-third of Hungarians Are Antisemitic, New Survey Shows

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
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A neo-Nazi march in Budapest, 2004.
A neo-Nazi march in Budapest, 2004.Credit: AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

Around one-third of Hungarians hold either moderately antisemitic views or strong ones, the country’s largest Jewish group claimed last week, citing a survey conducted on its behalf in late 2019.

Twenty percent of Hungarians can be described as strongly antisemitic and16 percent are moderately antisemitic, according to the poll that was carried out in November and December of 2019 by Medián Opinion and Market Research Ltd. on behalf of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz. 

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The report was written in conjunction with the Goldziher Ignac Institute for Jewish History and Culture, which was recently established by the Mazsihisz and other Hungarian Jewish groups.

Twenty-three percent of the 1,200 participants stated that “The number of Jews in certain occupations should be limited,” a finding that the Mazsihisz called “shocking” in light of the country’s history.

In 1920, then-ruler Admiral Miklos Horthy imposed a quota, called the Numerus Clausus law, that capped the number of Jews allowed in universities proportionally to their size in the general population – five percent.

Additionally, 29 percent of respondents mostly or completely agreed that intellectuals of Jewish descent keep the media and culture under their control.

Thirty-six percent agreed that “[t]here is a secret Jewish network determining political and economic processes”; 32 percent agreed that “[t]here is an excessive influence of the Jews in Hungary today”; 15 percent stated that “[i]t would be best if the Jews left the country” and 19 percent agreed that “[t]he suffering of the Jews was God’s punishment.”

These numbers indicate that “roughly one-third of the population can somewhat agree with traditional conspiracy theories about Jews,” the Mazsihisz stated, explaining that “the pattern of antisemitism that can be identified in Hungary is different from that in Western European countries."

While physical incidents declined to zero in 2020, presumably due to coronavirus restrictions, “hate speech, conspiracy theories, and the category referred to as antisemitism in public life, increased between 2019 and 2020,” Aniko Felix, executive director of Goldziher Institute and writer of the incident report stated, complaining that antisemitism was “being normalized in public life, becoming part of the mainstream discourse.”

One example of this given by the report was the inclusion of the novel Albert Wass, Give Me Back My Mountains, “an openly antisemitic and politically active writer and member of the Arrow Cross Party,” in the national core curriculum.

In 2019, Aurora, a Jewish community and activism center in Budapest, sustained minor damage in what its operators said was arson by neo-Nazis. Established in 2014 by Marom, which is affiliated with the Conservative Jewish movement, Aurora has functioned as the headquarters of several additional groups advocating for, among other things, the Roma community and LGBTQ rights.

“Although the specific attacks [excluding the Outlaws’ Army action] were against the LGBT community, the series of assaults against Auróra can be considered an antisemitic incident” because the site was “linked to Jews,” Mazsihisz asserted.

Mazsihisz explained that attacks against the center were “related to a typical antisemitic conspiracy theory, in which Jews (or a ‘background power’) are held responsible for various trends, most notably supporting or even triggering migration, or [supporting] different ethnic or sexual minorities.”

Over the past decade, President Viktor Orban’s government has been criticized by Jewish groups for engaging in Holocaust relativism and of scapegoating Hungarian-born financier and Holocaust survivor George Soros for his country’s problems.

Orban has accused Soros of masterminding a migrant “invasion” of the country, rhetoric that was later echoed by Trump when he warned of a migrant caravan coming up through Mexico to the United States.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “Soros’s philanthropy often is recast as fodder for outsized conspiracy theories, including claims that he masterminds specific global plots or manipulates particular events to further his goals. Many of those conspiracy theories employ longstanding antisemitic myths, particularly the notion that rich and powerful Jews work behind the scenes, plotting to control countries and manipulate global events.”

Last week, Orban’s spokesman accused Soros of fabricating media reports that Budapest used Israeli surveillance software to spy on journalists and members of Hungary's opposition.

In a statement announcing the report, Mazsihisz leader Andras Heisler praised the government for taking “positive measures” against antisemitism.

JTA contributed to this report.

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