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February 9, 2020

500 neo-Nazis celebrated the “Day of Honor” in Budapest

Budapest - Despite article after article about the prohibition of this year’s neo-Nazi demonstration called “Day of Honor,” it took place as usual. The group gathered today in the Városmajor Park, close to Maros Street, where Father Kun’s Arrow Cross men killed hundreds of Jewish Hungarians. Since an anti-fascist demonstration was planned for the same place, a strong police force awaited the arrival of the two groups. According to newspaper reports, the neo-Nazi demonstration was organized by two groups: Légió Hungária, a far-right group that has been very active since its establishment in 2018, and the Hungarian Hammerskins. Légió Hungária introduced themselves to the world in October 2019 when they vandalized the Jewish community center, Aurora. About the Hungarian Hammerskins we know almost nothing, but I assume that it is a white supremacist group like the Hammerskins in the United States, who, by the way, are considered to be the most violent and best organized neo-Nazi skinhead group in the country.



According to newspaper reports, there were about 500 black-clad neo-Nazis, an international crowd whose members came mostly from Central and East European countries. A representative of Die Rechte, a small German far-right party, was recognized as a guest of honor. One could see flags of the German Reich and Vichy France. The anti-fascist demonstration of about 1,000 participants was organized by Antifaschistische Aktion, an international organization whose members struck me as a pretty rough far-left crowd. They were waving the red and black flag of anarcho-syndicalism. There was also a group of Hungarian counter-demonstrators organized by Ferenc Donáth, the chairman of the Imre Nagy Society, which was joined by Roma activists. A small scuffle between the neo-Nazis and some unidentifiable counter-demonstrators broke out toward the end of the event.

So, another year, another far-right demonstration to commemorate the failed attempt of German and Hungarian soldiers to break out of the Soviet encirclement of Budapest on February 11, 1945, two days before the city unconditionally surrendered. The fifty-day siege of the city cost 38,000 civilians their lives. The failed breakout resulted in an additional 20,000 deaths of soldiers, mostly Germans. These annual international gatherings are irritating, but what is truly frightening is the far-right’s interpretation of the final days of the Horthy regime. The German and Hungarian soldiers are depicted as defenders of European civilization, not victims of the agony of the Third Reich.

In addition to these annual gatherings, there are other, more insidious ways of leading people to embrace the “far-right” interpretation of Hungary’s history of the period. The most notable are the “breakout memorial tours.” While only 500-600 people turn up for the demonstrations, just last year 3,079 people signed up for these tours, and 76% of them completed their tour goals. Participants follow the exact route the 600-700 survivors covered in order to reach the German lines. The website of Kitörés túra explains that the organization offers three tours a year. One is the “legendary” 60 km trek, but the less hardy can try their luck on shorter distances first. Participants in these tours, unlike the demonstrators, can wear military uniforms and carry totalitarian symbols like swastikas. In fact, if someone successfully finishes the 60-km tour ten times, he will receive an exact replica of the Iron Cross.

We have known about the existence of these tours for some time. But what we didn’t know was that the Orbán government financially supports the breakout tours, which, as Átlátszó put it, “whitewashes the neo-Nazi ‘Day of Honor’ into a family-friendly excursion.” Kudos, by the way, to Márton Sarkadi Nagy, who wrote a tremendous piece of investigative journalism exposing the financial underpinnings of the group.

One of the chief organizers of Breakout Tours is Zoltán Moys, who is the CEO of a company that produces the television programs “Hazajáró” and “Hagyaték” for MTV. “Hazajáró” is a series of 30-minute segments about the offerings of various regions for interested tourists. I watched a couple of them and found them superficial. “Hagyaték” (Inheritance), which, according to the description, is “supposed to dust off the impurities of the modern age from the Hungarian cultural heritage,” is much more problematic. These dusting-offs are definitely tilted in favor of the far right. Culturally, historically, and politically sensitive topics are handled by the people who organize Breakout Tours. Breakout Tours, it should be noted, doesn’t have a monopoly on far-right excursions. People can also go on Miklós Horthy Tours and Bálint Hóman Tours.

Népszabadság noted in 2014 that “Nazi sympathizers” could be found around the television station MTV, and it identified Zoltán Moys as one of them. The article pointed out that he was the son-in-law of Sándor Lezsák, currently vice president of the Hungarian government. Lezsák started off as a leading member of MDF, but by now he is considered to be very much to the right. Five years ago I described him as someone who “would actually find himself much more at home in Jobbik.” What was not known until now was that the Orbán government is actually underwriting these tours. The Átlátszó journalist discovered, for instance, that in 2018 Moys’s association got together with an organization called Váci Reménység Egyesület (Vác Association of Hope) to organize the 2018 breakout tours. It received 900,000 forints from the Ministry of Human Resources, which was, at least in part, used for the tours.

Átlátszó’s detailed article includes a long list of far-right characters either working inside the state television organization or providing it with questionable programs at high prices. Many of the people mentioned in the article are known to be pro-Nazis or anti-Semites or both. A few days ago, István Ujhelyi, MSZP MEP, called Orbán’s regime fascist, to the outcry of Fidesz politicians. But looking at some of the people who provide cultural programs for MTV and MR, Ujhelyi’s claim seems plausible.

Source: Hungary today