A Hungarian official has retracted an op-ed in which he called George Soros “the liberal Fuhrer” who uses Europe as “his gas chamber” and identified Poland and Hungary as “the new Jews.”
After the op-ed was published Saturday on Origo, a Hungarian news site owned by allies of Prime Minister Victor Orban, Jewish groups from across the globe condemned Szilard Demeter, one of Hungary’s 32 “ministerial commissioners” and the director of a literary museum.
The umbrella group of Jewish communities in Hungary called the comparison “inappropriate” and “inexcusable,” and the American Jewish Committee Central Europe office tweeted, “Horrendous!” Israel’s embassy to Hungary also condemned the op-ed, writing on Twitter: “We utterly reject the use and abuse of the memory of the Holocaust for any purpose.”
On Sunday, Demeter retracted the piece about Soros, a Holocaust survivor and billionaire who was born in Hungary and promotes liberal causes in the United States, Hungary and beyond. But Demeter said he was doing so “independently of what I think.”
“I will grant that those criticising me are correct in saying that to call someone a Nazi is to relativise, and that making parallels with Nazis can inadvertently cause harm to the memory of the victims,” Demeter said in a statement.
In the op-ed, Demeter wrote: “Europe is George Soros’ gas chamber,” in which “poison gas flows from the capsule of a multicultural open society, which is deadly to the European way of life.” He also called Poland and Hungary, which face European Union consequences over their anti-democratic policies, “the new Jews.”
Soros has criticised Orban over those practices, and over Orban’s opposition to the arrival of millions of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. “Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle,” Soros has said in presenting his roadmap for helping to settle the new arrivals.
In recent weeks, Orban has stepped up his criticism of Soros, who has become a bogeyman for right-wing politicians the world over. In the United States, criticism of him frequently veers into antisemitic stereotypes.
Demeter, 44, was appointed last year as a ministerial commissioner for culture tasked with overseeing the relocation of Hungary’s national library. He also runs the Petőfi Literary Museum, a national institution with government funding. Members of Hungary’s opposition party are calling for his resignation.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.