The country’s right-wing government wants to whitewash sordid parts of Hungarian history.
The new Holocaust museum in Hungary built exclusively for Hungarian Jews is yet to be opened to the public. The museum has caused some concerns for Holocaust scholars and survivors of that pogrom. It has divided the existing Jewish community now living in Hungary. The museum has caused international concerns that the curated memorabilia will minimize the role play which many Hungarians engaged in deportation along with persecution of Jews.
The present right-wing regime headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban hopes to inaugurate the museum this year. It marks the 75th anniversary of Hungarian Jews being deported to death camps set up in Nazi Germany-occupied Poland. Among the six million Jews slaughtered by the Nazis, over half a million were Hungarian Jews.
Holocaust scholars and survivors believe the Orban government is intentionally underplaying the role played by the then Hungarian Government. The country has a brutal anti-Semitic history and has played a role in the Nazi genocide. The structure itself is a striking one; visitors will enter the museum between two towers keeping a Star of David affixed between them. The building cost $23 million to construct, and it stands on land which earlier housed Jozsefvaros railway station. Approximately 437,000 Jews of Hungarian citizenship were forced aboard trains taking them to their deaths.
The government made a decree on September 7 which granted ownership of the House of Fates museum to the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation or EMIH. The EMIH is one of the three Jewish groups registered in the country. This exhibition is a concept made real by Maria Schmidt, a historian known to be an Orban ally. She also owns a weekly whose editorials routinely support the government. The museum will stock up on personal histories to illustrate Hungary’s 1938 to 1948 period. The museum will concentrate on children. It will also show several education programs and hold temporary exhibitions.
The museum project has had its fair share of critics from the beginning. Fierce criticism came from Yad Vashem in Israel in 2014, when the project was first announced. Yad Vashem is the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. The director of Yad Vashem Libraries, Robert Rozett, said “The museum concept clearly avoids addressing the role and responsibility of… Hungarian leaders of that era for the plight of the nation’s Jews, and their eventual abandonment to the hands of Nazi Germany.”
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