Csanád Szegedi, the 29-year-old vice president of the Hungarian JOBBIK Party–a rabidly anti-Semitic, homophobic, and ultranationalist party, has had to deal with the fact that his grandmother and mother are both Jewish, making him eligible to make aliyah to Israel. What a horrible day it must have been for poor Csanád Szegedi who claims to have discovered his Jewish roots only in December of 2011.
The story raises many issues and questions. For Szegedi, the question will be clear: whether to continue to embrace the vile racist worldview of the JOBBIK party in which human beings are deemed as ontologically evil (Satanic, money-hungry, exploitative by nature) no matter their cultural orientation or to repudiate this patently false ideology as a result of his own experience.
In the decades following the greatest trauma of Hungarian Jewry in 1944-45 when more than half a million Hungarian Jews were murdered, many survivors decided to suppress the fact that they were Jewish in a misguided attempt to shield their children from adverse discrimination. In many cases, the children and grandchildren of these survivors assumed the overwhelmingly negative attitudes “average” Hungarians entertained towards Jews. When things progressed to this level, the Jewish parents or grandparents would be shocked into making the painful confession to their initially traumatized offsprings. Thankfully, many of these crypto-Jews quickly embraced their Jewish reality to some extent–at least to the extent that they stopped calling Jews “dirty,” and became more tolerant.
Csanád Szegedi, the vice president of the Jobbik Movement and MP in the European Parliament, is in an especially tough spot. His entire political life is based on the rabid, race-based (and entirely discredited) ideology of “pure Hungarians” vs. “new intruders” who want to colonize Hungary (i.e. the Jews). Yes, in this totally warped and distorted view, “the Jews are coming” to “take away our land.” The Jews–who are blamed for Communism and Capitalism as well–are the great enemy group when they bring capital into Hungary just as they are blamed when they decide to move their capital elsewhere. The Jews, who have lived in Hungary since the Romans made Pannonia into a province, are all of a sudden a new group of outsiders who both refuse to integrate and have integrated so thoroughly that one cannot tell them apart from “genuine” Hungarians. The Jews have not done anything positive for Hungary (never mind the almost endless list of artists, actors, musicians, industrialists, intellectuals, Nobel Prize winners, butchers, plumbers, and small scale merchants). The Jews should go back to Palestine–and the Jews should get out of Palestine, which they have shamelessly conquered. The list of accusations against the Jews is almost endless. Csanád Szegedi has affiliated himself with this party and united his political aspirations with those of this party. His speeches–which you can find on youtube and of which I post one as a primary example of the nationalist rhetoric in which he uses his father’s side of the family to show kinship with the Kuns in the small village of Kunmadaras indict him more thoroughly than any prosecutor could of the kind of rabid Xenophobia his party has championed since its inception http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8TFbHzVcGg). In this video, Csanadi explicitly states that Hungary needs a second Horthy era in order to restore its greatness. He proudly points to his 92-year-old grandmother (although he doesn’t say from which side) who could recite the Horthy-era credo even at two o’clock in the morning (“I believe in God, I believe in my country, I believe in God’s justice, I believe in Hungary’s resurrection”). I’ll have to discuss the incredible parallels Hungarian nationalists have developed in their origin myths with those of the hated Jews (chosenness, perfect land that is the microcosm of the world within the Carpathians, an ancient people with a great history etc.) some other time.
It is all of this that the unpleasant news regarding Szegedi’s Jewish mother published by the popular Hungarian Nazi website allied to the Jobbik Party called kuruc.info disrupted forever.
Forever? Hardly. Szegedi’s first reaction to the news was to say some incredible things from a purely Jobbik Party perspective. Yet, cognitive dissonance is hardly a new phenomenon in the followers of this party. After all, who could believe at the same time that there was no Holocaust at all but that there would be a necessity for it now. That there was no systematic process of shooting Jews into the Danube river in 1944 and no deportations to concentration camps with gas chambers and hard labor while at the same time shouting at soccer matches the now familiar slogans alluding to shooting Jews into the Danube River and sending Jews to the gas chambers? Poor Mr. Szegedi. He’s now forced to say things like, “My father is a national woodcarver artisan who has carved a lot of headstones, memorials, and tulip-ornamented chests. I have been familiar with Hungarian national motifs.” (all translations are mine, kuruc.info) Does Mr. Szegedi really think that diehard Jobbik fans, who have adopted ontological anti-Semitism practiced by the Nazis, will care at all what “a Jew’s” non-Jewish father does? How would that impact on anything that “the Jew” Szegedi has done? And even if Szegedi were a second Hitler, it would not appease those race-based Jew-haters according to whom the very nature and being of a Jew is irredeemably evil. To make his story sound even less Jewish, Szegedi continues: “I was put into a Protestant high school at the first opportunity after the so-called change of systems [the fall of Communist Hungary and its transition into a parliamentary democracy in 1990, which the right has questioned recently], and my I obtained my diploma from a Protestant college as well. In other words, I would not believe that anyone could justifiably call into question the honest commitment I have made in my political activities towards the Hungarian people.” Then, poor Csanad is forced to take a detour from the often-used political playbook of the anti-Semite and state the obvious, namely, that in an ethnic group such as the Hungarian in which the blood of so many other ethnic groups circulates, what matters is not “pure blood” since–and here, Mr. Szegedi expects us to take a leap of faith and believe him, “pure Hungarian ethnicity never mattered in the Carpathian basin” but rather “how individuals relate to the Hungarian cause.”
The Hungarian extremists never embraced the Hungarian “race” as a pure and almost mythologically significant one? Clearly, Szegedi would like that to be the case even though a basic youtube search would yield dozens of clips that would belie his statement.
Then, Mr. Szegedi makes another commonplace statement regarding ethnic Hungarians–at least, a commonplace statement from outside the fold of the Hungarian extremists whose colors Szegedi represents. He says, “Relatively speaking, there are few people in Hungary whose ancestors do not include Romanian, Slovak, Serbian, German, Russian, Jewish, Bunyevac, Bolgar, Polish etc. people.”
Great to know. Armin Vambery asserted as much in his 1895 book (A magyarsag keletkezese es gyarapodasa) [The Origins and Proliferation of the Hungarian] for which he was excoriated back then by Mr. Szegedi’s intellectual forefathers.
Even better to hear the following from Mr. Szegedi as he discusses his, as he calls them “respectable” Jewish ancestors: “They included shoemakers, bailiffs, millers, in other words, they were totally average people who had, for the most part, became assimilated. This was not rare at all. A hundred years ago, one million Jews lived in Hungary who had considered themselves Hungarians, and one cannot say that all of them were problematic.” (A többi felmenőimhez hasonlóan nekik is tisztes állásuk volt. Volt köztük cipész, gazdatiszt, molnár, tehát teljesen átlagos emberek voltak, akik nagyrészt asszimilálódtak. Ez egyáltalán nem volt ritka, 100 évvel ezelőtt Magyarországon egymillió zsidó élt, akik magyarnak vallották magukat, és nem lehet azt mondani, hogy mindegyikőjükkel gond lett volna. http://kuruc.info/r/6/97961/#ixzz21NbuKlP5)
What a diplomat Mr. Szegedi is. Jews as totally assimilated? Jews as people who considered themselves Hungarians? Jews as regular people? Not all of them were problematic? Wow! Fantastic. Huge posters should be made with Csanadi’s picture and these words emblazoned on them and be displayed at the next New Hungarian Guards meeting or the gathering of the Goy Bikers (yes, in today’s Hungary, there is actually such a group of largely middle-aged men with mostly Harley Davidsons whose attraction to one another is limited to their boundless Jew-hatred).
Surely, it will take some time for Mr. Szegedi to reconcile the image he has created of himself as a genuine Hungarian of the most extreme sort (as a vocal supporter of Horthy’s Csendőrség [Gendarmes who were instrumental in implementing the deportation of Hungarian Jewry to the death camps in 1944], the rabidly anti-Jewish ideology of his Jobbik Party that paints Hungarians Jews as a foreign entity that can never become good Hungarians even with complete assimilation) and the son of a woman whose mother had survived Auschwitz.
This personal dilemma would be but a quaint anomaly if not for the fact that in today’s Hungary, the Jobbik Party is the spiritual successor of the Nyilas Party [Arrow Cross Party] with such a well-documented rabid aversion to Jews.
Mr. Szegedi should begin to pray that his own party, Jobbik, never get full power in Hungary. For on the day it does, Szegedi (and many others like him) would also have to live in fear of, first, being systematically excluded from public life, then, from life in general. If he doesn’t believe what happened in his beloved Horthy era to the Jews living in Hungary, all he has to do is to ask his grandmother.
She surely could tell her not-so-little grandson eloquently about what happened in the 1930s and 1940s to the Jews of Hungary and, more specifically, how she ended up in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
És beszéld el fiaidnak…[And tell your sons…”]