Amid Hungary and Poland’s joining forces to block a controversial EU budget that conditions who gets funds based on whether they adhere to what Brussels deems as “democratic standards”, European leaders are outraged over a Hungarian official’s comparison of billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
Szilard Demeter, ministerial commissioner and head of the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest, on Sunday published an op-ed in the popular news site Origo which draws on the reference. Origo is seen as staunchly pro-government to the point that it’s often accused of being state propaganda. “Europe is George Soros’ gas chamber,” Demeter wrote.
He was lashing out at Soros’ and EU technocrats’ attempts to destroy national culture in the name of ‘open borders multiculturalism’ – a constant criticism of right-wing European political movements. He charged that “Soros is the liberal Führer”.
“Poison gas flows from the capsule of a multicultural open society, which is deadly to the European way of life,” he wrote further. “George Soros is the liberal Führer. And his Liberaryan army is worshipping him in an even more servile manner than Hitler’s worshipped him, back in the day. They have learnt nothing from the twentieth century,” Demeter said according to an English translation.
Specifically he contextualized the EU budget fight in these terms after earlier this month Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told a state radio broadcaster that “Hungary can’t be blackmailed”.Hungary and Poland have jointly pledged to veto the 1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget given it has political strings attached which are seen aimed fundamentally at punishing Warsaw and Budapest.
The op-ed drew predictable outrage from European Jewish organizations as well as even the Israeli Embassy in Budapest:
The comments drew outrage from Hungary’s Jewish community, including the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, which called the article “tasteless” and “unforgivable.”
“(The article) is a textbook case of the relativization of the Holocaust, and is therefore incompatible with the government’s claim of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism,” the group wrote in a statement.
And further as the AP reports there are growing demands for Demeter’s immediate removal:
The government of Israel, a close ally of Hungary, condemned Demeter’s comments. The Israeli Embassy in Budapest tweeted, “We utterly reject the use and abuse of the memory of the Holocaust for any purpose… There is no place for connecting the worst crime in human history, or its perpetrators, to any contemporary debate.”
Gordon Bajnai, Hungary’s prime minister in 2009-2010, wrote on Facebook on Sunday that if Demeter isn’t removed from his post by Monday, “Hungarians and the rest of the world will obviously consider (his) statement as the position of the Hungarian government.”
Later in the day Demeter is reported to have grudgingly retracted the article amid the storm of pushback and criticism.