Holocaust in Hungary Exhibit at the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C

Washington, D.C – Holocaust in Hungary, a historical exhibit documenting the horrific events that took the lives of 550,000 Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust, opened on May 19 at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.  The exhibit was sponsored by the Carl Lutz Foundation, Budapest; the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice; and the Hungarian American Coalition in conjunction with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, with support from The Hungary Initiatives Foundation and the Embassy of Hungary in Washington, D.C.

Coalition President Maximilian Teleki acted as Master of Ceremonies, and also represented Mr. György Vámos, President of the Carl Lutz Foundation and read his personal remarks.  Mr. Vámos’ message was clear: “The history of the Holocaust in Hungary – which this exhibit introduces through key information and selected photographs – is proof that racism of any form can only lead to tragedy. Anti-Semitism, racism and anti-Gypsy sentiment are all based on a terrible power: that of hatred, based on misunderstanding, ignorance, and gullibility.”

Mr. Teleki condemned as “unacceptable” any attempt to launder this reality or build a memorial reflecting this painful history, must be precise and accurate, and have an open and receptive process. He stressed that the Holocaust tore the legal systems in European societies apart.  The president of the Coalition pointed out that the governments that turned against their own citizens led their country to military defeat and a moral crisis.

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Max Teleki, Katrina Lantos Swett, Dr. Tamás Fellegi and Ambassador György Szapáry

Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD), co-chairman of the Hungarian caucus in the U.S Congress, warned that human rights are often violated today.  He had recently visited Israel, where many are concerned about the apparent rise of anti-Semitism in eastern Ukraine. The American Hungarian Congressman stressed that remembrances such as this one could help to prevent a repeat of the past.

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) also remembered those who lost their lives, as well as those Hungarians who had the courage to help save their fellow citizens from death camps. In his speech he emphasized his friendship with the late Congressman Tom Lantos, who was the only Holocaust survivor to have served in the United States Congress, and the importance of his legacy.

Ambassador György Szapáry remarked that the Hungarian Holocaust is a trauma for the entire Hungarian nation. The Ambassador acknowledged that it was committed by Hungarians against Hungarians, and that the state failed to protect its citizens.  He also emphasized that on the 70th anniversary we need not only remember the persecuted victims but also the rescuers. He stressed that the Hungarian government has been responsible in combating anti-Semitism.  The Jews of Hungary – who are today Europe’s third largest Jewish community – make a significant contribution to the development of Hungarian society.

Dr. Katrina Lantos-Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, remembered that thanks to Raoul Wallenberg’s effort her parents were able to escape the destruction. She warned that anti-Semitism in Europe and Hungary is rising and resurgent. At the same time, she pointed out that 2014 is not 1944. She praised Ambassador György Szapary for his statement promising that the government will be vigilant in responding to manifestations of anti-Semitism. According to Dr. Lantos-Swett, we live in a world in which “the international system of universal human rights specifies the norms” for individual governments. These standards are not always enforced, but they are instruments against the resurrection of evil.

Dr. Tamás Fellegi, President and CEO of The Hungary Initiatives Foundation, speaking on behalf of the foundation’s Board of Trustees, delivered the closing remarks:  “We mourn our dead.  We draw lessons for the present and the future.  We take note about the threats and dangers of racism and extremism.  It is all the more important to register that the mainstream political forces in Hungary, be they Right or Left, are neither racist nor anti-Semitic.  There is a clear line of demarcation between political anti-Semitism and mainstream political parties, regardless of right or left, and this is very important.”

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