The long awaited Hungarian Holocaust Museum and Documentation Center will finally open on the 16th of April in 2004, on the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Hungary. The government’s representative has made a promise on this, so hopefully nothing will come in the way of the construction of this museum. There have been many difficulties though: the specific historical approach of the rightwing government, the never-ending debate on the location of the building, and as a result of all these arguments, the disappointment of the museum’s fans. The end of the story: the museum will be set up in Budapest, in a synagogue out of use, and the construction will be financed from the state budget.
One of the events of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was a memorial performance where eighty people were reading out for two hours the names of those perished in the Holocaust. The choice of location for the event was meant as a message to the government: the House of Terror was created to commemorate the victims of communism, yet despite countless promises no suitable memorial place has been found so far for the victims of the nazi genocide.
On the 10th of April Hungarian Jews organized a demonstration to express their sympathy with Israel. The event turned out to be too much of a peaceful protest: speakers condemned violence in general, but they hardly mentioned the fact that violence is provoked by Palestinians.
How did Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister to step down, manage to get the support of so many young people in the country? – the question is asked by Viktória Lugosi in her regular monthly mini-essay. She explains the answer: because he is so good at today’s trendy aggressive PR means.
An exhibition was opened at the Jewish Museum in Budapest in April. The title is “Jewish women”. As Zsuzsa Toronyi explains in an interview in our women’s column (Esther’s Bag), they intended to show different aspects of the life of Jewish women in Hungary in the past. In the same section Katalin Pécsi writes about the study week on “Jewish Women’s Literature” organized by the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden.
We publish a report on the meeting of the board of trustees of the Hungarian Jewish Heritage Fund that was held in March. The Fund, handling most of the compensation cases of Jews in Hungary, elected a new executive director, and dismissed the previous director (for being too independent). The salary of the new secretary will be five hundred thousand forints (two thousand euros), which is about five times more than the average wage in the country. At the same time there is less work to do because of the closing of compensation claims.
In our section on Israel, János Gadó examines the possibility of a nearly impossible task: putting up a fence between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
In our May issue we publish quotes from three books yet to come out at this year’s book week. Gábor T. Szántó’s novel “Keleti pályaudvar – végállomás” (Eastern Station, Last Stop) – talks about how Jews in Hungary (communists, Zionists, assimilants) dealt with the anti-Zionist trials of the Stalinist era. Attila Novák wrote about the life of Theodor Herzl, from his work we publish a chapter: “At the The Dawn of Zionist Politics”. Péter Kertész’s book of interviews (“A Komlós”) is about the life of János Komlós, a characteristic Jewish figure in Hungary of the 20th century: before 1945 he was a student of the Rabbinical Seminary, then became an officer at the communist political police, and later, in the sixties became famous as the founder of a comedy theatre staging performances criticizing the political system of the time.
This month’s book review is written by Katalin Pécsi on Chaim Potok’s novels. She classifies his writings as “Hasidic light literature“.