Leader of Hungary's Jewish community to return Knight's Cross award in protest

August 22, 2016

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“Diversity I like. Destructive extremism I do not.  I do not wish to belong to the same society as Zsolt Bayer, not even virtually.  For this reason I am announcing that as a responsible Hungarian citizen I am returning the award that I received as a civilian.”

MAZSIHISZ (Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary) president András Heisler posted the following on his Facebook page this morning.  Heisler is one of 25 Knight’s Cross recipients to declare their intention to return Hungary’s third-highest award since it was bestowed on Fidesz publicist Zsolt Bayer last Thursday:

Before I was elected president of MASZIHISZ, I received the Knight’s Cross in 2011 “in recognition of the many years of societal work I performed in the interest of the Jewish community.”  I was decorated as a civilian.  I was proud of the award, and I thought its moral value was only strengthened by the fact that I had joined a society whose recipients represented many different kinds of people, personalities possessing varying points of view, those favoring different political sides, and those representing a broad range of churches.  I consider diversity to be a value, and toleration for one another’s points of view means Hungary’s future.

Today, however, I find myself the owner of the same award as Zsolt Bayer.  Zsolt Bayer received the same award on August 20th.  A person who is a racist and an antisemite who glows with hatred of gypsies and pollutes Hungary with nation destroying ideas, vigilantly protects the traditions of Hungary’s far right, and keeps alive feelings of fear and hatred.  Diversity I like. Destructive extremism I do not.  I do not wish to belong to the same society as Zsolt Bayer, not even virtually.  For this reason I am announcing that as a responsible Hungarian citizen I am returning the award that I received as a civilian.  My decision is personal and I do not want to influence anybody.  I do not wish to judge other previous recipients of the award on whether or not they decide to return the award.  This is everyone’s personal decision to make. I would like for others to accept this.