In yet another instance of official historical falsification, Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog has denied that any direct deportations of Roma people to concentration camps took place from Hungary. His comments coincided with commemorative events throughout the country at the weekend marking the 70th anniversary of the Roma Holocaust.
Speaking on public radio on Sunday morning, Balog claimed that many things “need to be clarified” around the question of atrocities suffered by the Hungarian Roma in 1944. He went on to declare that “there were no direct deportations [to concentration camps] of Roma from Hungary: Hungarian Roma were deported via Austria. There also is a controversy regarding the number of victims, as some say it was 70,000, some others claim it was half a million”.
Balog, who confused the respective war histories of Austria and Hungary, was unavailable for comment yesterday. Reactions to his claims were immediate and scathing, however. The Roma Press Center offered the minister footage of filmed testimonies of Roma survivors taken to German concentration camps directly from Hungary.
Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) MP Ágnes Kunhalmi spoke with regret that “words contrary to historical research, that were definitely lies, and completely unacceptable, could be uttered in the middle of Europe in 2014 by a minister who is, among other things, responsible for education and culture”. Together-PM cited historical findings that contradicted Balog’s claims about deportation from Hungary and said they “expect an open apology” from the minister.
Politics Can Be Different (LMP) education spokeswoman Ágnes Osztolykán told ATV that Balog’s comments were the product of “plain ignorance that could have been avoided by basic reading”.
While the exact nature and scope of the Roma Holocaust in Hungary is subject to debate, a consensus exists among historians that Hungarian Roma were deported to concentration camps in Germany and used as forced labor. Much documentation testifies to individual raids by Hungarian gendarmes that resulted either in direct deportation or ghettoization as early as April 1944. Deportations to an unused fortress in Komárom in autumn 1944 caused many casualties, and Hungarian Arrow Cross militia and German SS later deported thousands of Roma inmates to concentration camps across the Third Reich.
As a historical monograph written on the Roma Holocaust in Hungary by Agnes Daróczi and János Barsony recalls:
Mass deportation from Komárom occurred just before the collapse of the military situation, in other words, they occurred late and under peculiar circumstances. The deportations were a manifestation and result of Ferenc Szálasi and his Arrow Cross Party’s assumption of power as well as their desire to subserviently meet all the demands of the occupying German forces. Their purpose was a dual one: on the one hand to supply the Germans with new slave labor; on the other, to rid the country of all those people, whom the new regime deemed dangerous.
In eastern Austria thousands of Hungarian-speaking Roma were forcibly expelled from the Burgenland region and killed by Austrian SS members between 1938 and 1941.
Referenced in this article:
Pharrajimos: The Fate of the Roma During the Holocaust, Barsony, Janos and Daroczi, Agnes, eds. Romedia Foundation-Idebate Press, 2008 pp. 114.