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US congressional leaders protest statue to Bálint Hóman

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports that the co-chairs of the U.S. House Bipartisan Taskforce for Combatting Anti-Semitism on Friday, including congressman and Helsinki Commission chair Chris Smith of New Jersey (Republican), a vocal supporter of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his right-wing politics, have written to Orban protesting a monument to Bálint Hóman, a minister in Hungary in the 1930s and 1940s. JTA writes that Hóman participated in drafting legislation in 1938 and 1939 that restricted the rights of Hungarian Jews, and in 1944 he called for their deportation.

Some 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in the spring and summer of 1944.

The life-size bronze statue of Hóman, largely funded by the Hungarian government, is scheduled to be unveiled this month in the city of Szekesfehervár. 

In its letter the committee wrote of its “deep concern” about the statue, saying Hóman “spearheaded Hungary’s anti-Jewish legislation and paved the way for deportations of and atrocities against Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust”, reports JTA.

“We urge you to publicly condemn Hóman’s role in the persecution and deportation of innocent Hungarians and to withdraw government funding for the construction of this or any statue in his honor,” the members wrote.

Earlier this year the World Jewish Congress sent a letter to various city officials in Szekesfehervár asking that the city not erect a statue of the World War II-era fascist leader.

Bálint Hóman served in several pro-German governments under Miklós Horthy. After the Germans forced Horthy to resign, Hóman served in the fascist Arrow Cross puppet government of Ferenc Szálasi.

Fleeing Hungary with Szálasi, Hóman was captured in Germany by American troops and turned over to the Hungarian authorities.  In 1946 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.  He died in 1951 at the prison in Vác.

On March 6th, 2015 the Budapest City Court cleared him of the charge of crimes against humanity, citing lack of evidence.

Richard Field :