’George Soros is Hitler, and Europe is his gas chamber’ – wrote Szilárd Demeter, the president of Petőfi Museum of Literature – which itself is a government appointed position – in a now retracted article, that was published on Origo, a pro-government website.
It wasn’t the first time Demeter expressed himself in a rather questionable way, he is known for using controversial Second World War analogies. In August he compared Facebook’s content managers to Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor, after one of his posts was banned from the social media site. Demeter suggested that Facebook acted like Mengele, when choosing which post to ban, just like ‘Mengele chose which Jews he sent to work, and which ones he sent to the gas chambers.’ The article back in August was largely overlooked by the media, with the exception of the Hungarian-Jewish press.
This time it seems Demeter went far enough to cause an international uproar. The occasion for Demeter’s op-ed was the fight between the EU and Hungary about the COVID-19 recovery package. The EU wanted to condition funds to the ‘rule of law provision’, while Hungary and Poland decided to block the initiative. George Soros reacted to this by publishing an article on Project Syndicate with the title: ’Europe Must Stand up to Hungary and Poland.’
Last week Demeter decided to publish his opinions on the subject.
He wrote: ’The liberals now want to exclude Hungarians and Poles from the political community in which we still have rights. We are the new Jews.’ He ended his article stating: ‘George Soros is the liberal Führer. And his liberal-Arian army adores him like a god, even more than Hitler’s army adored their leader.’
Demeter’s article caused a huge uproar. Rabbi Slomó Köves, leading rabbi of EMIH – Hungarian Jewish Alliance, affiliate of the Chabad movement said in a statement: ‘comparing George Soros to Hilter, and his activities to gas chambers is a vulgar provocation’.
Robert Frölich, the Chief Rabbi of Mazsihisz (short for the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities) wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Orbán on his Facebook page, in which he inquired what the prime minister thought of the article.
Both the Israeli and the American ambassadors to Hungary condemned the writing.
The article was retracted a day after its appearance by Demeter, who tried to explain his move:
‘I concede that using Nazi comparisons is relativization, and it can insult – without meaning to – the memory of the victims. In the future I will try to abide by that.’
The highest ranking member of the government reacting to Demeter’s statements was Minister of Finance Mihály Varga, who said that ‘the article was retracted, Demeter apologized, no further comments have to be made.’
An open letter signed by Hungarian artists and public figures called for the resignation of Demeter, the petition was signed by some 29 thousand people by now.