Gergely Gulyás: There is no collective guilt, but the state bears responsibility

Not only must we not forget that there were murderers, but „we must also name them,” said the minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday at the commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Holocaust Documentation Center (HDK) in Budapest.

Gergely Gulyás stressed that those who were persecuted, tortured and murdered for being Jews during the Holocaust „belonged to us, were part of the Hungarian nation” and contributed a great deal to the life of Hungary.

And their killers did not merely kill on command, but „killed with lust,” he said.

The minister stressed that there is no collective guilt among people, because if everyone is guilty, then no one is really; but the state does bear responsibility.

He added that Hungary had always made it clear since the fall of communism that the Hungarian state had been unable, and in many cases unwilling, to protect its own citizens during the Holocaust, and that the Hungarian administration at the time had been complicit in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the country following the German occupation.

Gergely Gulyás said that we must not forget the heroes who did not look the other way, who risked or even sacrificed their lives. And to this day „we have witnesses.” 

„Let us honor all those who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death,” who „bear witness to the horrors and show, by their example, the all-conquering power of life,” he said.

He added that today Hungary is one of the safest places in Europe for the Jewish community. The government also stands up against all forms of antisemitism in the international arena and considers it important to remember and protect freedom of conscience, including the freedom of Jewish religious practice.

According to Gergely Gulyás, the era we live in today is „significantly easier,” but there are still dangers. The abandonment of Europe’s ancient Judeo-Christian roots and culture „is a danger for us all.” Migration, if it is not accompanied by integration, is the greatest threat to Judaism, he said.

In addition, not only the far-right but also the left and the far-left formulate antisemitic theses and tolerate antisemites among their ranks, „against whom we have previously protested together, including with those present,” Gergely Gulyás added.

He said it was important „to remember year after year all that happened in the 20th century” as a universal tragedy of humanity, but also as a tragedy of the Hungarian nation as a whole and as a personal tragedy of many families. In this spirit, the Government pays tribute to the victims, the minister concluded.

Tamás Kovács, director of HDK, said in his speech that Auschwitz is a symbol today, but „we Hungarians are particularly pained,” as one-third of the 1.1-1.3 million people who were exterminated there were deported from Hungary. More than 75 years have passed since the liberation of the camp, and there are fewer and fewer former survivors among us, he said, asking them to „speak out” and remind us where exclusion and antisemitism lead.

He also asked the survivors to set an example to those born after the war on how to stand up, how to start life anew, even with the knowledge that their families had been destroyed, and how to rebuild one or even two countries, the director said.

Pascale Andreani, Ambassador of France to Hungary, stressed that the Holocaust is the greatest crime committed in the history of mankind.

Six million people were exterminated simply because they were Jews, three-quarters of the European Jewish population and more than one-third of the world’s Jewish population.

The ambassador quoted the French historian Ernest Renan, saying that „history is a mixture of remembering and forgetting,” and asked survivors to remember that „we must resist the temptation to forget.”

Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary, said that for Jews, the Shoah is not just a story, but the story of their people, their community. The story of family members they never had the chance to meet. Innocent people who could have lived full and happy lives and who might have been inventors, teachers, lawyers or engineers.

These „lost lives” make up the „story of the lost Jewish people.” Seventy-seven years later, there are still „three million fewer of us” than at the outbreak of the Great War, and this is an irreversible, personal loss, grief that „will remain with us forever,” the ambassador said.

Yevgeny Stanislavov, Russia’s ambassador, said it was impossible and incomprehensible that human beings could have committed the atrocities of the Holocaust. But it is equally impossible and incomprehensible to see parades in honor of the Nazis in the streets of some countries of modern Europe. It is an outright desecration of the memory of the victims,” he said.

He added that this is why it is important to preserve the truth, so that it „remains with us” as a lesson and a warning.

Andor Grósz, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Holocaust Community Foundation (Holocaust Közalapítvány), said that HDK fights against Holocaust denial and the increasing distortion of Holocaust history, as well as against antisemitism and exclusion, by preserving memories, objects and documents.

This is also the purpose of the temporary exhibition on the rural ghettoization that took place, which opened on Thursday evening at the documentation center, he said.

At the end of the commemoration, participants placed candles at the memorial wall of the victims.

January 27, the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945, was declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the UN General Assembly on November 1, 2005.

An advocate of assimilation who went to his death for his community – Neokohn