Hungary delays anti-Semitic statue unveiling after protests
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Hungary delays anti-Semitic statue unveiling after protests

Threats allegedly made against group behind memorial to civic leader Balint Homan, who legislated against Jews in 1930s

The covered statue base of a planned statue in honor of Balint Homan who as a Hungarian minister during the World War II era drafted legislation that restricted the rights of Hungarian Jews and called for their deportation, December 13, 2015. (AFP/ATTILA KISBENEDEK)
The covered statue base of a planned statue in honor of Balint Homan who as a Hungarian minister during the World War II era drafted legislation that restricted the rights of Hungarian Jews and called for their deportation, December 13, 2015. (AFP/ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — The inauguration of a Hungarian statue honoring a World War II-era politician with anti-Semitic views was delayed after it prompted strong protests and even threats, the group sponsoring the monument said Tuesday.

The life-sized statue of Balint Homan, widely seen as an architect of anti-Jewish laws in the 1930s, was scheduled to be unveiled in the central city of Szekesfehervar on December 29 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of his birth.

But the planned event had drawn several hundred protesters — including Washington’s special envoy on anti-Semitism Ira Forman — to the monument’s building site on Sunday.

“The city of Szekesfehervar and its mayor have been subjected to serious attacks and threats which are unworthy of Balint Homan who did so much to build this city… We have decided to postpone the inauguration,” said Gabor Kovats of the Balint Homan Foundation on Tuesday.

He did not specify a new date for the event.

The foundation, some of whose members are linked to the far-right Jobbik party, has received both state and municipal funding for the statue.

Balint Homan (YouTube screen grab)
Balint Homan (YouTube screen grab)

Homan was a prominent historian and civic leader who called for the deportation of Jews from Hungary in 1944 while part of a fascist Hungarian government installed by Nazi Germany.

After the war, Homan was handed a life sentence for his role in approving Hungary joining Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

He died in prison in 1951.

However, a Budapest court in March found there had been a lack of evidence for his conviction, after which Szekesfehervar City Hall approved the statue plan.

“An openly anti-Semitic, fascist politician should never get a statue anywhere in this country,” Andras Heisler, who heads Hungary’s largest Jewish group, told protesters on Sunday.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has sometimes been accused of cozying up to Jobbik and glossing over Hungary’s role in the deportation of Jews, despite vows of “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism.

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