Jewish leaders, Hungarian government meet for first time in a year
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Jewish leaders, Hungarian government meet for first time in a year

The sides suspended contacts over disagreements on rise of anti-Semitism, memorial statue commemorating Hungarian victims of World War II

Thousands participate in march commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Budapest, Hungary in April. (photo credit: AFP/ATTILA KISBENEDEK)
Thousands participate in march commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Budapest, Hungary in April. (photo credit: AFP/ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

BUDAPEST — Leaders of Jewish communities throughout Hungary met with representatives of the Hungarian government almost a year after the two sides suspended contact.

The more than four-hour discussion on Tuesday at the Hungarian Parliament building addressed eight topics of importance to the Jewish community, according to Janos Lazar, the chief negotiator representing the Hungarian government.

Increased anti-Semitism in Hungary was one of the main topics. The government promised to declare zero tolerance for anti-Semitism.
The sensitive issue of the “German Occupation Memorial” was not mentioned at all during the meeting, according to reports, although Jewish anger at the memorial is what led last year to a cut-off in communications.

The memorial statue commemorating Hungarian victims of World War II was erected last month in downtown Budapest. Jewish communal leaders say the memorial ignores the decisive political role of the Hungarian political leadership in the extermination of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

The continued Jewish community boycott of government-organized events commemorating 70 years since the start of the Holocaust in Hungary is still in place, regardless of the renewed talks between Jewish community leaders and the government, András Heisler, the president of the Federation of the Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz, told the opposition daily, Népszabadság on Wednesday.

Other topics raised at the meeting included the socioeconomic situation of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, state support for the restoration of Jewish cemeteries in the country and financial support for the reconstruction of several synagogue buildings.

“We could find solutions to a few questions, but many unsolved problems still remain, and we have to work on them until solutions can be found,” Heisler said.

The representatives on both sides agreed to continue working on a Holocaust museum for Budapest, called the “House of Fates.” They also agreed to continue meeting quarterly.

On Tuesday, Israeli diplomats and representatives of the Hungarian government held a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two countries following the collapse of communism. Diplomatic relations between Israel and communist bloc countries were cut off at Moscow’s order after the Six-Day War in 1967.

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