Budapest, Hungary’s capital, recently unveiled a new statue to commemorate and remember the victims of World War Two. The statue is a stone Archangel Gabriel, a symbol for Hungary, and stands in the central Budapest, Freedom Square. The angel is being attacked by an eagle, said to represent the Germans, and on the eagle’s ankle the year 1944 is etched.
1944 is the year that Germany occupied Hungary, prior to that the Hungarian Government had been an ally to the Nazis.
Opposite the angel and eagle on the sidewalk is a row of personal effects left by the thousands of Hungarian Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, including a battered suitcase, a pair of shoes, and a broken pair of glasses amongst other items.
Those killed were not only Hungarian Jews, but also Jewish refugees from Poland who had been deported to German-occupied territories, including pro-Nazi Hungary, throughout the war.
The statue is controversial since the Hungarian Federation of Jewish Communities says the statue insinuates that the Holocaust took place because Germany occupied Hungary and dismisses the right-leaning policies of the Hungarian Government in the years leading up to World War Two and before German occupation.
The Hungarian Government in the 1930s had passed several anti-Jewish laws, restricting their work and right to vote, and eventually marriage and sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews was banned.
This year Hungary voted in a new Prime Minister – Viktor Orban and his centre-right Fidesz party. Mr Orban likens himself and his politics to that of Hungary’s 1930s right-leaning leader Miklos Horthy. Mr Orban has already gained closer ties with Russia and Vladimir Putin, even though the country is part of the European Union.
Also gaining in popularity is the right wing Jobbik party, which uses anti-Semitic and anti-Roma language.Both of these parties view the 1930s as a time of strength and independence for Hungary, when Horthy was able to regain the land it lost after World War One, The Globe and Mail reports.
The Hungarian Government has responded to the criticism over the statue stating that it was not intended to rewrite history, but ensuring historical perspectives were remembered.
Many people feel that there is rising anti-Semitism in Hungary and the statue could provoke this further. The Jobbik party goes so far as looking to retake Hungarian-populated areas of Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The party say they stand for Catholic and Christian values.