Jud Süß (Jew Süss) is a 1940 film produced by Terra Filmkunst on behalf of the Nazi regime and conceived as an antisemitic propaganda film. The movie was directed by Veit Harlan. (wikipedia)
Who’s Killing Hungary’s Gypsies?
Jeno Koka’s killers shot him in the chest moments after he had bid good night to his wife Eva and stepped from his house on his way to a shift at the nearby pharmaceutical factory where he worked.
The 54-year-old grandfather bled to death only a few paces from his doorstep.
Although Koka’s wife said she never heard the shot that felled her husband, hundreds of thousands of others across Hungary did.
Koka’s murder on April 22 was the fifth in recent months of a member of Hungary’s 600,000-strong Roma community. Hungarian police believe that a small group of killers is targeting Roma, who are also known as gypsies and remain one of the most marginalized and neglected groups in Europe. (Read: “Child Migrants on Hunger Strike.”)
At Koka’s funeral, as a septet of folk musicians played a dirge, some 400 mourners stood beneath canopies of pine and birch boughs listening glumly as the Rev. Sandor Gaal described the murder as part of a “storm” now enveloping Hungary. “The storm struck at our brother in Tiszalök,” Gaal said. “The storm has upset life in this town.”
It’s not only Tiszalök. The murders, which began last November, have unsettled all of Hungary. “They just keep on killing Roma people,” says a 35-year-old woman at the funeral, who refused to identify herself or her village because she feared being attacked herself.
Hungarian National Police High Commissioner Jozsef Bencze says he has 100 investigators working the case, and has set up a response network so police can lock down any area in Hungary within five minutes of receiving word of a new attack. Police have also announced a reward worth $231,000 for information resulting in an arrest in any of the murders. “The noose is tightening around these perpetrators,” he told TIME.
Relations between ethnic Hungarians and Roma, who account for 6% of the country’s ten million people, have never been easy. Recent problems date to 2006 when a driver was beaten to death, reportedly by Roma bystanders, after his car hit, but did not seriously injure, a Roma child. Tensions grew a year later with the formation of a national paramilitary civilian group, which calls itself the Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard.) With uniforms that bear right wing nationalist symbols, the Garda drew the ire of the Roma community because of the group’s stated mandate to protect Hungarians against ‘Roma crime.’
Anger became open violence last year when Roma homes and citizens were shot at, and firebombed with Molotov cocktails. The first fatalities, a Roma couple living in the eastern village of Nagycsécs, occurred in November. In February in a village 39 miles (63 km) south of Budapest, Csaba Csorba, 27, and his four-year-old son were gunned down after firebombs had been used to flush them from their house.
Police commissioner Bencze says that his officers are investigating as many as 18 incidents of anti-Roma violence, and believe that eight attacks could be the work of the same person or people who killed Koka. “The attacks are usually with Molotov cocktails and various types of firearms,” says Bencze. “The attacks are usually at night, and against houses which are on the outskirts of the villages.”
Koka’s home at the end of Nefelejcs Utca (Forget Me Not Street) on the edge of Tiszalök’s Roma quarter bolsters Bencze’s contention that the killer or killers plan their attacks and escapes carefully. By positioning themselves on the outskirts of the community, Koka’s killers were able to lie in wait unobserved, and slip away without witnesses seeing their vehicle. According to a source in the Roma National Council, Koka’s killers were careful not to leave a shell casing behind as evidence.
Police say that the killers may have military training. “You can’t exclude the possibility that these people got their training in the army or a law enforcement institution,” Bencze said, “or the foreign legion or the Balkan wars.”
As the investigation drags on, Roma leaders fear that anger within their community could lead to reprisal attacks. “It is important to know that it is hard for us to keep holding our people back,” says Mihaly Balogh, local leader of the National Roma Council in Tiszalök. “I tell everyone that we have a police force that is there to protect us … But if the murders are not solved soon, it will be very difficult to stop people from acting.”
A wave of revenge attacks, Balogh says, would have “terrible consequences” in a country that has become a racial powder keg and has been hit hard by the global economic crisis. “There are parties that are saying that the Roma [are] to blame for the problems in the country,” says Orban Kolompar, president of the National Roma Council, who believes the economic downturn will lead to increased support for far-right parties with anti-Roma platforms in both European parliamentary elections this year and Hungarian national elections next. “Voters who are disillusioned [by the crisis] may join them.”
But police chief Bencze, who attended Koka’s funeral this week, says the first attacks predate Wall Street’s collapse and that it’s too easy to blame the economic problems alone. “There can be many possible motivations behind this crime, such as racial hatred,” he said. “We’ll know for sure when we’ve caught the criminals.”
The European Union seems happy to ignore the repression that is happening under Viktor Orbán
The Observer, Sunday 2 January 2011
All sides agreed that there should be no fuss when Hungary’s Viktor Orbán took over the presidency of the European Union yesterday. The EU’s technocrats would allow Orbán to play the big guy on the international stage, as long as he let Brussels run Europe behind the scenes. Brussels assured Orbán’s rightwing Fidesz party in return that it would not look too closely at how he runs Hungary.
Both parties will maintain the pretence that Hungary is a decent democracy and not discuss the ugly little state that is growing within Europe’s borders. The silence of Europe’s rulers will suit Fidesz nicely. Ever since it won a landslide victory over the corrupt and incompetent Hungarian left, it has been turning Hungary into a… well, I will not call it a fascist country or even a neo-fascist county, but just note that an old, foul stench wafts from the “new society” Orbán’s patriots are building on the Danube.
You can catch a smell of it in Fidesz’s propaganda. Its first act was to order public buildings to display a passage from its manifesto. “In spring 2010, the Hungarian nation gathered its strength once again and brought about a successful revolution in the polling booth,” the citizenry was informed. They should rejoice because Fidesz will lead Hungary to a bright new tomorrow based on “work, home, family, health and order”.
Fidesz then seized control of private pensions, hacked back the powers of a supreme court that might have checked its supremacy and established a media council, which can impose large fines on broadcasters and print and online publishers for such fuzzily worded crimes as “offending human dignity”. It has packed the council with party loyalists, naturally, and already Hungarian newspapers and magazines are publishing blank pages in protest against official censorship.
Robert Alföldi, the director of the National Theatre in Budapest, has experienced at first hand the hatreds a Hungary built on “work, home, family, health and order” are generating. Before Christmas, demonstrators from the Jobbik, a party whose attitudes towards the Jews and the Roma mark it as truly neo-fascist outfit, marched to demand his removal. He was “a fag, a pervert and a Jew,” they cried, unfit to hold his post.
Strangely, they could not specify Alföldi’s precise crime. He is gay, that is true. He allowed Hungarian nationalists’ traditional bogeymen at the Romanian embassy to take a room at the theatre, but then he mitigated the alleged offence by cancelling the booking after protests. The only good evidence the far right can find for its charge of sexual “depravity” was a poster for his version of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, which, in line with the play’s sexual theme, featured a phallus.
The petty details do not matter because Jobbik became a force to be reckoned with after winning 17% of the vote in the May elections. Orbán’s Fidesz is prepared to accommodate its demands. Anna Lengyel, from the Budapest production company PanoDrama, tells me that sneering politicians call Alföldi “Roberta” in Parliament – Robert/Roberta, he’s gay, get it? – and she expects Fidesz will force him out soon. She is careful not to claim that Hungary is a rightwing dictatorship, but she is astonished that the EU is ignoring threats to the independence of artists, judges and reporters.
To be fair, not all Europeans are biting their tongues. Angela Merkel’s government, among others, has done its democratic duty and protested. There is no use pretending, however, that the EU’s paramount desire is anything other than to keep up appearances and avoid nasty confrontations. A senior official told the Economist that Fidesz was elected with a clear mandate for change. If change involves attacking fundamental rights, then that does not appear to be Brussels’s concern.
Here, it is customary in the liberal press to attack the EU and, by extension, David Cameron for their toleration of the European far right. I won’t follow precedent because I have no wish to join the selective moralists of liberal England, who beat their breasts and denounce Cameron for allying with unsavoury east European parties, but stay silent when leftwing British charlatans indulge an Islamist far right, whose hatreds of gays and Jews are as putrid as anything you can find behind the old Iron Curtain.
More broadly, I am not sure that “far right” is a label that helps us understand the dark forces swirling around Europe’s periphery. When my contacts in Hungary imagine a dystopian future, it is not a rightwing dictatorship they speculate about but Alexander Lukashenko’s post-communist Belarus, which still spouts the language of socialism and allies with the nominally leftwing Hugo Chávez. What is in a name? Leftwing Belarus attacks freedom of the press as vigorously as right-wing Hungary and, indeed, Chávez’s Venezuela. In Hungary, the right goes for the director of the National Theatre. In Belarus, the old Soviet left goes for the Belarus Free Theatre, whose actors I saw perform in London in 2010 without realising that they would be running from the secret police in 2011.
WikiLeaks’s behaviour in Belarus confirms the impression that it is foolish to try to divide authoritarian movements into arbitrary categories. I guess most readers think of it as a left-wing enterprise and of Julian Assange as a buccaneering fighter for free speech. Yet in Belarus and Russia, WikiLeaks is represented by Israel Shamir, an antisemite and Holocaust-denier, who is not the first to come forward when tyrannies in Moscow and Minsk need exposing, to put the case for the prosecution at its mildest.
The Belarusian opposition has published circumstantial evidence that he may have handed confidential information to Lukashenko’s goons, charges that Assange’s gormless British admirers should force him to answer, but probably won’t.
In these muddy circumstances, talk of left and right is a distraction. Europe has democratic and authoritarian forces. Authoritarians everywhere sound the same, as they praise nation and order, and damn democratic governance as a fraud. Wounded by the banking crash, a disaster of western capitalism and the failure of the eurozone to cope with the crisis, democrats are everywhere retreating. As its economic certainties melt, the EU ought to affirm liberal political values and take on authoritarian regimes wherever they find them.
As 2011 begins, the ominous example of Hungary already shows that the EU prefers easy evasions to principled stands. This is not shaping up to be a good year.