ADL Alarmed as Hungarian Prime Minister Praises Anti-Semitic Wartime Leader as an ‘Exceptional Statesman’

New York, NY, June 29, 2017 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed alarm and surprise over remarks by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who praised a notorious anti-Semite and ally of Hitler and Nazi Germany as “an exceptional statesman.”

In his speech at a ceremony on June 21, Mr. Orbán described Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy as being one of the “exceptional statesmen,” who helped the nation survive through hard times in the 1920s and 1930s.

“No leader who introduced anti-Semitic legislation, allied his country with Nazi Germany and deported Jews to certain death, merits consideration as an ‘exceptional statesmen,’” wrote Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, in a letter to Prime Minister Orbán. “Historical examples of statesmanship can inspire good leadership at all levels of society … [we] urge you to find such examples in Hungary’s long history, who can be admired by all Hungarians, including Hungary’s Jewish community.”

Horthy was head of state from March 1920 until October 1944 and an anti-Semite who aligned his country with Hitler’s Germany in World War II. He is one of the most controversial figures in modern Hungarian history, under whose rule Hungary passed numerous anti-Jewish laws and government decrees and deported 20,000 Jews to Nazi-occupied Ukraine, where they were immediately murdered. Horthy remained head of state after the Nazi occupation of Hungary in March 1944 until October 1944, during which time 440,000 Hungarian Jews were deported, mostly to Auschwitz.

A poll in 100 countries commissioned by ADL in 2014 found that 41 percent of those surveyed in Hungary harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. ADL’s subsequent polling in Hungary in 2015 yielded similar results at 40 percent, including 60 percent of the respondents agreeing with the statement, “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”