Holocaust survivor and historian Randolph L. Braham said Sunday he is returning a high state award to Hungary to protest what he says are government efforts to rewrite history and exonerate the country from its role in the Holocaust.
Braham also asked the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest to remove his name from the BrahamTheque Information Center, which collects his research results and publications.
His two-volume The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, from 1981, is considered one of the most important books about the subject. He received the Medium Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic in 2011.
Braham, Professor Emeritus at the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said in an open letter addressed to executives of the memorial center that the “straw that broke the camel’s back” leading to his decision was the government plan to erect a memorial commemorating the March 1944 invasion of Hungary by the Nazis.
Braham said the memorial was “a cowardly attempt to detract attention from the Horthy regime’s involvement in the destruction of the Jews and to homogenize the Holocaust with the ‘suffering’ of the Hungarians — a German occupation, as the record clearly shows, was not only unopposed but generally applauded.”
Miklos Horthy was Hungary’s autocratic leader from the 1920s through most of World War II.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has also been criticized by Jewish groups for tolerating statues of Horthy being set up by far-right groups.
In 2011, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel also returned a state award to Hungary on similar grounds. Wiesel was born and raised in Transylvania and his parents and sister were sent to their deaths by wartime Hungarian officials.
Wiesel protested the participation of top Hungarian officials at a ceremony honoring a famous writer who was also a Nazi sympathizer. He added that he was rejecting the award also because “Horthy, who sent 500,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 1944, is becoming a heroic figure again in his country.”