Hungary Drops Plans for Statue Honoring Anti-Semitic Politician

BUDAPEST (Reuters) -

After protests from Jewish leaders, Hungary has scrapped plans to erect a statue of Balint Homan, a former World War II government minister who supported anti-Semitism in Hungary in the 1930s and 40s.

The row over honoring Homan, who served as Minister of Religion and Education twice between 1932 and 1942, has served as an uncomfortable reminder to Hungary of its anti-Semitic past, including its role in deporting half a million Jews.

National news agency MTI reported on Friday that the private Balint Homan Foundation in Szekesfehervar, west of Budapest, which wanted to honor him for his role as a historian and former minister, had dropped plans for a statue.

Homan was a proponent of anti-Jewish laws and a Nazi supporter. At the end of the war he was jailed for life for backing the declaration of war on the Soviet Union; he died in prison in 1951.

In 2015 a Hungarian court posthumously acquitted him of war crimes charges.

Hungary’s Jewish community and the World Jewish Congress had called on the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party to block the plan, which would have been partly funded by government money.

The U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Forman said last week that the plan seemed “incomprehensible.”

Replying to a question from a Socialist opposition member, PM Orban said in parliament last Tuesday that he did not back plans for the statue. “The government cannot support the erection of a statue for a politician who … collaborated with Hungary’s oppressors, regardless of what other merits he had.”