The U.S. Embassy in Budapest on Monday condemned an article published by a Hungarian official that drew parallels between American-Hungarian billionaire George Soros and Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
Soros is a Holocaust survivor who managed to hide from the invading Nazis when he was thirteen. He left Hungary after the war and became a hugely successful financier in England.
The embassy posted on its Twitter account that it “strongly condemns” statements made in an article equating a debate over the European Union’s bid to bolster democratic standards within its member countries “with the horrific murder of millions of people during the Holocaust.”
On Saturday, Szilard Demeter, a ministerial commissioner for culture and the head of the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest, wrote an opinion piece in pro-government news site Origo referring to Europe as “George Soros’ gas chamber.”
In the piece, Demeter also noted the conflict over the European Union’s next budget, which Hungary and Poland are holding up over provisions that could block payments to countries that do not uphold democratic standards. He referred to the two countries, both of which are under EU investigation for undermining judicial independence and media freedom, as “the new Jews.”
Soros is a frequent target of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who opposes Soros’ philanthropy which favors liberal causes, such as funding universities and efforts to aid immigrants and refugees.
The statements prompted strong reactions from several Hungarian Jewish groups and Hungarian opposition politicians while the Israeli Embassy condemned the article. More than 12,000 people including numerous Hungarian public figures like Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony have so far signed a petition demanding Demeter’s resignation.
Demeter retracted the article on Sunday following the backlash and said he would delete his social media account.
In Hungary’s parliament on Monday, several opposition lawmakers inquired how long Demeter would be permitted to remain in his position while others demanded his dismissal. But deputy prime minister Mihaly Varga, who is also finance minister, said that Demeter would remain in his position since he had “admitted his mistake.”