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Hungary Cuts Off Survivor Funds

Hungarian government accuses Claims Conference of malfeasance

Jacob Silverman
August 30, 2012

The Hungarian government is at it again, this time stirring up trouble with the Claims Conference over compensation for Holocaust survivors. As reported by JTA and others, the Hungarian Ministry of Public Administration and Justice claims that the organization overseeing dispersal of funds for survivors distributed funds improperly and didn’t report expenditures. Hungary wants $12.1 million returned and won’t offer any more reparations funds until they receive it.

Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider told JTA that this was the first time in the organization’s 62 years of operation “that a country has reneged when it came time to pay. We hope that intervention at the highest level in Hungary will resolve this issue for Hungarian survivors who need help.”

The Claims Conference has put forth a document detailing all recipients of funds, including how much each received. The group further states that the Hungarian government has failed to transfer $5.6 million as required under a previous agreement and that transfers stopped after the Fidesz party came to office in 2010.

This is only the latest ugly incident for Hungary and its ruling party, which many commentators have accused of showing fascist leanings. Following recent protests, a city-funded theater canceled plans to show a play about Jews scheming to destroy Hungary. In an August 15 friendly match between Israel and Hungary’s soccer teams, fans shouted anti-Semitic slurs and booed during the playing of “Hatikvah.” The country also features an overtly anti-Semitic far-right party, known as Jobbik, one of whose leaders recently resigned his membership after learning that his grandparents were Jewish—and Holocaust survivors at that. In what perhaps counts as a face-saving gesture, Jobbik claimed that the politician, Csanad Szegedi, quit because of a bribery investigation.

Jacob Silverman is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and book critic. He is also a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review.

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