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Stories of Anti-Semitism in Hungary

The New York Times launches interactive inquiry for 2014

Rachel Silberstein
December 31, 2013

Citing the recent EU survey that revealed increased fears of anti-Semitism among Jews across Eastern Europe, and particularly pervasive signs of intolerance in Hungary, the New York Times launched an interactive inquiry into anti-Semitism in Hungary. They put out a call for submissions from Jews from or living in Hungary to share their experiences with anti-Semitism; the form is now closed, which suggests there was no shortage of responses.

An openly anti-Semitic political party has gained power in Hungary’s Parliament in recent years, fueling fears that the Eastern European nation is experiencing a rise in anti-Jewish sentiment. Ninety percent of Hungarian Jews who participated in a recent survey by a European Union agency ranked the bias in the country as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem. The growing talk of anti-Semitism in Hungary has prompted the government to respond with a call on Hungarians to accept responsibility for the role played by their country in the Holocaust during World War II and to redouble efforts to commemorate the Holocaust.

We’ve been documenting the increasingly troubling rise of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, as well as selective memory of the Holocaust in various Eastern European nations. One promising light we’ve seen, however, has been the pushback from prominent Hungarian Jewish artists and musicians against the country’s rise of anti-Semitism. On the same day last week that the Times launched the inquiry, pianist Andras Schiff, the country’s most prominent musician and a vocal critic of the political situation, added his voice to the chorus, telling the BBC he won’t perform in, or even return to, his homeland.

“There’s very little civilian courage. People are scared to speak up,” Schiff said.

Rachel Silberstein is a writer living in New York.

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