Csanad Szegedi, poster boy of Hungary's fascist right, quits after Jewish roots revealed

Grandmother of MEP who gained notoriety with anti-Semitic party was Holocaust survivor

Tony Paterson
Friday 17 August 2012 17:31

His vociferous anti-Semitism made Csanad Szegedi a popular politician in Hungary's notorious far-right Jobbik party – until he discovered that he has Jewish roots and his grandmother was a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust.

Now, a repentant Mr Szegedi has announced that he is to pay a visit to the site of the infamous Auschwitz death camp where his relative was imprisoned and several other family members may have been murdered.

Mr Szegedi, who disclosed his Jewish background in June, informed the Hungarian Rabbi Schlomo Koves about his Auschwitz plans.

"He wants to pay his respects to the Holocaust martyrs," Rabbi Koves told the Jewish news service JTA. The 30-year-old politician is also reported to have apologised profusely to the Hungarian Jewish community.

Just six months ago, Mr Szegedi was a star Hungarian far-right politician and Jobbik was proud to have him represent the party as an MP in the European parliament. As a leading member of the anti-Semitic party, he appeared at political rallies where he accused Jews of "buying up" Hungary and desecrating national symbols.

Mr Szegdi had plenty of far right credentials to join Jobbik. In 2007, he founded the neo-fascist Hungarian Guard. Its members paraded in black uniforms aping the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross party, which ruled Hungary at the end of the Second World War and was responsible for the deaths of many of the 550,000 Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust. The courts banned the Hungarian Guard in 2009.

But since owning up to his roots, the former anti-Semitic agitator has been forced to give up all his positions and resign from Jobbik. Its leadership, which claims his exclusion from the party has nothing to do with his Jewish background, has also demanded that he give up his seat as a MEP. Mr Szegedi says he wants to keep the post.

Rumours of Mr Szegedi's Jewish origins emerged in 2010 during a secretly taped meeting between the politician and an ex-convict called Zoltan Ambrus, who confronted him with evidence of his Jewish roots. In the recording, Mr Szegedi sounds surprised and then appears to offer Mr Ambrus cash and favours to keep quiet.

Jobbik has since claimed that this was why it decided to expel Mr Szegedi from the party. Mr Szegedi has denied the claim and said the tape was deliberately doctored. He said that after his meeting with Mr Ambrus he had a long conversation with his grandmother who spoke at length about the family's past and orthodox Jews.

"It was then that it dawned on me that my grandmother really is Jewish," he said in a recent Hungarian television interview. "I asked her how the deportations happened. She was in Auschwitz and Dachau and she was the only survivor of an extended family," he added.

His experience is far from unique. During Hungary's decades of communist rule the Holocaust was virtually taboo. Many survivors chose not to talk about their ordeal for fear of further repression.

Mr Szegedi was brought up as a Presbyterian. But Rabbi Koves said his maternal grandparents were both Holocaust survivors who had an Orthodox Jewish wedding after the war. "They decided to keep it all a secret from their children and grandchildren and they succeeded for more than six decades," he said. "Their descendants have only recently discovered their Jewish roots," he added.

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