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December 22, 1989 - Image 35

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

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pared with the pre-war total
of 3.5 million), were promi-
nent among the intelligent-
sia that provided the seedb-
ed for the Solidarity move-
ment.
It was, perhaps, this con-
spicuous involvement of
Jews in the Polish revolu-
tion that inspired the crude
anti-Semitism that marred
the country's recent general
election.
Handbills repeating the
classic libels were handed
out on street corners, while
the word "Zhid" was scrawl-
ed across election posters
backing the veteran Soli-
darity leader Jacez Kuron.
Kuron is not Jewish, but it
was enough for some Poles
that he "looks like one."
Hungary has by far the
largest Jewish population in
Eastern Europe —some
80,000 souls — yet while the
Jews comprise less than 1
percent of the population,
they play a significant role
in politics, as well as in the
media and the universities.
This has given rise to a
joke current among anti-
Semites: What's the
difference between the
Hungarian and Polish
round-table talks? The
Hungarian one consists of
Hungarians and Jews. The
Polish one has no
Hungarians.
Many of Hungary's new
Jewish activists are the
children of Jewish Commu-
nists who stayed on after
World War II to help build
the New World on the ashes
of fascism.
Hungarian Jews did in-
deed play a prominent role
in the Stalinist Rakosi
Government in during the
1950s but, with a single ex-
ception, they were unrep-
resented in the government
of Janos Kadar government,
which ruled Hungary for
more than 30 years.
In Hungary, the Jewish
issue is today a cornerstone
of the struggle for hearts and
minds between the two
major factions which have
emerged to challenge the
Communist incumbents.
The Alliance of Free
Democrats is pejoratively
described as "the Jewish
party," while the
Democratic Forum proudly
claims to represent the "real
Hungarians."
Democratic Forum leader
Istvan Csurka, who peddles
the line that Jews provided
the mainstay and support of
the Communist regime,

claims that "those Jews who
have lost power are stirring
up trouble."
"Who knows how many
Jews were behind Janos
Kadar," he said, referring to
Hungary's now-disgraced
Communist leader. "Nobody
had to declare his religion."
Today, anti-Semitism is
evident in Hungary's
streets, pubs and football
grounds, where supporters of
MTK Budapest, a team that
had a succession of Jewish
managers before World War
II, are regularly taunted
with the chant, "Go to the
gas chambers."
Ironically, amid this out-
burst the Jewish Communi-
ty of Hungary is now enjoy-
ing religious freedom for the
first time in half a century.
According to Hungary's
Rabbi Tamas Rai, anti-
Semitism is reappearing not
because it is becoming
stronger, but rather because
it is no longer being swept
under the mat.
This view is endorsed by
Hungarian sociologist An-
dracj Kovacs: "It is probably
no worse than it was," he
says. "It is simply more
open. The trouble is that
when feelings are aired
publicly they become con-
tagious. They mobilize peo-
ple."
Dr. Shimon Samuels,
European director of the Los
Angeles-based Simon
Wiesenthal Center is not so
sanguine: "The Communists
used anti-Semitism when it
suited them, but anti-
Semitism can become uncon-
trollable when it is no longer
expressed through, and
managed by, official
channels."
Samuels believes that the
need to combat Communism
has made uneasy allies of
the church and the Jews in
many parts of Eastern
Europe.
"This alliance was par-
ticularly strong in Poland,"
he says, "where Jews who
identified with Solidarity
were encouraged by the
church to practice their
Jewish religion and culture.
"There are now 25 young
couples, mostly the children
of former Communist offi-
cials, who returned to
religion and who have no
plans to leave because they
want to show that it is possi-
ble to be fully Jewish in
Poland. They have the full
support of the church.
"But what will happen
when the dissidents win?"

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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