Update to HUN25844.E of 8 January 1997 on the situation of Jews (January 1997 to April 1999) [HUN31724.E]

A 13 June 1997 AFP article states:

A Jewish cemetery in the northern town Balassagyarmat was desecrated ahead of a commemoration of Holocaust victims, police said Friday. Vandals Wednesday night smashed a tombstone and turned several upside down in the cemetery, a national monument, and smeared swastikas and fascist slogans over the stones and the fence, they said. A large-scale hunt for the perpetrators was launched, they added. A Holocaust memorial was scheduled for Sunday. The Hungarian Jewish community expressed shock Friday over the incident. A Statement issued by the Federation of Jewish Parishes slammed authorities for their "failure to handle these phenomena according to their full weight, and to use the strength of the law against anti-Semites and racists". "This case also throws light on the fact that more and more people are influenced by the openly advocated ideologies of the far right, and practice violence," the statement said.

A 7 April 1998 Kossuth Radio emission states:

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary has protested against the registration of the Albert Szabo-led [far-right] Hungarian Welfare Association by the National Electoral Committee for the May parliamentary elections. The Jewish community leaders asked Istvan Kukorelli, head of the National Electoral Committee, to prevent the association from fielding candidates in the elections. In their letter, the Jewish leaders recall that the court has handed down a binding ruling against Albert Szabo for his anti-Jewish statements and that the Hungarian Welfare Association is a fascist organization.

A 14 July 1998 Independent article states:

The shadow of the Holocaust that took the lives of over half a million Hungarian Jews is finally receding, and Hungary's Jewish community, at between 80,000 and 100,000 strong the largest in eastern Europe, is enjoying an unprecedented revival. Budapest is now home to a dozen synagogues, several Jewish kindergartens and day schools. Jewish newspapers, magazines, religious study groups and youth organisations are flourishing.

The political and religious freedom which followed the collapse of Communism has triggered a wave of interest in Jewish history, culture and religion. For the first time in decades, anti-Semitism(whether of the Nazi or Communist variant(is officially outlawed and Jews are free to celebrate their religion and their culture. Young Jews openly wear Stars of David, and proudly assert their identity.

"Everything has changed since 1989, Jewish life has re-awakened, especially among young people. They are going to synagogue, joining Jewish youth groups, keeping the festivals, attending cultural events and going to Jewish schools. They want to learn to understand their religion and their culture, and they are not afraid to be Jewish," says Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, editor of the New Year prayer book....

[Rabbi Baruch states] "Some Jews are still not comfortable coming to synagogue, or openly identifying as Jews. But a book that is on sale everywhere they can take home, and read it in private at their leisure."

Even those who are not orthodox are taking pride in their heritage and culture. "Now I see many positive things happening in Jewish life here," says Dora Czuk, 26, a television reporter. "There are many more Jewish weddings for example, it's easy to go to Israel, there are more Jewish restaurants, there is even a programme about Jewish cooking on television, which never would have happened under the old system. I wear a Star of David, but I've never had any bad experiences. People are just interested usually and ask me if I am religious."

But not all the news is good. For the first time the extreme-right and virulently anti-Semitic Hungarian Life and Justice Party gained enough votes in this year's general election to return 14 MPs. Led by the playwright Istvan Csurka, the party's electoral success sent a shudder of fear through the Jewish community, especially among the older people.

But among young Jews like Dora Czuk, whose great-grandparents were killed at Auschwitz, the mood is one of defiance." I'm not scared. The last few years showed us that we can live in peace as Jews however we want."

A 1 October 1998 AP article states:

The Hungarian government and the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities signed an agreement Thursday on collective compensation for communist-era confiscations, the state news agency MTI reported.

The financial basis for the funding is real estate that belonged to the Jewish communities and fell victim to nationalization under the communists.

Instead of getting back the actual property, 152 schools and other buildings the assessed value of which is 13, 511,000,000 forints (dlrs 62 million), the Jewish community collectively is to get a percentage annually, starting with the current year, when 608 million forints (dlrs 2.9 million) will be paid.

"The money will be mainly used for education, religious services, social welfare, health service, and charity ends." Gusztav Zoltai, executive director of the Federation, said.

An 18 March 1999 AP article states:

Hungarian Jews are calling on international organizations for support in broadening national laws prohibiting racist acts and the dissemination of hate material, a senior Jewish official said Thursday. Citing a recent Neo-Nazi rally in which Jews, NATO and the European Union were debased, the Hungarian Jewish Communities is seeking support to change existing legislation to condemnation and restrict such events, the group's president said.

Rabbi Peter Feldmajer told The Associated Press by telephone his group is addressing the European Jewish Congress, who then will inform the European Union of the need for improved laws on racism.

At a March 15 Neo-Nazi rally, marking the anniversary of Hungary's 1848 revolution, local extremist leader Albert Szabo, called Hungary's center-right government "Zionist" then ceremonially broke a clay tablet inscribed with a Star of David and the NATO symbol linked by an equals sign, as well as the European Union logo. Feldmajer also said that according to the legal system of several European countries such events are criminal acts and the Jewish communities will request the EU urge the Hungarian government to change its legislation to meet EU standards.

Under Hungary's present legislation, displaying hate symbols is against the law, but not variations of the symbols, such as a swastika with arrows on its ends. Also, there are no guidelines as to how police should react to such protests.

No additional information on the situation of Jews in Hungary could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 13 June 1997. "Hungarian Jewish Cemetery Desecrated." (NEXIS)

The Associated Press (AP). 18 March 1999. "Hungarian Jews Protest Neo-Nazi Rally." (NEXIS)

_____. 1 October 1998. "Hungarian Government and Jewish Communities Agree on Compensation." (NEXIS)

The Independent [London]. 14 July 1998. Adam LeBor. "Hungary's Jews Enjoy a Revival." (NEXIS)

Kossuth Radio [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 7 April 1998. "Hungary: Jews Protest Against Far-Right Leader in Elections." (FBIS-EEU-98-097 7 Apr. 1998/WNC)

Additional Sources Consulted

Electronic sources: IRB databases, Internet, NEXIS/LEXIS, REFWORLD, WNC.

Resource Centre country file on Hungary. January 1998 - February 1999.

Transitions [Prague]. January 1998 - February 1999.