The Hungarian government’s presented its prestigious Knight’s award to a columnist accused of racism and anti-Semitism, prompting a heavy storm of criticism.
The columnist, Zsolt Bayer, who has been noted repeatedly for his racist views received the award for his writings about Hungarians who died in the Gulag prison system of the former Soviet Union, according to the office of Prime Minister János Lázár. More than 100 former recipients, who received the medal in the past, announced they will be returning it due to it being “sullied” in wake of Bayer’s nomination.
“As a journalist, he gave a true and worthy account of prisoners and their lives in the Soviet labor camps as well as [towards] the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, making him a worthy receiver of the Knight’s Cross,” Lázár’s office wrote, according to the Budapest Beacon.
Lantos Swett, one of the former recipients, was honored for setting up the Budapest-based Tom Lantos Institute, which focuses on human minority rights. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who died in 2008, was the only Holocaust survivor in the U.S. Congress, according to the Associated Press. “Mr. Bayer’s despicable record of overt and hateful anti-Semitism and racism is beneath contempt,” was written on the Lantos Foundation website.
Bayer claimed that anti-Semitism in Hungary was justified due to the number of Jewish communists of whom he asserts sought to spread the Russian Revolution to Hungary. In April, Bayer wrote a series of opinion editorials condemning protestors who blocked the dedication of a statue of György Donáth close to Budapest’s Holocaust museum. Donáth was a Holocaust-era politician who helped pass laws calling for the persecution of Jews. The German Nazis and their Hungarian collaborators later used those laws to round up about 500,000 Hungarian Jews, most of whom were put to death by the Nazis.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. urged Hungarian President Janos Ader, who approved Bayer’s award to renounce it. The Hungarian government released a statement that the award could not be recalled.
by: Inbal Zlotnik