Péter Feldmajer's remarks at WJC opening
Mr President Lauder,
Mr Prime Minister,
His Excellency, the Cardinal,
Mr and Madam Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ma nishtano halailo haze?
What makes this night different from all other nights, we ask each Passover Seder evening; today we can ask the question: ma nishtano hacongres haze - i.e. what makes this congress different from all other congresses?
First and most, it is that we would like to welcome you in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, a glorious city that safeguards the joys and also the tortures of the past.
You have arrived in a country which - legend has it - saw the Jewish people from the Kazar empire come into this land together with the state founding proud horse tribes, and also where for many decades in the 19th century the Jews of the east were greeted with a warm and wholehearted welcome. The Jews here had become Hungarian patriots, they quickly lost their own language and supported the cause of Hungarian independence without reservations; nevertheless, already in the very first days of the 1848 heroic freedom fight, a pogrom was launched against the Jews of Bratislava.
You have come to a city that is proud to have Tivadar Herzl, the visionary of modern Israel, as its son and student.
You have come to a country which had lost World War I and with that 2/3 of its territory. The heroism of the Jewish soldiers and officers fighting the war as Hungarian patriots had become legendary, yet it did nothing to stop the political elite from blaming the Jews for the defeat and introducing the very first anti-Semitic laws of Europe, which served as models for the Nazis.
You have come to a country where the vast majority of the then mainstream society approved of the anti-Semitic laws and while most of them did not identify with the massacres, ultimately the entire Hungarian public administration - led by the Governor - successfully organised and implemented the gathering and deportation of Jews to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. You have come to a city that is proud of its jewel, the blue Danube, whose water was once painted red by the blood of tens of thousands of Jews shot dead on its banks.
You have come to a city where despite decades of anti-Semitic propaganda, despite official prohibitions, there were still hundreds and thousands that risked their lives standing up for, hiding and saving the lives of Jews.
You have come to a country where the majority of Jewish people - despite the massacres - remained patriotic to the land.
You have come to a country in which Moscow-based concoctors of leftist anti-Semitic pogroms could not achieve anything because the otherwise loyal Communist leaders of the country were not willing to identify with and fulfil the mad plans and commands of red tsars that followed the footsteps of Hitler.
You have come to a country where after the fall of Communism, the largest Jewish community of Central Europe revived Jewish religious and cultural life with unparalleled enthusiasm; the education system they brought to life may be an example to all.
You have come to a country whose proud Jewish residents can freely express their love of Israel and may freely proclaim not to ever forget Jerusalem, the spiritual capital of the united Jewish people.
You have come to a country which - perhaps the first one in the world after Israel - adopted a bill to commemorate the victims of the holocaust and - in line with the measures of the first Orban-cabinet - does a tremendous lot to keep the memory of the holocaust alive, to make the history of the holocaust part of school education.
You have come to a country whose Jewish community is again under threat by horrific ideologies and acts, which are the remnants of the Middle Ages and the holocaust, where an elderly Chief Rabbi is attacked in the street, where Fascists are hailed, where the courts set murderers as role models for the young as squares, and streets are being named after keen anti-Semites, as the works of court poets of Hungarian Nazis are included in the national curriculum and thus polluting the souls of our students.
You have come to a country whose government is in support of the security of the state of Israel and is ready to stand up for the inalienable religious rights of Jews and would never consider placing animal rights before the religious rights of Jews.
You have come to a country, where Jews could live in peace and enjoy the support of the majority of Hungarian society if the holler of the vindictive minority did not suppress their sober and friendly voices.
Two decades ago, the director of MAZSIHISZ, Mr Zoltai, and I used to think that not only did Hungarian Jews have a great past, they also hag a great future ahead of them. What has happened in this country in the past decades has proved that we were not wrong. We are still convinced today that not only is the present of Hungarian Jews great, but so is their future despite the raving of the anti-Semite rabble.
Thank you for coming and being here with us. We are proud to have been found worthy of holding the congress here, to be together, and for you to express your solidarity with the Hungarian Jewry.
I believe that the Jews of the world must unite their forces. This day also shows us that we are not alone, we are all listening to each other no matter where we may be living across the globe. The task we have is no little one to handle.
Hungary and Europe are on the wrong track.
As the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet put it:
"The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!"
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, time is out of joint and only together can we set it right; it is as if we the sounds and voices of the sinister '30s were back again. All of us here tonight, Jews and non-Jews can only succeed in preventing the dark era of anti-Semitism from retuning to Hungary, Europe and the entire world and in ensuring that not a single Jewish person is ever in fear of terror if we unite our forces.
Thank you for your attention, I wish you all a pleasant evening.