BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) – After being strongly condemned, a Hungarian commissioner reluctantly retracted an article on Sunday comparing Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, a staunch critic of the Hungarian government, to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
“Europe is George Soros’ gas chamber,” wrote Szilard Demeter, ministerial commissioner and head of the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest, in a notice published on Saturday in the pro-government outlet Origo. “Poisonous gas is flowing from the capsule of an open multicultural society, which is deadly for the European way of life.”
The comments sparked outrage from the Hungarian Jewish community, including the United Hungarian Jewish Congregation, which called the article “tasteless” and “unforgivable.”
“(This is) a classic case of relativizing the Holocaust, and therefore inconsistent with the government’s claim of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism,” the group said.
In a Sunday statement on Origo, Demeter said he would remove his post “regardless of what I think” and remove his Facebook page.
“I recognize that those who criticize me are correct in saying that to call someone a Nazi is to relativize, and that drawing parallels with the Nazis can inadvertently damage the memory of the victims,” he said. in a press release.
In the article, Demeter, who was appointed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to oversee cultural production, compared Soros to Hitler, writing that he was “the liberal Führer, and his liberal-Aryan army deifies him more. than Hitler’s ”.
Soros, who was born in Hungary and is a Holocaust survivor, is a frequent target of the Orban government for his philanthropic activities which promote liberal causes. Government media campaigns targeting Soros have led to accusations of anti-Semitism.
The article also noted the conflict over the next EU budget, which Hungary and Poland are delaying over provisions that could block payments to countries that do not meet democratic standards. Demeter called the two countries, both under EU investigation for undermining judicial independence and media freedom, “new Jews.”
The government of Israel, a close ally of Hungary, condemned Demeter’s comments.
The Israeli Embassy in Budapest tweeted: “We categorically reject the use and abuse of Holocaust memory for any purpose… There is no place to link the worst crime of the history of humanity, or its authors, to a contemporary debate. ”
Gordon Bajnai, a former Hungarian prime minister, wrote on Facebook on Sunday that if Demeter is not removed from office on Monday, “Hungarians and the rest of the world will obviously consider (his) statement to be the position of the Hungarian government. ”