Protests as Hungarian war memorial unveiled

By Valentina Jovanovski, July 25, 2014
Protesters at Hungary's controversial war memorial

Protesters at Hungary's controversial war memorial

A monument that opponents say minimises Hungary's responsibility for the Holocaust was completed in the early hours of Sunday morning, despite months of protests from the Jewish community.

The final parts of the statue were raised under police guard shortly after midnight in Budapest. Demonstrators, including some opposition politicians, gathered soon after to protest. Some threw eggs at the monument, which was surrounded by an iron fence in front of which stood police.

Construction started in April but stalled after the scheduled completion date of May 31 passed. No reasons were given for the delay and no notice that it would be finished on Sunday.

The statue shows a German eagle attacking an angel, meant to symbolise Hungary. Critics say this implies Hungary was a victim rather than an ally of the Nazis during a period when more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.

A banner on the monument reads, "A memorial to the victims of the German occupation."

An organiser of the protests, Gábor Sebõ, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, said the monument was a "provocation" . He added: "I think it's a falsification of history,"

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the statue was meant to depict the consequences the country suffered "as a result of losing its freedom".

Protesters have left mementos, pictures of Holocaust victims and candles at the foot of the monument.

Meanwhile, András Heisler, the head of the leading Hungarian Jewish organisation, Mazsihisz, has complained about the nomination of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó as the next ambassador to Italy. In 2000, Mr Szabó wrote an antisemitic article entitled Agents of Satan in a far-right publication.

Last updated: 11:45am, July 25 2014