Hungary’s Jews revelled in the ironic news that a leader of the country’s notoriously antisemitic, anti-Roma Jobbik party is technically Jewish — and the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor.
Csanad Szegedi, a Jobbik regional leader and Member of the European Parliament revealed his roots in an interview last week with Jobbik’s extreme-right daily Barikad. He had learned that his grandmother, Magdolna Klein, was a Jew who had survived Auschwitz.
“I learned not long ago that I had parents of Jewish origins, that’s the big news,” he told Barikad. “I’m not saying I wasn’t surprised by this news,” he added, “and it will probably take some time for me to come to terms with these events”.
Jobbik won nearly 17 per cent of the vote in 2010 general elections to become Hungary’s third largest party. Mr Szegedi, 29, was elected as a Jobbik MEP in 2009. He has repeatedly employed antisemitic rhetoric and wore the uniform of the outlawed paramilitary Hungarian Guard to the opening of the European Parliament.
“If my grandmother was named Magdolna Klein and I knew she had been transported to Auschwitz, I might just have suspected the possibility of my having Jewish roots,” stated one comment on the right-wing blog mandiner.hu.
Budapest news media suggested that the revelations surfaced as part of a power struggle within Jobbik. The daily Nepszava said Mr Szegedi’s rivals for a local party position had “dug up data about his Jewish ancestry using secret methods.” Jobbik chief Gabor Vona, however, said there were no plans to remove Mr Szegedi from his position.
Rabbi Ferenc Raj, leader of Budapest’s Bet Orim Reform congregation, called the saga “a sad chapter in Hungarian Jewish history” and suggested to the JC that “rabbis should consider being more welcoming towards those who lovingly and enthusiastically are rediscovering their forgotten Jewish roots.
“Clearly, being halachically Jewish does not necessarily make one a Jew.”