It is unacceptable that Janos Esterhazy, this true democrat and humanist, still qualifies as a war criminal in Slovakia, Hungarian President Pal Schmitt said in a letter sent to Slovak counterpart Ivan Gasparovic on Wednesday.
The letter was a response to Gasparovic’s recent statement in an interview, labelling Esterhazy a follower of Hitler and fascism, and opposing the unveiling of a sculpture in his memory in Kosice, near the Hungarian/Slovak border.
Schmitt said he learned with regret and incomprehension what Gasparovic said about Esterhazy, a leader of Slovakia’s ethnic Hungarian minority during the interwar period.
The president noted that the Hungarian government and his predecessors had repeatedly initiated Esterhazy’s rehabilitation.
The president also noted that Esterhazy had been the only member of the Slovak parliament to vote against anti-Jewish laws in 1942. The one-time deputy had always rejected both fascism and communism, suffered in the Gulag and died in a Moravian prison in 1957.
Schmitt closed the letter with the hope that his forthcoming meeting with Gasparovic in Budapest would focus on the two countries’ common values.
Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen on Tuesday called the attack on Esterhazy’s memory an insult to the Hungarian nation and the Catholic Church and a violation of universal human rights.
The Foreign Ministry also rejected Gasparovic’s remarks, saying that the ideology reflected by them did not contribute to the development of bilateral relations.
The statement has been rejected by the opposition green LMP party and the radical nationalist Jobbik party as well as Slovakia’s ethnic Hungarian parties.