Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has cancelled an invitation to Laszlo Kover, the Hungarian house speaker, to Israel for Kover’s attending a recent commemoration of Hungarian author Jozsef Nyiro in Romania, The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
Kover was to attend celebrations of the 100th birth anniversary of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, in Israel in July.
According to the Israeli paper, Rivlin was appalled by Kover’s paying tribute to Nyiro, whose party had “cooperated with the German Nazi murderers in realizing their program to annihilate the Jewish People”.
“Anyone who participates in such an event cannot possibly then take part in an event to honor a man like Raoul Wallenberg, a beacon of humanity, who saved Jews, who is a symbol of the struggle against Nazi Germany and its collaborators, one of whom you chose to identify with and pay homage to,” the paper quoted Rivlin’s letter to Kover.
Kover’s cabinet chief told MTI late on Sunday that they have not yet received a letter from Israel’s Knesset. Laszlo Veress called it “strange” that the Knesset speaker should send messages to his Hungarian counterpart through the media.
Veress also said that Kover had indicated “through the customary diplomatic channels” a few days earlier that he could not fly to Israel due to different arrangements, and President Janos Ader would represent Hungary at the Wallenberg celebrations instead.
Kövér defends controversial author in letter to Wiesel
Meanwhile, Kover wrote a letter to Nobel Peace Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel arguing that Nyiro was neither a war criminal, a fascist nor an anti-Semite.
Kover wrote his letter in response to Wiesel’s returning the Grand Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, which he had received in 2004, partly because of Kover’s attending a recent commemoration of Nyiro in Romania. Wiesel released the letter on Friday.
In his letter, Kover said that the Allied Control Commission in 1945 and 1947 cleared Nyiro of charges of fascism and anti-Semitism, and added that such ideas did not surface in Nyiro’s literature.
“Hungary’s communist propaganda maintained those charges for four decades and attempted to wipe Nyiro out of the public conscience,” Kover said.
“When passing judgement on creative minds, it is primarily their creation that should be considered, and double standards in that must not be applied,” the letter said. Nyiro’s merit lies in his literary life achievement, rather than in his “negligible but doubtlessly and tragically mistaken political activities”, Kover said in the letter.
Kover made a comparison with philosopher Gyorgy Lukacs, and said that he was appreciated for his scholarly achievement and not for his political activities during communist dictatorship in 1919 and after 1945. “While a street in Budapest was named after Lukacs, Nyiro is even denied a burial in his native land,” the letter said.
In his conclusion, Kover said that after “so many lies, so much forced silence and one-sidedness it may be time to consider our history as a whole” and wished “reconciliation for all of us”.
In a short note to the house speaker, Wiesel thanked Kover for his response, but stressed that he upheld a different opinion of Nyiro.
Wiesel added that Kover’s letter was lacking reflections to his remarks concerning what he saw as a renewed cult of Miklos Horthy, regent of Hungary in the interwar period.
The above photo of Kövér speaking at Hungary’s “House of Terror” museum in 2011 was published on the website of Fidelitas, the youth wing of the governing Fidesz-Christian Democratic party.