Antisemitic authors are to become compulsory reading in Hungary’s schools

Deleted from school reading lists: Nobel Prize laureate Imre Kertesz, here at the award ceremony in 2002

JVL Introduction

Deutsche Welle (the German equivalent of the World Service) reports on the rise of ethno-nationalism in Hungary and the positive valuation of antisemitic heroes of the past.

Using the covid-19 crisis as an excuse, Orban has made an enormous power grab, parliament passing a law which allows him to rule by decree.

At the same time the education system in under assault. The nation’s historical wartime defeats are to be deleted from textbooks and replaced by portrayals of victorious battles. Hungarian legends and myths are to be presented as historical facts.

The Board of Deputes of British Jews has spoken out timidly in recent years about developments in Hungary.

In February 2019 it met Hungarian government reps and expressed concern about “the use of antisemitic tropes, and remarks directed at Muslims and migrants; moves to downplay the role of historical Hungarian leaders in supporting the Holocaust” and more.

But its communique ended:

“We had a respectful and honest dialogue on these matters, while also acknowledging the positive actions of the Hungarian Government, including moves to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, strong bilateral relations with Israel, and the investment in the forthcoming Maccabi Games in Budapest.”

So that’s all right then…

This article was originally published by DW (Deutsche Welle) on Tue 31 Mar 2020. Read the original here.

New school curriculum raises eyebrows in Orban's Hungary


Yair Netanyahu loves Victor Orban…

Anti-Semitic authors will soon be compulsory reading in Hungarian schools, and history books will be rewritten to promote pride in the nation. Viktor Orban’s controversial new school curriculum is drawing outrage.

Along with a controversial new bill that greatly increases the power of Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Victor Orban, which has been described by critics as a power grab, the country’s education system is also facing reforms reflecting the government’s nationalist propaganda.

When Orban presented the new National Core Curriculum (NAT) at the end of January, nobody suspected that two months later, all schools in the country would remain closed until further notice.

The coronavirus crisis has practically brought Hungary’s education system to a standstill.

“Apart from a few exceptions, home schooling is currently not working in Hungary,” Ildiko Reparszky, a teacher at Mihaly Fazeka’s high school in Budapest, told DW.

The state’s online learning platform regularly breaks down. Many teachers and students do not have access to stable internet connections or laptops, especially in the poorer regions of the country.

“The current situation shows how the modernization of the education system has been neglected in recent years,” said Reparszky.

Even though the school system is collapsing, the Hungarian government wants to maintain the launch of its much-criticized nationalist curriculum in September. Protests against it are growing. Teachers’ associations, students, parents, professors and intellectuals have been criticizing the ideologically driven, overloaded new program.

The curriculum’s patriotic goals are particularly clear in literature and history. Students should learn to be “proud of their people’s past.” The nation’s historical wartime defeats are to be deleted from textbooks and replaced by portrayals of victorious battles. Hungarian legends and myths are to be presented as historical facts.

The controversial authoritarian rule of Miklos Horthy from 1920 to 1944 is also to be portrayed in a positive light. The fact that Horthy passed anti-Jewish laws in 1920 and later became one of Adolf Hitler’s close allies will be downplayed.

Laszlo Miklosi, chairman of Hungary’s History Teachers’ Association, described this idealized portrayal of the country’s history as “highly problematic.” It not only distorts students’ views of history, it deters critical thinking, he told DW.

Mandatory reading: anti-Semitic authors

The literature program has also been highly criticized. Hungary’s only Nobel laureate for literature, Holocaust survivor Imre Kertesz, was removed from the curriculum, as well as the internationally recognized and widely translated novelist Peter Esterhazy, who received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2004.

Instead, works by nationalist authors such as Jozsef Nyiro and Albert Wass are now mandatory reading. Nyiro was a member of the fascist Arrow Cross Party and an admirer of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Wass was an avowed anti-Semite and convicted war criminal. The government of Orban’s Fidesz party has been pushing the rehabilitation of these authors for years, erecting new monuments and naming streets after them.

The new reading lists have sparked a nationwide outcry. Teachers’ unions, universities and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences have called for the curriculum to be withdrawn. Teachers protested on social media under the hashtag #noNAT with slogans such as “I don’t teach fascist writers.” Criticism also came from conservative circles and churches.

Another move in the country’s ‘culture war’

With the introduction of the new curriculum, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz government is pursuing its centralization policy in the education sector. “The government is using schools as a battlefield in their culture war,” political scientist and educational researcher Peter Rado said.

The government had also previously forced Budapest’s Central European University (CEU), founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, to relocate the majority of its operations outside the country, while expanding its political influence on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA).

With the adoption of a controversial cultural law at the end of last year, cultural institutions have also been under greater government control.

Orban does not have to fear a critical press: Hungary’s media landscape is largely under the control of the government and government-related companies.

Comments (5)

  • William Johnston says:

    I was brought up through the late fifties and early sixties. I recall how unquestioning was admiration for the British Empire and its supposed legacy; a narrative which stretched right back to the Norman invasion and the “magnificent” kings and queens who ruled us thereafter.

    We were never taught about the fact that these invaders had asset-stripped the country for a century and more. Neither were we taught about the essentially foreign nature of these rulers, who didn’t even speak English until the end of the fourteenth century.

    These foreigners were “good” people, with their descendants still effectively writing their history today. As for the “invaders” who preceded them – Saxons, Jutes and Angles, moving fairly gently into the space opened up by the retreating Romans – I was taught, ever so subtly, to see these as violent invaders. That was a bad thing; the complete obliteration perpetrated by the Norman invasion was spun as an essentially “good” thing.

    But, in the class war which has been waged ever since, those who ruled us (and, to a greater or lesser extent rule us still) would not wish their role as rulers – good, benign, and admirable – to be questioned.

    A thousand years of indoctrination, which we are all too slowly growing out of – but growing out of, nonetheless. And a Hungarian autocrat wants to turn the clock back and re-assert the self-same level of indoctrination amongst the young of his own country.

    We would do well to understand how easily ideologies can indeed be turned on their heads; and how fragile is our own emancipation from such destructive histories.

  • Joern Janssen says:

    This revival of fascism and anti-Semitism cannot possibly tolerated by the governing bodies of the European Union.

  • Daniel Sevitt says:

    Might be better to concentrate on things slightly closer to home. The very first book I was given to read in school aged 7 was by an avowed Jew hater.

    James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl is a marvelous book. Its author was an antisemitic prick.

    How many A-Levels or university degrees take in other Jew-hating arseholes like TS Eliot or Anthony Trollope or Alice Walker or PG Wodehouse.

    Fuck Orban and fuck the idiots who support him, but if you think this is a problem only in Hungary, then you haven’t been paying attention.

  • Michael Lauinger says:

    Sounds like life in America under the fascist Trump regime!

  • Mike Waghorne says:

    Have you asked the BOD for a comment?

Comments are now closed.