The past speaks to the present

Agnes Popper


*Binyamin Netanyahu, Viktor Orban and Agnes Popper… (& a footnote on Margaret Hodge)*

Rob Ferguson on Facebook, reprinted with permission

This is my aunt, Agnes Popper, my mother’s sister. I never met her. She died by the shores of the Danube in Budapest at the hands of the Hungarian Nazis, the Arrow Cross, who shot thousands of Budapest Jews and threw their bodies into the waters.

Agnes ran a children’s home before the war, full of light and play. I do not know how many children in these photos survived. 475,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to the four huge crematoria of Auschwitz in just 10 weeks from May to July 1944.

Agnes Popper’s children’s home

And yesterday, 74 years later, a Prime Minister of a Jewish state meets with the antisemite Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán. Orbán was re-elected in April, on an openly antisemitic campaign, alleging a Jewish conspiracy to undermine Europe by a Muslim invasion.

Vicor Orban & Binyamin Netanyahu, meeting in Israel

Orbán has rehabilitated Hungary’s wartime ruler and Nazi collaborator, Miklós Horthy, whose state apparatus implemented the Final Solution of Hungarian Jewry and at whose hands Agnes and almost half a million others perished.

Here is Orbán speaking of Jews only four months ago:

“We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world”.

The present speaks to the past. And the past to the present.

This is not an individual question of this Israeli prime minister or that. A racist, settler-colonial state will perforce seek allies where it must. Israel is not only a catastrophe for the dispossessed Palestinian people, it is a catastrophe for Jews.

And to Margaret Hodge, the point is this. Not that my family’s suffering overreaches yours, or yours mine. It is that at the gates of Auschwitz it mattered not whether you were Zionist or anti-Zionist; religious or secular; conservative, Bundist, social democrat or communist… only that one grandparent was a “Jew”.

That, Margaret, is what makes your degradation of the meaning of antisemitism and your attack on a principled anti-racist Labour leader for purely cynical, self-serving ends so unconscionable and vile.