Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accused of “Nazi” rhetoric by his own entourage after he spoke out over the weekend against creating “peoples of mixed race”.
One of the prime minister’s longtime advisers, sociologist Zsuzsa Hegedüs, on Tuesday handed in a resignation letter in which she described Orban’s words as “worthy of Goebbels” – a reference to the Nazi politician who served as propagandist under Adolf Hitler.
In the letter seen by Hungarian magazine HVG, Hegedüs – whose parents were Hungarian Holocaust survivors – called the speech a “pure Nazi text”.
“That you are able to deliver an openly racist speech would not occur to me even in a nightmare,” she wrote.
Jewish community representatives have also voiced alarm. The International Auschwitz Committee on Tuesday termed the speech “stupid and dangerous” and called on the European Union to “make it clear to the world that a Mr Orban has no future in Europe”.
The speech reminded Holocaust survivors “of the dark times of their own exclusion and persecution”, the organisation’s vice president, Christoph Heubner, said in a statement sent to AFP news agency.
Heubner called specifically on Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer to make a stand when he hosts Orban on an official visit to Vienna on Thursday.
The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities said its president, Andras Heisler, had asked for a meeting with Orban.
“Based on our historical experiences and our family stories living with us it is important to raise our voice against expressions in Hungarian public life that are prone to misunderstanding,” the group said.
More than half a million Hungarian Jews were systematically exterminated during the Nazi Holocaust in World War II. Today, there are about 75,000 to 100,000 Jews in Hungary, most of them in the capital, Budapest.
Hungary’s Chief Rabbi Robert Frolich posted on his Facebook page: “On two feet, working, speaking and sometimes thinking there is only one race on this Planet: the Homo Sapiens Sapiens.”
Bogdan Aurescu, foreign minister of fellow EU member Romania, said Orban’s “ideas” were “unacceptable”.
A spokesman for the European Commission, Eric Mamer, declined to comment on the statement specifically but said “the EU has a certain number of values which are enshrined in the treaties and it implements policies in line with these values and these treaty articles”.
Orban, who delivered the speech on Saturday in Romania, said the international left in Western Europe “employs a feint, an ideological ruse: the claim – their claim – that Europe by its very nature is populated by peoples of mixed race”.
“We do not want to become peoples of mixed race,” he said. He also seemed to allude to the gas chambers of the German Nazi regime when criticising Brussels’ plan to reduce European gas demand by 15 percent.
Orban had made similar remarks in the past but without using the Hungarian term for “race”, according to experts.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs played down Orban’s statement saying it had been “misinterpreted” by those who “clearly don’t understand the difference between the mixing of different ethnic groups that all originate in the Judeo-Christian cultural sphere, and the mixing of peoples from different civilisations”.