BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary has scrapped plans to erect a statue of Balint Homan, a former World War Two government minister who supported anti-Semitism in Hungary in the 1930s and 40s, after protests from Jewish leaders.
The row over honouring Homan, who served as minister of religion and education twice between 1932 and 1942, has served as an uncomfortable reminder to Hungary of its anti-Semitic past, including its role in deporting half a million Jews.
National news agency MTI reported on Friday that the private Balint Homan Foundation in Szekesfehervar, west of Budapest, which wanted to honour him for his role as a historian and former minister, had dropped plan for a statue.
Homan was a proponent of anti-Jewish laws and a Nazi supporter until the end of the war when he was jailed for life for backing the declaration of war on the Soviet Union. He died in prison in 1951.
In 2015 a Hungarian court posthumously acquitted him of war crimes charges.
Hungary’s Jewish community and the World Jewish Congress had called on the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party to block the plan which would have been partly funded by government money.
U.S. special envoy against anti-Semitism Ira Forman said on Sunday that the plan seemed “incomprehensible”.
Replying to a question from a Socialist opposition MP, Orban said in parliament on Tuesday that he did not back plans for the statue.
“The government cannot support the erection of a statue for a politician who … collaborated with Hungary’s oppressors, regardless of what other merits he had,” Orban said.
The World Jewish Congress has praised Orban’s decision saying his “clear statement on this matter comes very late, but it is nonetheless welcome”.