Spurred by protests from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the European Jewish Congress (EJC) and the Hungarian Jewish umbrella group Mazsihisz, Hungary’s prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány has asked the country’s chief prosecutor to “closely monitor” the extreme-right ‘Jobbik’ party and the ‘Magyar Garda’ [Hungarian Guard], recently formed by ‘Jobbik’ as its paramilitary arm. Gyurcsány asked chief prosecutor Tamas Kovacs to monitor the group “with special attention … and act without delay in case of acts counter to the laws in force or the Hungarian constitution.”
“I share the opinion of those who say that the creation of the ‘Magyar Garda’, based upon the facts and statements known so far, carries with it the direct danger that our most important common values may be harmed – the respect for human dignity, the right to everyday life without fear and the respect for each other’s culture, descent and world view,” Gyurcsány said in a letter sent to Kovacs on Wednesday.
Following reports about the WJC/EJC letter in the Hungarian press, the president of the main opposition party ‘Fidesz’ and former prime minister Viktor Orbán wrote to Lauder, saying that his party was “committed to the liberties and emancipation of individuals and their communities, including the Jewish community in Hungary, and the inviolable nature of their basic rights and freedoms.”, although the letter does not specifically mention the ‘Magyar Garda’.
In a letter to Gyurcsány earlier this week, WJC president Ronald S. Lauder and EJC president Moshe Kantor had called the guard formation an “extremely alarming development.” They wrote that the “impending creation of an armed guard, under the false guise of ‘sporting and shooting clubs’, with uniforms resembling those worn by fascists in World War II,” was a danger to democracy and had to be stopped. The WJC and EJC presidents urged Gyurcsány to do his “urgent utmost to see to it that any political party which manifests expressions of hatred and bigotry, whether by speech, threats to arm, and other incitements to racial violence, is stopped.”
The ‘Magyar Garda’ is to be showcased publicly at a swearing-in ceremony at Buda Castle on Saturday. The guard’s founder, Gabor Vona, has claimed that 300 people have applied to join the group. The uniforms of the guards will reportedly carry the red and white Arpad stripes used by the pro-Nazi ‘Arrow Cross’ movement during World War II, whose members murdered thousands of Jews and were involved in the deportation of hundreds of thousands to the Nazi death camps. Lauder and Kantor wrote that as a member of the European Union and the Council of Europe, the Hungarian government should “immediately take all the necessary steps to ban this threat.” Jobbik is not represented in the national parliament but has representatives on several local councils.