New Statue of Anti-Semitic Hungarian Bishop

Jewcy has an article by Karl Pfeifer which draws attention to a development in Hungary that doesn’t appear to have made the English-language press:

The right wing daily “Magyar Hirlap” reported on 10.10.2008 on the unveiling of a statue of catholic bishop Ottokár Prohászka (1858-1927): one of the leading ideologues of the “Christian course”  in the years  after the 1st World War. Prohászka  advocated antisemitic discrimination, the so called numerus clausus restricting the number of Jews admitted to institutes of tertiary education to 6 percent of all matriculants.

The current vice president, Sándor Lezsák, apparently took the opportunity of the unveiling to complain that discussion of Prohászka had been suppressed due to “spiritual terror”, and that he had simply “raised his voice to drive back the cosmopolitan-parasite class”. The Archbishop of Kalocsa- Kecskemét, Balázs Bábel, shares Lezsák’s enthusiasm:

According to the catholic daily “Magyar Kurir” the catholic archbishop Balázs Bábel said in his speech when unveiling the statue of Prohászka, that he was educated in the doctrine of Ottokár Prohászka, and that as seminarist, he was “witness to the shameful event when in 1945 at the instigation of Mihály Károlyi (democratic Hungarian politician) the poet György Faludy and his communist comrades destroyed the statue in the Karolyi park”….

According to the catholic daily a journalist asked the bishop whether he found it acceptable that in the Budapest Holocaust museum the picture of Prohászka is located near the picture of Hitler accompanied by the text: “one of the leading persons of the antisemitic ideology”.

Archbishop Bábel answered that he “will not visit the Holocaust museum until they change the text and the setting”.

Pfeifer points out that Bábel was born in 1950, and that Faludy only became communist at a later date. And that the original statue was removed in 1946, not 1945.

Bábel’s regard for Prohászka has been known for a while; it is addressed in a 2006 interview in English here:

Recently, three intellectuals – Peter Buda, Csaba Fazekas and Gyorgy Gabor, accused you in the literary weekly Elet es Irodalom of opposing freedom, because you praised Bihsop Ottokar Prohaszka at a commemoration, who at the beginning of the 20th century talked of the Jews as “a rats’ army,” and an “immoral, infiltrating minority.”

The writers know neither me nor Ottokar Prohaszka, and I did not say any of the things they accuse me off. Furthermore, I emphasised that Prohaszka opposed the representatives of the feudal Church of the time. Further, the antisemitism of the early 20th century is not comparable to that of the 1940s. Criticising the Slovaks, the Vlahs, the Jews and the Hungarians was part of the public discourse of the times. I know Prohaszka well from his books, and he would have opposed the inhumanity committed against the Jews during World War II. So it is ahistorical and false for the Holocaust Museum to present Prohaszka as an ideologist of fascism.

Moshe Y. Herczl’s Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry (p. 235) gives us a representative diatribe from Prohászka’s works:

Jewish morality is anathema to Christian civilization, and this curse will completely obliterate Christian civilization if the latter does not succeed in removing the poison…there is no such thing as Jewish morality, and consequently Jews have no knowledge whatevet of the concept of “moral values.” Thus, the main qualities of the Jew are unlimited egoism, crushing his fellow man – pressuring him mercilessly and drinking his blood. A Jew is unable to distinguish between good and evil…The Christian nations must not give the Jews equal rights; they must defend themselves from them and must constantly get rid of them, at every opportunity and in any way they are able.

Gosh, how could anyone confuse this kind of “criticism” with something from the 1940s?

Having said all that, though, there is – as with Martin Luther – probably rather more to Prohaszka’s long-term popularity than simply his anti-semitism; a Hungarian museums website describes him as the “apostle of Hungary”, who “made his diocese well known in Hungary as the location of the bishop’s new social and spiritual movements”, and as “the man who dedicated his life to serve people by doing a variation of social work, serve church and do scientific work.” The scholar Leslie László apparently assesses him as a paternalist motivated by “passionate love for his own Christian Hungarian people”. Of course, the fact that he was anti-Communist has probably helped his reputation in recent years as well. The circumstances around the unveiling of the new statue, though, do not look encouraging.