Thursday, 31 January 2019 00:16

HUNGARY – Research Institute Director makes controversial statements on the 1920 anti-Jewish law

Sándor Szakály, Director of the Veritas Research Institute run by the government, stated that the 1920 law limiting Jews from registering at university did not specifically target Jewish people. This is Hungary’s media monitoring highlight for January.

This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of January, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.

Sandor SzakalyDate of publication: 7 January 2019

Media Outlet:


Headline: “Some people want to create a political debate”

Description of the antisemitic content: This article is an interview with Sándor Szakály, Director of the Veritas Research Institute run by the government. While discussing current affairs with his interviewees,  Sándor Szakály claims that there is confusion around the numerus clausus, a 1920 law that restricted Jewish students’ access to higher education. According to Szakály, “Jews were not specifically targeted by the law”, but “only those Jewish people who were not baptised”. Furthermore, Sándor Szakály states that the law “was not a legal disqualification but rather a restriction of rights, and it is, by no means, appropriate to call it a Jewish law". The journalist rightly challenged Sándor Szakály’s statement and said that the numerous clauses law had led to the Holocaust. This was not the first time that the Director of the Veritas Research Institute made an antisemitic statement about the numerus clausus. In a 2016 interview with the Budapest Beacon, he similarly claimed that the law was not directed against Jews, as it does not even mention the word “Jewish” and, while he admitted that the quota certainly did limit the rights of some, it also “gave greater opportunities to others”.  

Myth debunked: Mazsihisz, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities released a statement saying that Sándor Szakály’s “approach and vocabulary are particularly unfair to Jews” and “his historical interpretations are not only deceptive but also dangerous”. A number of historians have rebutted the Director’s comments in the past. Ignác Romsics, one of the most authoritative researchers on the period 1919 to 1944 in Hungary stated that “indeed, the word Jewish or Israelite did not appear in the text of the numerus clausus law; however, parliamentary records about instructions for implementation of the law and the practical application of the law clearly show that it was exclusively directed at the Israelite denomination or ‘nationality.” In 2016 GTTO published an article by journalist Dóra Ónody-Molnár  which stated that “the trivialisation of the numerus clausus law [...]contributes to the interpretation that, before 1944, i.e. while Hungary was a sovereign state, Jews were basically safe, and that the persecution of Jews only began under the German occupation”. Even if Sándor Szakály were not involved in politics, the fact that the Veritas Research Institute is run by the government makes the Director a political influencer. His antisemitic statements are therefore in sharp contrast with the “zero tolerance on antisemitism” position by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. If Orbán stated the “need for firm policy to combat rising anti-Semitism”, how can a Director of a Research Institute make antisemitic remarks without being asked consider his position

More to read:

Did the Jewish quota deprive people of their rights? 

VIDEO: M. Kovács: Disenfranchised by Law. The "Numerus Clausus" in Hungary 1920 - 1945


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