antisemitism,  Europe

Hungarians protest appointment of far-right theater directors

Hungarians protest in front of the New Theater in Budapest

Deutsche Welle reported on October 25:

Thousands of Hungarians protested this weekend against the appointment of theater leaders linked to far-right groups. More demonstrations are expected.

Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos overruled a professional panel’s advice and appointed outspoken nationalist Gyorgy Dorner as director of the Hungarian capital’s prestigious New Theater, despite concerns by Jewish groups and international condemnation.

Dorner plans to share the job with Istvan Csurka, who leads the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), which is known for its anti-Semitic rhetoric. They have said they want to rename the theater Hinterland, because “new is not necessarily good,” especially “in the degenerate sick liberal hegemony.”

The mayor, however, has claimed there will be no name change.

The theater leadership, which is set to take office in February, demands that only Hungarian national drama is performed and not what they refer to as “foreign garbage,” which is viewed as a code word for Jewish and other non-Hungarian productions.

That Csurka is taking a nationalist approach is no big surprise: The firebrand writer and politician has said Hungarians are “being exploited” and “oppressed” by Jews who “dominate the economy and literature.” He has also warned of a “Jewish conspiracy,” whose perpetrators are sitting in New York and Tel Aviv.

MIEP has also invited controversial figures to their meetings, including British author and Holocaust denier David Irving and French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Several writers and actors have signed a petition accusing Mayor Tarlos of using public funds to create Hungary’s first fascist “neo-Arrow Cross” theater since World War II. The Hungarian Arrow Cross Party regime closely cooperated with Nazi-Germany. Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, many by Arrow Cross members and their supporters.

The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities called the controversial theater appointments “an advance for circles with Nazi ideology.”
With well over 100,000 members, Hungary has the largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe apart from Russia.

Outrage over the theater controversy has spread beyond Hungary. German conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi canceled appearances in Budapest to protest the appointment of the New Theater leadership. He said he didn’t want to “appear in a city whose mayor entrusted the direction of a theater to two known, extreme right-wing anti-Semites.”

Mayor Tarlos, who has close ties with Hungary’s center-right government, defends his decision to change the leadership at New Theater. He says Gyorgy Dorner, who is also an actor and well-known in Hungary as the voice of American stars Eddie Murphy and Bruce Willis in dubbed films, will be evaluated “at an appropriate time.”

I would add only that Mayor Tarlos, who made this appalling appointment, is not a member of the the Justice and Life Party, or the antisemitic and anti-Roma Jobbik party (to which Dorner has ties), but of the ruling right-of-center Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The Economist reports that Tarlos is ignoring the complaints.

After several Hungarian theatre figures wrote an open letter complaining about the decision he reportedly described them as “inconsiderate, irritating and contemptible”.

(Hat tip: Karl Pfeifer)

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