‘This is historic revisionism!’ Holocaust survivors and their descendants have been protesting in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
They are in a moral uproar that the newly-elected Fidesz government is going ahead with the building of a monument.
For more than a week, non-Jewish Hungarians have also joined them, removing fences from around the construction site and laying personal relics around it.
The monument depicts Hungary as a victim of Nazi aggression in World War Two.
The facts are, however, that Hungary joined Germany in 1941, then was invaded when it changed its mind in 1944, and moved to make a separate peace with the allied powers.
Hungary had begun introducing anti-Jewish legislation in 1938.
One of the women demonstrating said: “This is a falsification of history, something that nobody wants. We don’t understand this, so we come every day and dismantle the fence… and they put it up again.”
The monument represents the country as an archangel (Gabriel), being attacked by an eagle, representing Germany.
Many find it hard to qualify the actions of the wartime authorities as angelic.
The mass deportation of Hungary’s Jews began in 1944. Starting in May, in just eight weeks, most were sent to Auschwitz.
Historian Istvan Rév said: “The government tries to build a monument actually denying responsibility for the things that happened in Hungary, when 437,000 people died in concentration camps.”
Hungary’s Jewish groups decided to boycott national commemoration of the occupation, saying the monument is part of an official drive to obscure the role played by Hungarians.
Our correspondent in Budapest, Andrea Hajagos, said: “This debate on the monument casts a shadow over the April 16th commemoration of the Hungarian victims of the Holocaust.”
This 70th anniversary marking when the Jews first began to be forced into ghettos also saw the Hungarian president and the deputy prime minister pay tribute to the thousands of Jews from Budapest who were murdered on the banks of the Danube. These politicians speak openly about the nation’s responsibility.
A Fidesz Party former education minister, Zoltán Pokorni, who proposed marking today officially, said: “We don’t see the Holocaust as a distant country, but as a part of Hungarian history, as the murderers were Hungarians and the victims were Hungarians, so this is our concern; it’s not a far-away question of history.”
Fidesz Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s pledges to do everything to stamp out anti-Semitism in Hungary are met by critics saying the government is courting far-right voters with the archangel project.