Yad Vashem has publicly criticized a new Holocaust museum in Hungary, known as the House of Fates, which is slated to open next year.
The museum is being built by the Hungarian government at a cost of over 28 million euros, but is being formally transferred to the ownership of the Chabad EMIH Jewish federation in the country.
The government announced this decision during a press conference earlier this month just before Rosh Hashanah together with head of the EMIH Rabbi Shlomo Koves and controversial historian Maria Schmidt who has directed the curation of the permanent exhibition of the House of Fates.
In light of this announcement, Yad Vashem has come out in public opposition to the museum, saying that it ignores anti-Jewish laws passed by the Hungarian government in 1938, the deaths of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews in forced labor imposed by the government, and the participation of Hungarian authorities in the deportation of Hungarian Jewry to Auschwitz.
Dr. Robert Rozett, Director of the Yad Vashem Libraries and an expert on Hungarian Jewry in the Holocaust, has said that Yad Vashem was approached by the Hungarian government to participate in an international advisory forum for the House of Fates.
He said, however, that Yad Vashem’s historical and educational experts who studied the project raised significant concerns with the proposed concept and content, together with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and passed on these concerns to the Hungarian authorities and museum management.
According to Rozett the project organizers did not provide any serious response to the issues raised with the museum and its concept, and said that Yad Vashem subsequently disassociated itself from the project altogether in 2014.
Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said at the government press conference announcing the cooperation with Chabad that the museum will “present personal fates… particularly from the perspective of the child victims of the Holocaust.”
Rozett said that this confirmed that the original, flawed concept remained the same, in particular focusing specifically on the personal narrative of child victims and not the broader historical context of Hungarian Jewry and the Hungarian government’s actions before the coming to power of the Fascist Arrow Cross party in October 1944.
The majority of Hungarian Jews killed by the Nazis were deported between May and July 1944.
Rozett said that the museum ignores the crucial role played by the Hungarian authorities and a individual Hungarians in the persecution and deportation of Jews following the German invasion in March 1944 until the Hungarian Arrow Cross took power in October 1944.
He said therefore that the museum advances a narrative in which only the Germans and Arrow Cross were responsible for the murder of Hungarian Jewry. “In other words, visitors to the House of Fates are to be shown and taught that, except for a tiny, criminal and fanatic minority, the citizens of Hungary were essentially blameless for what was inflicted upon their Jewish neighbors,” says Rozett.
“To this patently misleading distortion, the concept’s planners have added a statistically disproportional over-emphasis on rescue attempts on behalf of Jews, by Hungarians. Thus, it is implied, that Hungary was actually a nation of rescuers. This is a grave falsification of history.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Rozett said the purpose of the museum was “to focus on suffering only, and not teach about the context, and the role of their own people in the deportations by Hungarians, by the gendarme, the police, and the Interior Ministry.”
The Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office which is overseeing the project could not be immediately contacted for comment.