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Holocaust survivor Wiesel returns Hungarian honour

  • 19 Jun 2012
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BUDAPEST (AFP)
s Order of Merit, Grand Cross in 2004

A few weeks later 90-year-old Rabbi Jozsef Schweitzer was verbally assaulted on the street when a stranger came up to him and said "I hate all Jews!"

In March Akos Kertesz, an 80-year-old prize-winning Jewish Hungarian writer, applied for political asylum in Canada.

"I hope that one day I will be able to return to a democratic, tolerant, humane Hungary," Kertesz wrote in a letter to the media.

The government publicly condemned the incidents and has taken concrete steps in the past to combat extremism.

In 2010 it banned the paramilitary organization Magyar Garda and earlier in the month a young man in Nagykanizsa received an 18-month suspended sentence for Holocaust denial.

Yet no public condemnation was heard when two deputies from the ruling Fidesz party attended a ball last month to raise money for another statue in Budapest.

Peter Feldmajer, head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, said that there were "hundreds of incidents of verbal and sometimes physical abuse every week against members of our community because of their ethnic background".

"The problem is with the law. There are no laws against public hate speech," he told AFP. "The emphasis is now on freedom of the speech and not on protecting the dignity of people."

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