January 27, 2014 - 14:40 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Historian Randolph L Braham said on Sunday, Jan 26 he is returning a high state award to Hungary, in order to protest what he says are government efforts to rewrite history and exonerate the country from its role in the Holocaust, the Associated Press reported.
Braham, who is a Holocaust survivor, has also asked the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest to remove his name from the BrahamTheque Information Center, which collects his research results and publications.
Professor emeritus at the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Braham's two-volume The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, from 1981, is considered one of the most important books about the subject. He received the Medium Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic in 2011.
Braham said in an open letter addressed to executives of the memorial center that the "straw that broke the camel's back" leading to his decision was a government plan to erect a memorial commemorating the March 1944 invasion of Hungary by the Nazis. Braham said the memorial was "a cowardly attempt to detract attention from the Horthy regime's involvement in the destruction of the Jews and to homogenize the Holocaust with the 'suffering' of the Hungarians a German occupation, as the record clearly shows, was not only unopposed but generally applauded."
Miklos Horthy was Hungary's autocratic leader from the 1920s through most of the second world war.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has also been criticized by Jewish groups for tolerating statues of Horthy being set up by far-right groups in several places.
The government said the memorial of the invasion wasn't part of the year-long series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of more than 430,000 Hungarian Jews to Nazi death camps shortly after the German incursion. Sculptor Peter Parkanyi Raab's memorial will be around 7.5m tall and includes Germany's imperial eagle swooping down on the archangel Gabriel. It is expected to be unveiled on 19 March on Freedom Square, an area in Budapest that also includes a Soviet war memorial, the US embassy and a statue of Ronald Reagan.
Responding to the Jewish community leaders, Orban said the statue was "dedicated to the victims of the German occupation". "I am sure that a show of respect for the memory of the victims requires no further explanation," Orban said in a statement Wednesday.
Braham said he was "stunned" by the "history-cleansing campaign of the past few years calculated to whitewash the historical record of the Horthy era".
Braham, who was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1922, grew up in the heavily Hungarian city of Dej in Transylvania. Hungary lost Transylvania to Romania after the first world war but, with Hitler's support, temporarily recovered some of the territory in 1940. During the second world war, Braham served in a forced labor unit for Hungarian Jews and was later a prisoner of war of the Soviets.