Article about the Jewish past of te city in the newspaper "Magyar Narancs"


Mr. Majdán's visit in the prison, presentation about the Jewish religion to the inmates


 One to One with those, who attacked the cemetery

 - written by: Béla Majdán - "Új élet "(New Life), 15. December 2009. 5th page, "Nógrád Megyei Hírlap" 2009. December 15. (Hungarian original - pdf)

One of them was the mastermind behind the crime, the other one is just a penniless, unemployed, pliable orphan, who was raised by his aunt. They both were drinking on the courtyard of a local elementary school till 2. a.m. that night. Since the jewish cemetery happened to be on the road they went home, they thought, maybe there will be some crypt in it, with something worthy to steal. They both were heavily drank, and one of them injured himself quite bad when he crawled over the wall, and landed on a gravestone. The perpetrator's parents just filed their divorce a few months ago and his father left them completely. He lives with his mother in a flat, in a block, and he works as a security guard at at Budapest, at the so called Terézváros. And he often had troubles with gypsies. His room was "decorated" with a swastika.

I work to preserve and present one of the oldest (600years old) Jewish settlements in Hungary, in Balassagyarmat, which had the second largest synagogue of the area, and also once was led by the favourite apprentice of the famous Chatam Sofer,  Chief rabbi Aharon David Deutsch z'cl.
However, the synagogue was destroyed by the nazis in 1944, and more then 2000 people were deportated, only 136 of them survived. Nowadays there arent even 10 man left, who  still upholds the religion of their ancestors. But the art-relic jewish cemetery and its nearly 3500 stones still exists. And since 2000,  we also have a small Museum and an exhibition. Since the political system has changed in Hungary this was the third time there was an incident in the cemetery. The first time the attackers were only 13-14 year old hooligans, but the last time, it wasnt just little punks anymore. This time, when the police caught the perpetrators, it revealed a much more sad story.
Considering, that I do the kind of work I do, I wanted to have a conversation with them. I wanted to face the people, who tought it is a good joke, to destroy our work, and disturb the peace of long-dead people, who they didn't even knew. I wanted to find out, who and why thinks, it is the right thing to commit something like this. I wanted to hear, and see what can be the reason behind such meaningless hatred toward the jewish people. To answer my questions I tried to reach out for the perpetrators. And a 23 and a 24 yeras old yungster came to me.

Beyond the fact, that they both came from messed up families, and that they were both seemingly poor, they had conflicts with the minorities before too. Some of them were made up, and some of them were real. But their main question remained: If the politicians, the leaders of our community and society doesn't care about what we want and expect from them, why should they care about what the politicians and the society expects from them. They said, that they were not given a chance to live, to build, to prosper, well, then they will prove they sure can destroy. Maybe that will wake up somebody and make them realise, that a whole generation was robbed and made homeless and rootless in their own country.
They said, they did nothing else, they just went to those kind of places, were they were allowed to speak out about the problems they had. They readed books, and webpages, which they felt have a message for them, and they went to those parties and those places were they felt such questions are asked, like:
"Why is todays media so mind-numbing" "Why there is no place left for the hungarian traditions and traditional values", "Why the hungarian victims of the first and the second World War can't get as many recognition and remembrence as the jewish ones get",
"Why cant they disapprove the mocking of the Christian and Hungarian culture as much as they disapprove the mocking of the jewish culture or the denying of the Holocaust",
Why can't we face our communist past once and for all, banishing all those from our political system, who were part of the communism",
"Why can't anybody see, that most of the crime and hatred and depression is caused by the uninhibited and hell-bent behaviour of our political elite",
"Why is that, that always the Avarege Joes are the ones, who get punished, while the biggest thiefs and liars can get away with everything",
"Why is it, that the social aid is given by the number of children somebody has, and not by the relation and work he/she has for his/her country".
Listening to the young perpatrators it became obvious to me, that the desperate teenagers and young adults, who try to find their way, are misleaded, and fed with half-truths and lies, and with openly antisemitistic broadsides and slanders. One of the most popular aspersions is, that the jews of Tiszaeszlár massacred a young girl named Eszter Solymosi and they used her blood for their evil rituals. Furthermore the perpetrators said, that the Talmud contains things such as enslaving a goy (gentile) is legal, and appreciated. And they also told me about the "jewish world-conspiracy" and, they said all the jews are cosmopolitan, liberal, moral-less and they all hate the hungarians.
After hearing all this, I had no other choice, just to try and tell them about the facts of our history. Our arguement was very long, and there is no need to publish everything here. But I tried to especially emphasize them two things: First the fact, that the greatest and most respected moral guidence for the christian religion, the Ten Commandments, was written by Moses, who happened to be jewish too. Secondly, I tried to open their eyes to the fact, that in the freedom fights og 1848/49 and in the first World War a lot of jewish people served as hungarian soldiers, and died for their country. I invited them back to the cemetery, where I showed them the grave of Ervin Vértes , hungarian soldier, who died at age of 21 at the russian front lines in 1915, protecting his country, and he happened to be jewish too. He was the only son of his parents. His family imprinted the famous motto of the Rákóczi freedom fights "Pro Patria" (For the Country) on his tombstone, alongside a painting of a hungarian military helmet.
But during my speech I felt, this is a new generation. A generation, which was raised by the cruel rules of capitalism. I felt, that trying to teach history and tolerance in the 21th century with 20th century methods is not enough. We are no longer facing separeted individuals, but a growing, more and more desperate and radical, more concentrated mass. The whole hungarian political elite failed in the last two decades and this is the sad and rotten fruit of their hell-bent ways. The lighting broke out of the bottle.
So what should we do in this new situation? First of all we should try and change the way our media and the internet works, because the way it is right now, it is the perfect soil for planting the seeds of hatred. Because this becomes more and more dangerous. The individuum is reduced to serve the goals of commercialism, and we should try to lead them back to learn about how important society and its unity is. Both the government and the civil sphere should work on this goal. And of course the political elite should lead the way and be a good example for this, like they were back in the early 19th century. that generation tried to save life, sometimes even risking their own life doing so, they build things like the Hungarian Scientific Academy on their own money, and they created a remarkable emancipation law for the jewish citizens too.
We need to follow a similar path now and be a good example. Until its not too late.

Majdán Béla roman catholic historian and teacher.

Postscript: We would also like to tell You, that the perpetrators wrote a letter to Gusztáv Zoltai , the director of Mazsihisz (Hungarian Allience of Jewist Faith Communes), and they apologized from the community and from the relatives of those, whose graves they destroyed. They admittted their act was meaningless and blindfolded. Date of their letter: 2009. November the 18th.

 Translated by Béla Majdán Jr.




"I dance for Hungary"


We spoke with the famous dancer, choreographer, Kossuth award winner, Markó Iván, who also was recently promoted to be the freeman of our city, about topics like his roots, his homeland, his faith, and God.

- A lot of the older citizens of Balassagyarmat still remember to the Hegyi grocery shop, which was the property of his grandparents, but we also know he was only 3 years old when they left the town. So what memories do You have about Balassagyarmat?

- It is true, that I was 3 when we moved to Budapest, but I came back and spent every summer vacation here, my uncle, Hegyi Bandi came for me, and I spent one or two weeks at my two cousins, Hegyi Zsuzsi and Hegyi Bandi. And I also have distant memories from when I was three. I remember to our house, and I can recall my baby carriage, as it is standing on the street. And when I was 12 a lot of things happened in this city, which I will never forget. 50 years have passed and my friend, Majdán Béla invited me back to my hometown. I had nobody here anymore. My uncle moved to Székesfehérvár, then to Budapest, my cousins moved to Paris. I dont even have any family members burried here, in the cemetery, because my father and my uncle moved here right after the war, and my mother and her family was from Tokaj.

-Where are your roots then?

- This is a very hard but also very simple question. My roots are with God, and my other root is Hungary and the hungarian traditions and art and of course my family. Then there are cities I like. Balassagyarmat, Győr and Budapest, and I also have two favourite foreign cities, Jerusalem, because of God, and Paris, because its culture. But my roots are also with the people. I consider myself as a very sensitive man, I have a lot of emotions, I am very intuitive. I can sense wether somebody is good, or not, and I like to be surrounded with good people. The dancers are forced to personalize different characters and roles time to time, so they always observe the people around them. They can tell a measure of a man from the slightest sign, a roll of an eye or an almost insignificant little move. Even if they try to disguise it, or lie.

- After receiving the Kossuth award and the Worthy Artist award and a lot of other honours, what does it mean to You to be named the freeman of Balassagyarmat?

- To put it into the simpliest terms: I feel quite honoured. If I want to express it more deeply, I say, it is very emotional because I would give away everything I have, if my parents would be still alive and could se this, but sadly they died a long-long time ago. And the fact that now I am a freeman of Balassagyarmat is also some kind of gratification. I was 3 when I began dancing. Mostly for Hungary. I had performances all over the world, and the critics voted me into a very illostrious company, the top 10 best dancers of the world. But my emotional, cultural roots are binding me to this country, this is where I learned everything. All my life I wanted to make a name for my country. This country is me, if I can say that.

-And what does Your religion, and your jewish heritage mean to you?

- To be jewish, and to have faith in God means my morals and values to me. The jewish and the catholic culture has a common ground, the Ten Commandments. It is almost impossible to comply with, everyone says so. But in the end of the day you have some kind of measure, with wich you can measure yourself. At night I try to think about what did I do wrong, and how could I do it better, and what did I do right, and try to continue doing it right the next day too. To me the christian-jewish common values are very important. This two stories are depending on each other, build from each other. It is not a coincidence, that Jesus was born in a jewish family too. Jerusalem is a divine power, which is dazzling for all our senses, both as a sight to behold and as a city. God is there, you can almost reach out and touch him in the trees, the stones, in the lights, the stars and the clouds of the sky, which can have the most unbelievable shapes and forms. His essence is there, in the nature, and in the landscape.

- Do You usually go to church?

- Yes, every time I feel I need to go. I often visit synagogues just as catholic churches. I have a habit, I never sit down, I am always standing behind the last line of benches, because I feel, that in front of God, I am not allowed to sit. But I do the best I can to match the destiny, he choosed me to fulfill.

Published by Andrea Szabó

Translated by Béla Majdán Jr.