October 3, 2018
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is alarmed by recent decisions of the government of Hungary regarding the so-called “House of Fates” project at the Jozsefvaros rail station site. The decisions by the Office of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to reinstate a version of the highly distorting exhibition plan for the site directly contradict assurances given to the Museum in 2015 that this historically flawed plan was off the table and that the designer of the plan, Dr. Maria Schmidt, would no longer be involved in development of the new memorial institution.
The government’s 2015 action demonstrated a praiseworthy concern for historical accuracy. It was based, in part, on written critiques of the exhibition plan provided by expert Holocaust scholars and organizations--including this Museum, Yad Vashem, and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance--in response to a written request for input from the Office of the Prime Minister. Those detailed critiques focused on the original plan’s highly selective, distorted, and misleading representation of Holocaust history.
Equally positive were the commitments by the Office of the Prime Minister that the project at Jozsefvaros would not proceed without the engagement of an international advisory committee of recognized Holocaust experts and that the creation of the House of Fates is contingent upon the support of the Jewish communities of Hungary. Until the recent decisions were announced, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office repeatedly confirmed the Government’s commitment regarding the essential involvement of Mazsihisz, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities and the most representative institution of Hungary’s still sizeable Jewish population, in planning the new institution. The Government’s decision to assign responsibility for the Jozsefvaros project to a small Jewish community organization outside of Mazsihisz has had the unfortunate effect of creating discord among Hungarian Jewish organizations.
The Hungarian government’s decision to proceed now in the manner it has proposed, based on a potentially misleading narrative of Holocaust history, without the scrutiny of an advisory committee of Hungarian and international experts, and without the authenticity that the involvement of the country’s most representative Jewish organization would provide, risks undermining the contribution the Jozsefvaros project could make to authentic Holocaust education and remembrance. The Museum calls on the Office of the Prime Minister to fulfill the commitments it made to our institution and to others regarding further development of this potentially important memorial institution.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires leaders and citizens worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its global impact and far-reaching educational programs are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.
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