The wounds inflicted by the crimes of the past can only be healed if today’s ethnic German community is given the help it needs, a government official said at a commemoration in Many, in northern Hungary, honouring Hungary’s ethnic Germans who were expelled from the country after the second world war.
Speaking at a memorial paying tribute to ethnic German deportees, state secretary for church, minority and civil society relations Miklos Soltész said the reckless decisions made by the major powers after the first world war had led to the rise and horrible acts of Soviet Bolshevism and German Nazism and the death of millions. Following the end of the second world war, ethnic Germans living in the region had to undergo more suffering, he said.
Between January 19, 1946 and July 1948 nearly 200,000 ethnic Germans were driven out of Hungary and hundreds of thousands more were forced to live in fear for decades, Soltész said.
He noted that in the 1941 census, some 500,000 Hungarians had said they were of German origin, but by 1949 their numbers decreased to just 2,600.
But today the German minority self-governments are again free to operate schools and institutions, the state secretary said, adding that there are now some 186,000 ethnic Germans living in Hungary.
Imre Ritter, the parliamentary representative of the German minority, said ethnic Germans had waited seven decades for a Hungarian politician to speak openly about what had actually happened at the time. Ritter noted that it was Prime Minister Viktor Orban who finally did so on the 70th anniversary of the deportations in 2016, “allowing those no longer with us to rest in peace”.
German government commissioner Bernd Fabritius said Hungary’s commemoration of the victims of its own past injustice demonstrated “a serious historical conscience”. He said such a practice required “serious dignity”, in which Hungary served as an example to Europe.
Fabritius praised Hungary’s current minority policy, pointing out that the number of people who identified as ethnic German rose from 62,000 in 2001 to over 185,000 by 2011.
In 2013 Hungary’s parliament voted to declare January 19 the memorial day of the deportation of ethnic Germans from Hungary, as it was on this day in 1946 that the deportations began in Budaörs.