Wiesel returns 2004 medal

News | Vienna Review | July / August 2012

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel returned the Grand Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary he received in 2004 in protest of the government "encouraging the whitewashing of tragic and criminal episodes in Hungary’s past, namely the wartime Hungarian government’s involvement in the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens."

The Jewish author and Holocaust survivor announced his decision in a letter dated 7 June addressed to speaker of the parliament Laszlo Kover. In the letter Wiesel expressed alarm at Kover’s participation in a ceremony for Romanian-born author József Nyírő, a supporter of Hungary’s dictator and Nazi ally Miklos Horthy. In addition, the Romanian native expressed distress at "the resurgent practice of of naming public spaces after [Horthy]."

Nyírő's writings were recently implemented into Hungary’s school curriculum by Viktor Orbán, and are popular among the Hungarians living in Romania.

"I do not wish to be associated in any way with such activities." Wiesel concluded, thus repudiating Hungary’s highest honour.

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