‘Day of Honour’, held in memory of Nazi garrison in besieged Budapest at end of World War II, is prohibited this year – with police citing extremism and fears for public order.

Hungary Bans Annual Neo-Nazi Gathering in Budapest

Obilježavanje “Dana časti” 2008. godine. Foto: EPA/LASZLO BELICZAY HUNGARY OUT

Hungarian police have banned the annual marking of the “Day of Honour” dedicated to commemorating the Nazi forces who broke out of a Russian-encircled Budapest at the end of World War II.

The event which was supposed to be held o February 12, draws far-right and neo-Nazi organizations from all over Europe, including the Western Balkans. The organisers have now cancelled the gathering.

The decision to ban the gathering was issued by the Police Department in Budapest, police confirmed to BIRN, and confirmed by the Supreme Court of Hungary.

Legio Hungaria, one of the organising groups, said such bans started back in 2017, but the Supreme Court rejected them previously as unlawful, after which the groups proceeded to mark the “Day of Honour” and pay respect to Nazi forces on eve of defeat in 1945.

The explanation of the ban cites the speeches usually given and the appearance of extremists likely to cause fear and alarm.

“Extreme groups are expected to appear at this event. The holding of the event in their presence may be accompanied by a considerable attack on public order and peace,” the decision reads, adding that the event may also inspire extremist ideas that affect the dignity of World War II victims and their living relatives.

Bulcsú Hunyadi, head of the Radicalization and Extremism Programme at the Political Capital Institute, told BIRN that the ban was important as it sent a message that such gatherings, ideologies and organizations were not welcome. He added that, thanks to this ban, the organisation of similar events resonating nationally and internationally may also be precluded.

“The Day of Honour has become a high-profile international event of the far-right, which attracts a lot of attention in Budapest every year,” he said, adding that he thought the gathering would probably take place somewhere in some other form. “I assume that a commemoration event will take place in another format on 12 February,” Hunyadi said.

Legio Hungaria called the explanation of the ban confusing.

Hungarian law prohibits the denial, calling into question, justification or trivialisation of the crimes committed by either National Socialist or Communist regimes, with the breakout in Budapest categorized as “an inhumane crime”.

“The breakout from Budim castle was a bloody and heroic moment of World War Two,” Legio wrote, adding that no violations of the law had happened during previous Day of Honour gatherings, and cooperation with the police had also been established.

“We consider that the police ban and its confirmation by the Supreme Court unacceptable and unheard-of,” it said, adding that the decision was clearly made under political pressure. It said it would hold a press conference on February 12, when the assembly was planned to take place.

In a 2020 report on religious freedoms, the US State Department wrote that Legia had a record of violence. “Around 50 members of Legio Hungaria organization, which is described as neo-Nazi” had reportedly attacked an NGO led by the Jewish Youth Organization in October 2019.  The report said an investigation into this case was closed with no indictment filed.

According to instructions from previous years, participants attending Day of Honour gatherings should wear black uniforms to ensure “a dignified appearance” but, to respect the law, are banned from wearing masks, military uniforms or symbols such as the Nazi swastika or Communist hammer and sickle.

“The appearance of the Hungarian far right in the streets should be exemplary, not an alarming, comical thing,” the invitation to the 2020 Day of Honour read.

During events in previous years, many far-right groups attended, including the UK-founded Blood and Honour, from both Hungary and Serbia, the Nordic Resistance Movement, the neo-Nazi Skins4Skins movement and the German Die Rechte.

Three years ago, after representatives of Blood and Honour from Serbia attended, BIRN reported that this organization had existed in Serbia for more than 20 years and had now spread to the Bosnian Serb-led entity, Republika Srpska.

Several countries have banned Blood and Honour, citing the threat of terrorism. They include Germany, Spain and Russia. In Canada, it is designated a terrorist group.

It did not answer a query from BIRN about whether it still planned to attend this year’s assembly in Budapest by time of publication.

The Nordic Resistance Movement, meanwhile, told BIRN it was sorry “not to be able to pay tribute to heroes”, recalling the besieged Nazi soldiers in Budapest as some “of the best men in Europe” who deserve “every honour they can get”.

“This decision means that we should now honour them even more in our countries, continuing to fight for a national-socialist Europe!” NRM said.

According to the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Budapest, the Nazi authorities and soldiers who occupied Hungary in 1944 killed more than half-a-million Jews in Hungary by the time World War II ended.

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