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Jan 19, 2016

Day of Remembrance for Ethnic Germans Forcibly Deported From Hungary

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made a commemorative speech on January, 19, 2016 in Budaörs, about the forced deportation of ethnic Germans following World War II.

The prime minister talked about past invasions, international socialism, the current state of Europe, and ethnic Germans in Hungary.

He reminded listeners that “Seventy years ago a process of deportation was carried out in Hungary and in other countries of Europe under the guise of relocation, and there was not a single wise and responsible person –including the representatives of the victorious powers – who resisted it.”

The following is an English translation of the complete transcript of the prime minister's speech:

Allow me to welcome the representative of the German Federal Government, Mr. Koschyk. I also welcome Mr. Barnabás Lenkovics, the President of the Constitutional Court, members of the Constitutional Court, representatives of national minorities in Hungary, the Honourable Mayor, the President of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, and representatives of the historical churches. And I also wish to welcome everyone who has come here to Budaörs today to join us in remembrance of one of the painful and unjust episodes in the history of the past century.

To us the nineteen-forties represent a single, seemingly endless story of suffering: invasions, deportations and expulsions, a continuous rail-borne exodus of grief. The emphasis, the purpose, the cause and the motives may have varied, but the result was the same. Whenever Hungary was invaded – whether from the West or the East – what followed was suffering on an unimaginable scale. The history of the 20th century bears witness to the fact that when Hungary lost its sovereignty it expelled, robbed and drove out its own citizens – thereby leaving utterly defenceless the very people and values it was supposed to protect and preserve. This is an enduring lesson for the Hungarian people, and we cannot afford to allow the smallest possibility for the emergence of a world in which similar decrees and lists could be drawn up again. It is a perpetual warning that only the strong government of a sovereign country can protect its citizens of different national and ethnic backgrounds from external forces and the accomplices within who are prepared to serve those forces.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It was seventy years ago, on 19 January 1946, that the first train left Hungary transporting our expelled German compatriots to Germany. One thousand people were taken away on 19 January alone – on a single day. By the beginning of February Budaörs was completely empty, and soon after hundreds of settlements with Swabian populations suffered the same fate. The official term was “relocation”, but that was very far from the truth. What they called relocation meant, in fact, the robbing and expulsion of Swabians in Hungary. They were deprived of their homes, and they were deprived of their native land. Leaving for cities in Germany which had been bombed into dust, from their former lives they could only take with them as much as would fit into a fifty-kilo bundle. And it was not only those who were drafted into the German army during the war who were forced to leave their homes. To be included on that list, it was enough for someone to declare themselves as an ethnic German, or to declare themselves as a Hungarian whose mother tongue was German; and it was also enough if they were known to love Hungary enough to have never voted for the Communist Party.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Seventy years ago a process of deportation was carried out in Hungary and in other countries of Europe in the guise of relocation, and there was not a single wise and responsible person –including the representatives of the victorious powers – who resisted it. Those were times when Europe was unable to resist the temptation of insane ideas. Instead of resisting, instead of preserving its Christian identity, it surrendered twice. It capitulated twice in a row: first it yielded to the lure of National Socialism, then to that of international socialism. A tragic common denominator of national and international socialism is that they were capable of driving entire nations and ethnic groups into cattle trucks, based on the principle of collective guilt.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To this day Germans in Hungary have a culture of their own, the threads of which have been woven into the fabric of Hungarian culture. If we were to remove these threads, the entire fabric would fall apart. The Hungarian Swabian community forms an integral and inalienable part of Hungary and Hungarian culture. If those who were expelled seventy years ago had taken with them everything that Germans in Hungary or people of German origin in Hungary have done for the Hungarian economy and for Hungarian culture, Hungary today would be much poorer. They could have taken with them our first history of national literature – Ferenc Toldy; they could have taken with them our Parliament building – Imre Steindl; and the building of the Museum of Applied Arts – Ödön Lechner; and they could have taken with them a significant proportion of Hungary’s printing industry, machine industry and medicine. Hungary was once home to more than half a million hardworking, independent, ethnic German families who were proud of their roots. We lived side by side with each other for centuries, and around Europe hundreds of thousands of German and Hungarian soldiers are buried alongside each other. Together we tackled the troubles and problems of our daily lives, and together we rebuilt Hungary after the devastation of war and crisis. And we learnt a great deal from each other. For instance, we Hungarians learnt from the Swabian people that hard work is the only path to honest wealth. The ethnic Germans living in Hungary bore witness to this common destiny when they rallied to the flag of Kossuth, and not the flag of the double eagle. They confirmed this common destiny when they fought on the battlefields of World War I alongside their Hungarian compatriots. And they bore witness to this sense of belonging together when in the 1941 census they declared themselves to be Hungarians who were German speakers. Finally, they also showed this when, a few years later, many of them returned home to poverty, to misery, and to the humiliations of the communist regime.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are all familiar with the story of the trains which set out in all manner of directions to arrive at unknown destinations. Millions of human lives were lost before we realised that we, the nations of Europe, are stronger together. The main reason for the unification of Europe was to ensure that such atrocities could never happen again. European cooperation stemmed from the recognition that more things unite the nations of Europe than divide us. Today with our own eyes we can see how day by day Europe’s security is slowly disintegrating, and the way of life which is based on Christian culture is in danger. The question today is no longer whether the European nations will turn against one another; the question is rather whether there will be a Europe at all, whether we can protect the European way of life and culture, and what kind of continent we will leave to our children.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Looking back at the history of the nineteen-forties – when time and again the roads of Europe were filled with starving people, driven away from their homes and genuinely fleeing for their lives – the most important lesson we can learn is that a wrong cannot be made right through another wrong, a presumed wrong even less so, and a presumed wrong can never be made right through collective punishment. We can be proud that – after twenty troubled, transitional, post-communist years – at the ballot box the Hungarian people finally gave emphatic support for civic consolidation, and that Parliament finally had the opportunity to create Hungary’s first democratic, civic constitution. One of the most important pillars of the civic world is fairness, that everyone is given their due. Therefore the Hungarian parliament decided to declare 19 January the day of remembrance for ethnic Germans rounded up and deported from Hungary. It is a permanent reminder of the sixty-five thousand people sent to forced labour camps in Siberia and to the German families condemned to “relocation”. Today’s anniversary is, however, not just a commemoration, but an appeal not to forget all that Germans in Hungary have done and continue to do for Hungary to this day.

The Hungarian government supports the preservation of the identity and culture of our German compatriots in Hungary. Since 2014 it has been possible to use the German language in the Hungarian parliament; the advocate of the ethnic Germans living here can address Parliament in their mother tongue. We are pleased to report that over the past four years the number of German schools has increased five-fold, and the number of students studying in those schools has tripled. And we are also proud that the number of those who declare themselves part of the German Hungarian community is now almost two hundred thousand.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The story of the suffering of the ethnic Germans in Hungary should remind us that it is one’s inalienable right to live where one was born: to live in the culture, the country and the settlement which one considers to be one’s home. May God give us enough perseverance and patience to protect and to preserve Europe. And may God give us enough strength to enforce the right to stay in one’s native land – also if that is outside Europe. On behalf of the Hungarian government, I express the wish that my German compatriots living in Hungary will preserve the memory of their ancestors, and will continue to see that their children are good Hungarians raised in German culture. Tribute to the victims. A worthy memorial to those who suffered. Respect to the memory of the innocent. Recognition and honour to those who aided Germans in Hungary in their hour of need.

God bless our German compatriots living with us!