Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog has briefed the directors of the Yad Vashem Institute in Israel on the programme for Hungary's Holocaust memorial Year, in addition to which he signed several agreements with his Israeli hosts during his two-day official visit to Israel which ended on 20 January.

This is the fourth time that Zoltán Balog has been to Israel and he has also visited the Yad Vashem institute on previous occasions. During a meeting there on 20 January, he concluded an agreement with Institute Director Avner Salev on the extension of the existing teacher exchange programme.

The Minister of Human Resources provided Mr. Salev with detailed information on the programme for Hungary's Holocaust Memorial Year. He asked the internationally acclaimed Institute to support the "House of Fates" being constructed at the sight of Józsefváros station and other projects with its knowledge and professional expertise. Mr. Salev promised to consider the request.

During the meeting, the negotiating partners drew up a few "critical questions", for example with regard to the Budapest memorial to the German occupation. "I made it quite clear that this has nothing to do with passing on responsibility, but instead concerns the historical fact that a foreign power did indeed occupy Hungary on 19 March 1944", the Minister said. "The Memorial is dedicated to the victims, to every victim, including of course victims from Hungary's Jewish community", he stressed.

With relation to the House of Fates, the directors of the Yad Vashem Institute indicated that "in addition to general human suffering they would like it to be clear that Jewish people and Jewish children suffered because they were Jewish", Mr. Balog said recalling the meeting, who in his reply assured his negotiating partners that all points of debate would be clarified. With regard to the Holocaust "many chapters must be reopened and it is very important that we should listen to each other and grapple with every viewpoint. Obviously, those that offend human dignity must be rejected, there is nothing to argue about there", he emphasised.

A professional debate must be conducted according to the Minister. "It is not the job of politicians to serve justice. It is the job of experts to discuss facts about which one might perhaps have a different view than the other. I urge everyone to use Holocaust Memorial Year to conduct all outstanding debates on this issue so that the public in Hungary can acquire a more realistic picture of what happened, including the issue of responsibility", he declared.

Minister Balog said that a day before leaving for his trip he had signed an agreement with the Jewish Education Roundtable, in which all points objected to by the organisation were set down "about how, not primarily the Holocaust but the common Jewish-Hungarian history that spans over a thousand years and which gave rise to many great achievements during the early 20th century and especially in the 19th century, would be taught within the framework of the National Curriculum".

Following his visit to the Yad Vashem Institute, Mr. Balog met with Minister for Culture Limor Livnat, an influential Member of the Israeli Parliament, the Likud. They politicians signed two agreements: a treaty according to which the two countries would provide mutual benefits with regard to the production of films on their own territory, which has been in development for some time, and a cultural work programme, which determines the framework for cultural cooperation over the next three years. Several exchange programmes will form part of this cooperation, including a trip to Israel by the National Folk Ensemble, a visit to Hungary by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli opening of the exhibition dedicated to Robert Capa, who is also part of joint Jewish-Hungarian cultural history.

During his trip, the Minister of Human Resources also visited the institute named after former Israeli Prime Minister Ezer Weizman, where he spoke to Hungarian scholarship students.