House of Terror Museum, 27 April 2014
Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
114 years ago the Hungarian nation, burdened with serious internal issues, but swelling with confidence and faith in the future, stepped over the threshold into the 20th century. Burdened with serious internal issues because the questions of the right to vote and of minority integration raised serious problems that had to be solved, of which they new that solutions to these issues must be found during the upcoming years, and of which they perhaps feared that the time available would not be sufficient to enable organic social processes to be completed and allow minority integration to occur through social integration.
But at the same time swelling with confidence and faith in the future, because it seemed that emancipation and the expanding middle class would solve the issue of social integration. In 1900, the Hungarian nation was a united political community in which everyone could get ahead according to their capacity and regardless of origin, as we know from the era's literary works and memoirs. That passion, that blooming, that upwards spiral, which appeared in the everyday lives of Hungarians irrespective of religion, denomination or ethnicity. It was also a fine example to other Western European nations. When in Belgrade before the First World War, Dezső Kosztolányi wrote of the Serbian capital, which was just beginning to become a civil, middle class city, a - partly curious, partly disinclined - description, which may be likened to those written today by American or British visitors to Central Europe. When he boarded the train home to Budapest in Belgrade he found a message scratched onto the window in Hungarian: "There will be war"; this is the last sentence of his travelogue, and the ill-omened message became reality within just a few years. The First World War broke out a century ago, in 1914, and it changed the course of events not just throughout the world, not simply in an abstract way and not only for the whole continent, but it also brought about a new era for us, the Hungarians.
There arrived the true beginning of the 20th century, the Hungarian 20th century, in which everything that we had believed in prior to 1914 was shattered. First emancipation and social integration, during which ethnicity-based politics was able to sneak its way across our already weakened national borders, at first only subverting and then totally destroying the rationality of Hungarian internal politics, after which social integration also fell apart, as a result of decades of bad decisions, wrong turns and tragedy. The Hungary of the 20th century was the Hungary of bad solutions to bad situations. And whether this was because the Hungarians gave otherwise bad solutions to the issues that arose, or whether the issues that arose were intrinsically of a nature to which it was impossible to provide good answers, we cannot know; the debate on this issue is ongoing today. The foundations of the political community today are, through remembrance, partly provided by these debates, but it is at the same time necessary and important with regard to the future that the opinions behind these debates are governed by agreement. Because we can argue about certain political situations and we can argue about certain answers and we can argue about whether there might have been other possibilities, but there is one thing that we cannot question: every member of this nation, even during the most heated debates, is seeking the public good and the prosperity of the nation.
The 20th century was tragic for Hungary. It lost a significant part of its territory, it lost its dreams and it also had to serve as the home for one of the greatest tragedies humanity has ever experienced; because, as we know, the Holocaust was the tragedy of humanity, the Hungarian people and the Jewish peoples. A tragedy of humanity because within the sphere of European culture it was an unparalleled, we may leaf through the history books with more apathy today, having got used to ethnic cleansing occurring on other continents and in other countries, but we can safely say that it was an unparalleled, industrially perpetrated terror.
A tragedy of the Hungarian peoples, because the Hungarians lost a significant portion of its fellow citizens, and a tragedy of the Jewish peoples, because the ethnic cleansing, the industrially perpetrated murder that we denote with the term Holocaust, was inflicted on the Jewish people. When we argue, and when we conduct the debates of the 20th century, we must not forget that there is only a point in having these debates if they serve as the foundations for the happiness and plans of the 21st century and for the realisation of those plans. A political community cannot live while enclosed in the past.
A political community cannot live woven only within the web of analysing the tragedies of the 20th century. While other nations in Europe are already living in the 21st century, we cannot allow ourselves to continue to analyse the tragedies of the 20th century again and again. We must mourn the victims, bury the dead and find and punish the perpetrators. But we must move forward into the 21st century. We must become involved in new debates, which are the debates of the 21st century; we must move forward into the 21st century while processing the tragedies of the 20th century and learning from them. Because our period and our era is the 21st century, and perhaps this requires our youth, and perhaps it requires young people who were born in the 21st century. Perhaps we need young people who can hold each other's hands and who recognise in every debate the mutual trust that lies behind it: that we are Hungarian and want what is best for the Hungarian people. But we don't have time to stand by and wait for these young people to become adults. And so it is we, the children of the 20th century, who must begin the great debates of the 21st century. It is we who must hold each other's hands, it is we who must look beyond the political debates and political tragedies of the last century and it is we who must begin building the 21st century future of the Hungarian peoples.
Thank you for your kind attention.
(Ministry of Public Administration and Justice)