An anti-semitic speech in the Hungarian parliament questioned whether a blood libel case from 1882 had been closed with sufficient finality. Zsolt Baráth, a representative of the Hungarian far-right party Jobbik had the floor of the Hungarian parliament for close to five minutes on April 3 for a speech in which he protested against 130 years of history throughout which “the origins and religious affiliations of the perpetrators could not be named.” Baráth’s intention was to provide a revisionist account of the 1882 death of a 14-year-old servant named Eszter Solymosi in Tiszaeszlár, a small village in north-east Hungary. A subsequent investigation into blood libel claims in relation to her death led to nation-wide anti-semitic hysteria during the prolonged court proceedings against fifteen members of the local Jewish community.
The accusations originated from statements made by a five-year-old child who had been won over into a confession by candy and some money. The accused were acquitted in 1884 (you can consult the Wikipedia page further details).
But as the case gained notoriety, speculations about the particular details of how the Hungarian Jewry lured the young woman into their quarters and how they conspired to ritualistically draw the blood of a Christian virgin were ubiquitous in the press. Throughout the fifteen months of the trial, the country was seething with anti-semitic rage.
Today, the Tiszaeszlár blood libel case occupies a prominent place in the history of Hungarian anti-semitism. In the minds of most Hungarians, Tiszaeszlár is connected to the predictable consequences of the baseless accusations: Eszter Solymosi’s case was the precipitating moment of widespread violence against the Hungarian Jewish community and catapulted the first organized anti-semitic political force in Hungary, the National Antisemitic Party.
“Our task to pronounce the consequences is more and more urgent,” said Baráth about the case, given “the misconceived notion of solidarity” and “the effort exerted to whitewash the case.” According to Baráth, these only strengthen the suspicion that the local Jewry murdered the young woman.
Or, according to another version, a rich aristocrat used her “as a donor” to cure his deadly disease, Baráth went on to surmise.
“As we can see, there is no clear explanation, we do not know what happened to Eszter. Nevertheless, there is one point common to the known variants: the Jewry and the leadership of the country were severely implicated in the case.” As proof of this, Baráth offered the claim that regardless of “almost a year of investigation, nationwide uproar and a media campaign,” the verdict ended with an acquittal. This was “due to outside pressure,” he went on to say.
Baráth insinuated that the judge presiding over the appeal in 1884 found enough evidence to convict to accused, but he obeyed orders shaped by higher state interests.
“What could have had such an influence on the independent Hungarian judge? Had he not done so, he would have prevented receiving a rente konverzió – a change of the conditions of the repayment of a loan to a longer period of smaller payments – from circles who had already dominated the economy of the world and our homeland at that time. This would have meant Hungary’s bankruptcy and the devaluation of the [Hungarian] forint.”
The rente konverzió version of the Tiszaeszlár case is a particularly fashionable revision of the 19th century blood libel myth among fringe groups of today’s Hungarian extreme right. It has currency in particular with organizations like the Magyarok Nyilai Nemzeti Felszabadító Hadsereg (Arrows of Hungary National Liberation Army), a neo-nazi group currently under investigation for terrorism charges. In 2009, the group was briefly associated with a certain Solymosi Eszter Csapásmérő Alakulat (the Eszter Solymosi Strike-Afflicting Brigade).
Though the brigade never sprung into action, its name nevertheless testifies to the cult status among Hungarian anti-semites of Eszter Solymosi, the young woman at the center of the case. She has proven to be the perfect stand-in for the role of the pure woman of the select race who is unsuspecting enough to become victimized by the murderous desires of the impure and the alien living amongst Hungarians. Jobbik is careful not to make its associations with the ideological adherents of these authors too ostensible; what Baráth’s speech proves, however, is that they do not at all mind representing the views of the Hungarian neo-Nazi movement in the Hungarian parliament.
Preoccupation with the Tiszaeszlár case is not new in contemporary Hungary. On the 120th anniversary of Eszter Solymosi’s death, a new grave memorial was erected to her memory, which has become a veritable place of pilgrimage for Hungary’s avowed anti-semites.
Eszter Solymosi’s grave on a picture of the commemoration held of her death in 2007. The photo is hosted on the website of the Solymosi Eszter National Association, which proclaims to fight for all Hungarian women and children who had been assaulted for their Christianity.
In his speech, Baráth also alluded to the fate of anti-semitic poet József Erdélyi, author of the poem “The Blood of Eszter Solymosi.” Erdélyi is infamous for the anti-semitic poems he had published until the end of the Second World War in various publications of the Hungarian Nazi movement. Baráth reminded the parliament of the two week prison sentence Erdélyi received for religious incitement, arguing that the secrets to be concealed about the case in Tiszaeszlár must have been enormous if it had such severe political reverberations half a century later for Erdélyi.
Baráth concluded his speech by a quote from Lajos Marschalkó, a famed theorist of Hungarian anti-semitism best known for his “Conquerers of the Country,” an anti-semitic treatise on the colonization of Hungary by the Jewry. In 1945, Marschalkó escaped prosecution as a war criminal by moving to Germany, but recently his book has been republished and its text has been made available on the internet for free.
“I think there are people in this room who are familiar with this quote,” said Baráth, who did not name Marschalkó when he admonished his fellow members of parliament that “the power of the conquerors of the world may only be broken by the truth.”
János Fónagy, the representative of the Hungarian government responding to the speech reacted with shock. “Mention of the Tiszaeszlár blood libel opens up wounds of entire centuries,” he stated. The left opposition has called on Baráth to resign.
The presiding chair of the session, Zoltán Balczó, deputy speaker of the Hungarian national assembly, did not interfere with the delivery of the speech. Balczó is also a representative of Jobbik, and he has served as legal counsel for various far-right causes in headline legal disputes. When 130 years ago, two members of parliament who later were to found the National Antisemitic Party first introduced the Hungarian public to the Tiszaeszlár case, their colleagues booed and whistled. You can view the delivery of the speech here (in Hungarian, uploaded to YouTube by Jobbik) to witness the indifference with which Mr. Baráth’s speech is being met, and the subsequent applause from Jobbik.
Baráth also insinuated parallels between Hungarian Jews and Hungarian Roma, by noting that Tiszaeszlár is in the (geographical) proximity of Olaszliszka, the location of a now infamous lynching of a driver by relatives of a Roma child involved in a small traffic accident.