Hungarys ambassador to Canada resigns in Nazi flap

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TORONTO — Hungary's ambassador to Canada has resigned after a birthday letter he sent to a Nazi collaborator was published in a Hungarian-language newspaper in Canada.

Karoly Gedai submitted his resignation after his letter to Imre Finta, an 85-year-old former Hungarian police captain who ordered the deportation of thousands of Jews to death camps, was published. The Toronto newspaper Kanadai Magyarsag printed the letter at Finta's behest.

Gedai told a Hungarian radio station that he resigned because "he did not want this incident to reflect on Hungary or on its foreign policy."

Hungary was offered membership in NATO in July.

Gedai also told the station that he was unaware of Finta's past. Gustav Zoltai, the executive director of the Hungarian Jewish community, said he was shocked and amazed by Gedai's claim.

Laszlo Varkonyi, a senior officer in the Hungarian foreign ministry, agreed.

"It is difficult to believe that the ambassador did not know about Finta's past," he said.

Finta was convicted by a Hungarian court in 1948 of forcibly confining more than 8,500 Jewish residents from the town of Szeged in 1944. The detainees were later deported to Auschwitz and other camps, where most perished.

Finta fled to Canada in 1951. A Canadian court acquitted him of war crimes in 1990 and the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 1994.

The decision has been highly criticized by Canadian Jewish officials.