Disgusting pamphlet on Jews getting new shelf-life in Hungary

The notorious tract is still a popular weapon for anti-Semites, despite various attempts to prohibit its publication and debunk it.

In August, an obscure publisher released the first Hungarian edition of the "Protocols" since the Holocaust. Jewish leaders here, usually reticent to make waves, sprang forth in protest. Describing it as a "disgusting pamphlet," they accused the publisher of inciting hatred against Jews.

As a result of the publicity, book sales soared, reportedly from an initial press run of 3,000 into the tens of thousands.

Leaders of the 100,000-strong Jewish community felt compelled to speak out. Only two years ago Hitler's "Mein Kampf" reappeared in kiosks.

Now, as the Hungarian government drifts farther to the right, there's word that an even more venomous prewar rant, "The Jewish Question in Hungary," is set for re-release.

The "Mein Kampf" and "Protocols" cases are under review by state prosecutors, as post-communist Hungary dawdles in drawing the line between unfettered freedom of expression and blatant efforts to whip up anti-Jewish hatred.

Meanwhile, the Jewish community is trying to help draw that line: On Oct. 15 it forwarded to the prime minister's office a legislative proposal that would criminalize the act of fomenting intercommunal hatred, based on German and Austrian models.

Hungary's leading far-right parliamentarian, Istvan Csurka, routinely makes veiled and not-so-veiled negative references to Jewish influence, such as the "cosmopolitan" liberals who corrupt the national character.

Csurka also articulates what many ordinary Hungarians find uncanny: how a Jewish minority that constitutes just 1 percent of Hungarian society is overrepresented in the media, in the leading symphony orchestras and in the recent Hungarian delegation of authors to the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Cabinet have made no public declarations to condemn or distance themselves from the incidents.

"We are now approaching an era where there are hints of political anti-Semitism," said Peter Tordai, president of the Hungarian Federation of Jewish Communities. "Government officials are either not hearing, or ignoring, these things. It would be a good idea for Mr. Orban to speak out."