Accessibility links

Hungary, Israel Sign Holocaust Education Agreement

Hungary and Israel have agreed to improve education about the Holocaust, which was a taboo study topic when the country was a Soviet satellite state. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

Nearly three years ago Hungarian and Israeli government officials attended the inauguration of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest. The Center was to help the public and researchers better understand World War II when 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed by German Nazis and Hungarians cooperating with them.

But the Hungarian government now says not enough has been done to educate new generations about that dark chapter in Hungary's history.

Under Soviet domination, teachers were discouraged to teach the Holocaust by Communist authorities, which also restricted Jewish studies and religious observance. Hungary's Socialist-led cabinet, which includes former Communists, wants to change that in cooperation with the Israeli government and experts.

The State Secretary for International Affairs at the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture, Katalin Bogyay, tells VOA News her delegation has signed an agreement with Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, the Yad Vashem Institute.

"With the Yad Vashem Institute we have a program for 10 years now and we will renew that," she said. "It is very important for teachers to learn how to teach the Holocaust. And this Yad Vashem agreement is about finding the right tools for Holocaust education."

Hungary has Eastern Europe's largest Jewish community outside Russia, numbering about 100,000 people.

State Secretary Bogyay says Hungary and Israel will invest in massive educational exchange programs.

"There will be educational collaboration programs between universities, between schools," she added. "There will be strong programs and strong scholar ship programs between the two countries."

Besides Jewish people, many Roma, or Gypsies speaking the Lovari language, were also killed during Word War II.

Hungarian Minister of Education and Culture Istvan Hiller was to attend the unveiling of a Lovari language prayer board in Jerusalem commemorating the Roma Holocaust.

Hungary's government says it hopes its actions will contribute to more reconciliation and less nationalism in the region.