“The museum had a difficult beginning,” Koves, 42, told JTA at the museum. “And to some, it has a stigma even without them seeing the content. We’re working on the content that will show the tragedy of the Holocaust in Hungary and inspire hope for the future.” However, the Orban regime has shown a keen interest in cultivating historical narratives that serve populist patriotism, a goal that would hardly be achieved by examining past complicity in genocide or institutionalized anti-Semitism.
In a key sign that the museum will address these issues, a new 400-page concept paper for the museum was printed. The timeline for this concept – the first comprehensive one made for the museum’s exhibits – begins in 1867, when Jews were given equal rights under the laws of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ends in 2021. This document also contains unsavory truths for Hungarian ultranationalists, who often claim that the persecution of Hungarian Jews began when German forces invaded in 1944.
“This museum will record and reflect the responsibility, complicity, and collaboration in the Holocaust of all the authorities of the Hungarian state leading up to and during the Holocaust,” Koves said. The Koves team has raised $1.5 million to create content in addition to $1 million paid by the government. Koves has recruited an international team of respected historians to join the museum’s governing board. The team includes Yitzchak Mais, former director of Yad Vashem. Israeli Holocaust researcher Esther Ferbstein. and David Marwell, former director of the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York.
However, critics still argue that the museum is doomed because it was irrevocably defiled by the Orban regime that set it up. “Not only abroad, but in Hungary too, the House of Fates is met with suspicion,” according to Laszlo Karsai, a prominent Hungarian Holocaust scholar citing the involvement of Schmidt. Of Yad Vashem’s Yitzchak Mais, Karsai said: “Maybe he wants to create a new Holocaust Disneyland in Budapest.” Of Koves, Karsai said: “He is not a historian. He is the court rabbi of the present right-wing, nationalist, antisemite, xenophobe, autocratic kleptocracy, a collaborator of Prime Minister Orbán.”
As the museum has still not been opened, it remains to be seen whether it will live up to its promise of displaying Hungary’s role in the Holocaust and its long past of antisemitism or if it will whitewash Hungarian Jewish history.
“House of Fates: Hungary’s Controversial Holocaust Museum.” CNN. Cable News Network. https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/world/holocaust-museum-hungary-cnnphotos/.
Kakissis, Joanna. “Hungary’s New Holocaust Museum Isn’t Open Yet, but It’s Already Causing Concern.”
NPR. NPR, February 8, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/08/690647054/hungarys-new-holocaust-museum-isn-t-open-yet-but-it-s-already-causing-worry.
Hoare, Liam. “What Will Be the Fate of the House of Fates?” Moment Magazine, December 23, 2021. https://momentmag.com/what-will-be-the-fate-of-the-house-of-fates/.
“The Controversial House of Fates Holocaust Museum.” The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. https://www.jpost.com/opinion/the-controversial-house-of-fates-holocaust-museum-586940.