ADL Jan Karski Courage to Care Award: Count Janos Esterhazy
11/8/2011 - On November 3, 2011, the Anti-Defamation League presented the Jan Karski Courage to Care Award posthumously to Count Janos Esterhazy: "Those who defended and aided Jews and other victims of the Nazi slaughter merit our recognition and our eternal thanks. They were individuals who followed the call to conscience, which is surely no simple matter... Count János Esterházy was such a person of conscience, one who had more than enough reason to remain silent. Esterházy was born in 1901 into the Hungarian aristocratic house of Esterhazy." Giovanni Malfatti, Esterhazy's grandson, was in New York to accept the award on behalf of the family.
Esterhazy was the only member of the Slovak Parliament in 1942 who voted against expelling the Jews, setting an example which few dared to follow in the parts of Europe controlled by Adolf Hitler's Germany. He was detained by the Nazis and died in a communist prison. He is still classified as a war criminal in Slovakia.
In a statement on ADL's Website, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, reflects: "I know first-hand how essential it is to have the help of just one person, who at the moment of moral collapse, did not forget the essential principle of leading a moral life: Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you," said Foxman, a Holocaust survivor who was saved by his Polish nanny. "To help another human being when to do so will earn you scorn, contempt and even threaten your life and that of your family, that is to take a moral stand of incalculable value. János Esterházy did and he deserves our recognition and our eternal thanks."
AHF thanks the ADL for recognizing Count Esterhazy and his personal sacrifice in the fight for justice. The full statement appears below and on [ADL's Official Website] Special thanks to ADL for hte courtesy to re-publish.
Courage to Care Award Presentation to Janos Esterhazy
Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman
Presentation of ADL Jan Karski Courage to Care Award
Since 1987, we have been presenting the ADL Courage to Care Award to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. As you can see from your program, our recipients have included individuals from all walks of life—diplomats and dignitaries, businessmen and farmers, housewives and shopkeepers.
The recipients have been of varying faiths and come from many different countries—from Eastern Europe, where the Shoah was primarily carried out, to the continents of Africa and Asia, and America.
This year we are renaming our award in honor of one its first recipients—Jan Karski, the Polish Christian, who covertly ventured twice into the Warsaw Ghetto and Belzec concentration camps in order to provide one of the first eyewitness accounts of Hitler's Final Solution to the Polish government-in-exile.
Karski subsequently spoke directly to Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt and urged the allies to stop the mass murder.
Such is the esteem we feel for Jan Karski, whom I had the privilege of knowing during his years of teaching at Georgetown University, that we decided to rename the award in his memory.
Each time we present the Courage to Care Award to the family of someone who risked his or her life to save Jews, we will also remember Karski's urgent message to the western nations that governments and people have the power and the obligation to step forward and stop the murder of innocent men, women and children. That the Holocaust is not just a history lesson, but a message for today and for all time.
We dedicate this award in his memory so that each time we present it, we will remember his heroism.
As Jews, we give praise to individuals who do good deeds, which we call, a mitzvah. But the greatest mitzvah of all is that one that is the hardest. To maintain one's decency in the face of moral evil.
To help another human being when to do so will earn you scorn, contempt and even threaten your life and that of your family, is to take a moral stand of incalculable value.
Those who defended and aided Jews and other victims of the Nazi slaughter merit our recognition and our eternal thanks. They were individuals who followed the call to conscience, which is surely no simple matter.
What motived this relatively small group of people is sometimes difficult for us to understand in the world as we now know it. Difficult because it seems these individuals possessed a moral courage to which most of us can only aspire. Difficult to comprehend because they risked everything, including the lives of their families, to help people who, for the most part, they did not know at all.
Apart from their willingness to help others, they do not seem to have much in common. They crossed gender, ethnic, religious, and socio-economic lines. They were Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Evangelical, Baptist, Lutheran and also Muslim. They were farmers, doctors, diplomats, peasants and kings. They were simple people of faith.
Count János Esterházy was such a person of conscience, one who had more than enough reason to remain silent. Esterházy was born in 1901 into the Hungarian aristocratic house of Esterhazy.
After attending school in Budapest, Esterházy returned to his estate to find that Hungary was forced to cede most of his estate to Czechoslovakia as part of the treaty that ended World War I. He married a countess and had two children, Alice and Janos.
In the 1930's, Esterházy actively participated in the political arena. He was elected President of the Hungarian National Union League and ultimately elected President of the National Christian Socialist Party in Czechoslovakia. He was an opposition politician who was a stringent defender of the cause of self-determination.
In 1935, he was elected to the Parliament of Prague and he gave numerous speeches in which he defended linguistic, cultural and economic rights of minorities. He pleaded for fair treatment of Slovakians then under Hungarian rule and later refused to become a member of the Parliament in Budapest.
Also in 1939, he actively participated in assisting the settlement of Polish refugees in Hungary, many of whom were Jews. In 1942, out of 63 members of the Slovak Parliament, he was the only one to vote against the deportation of Slovakia's Jews.
Following the vote he and some close friends helped Jews flee to Hungary. For these heroic actions, Slovakia's Nazi-allied government listed Esterházy amongst its public enemies. He was charged with defaming Slovakia, his parliamentary immunity was cancelled and he was convicted of treason and imprisoned.
In 1944, he was in direct contact with participants in the Slovak national uprisings. He was arrested again in 1945, but soon set free. He was captured by the Soviets and taken to Moscow where he was accused on false grounds and condemned to 10 years of forced labor.
Czechoslovakian authorities condemned him, in absentia, to death and all of his property was confiscated. He was passed from Soviet to Czechoslovakian authorities and condemned to life imprisonment.
János Esterházy died in prison in 1957 of lung disease. In 2010 Yad Vashem acknowledged his efforts in saving persecuted Jews.
I stand before you today because of someone like Count János Esterházy. I had the good fortune to be sheltered from the Nazis by a brave and decent woman who was my Polish nanny, Bronislawa Kurpi. She baptized me and raised me as a Catholic. But for her, I would not be alive today to bear witness.
I know firsthand how essential it was to have the help of just one person, who at a moment of moral collapse, did not forget the essential principle of leading a moral life: do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.
My nanny and János Esterházy stood up to say no. Others did too, but too few. And we know that whenever and wherever good people stood up to say no, Jews lived, Catholics lived, and others lived. Imagine what would have happened if there were more people like Chiune Sugihara, Raoul Wallenberg, Oskar Schindler and Bronislawa Kurpi.
Those from that time whom we in the Jewish community call the "righteous" provide our morally compromised world the example of their call to conscience. Often, their bravery went unnoticed, yet through their actions, they proved that it is possible to choose to do a most demanding mitzvah against overwhelming odds and without hope of commendation or advantage.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Eileen Ludwig-Greenland for her generosity through the years in sponsoring the Courage to Care Award.
It is now my honor to present ADL's prestigious Jan Karski Courage to Care Award to Giovanni Malfatti, the son of Alice Esterházy Malfatti and the grandson of Count János Esterházy, who will accept the award on behalf of his family.
The award is a plaque with miniature bas-reliefs depicting the backdrop for the rescuers' exceptional deeds during the Shoah. It is a replica of the Holocaust memorial wall created by noted sculptor Arbit Blatas.
AHF REMEMBERS THE HEROES OF THE HUNGARIAN HOLOCAUST
The Federation takes this opportunity to remember Carl Lutz, Raoul Wallenberg and other foreign diplomats as well as the Hungarian heroes who at great personal peril saved many Jewish lives. The Hungarians include but, of course, are not limited to the following individuals:
A Few Related Articles
6/30/2009 - Use of Hungarian ILLEGAL in Slovakia... Hungary's Foreign Ministry expressed regret and concern over the amendment to Slovakia's act on its official language approved in parliament on Tuesday. Under the amended act the use of the minority language in official communication would be punishable in towns and villages where the ethnic community makes up less than 20 percent of the total population. [read more]
9/13/2011 - Slovak President shamefully calls Janos Esterhazy, a hero of the Holocaust, a follower of Hitler. AHF continues call for rehabilitation of Janos Esterhazy, reacts to Slovak falsification of history... Esterhazy was the only member of the Slovak Parliament in 1942 who voted against expelling the Jews, setting an example which few dared to follow in the parts of Europe controlled by Adolf Hitler's Germany. He was detained by the Nazis and died in a communist prison. He is still classified as a war criminal in Slovakia. [read more]
12/02/2011 - Slovakia strips citizenship of ethnic Hungarian minorties. AHF submits a statement to the US Congress Helsinki Commission: "Intolerance and discrimination targeting any group based on ethnicity, nationality or religion is not acceptable... The most recent anti-Hungarian incident involves Slovakia stripping Oliver Boldoghy of his Slovak citizenship after becoming a dual citizen. This decision is not only contrary to American and European practices, it violates the Slovak constitution, which provides that “no one must be deprived of the citizenship of the Slovak Republic against his will.” [read more]
3/23/2011 - AHF honors Col. Ferenc Koszorus, Sr., reflects on Holocaust Memorial Month. AHF honors the millions of lives lost and the untold suffering caused by Nazism and Communism. But even during the horrors of WWII, stories of resistance to Nazi atrocities emerged. Hungary, heavily influenced by her desire to regain lost territories and reunite Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin, had found support in Italy and Germany and joined the Axis, a tragic mistake. [read more]
10/20/2007 - Slovaks confirm Benes Decrees: “Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation, without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation” - Jan Slota. AHF releases statement on the Benes Decrees and recent extremist developments in Slovakia. "Having taken a step that has fueled ethnic hatred and assaulted good relations with Hungary, the Slovak Parliament on September 20, 2007 adopted a resolution proposed by extremist Jan Slota ratifying and confirming the Benes decrees. Those decrees shamefully imposed collective guilt on the Hungarian (and German) population of Czechoslovakia in 1945 and stripped them of their citizenship, rights and property without compensation. Czechoslovakia also pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing in southern Slovakia. The debilitations continue to affect many of the victims of the crimes committed in post-World War II Czechoslovakia.
The concept of collective guilt is abhorrent to Americans and to anyone committed to the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Rather than affirm the inviolability of the Benes decrees, Slovakia should reject them, provide legal redress to remedy their continuing and discriminatory effect and thereby adopt the values shared by the trans-Atlantic community of nations. [read more]
"The Slovak government has strayed onto a dangerous path when it submitted the bill about expelling the Jewish, because by that it acknowledged that simply ousting a minority by the majority is lawful... As a representative of the Hungarians here, I state it, and please acknowledge this, that I don't vote in favour of the proposal because as a Hungarian, a Christian and a Catholic I believe that this is against God and humanity." - Count János Esterházy
5/10/2013 - AHF, which has called for the exoneration of Count János Esterházy (the only member of the Slovak Parliament in 1942 who voted against expelling the Jews, he was convicted on trumped up charges and died in a communist prison), publishes documents that attest to his principled stand and actions to save Jews during World War II and protect the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. The documentation includes letters from Simon Wiesenthal, Yad Veshem, and historians Dr. Magda Ádám and Dr. István Deák, Professor Emeritus from Columbia University. [read more]
9/13/2011 - Slovak President shamefully calls Janos Esterhazy, a hero of the Holocaust, a follower of Hitler. AHF continues call for rehabilitation of Janos Esterhazy, reacts to Slovak falsification of history... Stalin, who in 1948 extended his empire to include Czechoslovakia, was a master of historical falsification, as best evidenced by his orders to blame the Germans, who were nowhere near the site, for the Katyn Forest massacre of Polish officers and other prisoners in 1940. The peoples of Central and Eastern Europe shook off their communist masters more than twenty years ago, which lead to the disintegration of the Soviet empire. Old practices like the falsification of the past and intolerance toward minorities, however, die hard, as events in Slovakia, a NATO and European Union member, recently demonstrated.
Ivan Gasparovic, President of Slovakia and a former prosecutor under the communist regime, resorted to this shameful practice when he labeled Janos Esterhazy a follower of Hitler and fascism and opposed the unveiling of a sculpture in Esterhazy’s memory in Kassa (Kosice), a city close to Slovakia’s border with Hungary. [read more]
Briefly about Janos Esterhazy
A Proud Aristocratic Tradition
The Courage of Conviction
On May 15, 1942, the Slovak parliament approved constitutional law 68/1942 ordering the expulsion of Jews from Slovakia. Esterházy was the only MP who voted against the bill and he immediately became the target of fierce attacks in the Slovak press. To defend his views, he said:
"The Slovak government has strayed onto a dangerous path when it submitted the bill about expelling the Jewish, because by that it acknowledged that simply ousting a minority by the majority is lawful... As a representative of the Hungarians here, I state it, and please acknowledge this, that I don't vote in favour of the proposal because as a Hungarian, a Christian and a Catholic I believe that this is against God and humanity."
He also declared:
"It is shameful that a government, whose president and prime minister claim to be good Catholics, deports its Jewish citizens to Hitler's concentration camps"
János Esterházy helped hundreds of Jewish, Czechs, Slovaks and Poles escape prosecution. He was interned for a short period and the German Gestapo declared him wanted. Here is a quote from Irén Rujder, widow of Ödön Rujder's a Jew who was rescued by Esterházy:
"We all, who lived in Slovakia in that time, know the truth. They (the Czechoslovaks) handed him (Esterházy) to the Soviets, because if they had brought him to justice in Bratislava, all of the Jews would have testified his innocence. The misinterpretation of truth like this is painful, Esterházy really deserves the true tree of Israel."
A Tragic Life and Death
"It is hereby certified that János Esterházy, citizen of Czechoslovakia, born in Újlak in 1901, was arrested without cause on June 27, 1945.....and sentenced to ten years in a labor camp.... János Esterházy was rehabilitated according to the Russian Federation's "Political Terror Victim's Rehabilitation Act" of October 18, 1991, paragraphs 3 and 5...."
Slovakia still refuses to rehabilitate Esterhazy. But it enacted it's Slovak Language Law and confirmed the outrageous Benes Decrees. Renowned Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal wrote a letter to Dr. Peter Samko, chief judge of the City of Pozsony (Bratislava), (published in the newspaper of Új Szó, 1993) in which he strongly defends Esterházy and offers witnesses on his behalf. Janos Eesterhazy was one of many Hungarians who spoke out against the Nazi threat.
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged. Until 1920...
The Treaty of Trianon in 1920... in the aftermath of WWI, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.
In the newly created Slovakia, the tragedy of 1920 that befell the historic Hungarian communities was only the beginning. The Benes Decrees sent hundreds of thousands of people, who had lived in the region for many centuries, off in sealed wagons, away from their homes, their families - not to mention the odd ones who died on the trip. Tens of thousands of these were Hungarian. More recently, the Slovak Language Law makes the use of the minority language in official communication punishable in towns and villages where the ethnic community makes up less than 20 percent of the total population. The amendment requires that all documentation of minority schools should be duplicated in the state language. The law stipulates that the names of streets and buildings anywhere in Slovakia must be stated in the Slovak language [despite 1100-year-old tradition] and it also introduces sanctions of 100 to 5000 euros for municipalities and public offices for not using the Slovak language "properly."
The following graphic shows ethnic distribution in Slovakia and population decline from 1910 - 1991:
Ethnic Distribution in the Kingdom of Hungary in 1910 (Hungarians shown in red)
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, this trend continued over the past 90 years.
By Any Other Name: Hungary, Apartheid,
and the Benes Decrees
These decrees sent millions of people, who had lived in the region for many centuries, off in sealed wagons, away from their homes, their families - not to mention the odd ones who died on the trip.
WHAT THE BENES DECREES SAY
One may be forgiven for suspecting, by the casual way the Benes Decrees are often disparaged by commentators, that many of those who write about the Decrees have never taken the trouble to [read them].
Living as I have for over 20 years in South Africa, I know this language well. It is the language of Apartheid.
There is no moral difference, to my mind, in withdrawing civil rights, confiscating private property and deporting people, whether they be Black South Africans sent to some "Homeland/Bantustan," or Armenians, or deported Chechens, or Germans and Hungarians.
The Hungarians who lived in what is now Slovakia and Trans-Carpathian Ukraine (which was given to Stalin by a grateful Benes in 1945) were more than one million strong in 1910. By 1930, thanks to the above-mentioned "administrative" cleansing, their numbers had been reduced to 585,434. After Hungary reclaimed its lands in 1939, people began moving back to their homes. In 1941-45, there were about 761,000 in what is today Slovakia alone. [read more]
The "Benes Decrees" began in the mind of Czech statesman Edvard Benes sometime in 1940. He made some quite clear statements about his plans by 1941. The plans? To kill and/or expel all people of German or Hungarian ethnicity/language from a reunited Czechoslovakia, which had fallen apart at the start of the war. This is the sort of thing you would expect from a Himmler or a Beria, not a guy who is lionised in Western history books, and generally books about Central Europe, as the only true "democrat" in the region. But Czechoslovakia was never a complete democracy. Just as interwar Hungary, or Poland, or Yugoslavia, were not. Not quite. In Czechoslovakia, designed as a "national homeland" for Slavs, the Slavic Rusyns had to have two votes to equal one Czech vote! Democracy? [read more]
THE PRESIDENTIAL DECREES
OF EDWARD BENES
The first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) was recreated in 1945 at the end of World War II and existed until the end of 1992. In both cases, Czechoslovakia utterly failed to form a governmental structure that secured freedom, prosperity, peace, and equal rights for all citizens of the state.
In 1918, the newly founded Czechoslovak Republic was entirely carved out of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy by a unilateral decision of the victorious entente powers. The dictated peace treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Trianon were not an outcome of a true peace conference at which the defeated would also have been given the opportunity to enunciate the limits of acceptable conditions for peace. Such a peace conference was never assembled.
The Versailles peace treaty with Germany was condemned by non-interested parties. In fact, the US Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, had declared that "the Versailles treaty menaces the existence of civilization," and two popes had stigmatized the instrument. Benedict XV condemned it for "the lack of an elevated sense of justice, the absence of dignity, morality or Christian nobility," and Pius XI, in his 1922 encyclical "Ubi arcam Dei," deplored an artificial peace set down on paper "which instead of arousing noble sentiments increases and legitimizes the spirit of vengeance and rancour."
The peace treaty of Trianon (1920) with Hungary resulted in the dismemberment of the thousand- year- old Hungarian Kingdom, as a result of an unbelievably inimical attitude of the allied representatives toward the Magyars. The consequence to Hungary was a loss of 71.5% of its territory and 63.6% of its population. The extreme tragedy of Hungary can be illustrated by comparing the smaller losses in 1871 of France to Germany, in which France gave up 2.6% of its territory and 4.1% of its population to Germany. The Trianon treaty forced three and a half million Magyars to live, without their consent, in Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians and Rumania, with the stroke of a pen. The right of self-determination of nations, solemnly promised in the 14 points of US President Woodrow Wilson, was apparently forgotten. [more]
The Hungarian Problem
Newly Elected Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it well: "The borders of the Hungarian nation and the Hungarian State do not coincide." This is true, as witness the fact that fully one-third of all Hungarians are minorities in neighbouring countries, most just on the far side of the border.
This is, naturally, a problem for Hungarians. It is also a problem for all the states who got Hungarian lands. Many in neighbouring countries, and politicians in many more, have said in the past, and no doubt will say in the future: "Why don't they just go home?!!" But they are home!
They are home in the sense that they, as communities, haven't moved anywhere. They just woke up one morning to be told: "You are now a Czechoslovak, you are a Romanian, you are a Yugoslav." This first happened in 1918-20, when Hungary was partitioned by the infamous Trianon Treaty, which was not a treaty at all, but a diktat enforced by occupying Entente Armies. In the late 1930's, Hungary got some portions of its territories back, but after losing yet another war, the borders were tightened even more in 1947.
The key weakness of these treaties was that neither ever asked - or cared - what the local population wanted. Did they want to join a new state (e.g., Czechoslovakia) did they want to stay with Hungary, or did they want independence or autonomy or what?
The fact that these questions have never even been asked, let alone answered, in a supposedly democratic age, remains the central problem of the Hungarian minorities in the countries immediately surrounding Hungary. [more] [back to all AHF news]
..."the American government accepts, against its better judgment, the decision not to announce a plebiscite in the matter of the final drafting of frontiers. He believes that in many respects the frontiers do not correspond to the ethnic requisite, nor to economic necessity, and that significant modifications would be in order, particularly in the Ruthenian area." Later on Wallace submitted for the consideration of the Great Powers proposals with regard to a restoration of the economic unity of the Danubian states. The American initiative, however, came too late ... The only thing left was the Millerand cover letter, which did not oblige anyone to do anything!
The Hungarian peace delegation signed the peace treaty consisting of 14 points at the so-called Great Trianon palace, near Paris, on June 4, 1920. Hungary's fate was determined for an unforeseeable future by the second part of the treaty which defined the new borders. According to this section Hungary's area (without Croatia) would be reduced from 282,000 km2 to 93,000 km2, whereas its population decreased from 18 million to 7.6 million. This meant that Hungary lost two thirds of its territory, whereas Germany lost but 10 percent and Bulgaria but 8 percent to the benefit of their victorious neighbors.
As regards population, Hungary lost more than 60 percent of its inhabitants as opposed to the 10 percent lost by Germany. In the lands taken away from Hungary there lived approximately 10 million persons. Persons of Hungarian nationality constituted 3,424,000 in the areas taken away from Hungary. Of these 1,084,000 were attached to Czechoslovakia, 1,705,000 to Romania, 564,000 to Yugoslavia, and 65,000 to Austria. Thus 33.5 percent of all Hungarians came under foreign rule, i.e., every third Hungarian. For the sake of comparison. while the treaties of Versailles and Neuilly placed only one German or one Bulgarian out of every twenty under foreign rule, the Trianon treaty placed seven out of twenty Hungarians in the same position.
Furthermore about one half of the Hungarian minority attached to the neighboring states was ethnically directly next to the main body of Hungarians on the other side of the borders. Had the peace treaties signed in the Paris suburbs really tried to bring about, however incidentally, nation-states, then it would have had to leave at least 11/4 to 2 million more Hungarians inside Hungary. In contrast the 42 million inhabitants of the successor states there were about 16 million minorities, as a consequence of which Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia became multinational states much like the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had been. What is more, according to the census of 1910 the percentage of Hungarians in Hungary had reached 54.4 percent, whereas in the nations that came about as a result of the peace treaties, in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, the leading Czech and Serbian elements constituted but a minority as compared to the other ethnic groups.
The Treaty of Trianon was a great blow to Hungary in economic terms as well. Hungary was deprived of 62.2 percent of its railroad network, 73.8 percent of its public roads, 64.6 percent of its canals, 88 percent of its forests, 83 percent of its iron ore mines and of all its salt mines.
At the Peace Conference the Entente powers, in order to satisfy the imperialist greed of their allies in central Europe, cut across roads, canals, railroad lines, split cities and villages in two, deprived mines of their entrances, etc.
There was but one modification of the frontier: thanks to Italian intercession
and the stand taken by patriotic forces in Western Hungary, a plebiscite
was obtained in Sopron and its environs. At the plebiscite of December
4, 1921, 65 percent of the population opted for Hungary.
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