Yet Uzhgorod and its fixtures of mundanity soon came under war’s clouds, and the two boys parted ways as Ossi went to work in Budapest while Vikki joined the occupying Hungarian army, a choice which in due course would actually make the two neighbors reunite.
By the time Hitler invaded fascist Hungary in spring 1944 Ossi had turned 18, and as the Germans began ghettoizing Budapest’s Jews he joined the underground, assumed a forged identity, and under the Gestapo detectives’ noses began supplying Jews with hideouts, food, cash, and false IDs.
One day, while waiting in a park with a colleague for a border smuggler, a Hungarian Air Force officer saw Ossi from a distance. It was Vikki. And before Ossi could pull his act together Vikki was at his side with a policeman, pointed at his childhood playmate, and had him and his colleague arrested.
The two were taken into a Gestapo interrogation room when Allied bombers suddenly roared from above. The interrogators ran for cover and their prisoners leapt through the window.
Ossi having been my uncle, I heard this tale repeatedly since my childhood, a tale that I later realized ironically inverted the Judas myth, the only difference being that Vikki’s betrayal was no myth.
The thousands of Israelis who grew up on such heritage – as echoed in Yair Lapid’s “Memories After my Death” – need no lectures on Hungarian anti-Semitism’s ferocity and survival. Our parents’ encounters with it are etched in our DNA.
And unlike others, we think it is indeed the Jewish state’s duty to fight anti-Semitism regardless of any Israeli context, price, or gain. Who will do this job if not the Jewish state?
That is why we took seriously the Hungarian Jewish community’s charge last week that a state-sponsored anti-immigration campaign carries an anti-Semitic undertone.
Yet hings would have been simpler had the man at the center of this clash not been the dissenter, philanthropist, and $25-billion-net worth plutocrat George Soros.
THE CAMPAIGN that made local Jews fume is about billboard ads that sprouted throughout Hungary showing the 86-year-old Soros (above, with anti-Semitic graffiti on his forehead) grinning under the call: “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.”
Regardless of the debate behind the campaign and Soros’s role in it, Hungarian Jews knew what they smelled since Soros is for any Hungarian first and foremost a Jew.
Born in Budapest in 1930, Soros survived the war thanks to forged documents of the sort that underground operatives like Ossi were distributing. Coupled with his subsequent financial wizardry, Soros became the most famous Hungarian outside Hungary, and the most famous Jew within it.
That is why Israeli Ambassador Yossi Amrani responded to the ads immediately and harshly, demanding their removal ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Budapest next Tuesday. “The campaign not only evokes sad memories but also sows hatred and fear,” said Amrani.
Soros has been attracting anti-Semitic venom for years, most memorably in 1997 when prime-minister Mahatir Muhammed, following the Malaysian ringgit’s collapse, said currency markets were “a jungle of ferocious beasts” run by Jews. I was part of his broader view that a Jewish cabal runs the entire world.
Muhammed became the laughing stock of the business press, where all knew that the ringgit collapsed not because of a foreign plot but because of the debt in which Mahatir had sunk Malaysia. Needless to say Israelis like this one, recalling characters like Vikki, identified at the time with the defamed Soros.
That is why we also didn’t like the Foreign Ministry’s “clarification” Sunday that Amb. Amrani’s demand from the Hungarian government “in no way” intended “to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel's democratically elected governments.”
Taking our internal squabbles to the arenas where we and the anti-Semites face off is both immoral and unwise, as this criticism will be weaponized by the Jewish people’s enemies.
This column, however, is where we do conduct our internal squabbles, and in their context we must say that Soros indeed is a problem for the Jews.
A LIBERAL who likes to decry the injustices of the capitalism to which he owes his wealth, Soros has also taken sides in the Hungarian debate concerning Muslim immigrants. He thinks they should be admitted.
The view is obviously legitimate, but promoting it actively without living in Hungary – is unfair, unwise, and also immoral.
Unfair – because as a foreigner Soros will not personally experience the consequences of the policy he is promoting; unwise – because in Vikki’s country an offshore Jew’s very visibility in promoting such a cause can be counted on to make it fail; and immoral – because from his comfortable location on the Hudson, is exposing his Jewish brethren in their uncomfortable location on the Danube.
A professed non-Zionist, Soros said in 2003 anti-Semitism was “the result of the policies of Israel and the US,” a harsh accusation that now raises two questions:
First, is the billboard campaign with Soros’s face in its middle also Israel’s fault? And secondly, now that the ads have been removed at Israel’s demand, will he admit that, at least in this case, Israel was not anti-Semitism’s cause, but its cure? (Jerusalem Post 14 July)