Hungary postpones erecting disputed WWII memorial

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's government said Thursday it has postponed erecting a disputed memorial of Germany's 1944 invasion until May 31, after pressure from Jewish groups who see it as an effort to minimize Hungary's role in the Holocaust, when 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.

The government decision, which was published Thursday in the official bulletin, now refers to the memorial as "commemorating the victims of the German occupation of Hungary" while previously it was simply meant to remember the invasion. It was originally slated for inauguration March 19.

The planned memorial to be set up on Freedom Square — an area which also contains a Soviet war memorial, the U.S. Embassy and Ronald Reagan statue — includes Germany's imperial eagle swooping down on the archangel Gabriel, who symbolizes Hungary.

Hungary was an ally of Germany in World War II but was invaded after Adolf Hitler became suspicious that Hungary was looking to exit the war and reach a peace deal with the Allied forces. While SS officer Adolf Eichmann came to Hungary to oversee the deportations of Jews, they were carried out mostly by Hungarian gendarmes and police.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that he is amazed that outsiders, including the West, bankers and the foreign press, would try to tell Hungarians "what we should think, how we should remember." Orban said in a letter to the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities released Thursday that their planned talks should be suspended until after Easter, because the campaign for parliamentary elections, to be held on April 6, made it difficult to "tell each other our opinions in a compassionate and sober manner."

The group has threatened to boycott commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary unless the government takes its views into account. Hungary has a Jewish community of around 100,000.

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