Elie Wiesel vs. Hungary

First aired on As It Happens (19/06/12)

Elie-Wiesel.jpgNobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel has renounced a state award from Hungary because he believes the country's officials are "whitewashing" the government's past involvement with Nazis during the Second World War.

Wiesel received the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary in 2004, the highest state honour. The 83-year-old writer repudiated his award in a letter addressed to Hungarian Parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Kover, after learning Kover attended a ceremony honouring Nazi sympathizer Jozsef Nyiro in Romania last month.

When asked to comment on the letter, a spokesman for the Hungarian parliament said that Kover would reply later this week. Szocs has resigned and could not be reached. And Vona did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wiesel himself is Jewish and lost many Hungarian family members to the Holocaust after Hungary deported thousands of Jewish citizens to Nazi concentration camps in 1944.

"I had to protest and the best way for me to protest is to do something as a gesture," Wiesel told CBC's Carol Off during a recent interview. "Words are not enough."

He said he thinks the Hungarian government is "resurrecting anti-Semitism" without naming it as such by "honouring men who should not be honoured."

Wiesel said his actions are not meant to disrespect the Hungarian people, but to protest against "those who forget the past by honouring those who brought shame to the past."