Editor’s Note: In recent weeks, Jay Nordlinger sat down with János Horváth, a distinguished Hungarian: a fighter against the Nazis, and a prisoner of them; a fighter against the Communists, and a prisoner of them; a leader of the 1956 revolution; an economist and free-marketeer; an exile in the United States for more than 40 years; now the oldest member of the Hungarian parliament, as he was the youngest after World War II. For the first two parts of this interview series, go here and here.
We have been talking about Nazism and Communism (those twins). I ask Horváth a question that has long been asked, often in frustration: Why is it that Nazism has been stigmatized — thoroughly stigmatized — but Communism has escaped such a stigma? He says, “There are many answers, long ones, but let me give you a quick one: The Communists were lucky enough, or smart enough, not to get destroyed in a war. Hitler was stupid enough to get destroyed in a war. The Communists were able to avoid his fate.”
(It occurs to me that one of the very best thinkers and writers on this subject is another Hungarian who fled to the United States: Professor Paul Hollander.)
I say, “I understand that the Czech Republic has done a better job of coming to grips with the Communist past than other countries have. True?” True, he says.
He goes on to describe some of the differences between the formerly “East Bloc” states, historically. The Czechs, he says, have always been good at adapting to the situation, no matter how adverse. In the Habsburg Empire, for example, they became “the generals, the bureaucrats, the entrepreneurs, and so on.” The mentality of the Poles and the Hungarians has been more like, “Freedom, rain or shine, win or lose!”
I say, “I have what may be a painful or awkward question: Did Hungary do worse by its Jews than other countries did?” Horváth says no — the opposite, in fact.
He then talks about society before the war. There was discrimination against the Jews, he says — resentment, envy, and discrimination. For instance, a university student body was limited to 20 percent Jews. I’m afraid I have to chuckle at this: The limit at Yale, I understand, was 10 percent.
And what have been the limits on Asian Americans, in the past 30 or so years? Back in the mid 1980s, a Harvard professor told me that, if things were done fair and square, the incoming freshmen would be in the neighborhood of 80 percent Asian.
I say, “I gotta ask you about George Soros [another Hungarian-American refugee]. How do you explain his leftism? His pro-Communism? His anti-Israel feeling? What’s the matter with him?” Now it’s Horváth’s turn to chuckle. I say, “Have you ever met him?” “Oh, yes, yes,” says Horváth.
He then says, “It would take long analysis to explain George Soros — analysis of various types: psychological, economic . . . But let me tell you this, in a quickie way: He likes to be different. He’s the kind who says, ‘I’m going to show the neighbors something. I’m going to show the world something!’ He is of that mentality, and he can afford it.”