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Movie Review of Keep Quiet-The Journey of Hungarian Far Right Leader Known for His Antisemitic Comments who learns he is Jewish-Worth Watching

by Rhonda Spivak, January 10, 2017

 

This is a fascinating documentary about a young burly Hungarian neo-Nazi leader, Csanad Szegedi, whose identity is smashed to smitherines   when he discovers his maternal grandparents were Jewish and that his beloved grandmother who survived Auschwitz had hidden her faith, for fear of further persecution.

 

In the opening minutes of the documentary, we learn that a failing economy led to the rise of nativist right-wing parties such as Jobbik, one of whose leaders was  the charismatic Csanad Szegedi. He helped found another extremist organization  the Hungarian Guard,  a  militia that was inspired by a pro-Nazi group complicit in the murder of thousands of Jews during WWII, which was outlawed for bring clearly fascist. (Note that according to the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann, during the Holocaust Germans had an easier time arresting up and exterminating Hungary's Jewish population because it had so many willing local accomplices) Notwithstanding that the Hungarian guard is banned the firebrand Szegedi enjoyed a rapid ascension in politics, and at the age of only 27 was elected to the European Parliament in 2009. 

 

As vice -president of Jobbik, Hungary's far right extremist party, Szegedi made anti-Semitic comments playing on the centuries old canard about Jews controlling finance and media worldwide so as to oppress patriotic innocent white Christians. While no one openly advocated exterminating Jews, Szegedi  engaged in Holocaust denial. But when one of  Szegedi's right-wing comrades confronted him with proof of his Jewish ancestry, and as a result his political career in Jobbik is over. 

 

Keep Quiet depicts Szegedi’s three-year journey to embrace Judaism, his newfound religion. But the question becomes whether his transformation is genuine or whether he simply does not have elsewhere to turn

 

The film’s title comes from Szegedi’s grandmother, who is sure that antisemitism will rise again in Hungary. She is asked, should Jews do to avoid being targeted again? “Keep quiet,” she says. She kept quiet not telling Szegedi about being Jewish when he was being raised and also when he becoming a leader in anti-Semitic organization. Somehow her grandson never saw the Auschwitz number tattooed on her arm.

 

In discovering his roots , Szegedi finds an invaluable friend in Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, an orthodox Rabbi who teaches him about Judaism and oversees his embrace of various rituals including circumcision. The Rabbi believes Szegedi’s sincerity in his 180 degree turn about, but other Jews do not. In Berlin and Montreal, he tries to make public confessions denouncing his hate-filled past and embrace of his new faith, but some denounce him as a fraud. There are dramatic scenes in Montreal, where Jews call him a Nazi and an antisemite, disbelieving his transformation he has apparently undergone. Rabbi Oberlander insists at the gathering in Montreal that every Jew must be given an opportunity to repent, including Szegedi.

 

After his grandmother dies, Szegedi visits Auschwitz with an elderly Holocaust survivor, and is moved by what he learns and appears to genuinely regret his previous Holocaust denial.

 

The film is a disturbing reminder of the fact that anti-Semitism in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe is on the rise. While Szegedi appears to be confronting his antisemitic past under Rabbi Oberlander's guidance, it's not clear that Hungary has done the same. Antisemitism in contemporary Hungary unfortunately appears to be a persistent phenomenon.

 
 
 
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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