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IPN head commemorates 120th anniversary of acclaimed Hungarian politician’s birth

Jarosław Szarek, the Head of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), laid flowers on Sunday at the monument to János Esterházy on the 120th anniversary of the birth of the Hungarian politician.

According to Mr Szarek, János Esterházy was an outstanding figure in Central European social and political life. During WWII, risking his life, he helped people of various nationalities, including Poles and Jews. Despite the pressures, he firmly rejected fascism, Nazism and communism. Jarosław Szarek reiterated that Mr Esterházy spoke openly about Soviet crimes in Katyń, for which he paid “the highest price”.

“He talked a lot about Katyń during the trial… in Moscow. One of the charges against him was that in the Hungarian press he accused the Soviet Union of this crime, which was true. He is a man about whom we should talk a lot today,” the IPN head said.

The Hungarian Ambassador, Orsolya Kovács, emphasised that János Esterházy is an indomitable figure who can be an example for the whole of Europe. She also expressed gratitude for the fact that Poles remember the Hungarian hero. “Today is 120 years since his birthday… it is a solemn and special moment,” she emphasised.

Wreaths and flowers were also laid by the Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of Poland and the director of the Hungarian Cultural Institute.

János Esterházy was a Member of Parliament in Prague from 1935, then chairman of the Hungarian National Party. In the years 1938-45 he was a member of the Slovak Parliament. He was arrested in 1945, and two years later the Slovak People’s Court sentenced him to death by hanging. The death penalty was later commuted to life imprisonment.

He died in 1957 in Mírov prison, eastern Czech Republic.

In 2009 Polish President Lech Kaczyński posthumously awarded János Esterházy the order of Polonia Restituta. In May 2010, the Yad Vashem Institute expressed “appreciation and gratitude” towards him for saving Jews during WWII.

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