Hungarian Civil Legion of Honour, 2013

The Ars Humanica Hungarica Circle awarded its Hungarian Civil Legion of Honour for the second time on the 10th of February 2013, at the Óbuda Társaskör in Budapest, to individuals who in their actions displayed the highest virtues of humanity.

One of those honoured this year (posthumously) is the violinist Sándor Fehér, who on the luxury cruiser Costa Concordia wrecked in January 2012, amidst general panic, saved the lives of children, losing his own life in the process.

Paul Gulda

The other award was given to a civic association from Burgenland (Austria), RE.F.U.G.I.U.S. (Rechnitzer Flüchtlings Und Gedenkinitiative Und Stiftung). It fell to this spontaneously arranged association to perform the sad task, that we Hungarians never undertook ourselves, to erect a memorial to the almost 200 Hungarian Jewish forced labour camp inmates who were massacred by guests at the ball of Countess Margit Batthyány, née Thyssen-Bornemisza, together with local residents, on the night of 24 March 1945. The corpses of the victims were buried at a still unknown place, robbing them of the right to last honours that every human being should enjoy. The association continues to investigate the possible location of the unmarked grave, without any assistance from the Hungarian government.

After the ceremonial introduction, Gábor Görgey gave a short speech about the presently ebbing role of humanity and its integrity in the civic society, followed by Zoltán Sumonyi’s brief lecture about the Batthyány family. He mentioned, as a point of interest, the conversation between Boldizsár Batthyány (1538-1590) and his court priest Pál Túri-Farkas, who considered the Flemish traders (Jews) and Hutterite ceramicists (Anabaptists) settling on the estate to be heretics who would destroy the only true church: “let them flourish, if they have the talent for it!” This was unusually liberal behaviour for the sixteenth century.

Sándor Fehér’s award was celebrated by Gábor Iványi, emphasizing the most valuable sacrifice in the name of humanity: that of one’s own life. Róbert Fehér said thanks in the name of Sándor Fehér’s family, expressing their wish for as many future awards as possible to be given to the living, rather than posthumously.

Ildikó Iván

The activities of the RE.F.U.G.I.U.S. Association were lauded by Szabolcs Szita, who painted a historian’s picture of the inhumanity that broke loose in the last days of World War II, which along Hungary’s western border led to mass murders in Rohonc, Kőszeg and other places. In his response, Paul Gulda, co-director of the Association, expressed his gratitude, provided some information about the Association’s work so far, as well as future plans.

To conclude, Gábor Vadász told of his family connection to the massacre in Rohonc, and his personal experiences of his efforts to find the unknown location of the resting place of his father and his father’s twin brother, and of the cold hatred and rejection which as late as the 1970s welcomed him and his mother in Rohonc.

The material symbols of the distinctions were the selfless work of the same artists as last year.

The remembrance was followed by a show in which Ildikó Iván, private singer at the Hungarian National Opera, performed two songs, accompanied by Paul Gulda on the piano – Debussy: Nuit d’étoiles and Richard Strauss: Wie sollten wir... – after those attending could hear Funérailles by Liszt, which he had composed in 1849 in memory of Lajos Batthyány, played by pianist Paul Gulda.

Some hundred eminent members of the Hungarian artistic and social elite were present at the event and took part in the reception that followed.

The printed and electronic media reported on the ceremony in a number of articles (see Media).