Several hundred protesters have blocked work on a controversial monument in Budapest which Jewish critics say glosses over Hungary’s active role in the Holocaust.
Around 300 people on Tuesday angrily tore down a cordon erected by workers and occupied the site of the planned monument, which the Hungarian government says will mark all the victims of Hungary’s occupation by Nazi Germany in 1944.
Critics say the monument — which will depict Hungary as an angel being attacked by a German eagle — absolves Hungarians of their active role after the occupation in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths.
One protester, Szabolcs Kerek-Barczy, also an opposition politician, told AFP that volunteers would mount a round-the-clock guard to prevent the restart of building works.
“It is an extremist memorial that covers up the past with a lie, and a gesture (by Prime Minister Viktor Orban) to the far-right,” he told AFP.
“We won’t let it be built!” he added, as police observed the protesters without intervening.
The monument was originally scheduled for unveiling on March 19 to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of mass deportations of Jews after the Nazi occupation.
After protests in Hungary and abroad, and a boycott of official anniversary commemorations in 2014 by leading Jewish organisation Mazsihisz, the government postponed the construction until after the general election which took place on Sunday.
In the vote, Orban was re-elected to a second consecutive term in office with a landslide win, well ahead of an alliance of left-wing parties and a strengthening far-right Jobbik party.
Orban, whose party adopted some of Jobbik’s nationalist tones in the past, has often sought to position himself as a bulwark of democracy against extremists.
After the election “we are close to a two-thirds majority in parliament. I think that’s the best defence against the far-right,” he said Monday.
A statement by the Government Information Centre published on state newswire MTI Tuesday confirmed that construction of the monument had begun.
“The work is scheduled to be finished by May 31,” it said.