The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Skinhead International: Hungary

In Hungary, the animating fire of Skinheads is the naming of enemies. Here "enemies" refers -- more than to any other group -- to the Roma (Gypsies). But the term is used for others as well; foreign students and guest workers, Arabs, blacks, Cubans, homosexuals, liberals, the poor, the homeless and, of course, the Jews.

When the Skinhead movement first arose in Hungary in the early 1980's, it was a small but vocal force among those opposed to the then-Communist regime. When that regime fell, the restless animus of the Skinheads turned toward the Gypsy population and the growing numbers of "non-Hungarians" (sometimes including Jews, but more particularly :non-Whites") whom they regarded as dangerous criminal elements. There are presently a few thousand non-white aliens in Hungary, most of them students. (A large number of them have left the country during the past couple of years, with insults and danger cited as the major reasons.) The Skinheads have proclaimed that physical attacks are the only effective means of driving the strangers back to their native lands.


Skinhead "ideals" include nationalism, irredentism (the establishment of "Greater" Hungary with widened frontiers) and a purifying of the populace through the eventual elimination of the aforementioned enemies. Some Skinheads openly profess Nazi ideals and have sported the Nazi swastika and the arrow-cross badge worn by Hungarian fascists during World War II; others reject that image. (In April 1993 Hungary's parliament outlawed both the arrow-cross symbol and the swastika.)

The Hungarian Skins began to organize on a national level in 1990 when they held their first national conclave in Eger. Certain international linkages were forged that year -- e.g., with German rightists including the ideologue Gerhard Frey, leader of the German Peoples Union (DVU). The journal of a neo-fascist segment of Hungarian Skinheads, Kitartas (Holding Out) has been published since 1990 by Frey's group in Germany. Two other Skinhead journals were launched that year: Pannon Bulldog and Arpad Nepe. Subsequently, the American neo-Nazi Gary Lauck of Nebraska began publishing Uj Rend (New Order) in Hungarian for an openly neo-Nazi Skinhead faction. Hungarian Skinheads have ties with Austrian, Italian, Polish, Czech and American organizations, as well as the World Community of Anti-Communist Hungarians, headquartered in Australia.

One of Hungary's more active and extreme groups with Skinhead membership is the Szalasi Guards, named in honor of Ferenc Szalasi, Hungary's Nazi leader in World War II who was executed as a war criminal. It is headed by a youth known only -- and proudly -- as "Mengele," after the infamous doctor at Auschwitz. Mengele reportedly puts the Guards' membership at "a few dozen." These members have been known to attack Gypsies, Arabs, Jews and foreigners in the streets. Mengele acknowledged his group;s responsibility for a bomb threat against a Budapest synagogue early in 1994. "We wanted them" (the Jews), he told a newspaper, "to realize that times are changing and that there are such organizations that do not like the open Semite lunge in the Parliament. We want them to notice that we are here."


The Hungarian Skins hang out in discos and beer halls. Their haunts in Budapest include the Viking club, Petofi Casarnok disco, Ocsi wine bar, Steffl beer-hours, Izsak wine bar, Ketlen disco, Fekete Lyuk (Black Hole) club, Total car club, and Keknyelu wine bar. The can often be found hanging around major thoroughfares in Budapest. In Eger, the best known restaurants frequented by Skinheads are Taverna and Express.

The weapons Skinheads have been known to carry include baseball bats, chains, knives, iron rods, chair legs, etc. Like their foreign counterparts they often wear the heavy Doc Martin boots.

Skins are active in rifle clubs, sports clubs, and at military secondary schools (a major Skinhead base is in the military academy in Eger). They are not "lumpens." Most come from families of professionals and have at least an eighth grade education.

As elsewhere, music is a major part of the Skinhead scene. Typical are the "oi" sounds of the English Skin bands, a particular favorite among them being Skrewdriver. The leading Hungarian bands during the early period (the mid-1980's) were Mos-Oi, Kozellenseg (Public Enemy), and Oi-Kor, the latter still staging concerts in the 1990's. Mos-Oi has since changed its name to Pannon Skins. Among the newer bands are Archivum, which once played at the headquarters of the Smallholders Party; Magozott Cseresznye (Pitted Cherry), which plays at the Viking Club in Budapest; and today's most popular band, Egeszseges Fejbor (Healthy Skinhead).

A favorite Skinhead song for some years now has been "Gypsy-Fee Zone," written by members of the Mos-Oi band:

We will do away with everything bad;
Everything base and evil will disappear;
A blazing gun is the
Only weapon I can win with.
I will kill every Gypsy, adult or child...
When the job is done, we can post
[the sign] "Gypsy-Free Zone."

Mayhem became more than a song or a mere boast as the Skins grew to become a national menace in the early 1990's. Hungary's Office of National Security reported 25 Skinhead assaults in Budapest alone in 1991. Nationally, the Martin Luther King Association, which records attacks on foreign students, reported complaints in 70 instances, with 53 persons listed in police records as attack victims. The MLK Association listed 63 victims during the first half of 1992. In November of that year, a 32-year-old Gypsy man, Zoltan Danyi, was beaten to death by two 15-year-old Skinheads. On August 30, 1992, a national holiday, Skinheads who gathered in the center of the city of Eger shouted Nazi slogans and beat up a passerby thought to be Jewish.

President Shouted Down

On October 23, 1992, the 36th anniversary of Hungary's 1956 anti-Soviet revolt, hundreds of Skinheads, marching into Budapest in their boots and bomber jackets and openly carrying Nazi symbols, shouted down President Arpad Goncz, preventing his delivery of a patriotic speech. (The role of the police in this event has been called into question.)

Hungary's police have generally been less than vigilant in their attention to Skinhead lawlessness, at times even ignoring street assaults against Gypsies. In part, the problem appears to stem from an underlying sympathy of some police officers with Skinhead prejudices. The Skinheads themselves, formerly hostile toward the police, have for tactical reasons adopted a more friendly stance.

Skins in Budapest have a doting elder in Istvan Porubszky, a painter who fled the country after the 1956 revolt and now heads a "1956 Anti-Fascist and Anti-Bolshevik Association" which trains Skinheads in right-wing philosophy. Porubszky hopes to register his trainees as a political party.

"Sixteen-year-olds cannot change anything if the Government will not allow it," said a Budapest youngster whose Skinhead boyfriend was sentenced to a year in prison, "but when our generation comes to power, the country will be run according to our principles." And at a "national congress" of Skinheads held in Budapest in November 1992, its organizer, Istvan Szoke, was quoted as saying: "As much blood needs to flow for the Fatherland as is necessary. Either there will be radical changes or anything may happen."

Later that month a long, major trial of 48 Skinheads ended, with all convicted of causing severe bodily injuries and disturbing the public order by their unprovoked attacks on Africans, Arabs and Gypsies. Nine were given prison sentences and the remaining 39 were placed on parole.

In January 1993, five Skinheads assaulted a young Jewish woman, stabbed her in the stomach and carved a swastika on her breast. It appeared that the woman had been followed for some time before the attack. The atrocity was the subject of a debate in the Parliament, where a member, Izabella Kiraly, called the attackers "good sons of the Hungarian nation." That same month, Budapest police arrested eight Skinheads for assaulting people aboard a trolley car; a search of the homes of the eight uncovered swastika armbands and literature defaming Jews and foreigners.

Skinheads' "Mother"

A note of optimism sounded a few months later when Hungary's ruling Democratic Forum (MDF) expelled some members of the party's right wing, led by Istvan Csurka, even though it meant losing parliamentary seats. Among those expelled was the aforementioned Izabella Kiraly, who has been nicknamed "Mother of the Skinheads." After her expulsion she created the Hungarian Interest Party (MEP) and continued to be a supporter of the Skinheads and an apologist for their actions.

Skinhead attacks continued in 1994. In March, two Skinheads stabbed a Jewish passenger on a Budapest subway. In November, in the town of Gyongyos, Skinheads threw Molotov cocktails into a Roma family's home, burning it down. One of the victims of the crime has alleged police misconduct in the handling of the case. According to police, two Skinheads burned two Torah scrolls in a synagogue in the easter city of Debrecen on January 6, 1995, the birthday of the aforementioned Hungarian Nazi leader Ferenc Szalasi.

At least one police official has been outspoken about the Skinhead problem. Dr. Gyorgy Gabriel, a detective who heads the Family, Child and Youth Protection division of the Budapest Police Force, has stated that "beginning at the end of 1991, the Skinhead movement began to grow wider, and they began to enter the world of crime. They steal, they murder, they mug.... This," he said, "is a society in crisis. Everything is in crisis: the economy, the family, the school system, the legal system, the police.... We have a high rate of suicide, and now drugs are coming in, it's no wonder that the most sensitive stratum, youth, is reacting this way." (Anti-Defamation League, 44-48)

Work Cited

Anti-Defamation League. The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1995. Anti-Defamation League, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

Disclaimer: not all skinheads are neo-nazis or white supremacists. There are many skinheads who are non- or anti-racist, and who come from a variety of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nizkor recognizes their achievements in anti-racism: they are part of the traditional, non-racist skinhead subculture and are not the perpetrators of the hate crimes discussed here.

Unless otherwise specified, the word "skinhead" within these pages refers only to neo-Nazi and white supremacist skinheads, the perpetrators of hate crimes and participants in racist organizations. We cannot edit the body of the text above, because it was not written by Nizkor, and to change the wording would be fraudulent. Please keep in mind that not all skinheads are racist.

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