BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II was a "mistake" and a "sin" as it failed to protect its Jewish community, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday.
Orban said he told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was aware of the "difficult history behind us." Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
"At an earlier time, the government of Hungary made a mistake, moreover, committed a sin when it did not protect its citizens of Jewish heritage," Orban said during a press briefing after his meeting with Netanyahu in Parliament. "Every Hungarian government has the duty to protect all of its citizens, regardless of their heritage."
"During World War II, Hungary did not comply with this moral and political requirement. This is a sin because at the time we decided that instead of protecting the Jewish community, we chose collaboration with the Nazis," Orban continued. "I made it clear to the prime minister that this can never happen again. In the future, the Hungarian government will protect all its citizens."
Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to visit Hungary since 1989, when Hungary was still under communist rule.
Netanyahu said he thought about Hungary first in relation to the birth of modern Zionism, as Theodore Herzl, "our modern Moses," was born in Budapest in 1860.
Netanyahu thanked Orban for Hungary's repeated support for Israel, citing President Emmanuel Macron's recent statement drawing a parallel between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. Netanyahu visited France before coming to Hungary.
"Macron said there is a new anti-Semitism that is expressed in anti-Zionism, that is delegitimizing the one and only Jewish state," Netanyahu said. "In many ways, Hungary is at the forefront of the states that are opposed to this anti-Jewish policy and I welcome it and I express the appreciation of my government and the people, many people in Israel for this."
Orban again expressed his government's "zero tolerance" for anti-Semitism, though a recent government campaign against George Soros and the Hungarian-American billionaire-philanthropist's support for migration and refugees has been criticized by Jewish organizations for its anti-Semitic overtones, which Orban's government denies.
Orban also repeated his opposition to mass migration mostly by Muslims, which he has said would lead to irreversible changes in European culture and its population.
"I made it clear that Hungary has serious disputes in the European Union, as Hungary does not want a mixed population," Orban said. Hungary "does not want to change its current ethnic composition, it does not want to defer to any external, artificial influence."
"We'd like to remain as we are, even if, I have to admit, we are not perfect," Orban added.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu and Orban will meet with leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — Hungary's partners in the so-called Visegrad Group — and also visit representatives of Hungary's Jewish