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#################### Geoff Seidner
MIKLOS HORTHY, Hungary's wartime leader, whose birthday is today, is enjoying acontroversial renaissance. This weekend the mayor of Csókakő, a picturesque village west of Budapest, inaugurated a bust of the admiral, flanked by far-right supporters in military-style uniforms.
The Csókakő memorial is the latest of a wave of Horthy memorials. The town square in Gyömrő, has been renamed for him. Horthy's Alma Mater, the Reform College of Debrecen, in eastern Hungary, has put up a plaque to its former pupil.
A former officer in the Austro-Hungarian navy, Miklós Horthy ruled Hungary between 1920 and October 1944 when he was toppled in a coup by Hungarian Arrow Cross Nazis. He is the most divisive and controversial figure in modern Hungarian history. Another statue of him, in Kereki, a village near Lake Balaton, has already been doused in red paint. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Budapest on June 17th to protest against his rehabilitation.
Horthy's defenders argue that he brought peace, stability and steady economic growth after the trauma of the Treaty of Trianon, when Hungary lost two-thirds of its lands, and the Communist dictatorship of 1919. Caught between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he did his best in an impossible balancing act to protect Hungarian national interests.
Hungary remained a quasi-democracy for most of his rule and a relatively safe haven for its Jewish community. Horthy repeatedly refused Nazi demands to deport Hungary's Jews, which was which was one of the reasons why Nazi Germany invaded in March 1944. Horthy mobilised Hungary's armed forces to protect the Jews of Budapest, many of whom survived the war. His emissaries were in covert contact with the Allies and he wanted to change sides. Hungary was also a haven for Polish, Slovak and even Jewish refugees,
Not enough, say Horthy's critics. Horthy declared war on the Allies without being asked by Hitler in 1941 and launched a disastrous campaign on the eastern front that saw 200,000 soldiers killed or captured. By passing four anti-Jewish laws he laid the ground for the Holocaust in Hungary. (The last law in 1941 outlawed sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews.) Tens of thousands of Jewish men died in forced labour subjugated by the Hungarian army, Many were killed by their own officers or forced to march through minefields to clear them. Horthy deported 20,0000 Jewish refugees who were then shot by the Nazis.
The main charge against Horthy is his inaction during the first stage of the Holocaust. In summer 1944 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Most were killed on arrival. This could not have happened without the willing assistance of the Hungarian state, especially the brutal Gendarmerie, who rounded the Jews up, forced them into ghettos and onto the trains.
Had Horthy ever called for mass resistance - as happened in Denmark and Bulgaria - many more Hungarian Jews might have survived. The fact that he was able to prevent the deportations of the Jews of Budapest shows that he could have tried to stop the deportations from the countryside. Some even argue that Horthy only took action in Budapest as he was warned through intermediaries that if the deportations continued he would be tried for war crimes.
Nor is the disquiet confined to liberal and left-wingers. Many young thinkers on the right are critical of the growing nostalgia for the 1930s and the Horthy cult. Tamas Novak,writing in mandiner.hu, an influential conservative blog, said that statues should not be erected to either Miklós Horthy or János Kádár, Hungary's long-serving communist leader, and squares should not be renamed in their honour. "Both deserve contempt, and their main goal was their political survival."
Horthy era-writers are also being rehabilitated. Three far-right novelists will be reintroduced into the national curriculum this autumn, including József Nyírő, who was an open admirer of the Nazis. A commemoration was recently held in Nyírő's honour at a Budapest cultural centre. The centre is named after Miklós Radnóti, a Jewish writer and one of Hungary's greatest poets, who was killed by Hungarian Nazis.
George Szirtes, a Hungarian-born British poet, wrote about the event: "It is a significant gesture and there is no chance it is carelessness. What it says is: You think it's your house. Well we're taking it over."
Others argue that T.S Eliot and Ezra Pound have been accused of anti-Semitism and are still studied and admired. For them the question is one of context.
Either way, the Horthy revival comes at a time of growing anti-Semitism. In April a member of parliament of Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary, a radical nationalist party, revived the blood libel that Jews murder Christian children in a speech in parliament. Soon after, several Holocaust memorials were defaced or vandalised and a Jewish cemetery was desecrated. Pigs trotters were left draped on a memorial for Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in the Holocaust. József Schweitzer, the 90 year-old former chief Rabbi, was abused in the street by a man who told him that he "hates all Jews".
Viktor Orbán, the prime minister, and the government quickly condemned the incidents and assured Hungary's Jewish community of its support and safety. János Áder, Hungary's new president, visited Rabbi Schweitzer in solidarity.
But as support for the ruling Fidesz party fades in the polls,it seems the government is guarding its right flank. In an interview with Die Presse, an Austrian daily, Mr Orbán said that one should separate political and historical debates. While he would definitely oppose a statue of Lenin, Stalin or Hitler in Hungarian municipalities, it was up to local governments to decide which statues they wanted to erect.
Eastern approaches deals with the economic, political, security and cultural aspects of the eastern half of the European continent. It incorporates the long-running "Europe.view" weekly column. The blog is named after the wartime memoirs of the British soldier Sir Fitzroy Maclean.