Concerning the place of Dr. Jenő Szemák among the Presidents of the Curia of Hungary (‘Curia’), two considerations had to be taken into account:
- historical authenticity – it is a historical fact that Dr. Jenő Szemák, a professional judge, formerly Second President and then President of the Royal Criminal Tribunal of Budapest, was appointed as President of the Curia from 24 October 1944, taking up his post on 15 November; and
- the assessment of his activities as President – in this respect, we recommend to consult the following article: Zinner, Tibor: A nyilaskeresztesek kúriai elnöke, dr. Szemák Jenő (1887-1971) (The President of the Curia of the Arrow Cross Crusaders, Dr. Jenő Szemák (1887-1971), in: Bódiné dr. Beliznai, Kinga (ed.): A Kúria és elnökei I. (The Curia and its Presidents I; Budapest, Hvg-Orac, 2014).
Against the portrait previously displayed in the portrait hall, objections were made – the mere display of the portrait undoubtedly met only the requirement set out in point (a) above. Therefore, as a temporary solution, after the removal of the portrait, only a blank frame with a single comment hung on the wall which, however, met only the requirement set out in point (b) above.
Finally, after studying the historical and legal documents, we have opted for placing the portrait back in the framework in a smaller size than the portraits of the other Presidents, with the following comment: “After the Arrow Cross takeover, Dr Jenő Szemák accepted his unconstitutional appointment without any compelling necessity. He supported the removal of the Curia to Sopron by applying threats.” In our view, this solution satisfies the requirements of both points (a) and (b) above. It is also in line with the institutional custom – on the ground floor corridor, in front of the Assembly Hall of the Curia, the portraits of all former Curia Presidents are on display, just as on the first floor corridor of the building the portraits of all former Crown Prosecutors, including the one in office in the turbulent danger-period of Hungarian history, and of the Chief Public Prosecutors of the next dictatorship are on display.
Finally, all this is in line with the words of the President of the Curia expressed at the conference commemorating the Conference of the Lord Chief Justice (available on YouTube): “Our history is made up not only of bright periods. In the middle of the 20th century, Hungary’s constitutionality was shaken. The anti-Jewish laws were followed by war and the loss of the country’s sovereignty, and subsequently by a denial of our compatriots and their deportation to death camps. The shame and pain of this will always remain with us.”
We are convinced that the past cannot be erased, but must be processed, and therefore Dr. Jenő Szemák’s portrait cannot be erased from among the Presidents of the Curia. Events and facts, interpreted in their historical context, must be faced.
Budapest, 15 November 2022
The Communications Department of the Curia of Hungary