The Trump administration is full of hate. Pick your ethnic group, any one and you'll find there's a Trump official that either once belonged to an organization that condemned them or still does. From nationalists to alt-righters, from the KKK to Breitbart, they all have two common characteristics: they are all white supremacists and they all claim that they are not really racists. They profess to simply be expressing their "deeply held religious beliefs," or they are just honoring their heritage.
Enter Sebastian Gorka, a British born Hungarian with ties to a WWII antisemitic organization called the Vitezi Rend, or Order of Vitez. There had been rumors going around about Gorka's possible antisemitic ties when Gorka chose to wear a Vitezi Rend medal and black uniform shirt to Trump's inaugural ball. He claimed it was merely in remembrance to his father's struggle against a Hungarian dictator. Gorka claimed that his father was awarded the medal for opposing communist rulers of Hungary in 1950, and that the Vitezi claims it had nothing to do with the Nazis.
But it was Forward's Lili Bayer and Larry Choler-Esses who verified that the Vitezi Rend claimed Gorka as a member. According to high ranking members, Gorka and his father are high ranking members. The Forward article graciously went on to explain that Gorka belongs to the "Historical Vitezi Rend," a non-violent arm of the group that still espouses the racist, antisemitic, nationalist philosophies of it's founder, Hungarian Vice-Admiral Miklos Horthy.
Horthy created the Vitezi in 1920 as a replacement for Hungarian nobility. Commoners were allowed to join as a way to rebuild Hungarian nationalism after the destruction of WWI. They were given plots of land to develop as a means of reconstructing the Hungarian economy. Members were required to be conservative Christians and follow a moral code of conduct. Horthy borrowed from other such groups and anointed members with elaborate ceremonies that continue to this day such as knighting with a sword, military style uniforms and flamboyant medals.
The Vitezi were antisemitic before Hitler and his Nazis came to power in Germany. Horthy was frequently blaming Jews for Hungarian failures. In a letter to the Hungarian Prime Minister, Pal Teleki, Horthy wrote:
"Concerning the Jewish question, for all my life, I have been an antisemite, I have never made any contact with Jews. I have found it intolerable that here, in Hungary, every single factory, bank, asset, shop, theater, newspaper, trade, etc., is in Jewish hands."
Horthy enacted 22 laws against the Jewish people and another 267 antisemitic decrees known as Judenraete. Jews could no longer attend universities, have relations with gentiles, own businesses and their land and shops were seized. It is estimated that over 70% of Hungarian Jews were murdered, 450,000 people.
Today, members of the Vitez like to deny their ancestors' evil deeds. Like many countries in Europe, there has been a resurgence of nationalism in Hungary. Memorials to Horthy have been newly erected, and his followers are busy building websites to recruit new members. They claim to be a social group celebrating their Hungarian heritage by doing charity work and supporting special causes like children's hospitals.
It is difficult to find information on Gorka in Hungary unless you search Hungarian news sites. Gorka lived in Hungary from 1992 to 2008. According to the Hungarian Free Press, Gorka attended a political rally held by Vice Chair Tamas Molnar of the far-right, antisemitic Jobbik party on October 19, 2003 and again in 2006 as pictured here. In 2007, he became the political leader of the UDK (New Democratic Coalition), which supports Magyar Garda and Jobbik. Magyar Garda is a paramilitary group under the Jobbik far-right political party. Like Hitler's brown shirts, they like to march around in uniforms intimidating people. Their symbol is the red and white striped badge that was also used by the Hungarian Arrow Cross who murdered thousands of Jews during the war.
If Gorka did become a sworn member of the Vitezi, he is then ineligible to enter the United States or become a citizen. He sure as hell would not be allowed to become a deputy assistant to the president. According to the State Department, it declared the Vitezi Rend as being "under the direction of the Nazi Governement." Gorka has not denied the allegations but has not confirmed them either.
That photo going around of Gorka wearing uniform of Nazi ally group Vitezi Rend -- he wore it to Trump's Inauguration, too. Was still hired. pic.twitter.com/BHRyJWApIY
- Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) March 19, 2017
And even Gorka himself has been forced to amend his denials, as Eli Clifton observed:
Most of us have some unsavory characters in our family tree. It is one thing to celebrate your heritage, your nationality. But when your ancestors were part of an organization that participated in genocide, it's quite another to run around wearing those uniforms and insignia. You cannot wave a Confederate flag and claim it has nothing to do with slavery. You cannot yell "Heil Hitler" and claim that you are not antisemitic. Likewise, Gorka cannot wear a Vitezi Rend uniform and medal while claiming to not be a racist.
He just cannot.