by Eli Clifton and Jim Lobe
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect blasted President Donald Trump’s counter-terrorism adviser and former Breitbart national security editor, Sebastian Gorka, in a statement released today. The Center called for Gorka to resign, following a series of stories establishing Gorka’s membership in a right-wing Hungarian group with a history of anti-Semitism that collaborated with the Nazis in World War II. The latest story, a detailed investigative piece, was published in the Forward today.
Last month, LobeLog published photos of Gorka wearing a medal from Vitezi Rend, a group that the State Department lists as having collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, raising questions about the Trump adviser’s ties to the organization. Gorka shrugged off the criticism, saying he simply wore the medal to honor his parents. But this was an incomplete explanation of his ties to the Vitezi order, considering his mother’s work as a translator for the notorious Holocaust denier, historian David Irving.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) followed LobeLog’s reporting on Gorka’s ties to Vitezi Rend and The Forward’s reporting on Gorka’s ties to other ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic political groups in Hungary by calling for “Mr. Gorka to make it clear that he disavows the message and outlook of far-right parties such as Jobbik, which has a long history of stoking anti-Semitism in Hungary.”
Until now, Gorka has neither renounced any of his political associations in Hungary nor his membership in Vitezi Rend. Nor has he acknowledged the ADL’s appeal.
Today, Lili Bayer and Larry Cohler-Esses, reporting in the Forward, confirmed that Gorka is a sworn member of Vitezi Rend, a fact that could provoke a probe into his application for U.S. citizenship.
“This is a group that advocates racialist nativism,” retired immigration judge Bruce Einhorn told the Forward. If Gorka did not disclose his affiliation with it, he said, this would constitute “failure to disclose a material fact,” which could undermine the validity of his claim to citizenship.
In its statement today calling for Gorka’s resignation, the Anne Frank Center accused the Trump administration of showing a dangerous tolerance for anti-Semitism within its ranks.
The statement, issued in the name of Steven Goldstein, the Center’s executive director, was unequivocal:
Sebastian Gorka must resign – and President Trump must make it happen. That Sebastian Gorka cannot even deny he has links with a Nazi-affiliated organization is symptomatic of the grotesque Antisemitism that has infected the Trump White House. How many ducks in the Trump White House must walk, talk and quack Antisemitically before our country wakes up and sees the greater problem? This administration has staff with shockingly Antisemitic pasts, and it is hard to imagine they have nothing to do with the horrifically weak reactions to Antisemitic hate crimes that we see coming from this Administration. It does a disservice to the Jewish community to refuse to connect the dots of Antisemitism – including Sebastian Gorka and his background – we see in the White House.
Gorka, who is also a member of the White House’s Strategic Initiatives Group convened by his former boss at Breitbart, Stephen Bannon, has positioned himself as one of the administration’s most combative spokespeople. Last month, he courted controversy after defending the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement (which failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism), calling criticism of the statement “asinine” and “absurd.” That statement, when viewed in the context of his membership in an anti-Semitic group that collaborated with the Nazis, raises even more questions about his core beliefs.
According to Eva Balogh, a Hungarian-born Yale historian of Eastern Europe, Vitezi members must accept the Order’s original goals that were established by its self-described anti-Semitic founder, Adm. Miklos Horthy, who served as Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1920 and 1944. Among other things, the goals include the aim “’to secure the lordship of the Hungarian race, which could strike down all subversive, anti-national efforts with formidable force.’ From its inception in 1920, the Order was an irredentist organization, whose slogan is still: ‘I believe in one God, I believe in one country, I believe in the divine everlasting truth, I believe in the resurrection of Hungary,’ which means the recreation of Hungary according to its pre-1918 borders.” Hungary’s pre-1918 borders include parts of present-day Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, and Austria.
Although Hungarians of Jewish extraction were not officially excluded from the Order, in practice they were barred from membership, according to Balogh.