Hungarian Jews march in memory of Holocaust amid far-right alarm

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Hungarian Jews march in memory of Holocaust

Budapest (AFP) - Thousands of people on Sunday joined Hungary's annual "March of Life" commemorating the Holocaust, as World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder denounced the country's surging far-right Jobbik party as "extremist".

Over 10,000 people took part in the march.

"The march is for all those people, family members, relatives, friends who didn't survive the Holocaust and for all those who did," Erzsi Molnar, 50, a child of survivors, told AFP.

Around 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in World War II. Only 100,000 survived the Holocaust, mostly in Budapest.

"Besides remembering the tragedy of the Hungarian Jewry the march highlights that human beings are all part of a big family, despite their different religions, beliefs, or orientations," said Orsolya Fekete, a volunteer at the event.

This year's march took place against a background of rising support for Jobbik, a party often accused of anti-Semitism, and now Hungary's second-largest party behind Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz.

Jobbik looked almost certain of its first ever win in a parliamentary district after topping a by-election poll Sunday although the result cannot yet be declared official.

The win marks a new stage in the growth of a party which achieved their highest vote -- 20.5 percent -- at last year's parliamentary elections.

A poll last month put Jobbik just three percentage points behind Orban's Fidesz.

In a speech at the end of the procession, Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder called Jobbik an "extremist party that promotes hate".

Condemning a Jobbik deputy who recently spat on a Holocaust memorial in Budapest, Lauder said the party damaged Hungary's image abroad.

"Jobbik may think they are true Hungarians trying to save Hungary, but Jobbik hurts Hungary," said Lauder, an American whose grandparents were Hungarian.

"The Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain," he added.

The next Hungarian parliamentary election is scheduled for 2018.