Andras Schiff: I won’t go back to Hungary, where they threaten to cut off my hands

Andras Schiff: I won’t go back to Hungary, where they threaten to cut off my hands


norman lebrecht

December 23, 2013

The pianist has told the BBC why he won’t go back to his homeland. The Government, he accuses, honours war criminals. As for the public mood, it veers from cowardice to viciousness:

‘It’s the people that disturb me. Not all of them. There’s very little civilian courage. People are scared to speak up… I have been threatened that if I return to Hungary, they will cut off both of my hands. I don’t want to risk physical and mental assault.’

Read the full, unsettling interview here.



  • GJF says:

    If these threats against one of her most noble sons are true, however anonymous, noble Hungary has taken a distressing turn. How sad not to feel welcome in one’s own homeland.

    I would think that many countries would make Andras Schiff most welcome if he chose to resettle. But how sad not to fell welcome at home.

    • Orgpheus says:

      Andras Schiff should take a long hard look at himself and his utterances and check his facts before he opens his mouth publicly. Hungary is a democratic member of the European Union, none of her current acts are on the Brussels agenda, nor on international news. Besides, he should well be aware that Eastern Europe’s largest Jewish community lives in Hungary to this day, without any serious intention (other than some ephemeral media moment) to leave this country and resettle anytime soon. Check your facts, Mr Schiff and Mr Lebrecht!

      • tommo2 says:

        If things were ok in Hungary, why would Mr Schiff receive threats of physical violence there?

        Where would the Hungarian Jews run to if they came under pressure? All of Europe is uniting under the anti-Semitic influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and nowhere are Jews free from some form of persecution. European countries particularly singled out for a rise in anti-Semitism in the Jewish press are Greece and Hungary. It looks as though Orgpheus has some homework to do.

        • Orgpheus says:

          Let me reverse the question: why should we credit András Schiff with a hundred percent confidence that his claims and fears are valid? After all, describing him as the greatest musician from Hungary since Bartók and Kodály, may also be regarded as relative, biased or subjective, in the least: what about Sir Georg Solti, Georges Cziffra, Antal Doráti, Eugene Ormándy, or Tamás Vásáry? Or the ones who did not migrate, Zoltán Kocsis? Dezső Ránki? One shall not take away Mr Schiff’s legacy for sure, but at least, these latter gentlemen proved outstanding musicians in their own right – without soiling their own nest, for lack of any more appropriate expression!

          Let me repeat: Central and Eastern Europe’s largest Jewish community DOES reside in Hungary to this day – and growing. Outside Israel, the world’s second largest synagogue after New York (Dohány utca, Budapest) – in excellent condition, restored to its former glory before the Catholic Basilica! – is also in Hungary. Opposite this building, a plaque commemorates the saving of the Budapest Ghetto (200,000 Jews) – led by Colonel Ferenc Koszorús, on order of Governor Horthy. Again, check your facts (but don’t ask Schiff, his credibility is somewhat spurious in this regard…). If the Nuremberg Court did not proclaim Horthy as a war criminal, who is András Schiff to state otherwise, one may ask?

          The Jewish World Congress also held its conference in Budapest earlier this year. If the Muslim Brotherhood had any – I repeat, ANY – influence in Hungary, do you think this would have happened?

          First for your homework – please check where Hungary is on the map.

          Last, but not least – I strongly recommend that you give preference to facts over some delusional individual (unless he is payed for such delusional propaganda, that is) who apparently suffers from persecution syndrome and it is very likely that because of his offensive remarks, the Hungarian Jewish community with a backbone would welcome him back in Hungary, either.

          Hate is a bad counsellor.

  • Orgpheus says:

    *Correction, please: ‘very unlikely’ instead of ‘very likely’

  • m2n2 says:

    According to my friends who live in Hungary, the antisemitic situation there is very bad and getting worse. They have no reason to lie to me about things like that, and from what I know of Andras Schiff (with whom I am actually acquainted personally) he is not a person who would be inventing the story that he is telling.

  • Orgpheus says:

    Well, on the other hand, I have friends both in Hungary and abroad who rather notice some vilification of Hungary and Hungarians in general in this regard – when even religious Jewish leaders admit that even if anti-Semitism exists, it is certainly not at such a crucial or critical level as say, in other European countries such as France, where Molotov cocktails have been thrown at synagogues. Will Mr Schiff vow to boycott France as well in his upcoming appearances? Or will he preserve this award exclusively for his native country? All this while latest researches show that instead, Christianity has been the most persecuted religion worldwide. I sincerely trust that Mr Schiff would, both as an artist and philantropist, equally raise his voice against anti-Christian atrocities and call that threats and persecution against Christians should cease.

  • m2n2 says:

    Apparently, Andras Schiff never received threats from France. Or from anywhere else. But he did from one country only – Hungary. He knows that such threats are consistent with the situation there and are therefore credible. And I know that what he says is consistent with what my friends who live there have been reporting for the last couple of years.