A leading member of a Hungarian anti-Semitic party, notorious for his provocative comments about Jews has discovered that he is a Jew himself.
Ultra nationalist Csanad Szegedi of the far-right Jobbik Party had accused Jews of ‘buying up’ the country, railed about the ‘Jewishness’ of the political elite and claimed Jews were desecrating national symbols.
That was until it was revealed that his grandmother was a survivor of Auschwitz death camp and his grandfather was a forced labour camp veteran.
After weeks of internet rumours, Szegedi acknowledged in June that his grandparents on his mother's side were Jews, making him one too under Jewish law even though he does not practice the faith.
Since then, the 30-year-old has been politically exiled from Jobbik with his political career on the brink of collapse.
Under pressure, Szegedi resigned last month from all party positions and gave up his Jobbik membership and last week the party asked him to give up his seat in the European Parliament as well. Jobbik says its issue is the suspected bribery, not his Jewish roots.
At the root of the drama is an audio tape of a 2010 meeting between Szegedi and a convicted felon which he acknowledges took place but contends that the tape was altered in unspecified ways. The Jobbik Party considers it real.
In the recording, felon Zoltan Ambrus is heard confronting Szegedi with evidence of his Jewish roots, telling him he has documents to prove Szegedi’s heritage. Szegedi sounds surprised, then offers money and favours in exchange for keeping quiet.
Szegedi came to prominence in 2007 as a founding member of the Hungarian Guard, a group whose black uniforms and striped flags recalled the Arrow Cross, a pro-Nazi party which briefly governed Hungary at the end of World War Two and killed thousands of Jews.
The group was banned by the courts in 2009 but by then, Szegedi had already joined the Jobbik Party, which was launched in 2003 to become the country's biggest far-right political force.
He soon became one of its most vocal and visible members, and a pillar of the party leadership.
Since 2009, he has served in the European Parliament in Brussels as one of the party's three EU lawmakers, a position he says he wants to keep.
The fallout of Szegedi's ancestry saga has also extended to his business interests with Jobbik executive director Gabor Szabo pulling out of an internet site selling nationalist Hungarian merchandise that he owns with Szegedi. Szabo said his sister has resigned as Szegedi's personal assistant.
Ambrus, who served time in prison on a weapons and explosives conviction, apparently rejected Szegedi’s bribes. He said he secretly taped the conversation as part of an internal Jobbik power struggle aimed at ousting Szegedi from a local party leadership post.
The party's reaction was swift.
Jobbik president Gabor Vona said: ‘We have no alternative but to ask him to return his EU mandate.
‘Jobbik does not investigate the heritage of its members or leadership, but instead takes into consideration what they have done for the nation.’
Szegedi, who was raised Presbyterian, acknowledged his Jewish origins in various media interviews with Hungarian media in June.
The Holocaust was a taboo subject during Hungary's decades of communist rule that ended in 1990 and many survivors chose to keep their ordeals to themselves.
In all, 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, most sent in trains to death camps such as Auschwitz.
After discovering he was Jewish, Szegedi met with Rabbi Slomo Koves, of Hungary's Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch community in early August, whose own parents were in their teens when they discovered they were Jewish.
Koves said: ‘As a rabbi ... it is my duty to receive every person who is in a situation of crisis and especially a Jew who has just now faced his heritage.’
During the meeting, Szegedi apologised for any statements which may have offended the Jewish community and vowed to visit Auschwitz to pay his respects.
Koves described the conversation as ‘difficult and spiritually stressful’, but said he is hopeful for a successful outcome.
He said: ‘Csanad Szegedi is in the middle of a difficult process of reparation, self-knowledge, re-evaluation and learning, which according to our hopes and interests, should conclude in a positive manner.
‘Whether this will occur or not is first and foremost up to him.’
Szegedi said that after the meeting with Ambrus he had a long conversation with his grandmother who spoke about her family's past as Orthodox Jews.
He told Hir TV: ‘It was then that it dawned on me that my grandmother really is Jewish.
‘I asked her how the deportations happened. She was in Auschwitz and Dachau and she was the only survivor in the extended family.’
He denied ever making anti-Semitic statements but several of his speeches and media appearances suggest otherwise.
Judaism is traced from mother to child, meaning that under Jewish law Szegedi is Jewish but he said he defines himself as someone with ‘ancestry of Jewish origin - because I declare myself 100 percent Hungarian’.
In a November 2010 interview on Hungarian state television, Szegedi blamed the large-scale privatisation of state assets after the end of communism on ‘people in the Hungarian political elite who shielded themselves in their Jewishness’.
Speaking on a morning program in late 2010, he said that ‘the problem the radical right has with the Jews’ was that Jewish artists, actors and intellectuals had desecrated Hungary's national symbols like the Holy Crown of St. Stephen, the country's first Christian king.
Szegedi also complained of ‘massive real estate purchases being done in Hungary, where - it's no secret - they want to bring in Israeli residents’.
Szegedi declined to be interviewed for the story.
I mean, what else is there to really say? But damn, all I can think is that life imitates art: