Biographies and Ideas in European Social Medicine between the World Wars
Beta Johan (1889-1983) and Public Health in Inter-war Hungary (Erik lngebrigtsen)
45 Beta Johan (1 889-1983) and Public Health in Inter-war Hungary Erik lngebrigtsen A noisy event taking place in an otherwise quiet Budapest street on 23 June 2006, put - at least temporarily - the end to a lasting controversy regarding in ter-war Hungary's most influential public health administrator. With a pneu matic drill, workers effectively demolished the stone base that since 1 989 had held the bust of Bela Johan ( 1 889- 1983) outside the institute he led in the inter war years. 1 A number of decisions during the preceding months led up to this symbolic act: in February 2006 the Hungarian Parliament revoked a decision from April 2003 of naming a ten-year program for health-improvement after Johan. In the following month the Minister of Health announced that the Na tional Epidemiological Centre also would cease to carry Johan' s name. Opposi tion to the symbolic use of Johan as public health-icon was mainly based on his actions and inaction during the Second World War. Critics have argued that as state secretary in the Ministry of Interior until October 1 944, Johan shared re sponsibil ity for the deportation and murder of several hundred thousand Hungar ian Jews during May and June 1 944. The Hungarian Holocaust was imple mented under the direction of representatives from the Ministry in which Johan held a leading post. This crucial information was omitted from a biographical sketch presented to Parliament along with the proposal to dedicate the ten-year public health program...
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