When Donald Trump’s deputy assistant, Sebastian Gorka, wore his medals, a group with links to Nazi Germany told NBC it was “proud.”
Gorka attended the president’s January 20 Inaugural Ball while wearing the honorary medal of the Hungarian nationalist organization Vitezi Rend.
"When he appeared on U.S. television ... with the medal of the Vitez Order ... it made me really proud," Vitezi Rend spokesman Andras Horvath said in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
Three people said that Gorka was a member of Vitezi Rend in Hungary, but he denies the claim.
Jewish groups are outraged at Gorka’s decision to wear the medal. Andras Heisler, the Hungarian vice-president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress said that wearing the medal “isn’t a good message for a democratic society.”
Heisler continued to say that Vitezi Rend was "likely complicit in murder of some of the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews toward the end of World War II."
During WWII, the State Department listed Vitezi Rend as a group of “organizations under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany.” And Horthy, its founder, once said that "I have always been an anti-Semite throughout my life," according to "The Jews of Hungary," a 1995 book by Hungarian-Jewish historian Raphael Patai.
Vitezi Rend was outlawed by the Soviet-allied communist government when they took control after the war.
Vitez John Molar-Gazso, the captain of a modern-day faction of the group, said Vitezi Rend is only "a politically independent organization with Christian-conservative values that keeps its military traditions. It has never been radical or a fascist group. Its members have always defended the nation's interests and fought for the Hungarian communities."
In a statement, Gorka explained that he wore the medal to honor his father, Paul Gorka, who was awarded the medal "for his fight against communism during Hungary’s period of communist rule." He uses a similar explanation to explain his occasional usage of the initial “v.” in his name, which is a mark used by Vitezi Rend.
"I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend," Gorka said. "Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father's medal and used the 'v.' initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism."
Several prominent locals in Hungary, the homeland of Gorka’s parents where he spent much time, asserted that Gorka was a member of Vitezi Rend.