*** World War II -- Hungary

World War II Country Trends: Hungary

Figure 1.--Hungary was one of the NAZI's Axis allies. This World War II era photograph is unidentified. We think it is Admiral Horthy or other Hungarian official making a visit to the Reich. What we do not understand is why such an important official is being recieved by Hitler Youth boys. Unfortunately the photograph is undatedm but we would guess was taken about 1943. We are not sure where the photograph was taken. We assume it was in Germany. Hopefully our European readers will recognize the buildings. By 1943, Admiral Horthy with an entire Army destroyed on the Don was trying to figure out how to disengage from his NAZI ally and exit the War.

German diplomacy during the 1930s sought to bring former World War I ally Hungary within the NAZI orbit. The NAZIs used financial enducements as well as the growing strength of Fascist elements in the country. Hungary also had territorial claims on neighboring countries which it hoped to avhieve through cooperation with the NAZIs. Hungary which had fought with Germany (as Austro-Hungary) in World War I, joined the Axis (November 20, 1940). Hitler rewarded the Hungarians with a substantial slice of Romania at the Vienna conference (November ? 1940). The Hungarians cooperated in the NAZI invasion of Yugoslavia (April 1941). Admiral ordered Hungarian military units to occupy territory claimed by Hungary in Yugoslavia. These areas had ethnic Hungarian populations. Hungary subsequently annexed a part of Vojvodina. German successes in the early phases of World War II convinced many in Europe that the NAZIs would prevail in the War. This strengthened the position of right-wing Fascist elements in the country. Admiral Horthy named right-wing politician Laszlo Bardossy to succeed Teleki as primeminister. Bardossy as a NAZI ally led Hungary into World War II. Hungary played a modest role in Basrbarossa (1941), but after the Soviet Winter ofensive (December 1941), the NAZI compelled Hungary to mobilize additional forces in the German Summer offensice (1942). The Soviets devestated the Hungarian Second Army as part of its Stalingrad offensive. Hungary subsequently withdrew its army rom the Eastern Front (April 1943). Hitler fearing that Hungary was preparing to sign a separate peace occupied the country (March 1944). When the Red Army arrived (September 1944), Hungary became an intense battlefield. Hitler rushed in reserves, but in doing so depleted the forces needed to defend Berlin.

Post-World War I Hungary

Hungary declared independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World war I (1918). Hungary was left oin chaos. A series ineffectual Governments were unable to restore order. A Communist named Bela Kun proclaimed a Soviet Hungarian Republic. This was followed by the "Red Terror". Vice-Admiral Miklos Horthy, the last Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, managed to organize a resistance which overthrew the Communist Republic. The country as a sucessor state of the Empire was forced to sign the Trianon Peace Treaty (1920). The Treaty asigned sizeable chunks of territory to Allied nations Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Serbia/Yugoslavia. Even those much of the territory involved had non-Hungarian majorities, Hungarian nationalists felt agrived. The Treaty also mandated that the size of the standing army; 35,000 officers and men divided into 7 mixed brigades*, headquarter troops and a Danube Naval Flotilla. Under the provisions of this Treaty, tanks, artillery and an air force were also prohibited. This also angered Hungarian nationalists. Admiral Horthy acted to prevent Emperor the former Austro-Hingarian Emperor Karl from seizing power.

Relations with Italy

Admiral Horthy oversaw a diplomacy which would find allies that would support efforts to regain the perceived lost territory. Both Britain and France supported Czechoslovalia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Mussolini's Italy which had claims to Yugoslav territory was more amensble. This would be Hungary's first step toward joining the fiture Axis alliance.

Relations with Germany

German diplomacy during the 1930s sought to bring former World War I ally Hungary within the NAZI orbit. Many right-wing Hungarians were impressed by the NAZIs, both their nationalist ideology and anti-Semitism. The fact that both countries had been allies in World war I and lodt territory in the peace settlement provided joint grevances and a desire to recover the lost territories. This shared desire to revise the peace settlements was acmajor source of afinity with Germany. The NAZIs used financial enducements as well as the growing strength of Fascist elements in the country. Prime Minister Gyula Gombos signed a trade agreement with Germany (193?). The Hungarian economy benefitted from the agreement. Horty permited a substantial degree of political pluralism. Both right-wing and left-wing groups were allowed to operate. Groups began to organize thatvwere sympathetic to the NAZIs.

Nuclear Physics

Hungary played a role in the World War II race for the atomic bomb. Several Hyngarian pyicists, many of them Jews, studied and worked in Germany. With the rise of Hitler and the NAZIs, they had to leave Germany and saw wht was hppening there. Most tried to mograte and had the contacts and money to do so. At the same time, despite sprnding enormous sums on the military and arms, Hitler wanted nothing to do with nuclear physics which he called Jewish physics. Famed phyocist Max Plank met with Hitler shortly after the NAZIs seized power and explained that he was essentialy disarming Germany in physics. ). He told Hitler during the meeting that forcing Jewish scientists to emigrate would 'mutilate' Germany. And the benefits of their work would go to foreign countries not necessarily favorably disposed towad Germany. What followed shocked Planck. Hitler was obstinate and refused to accept any of Planck's points. Towards the end of the meeting Adolf started to fidget around and mumbled 'You know what people say about me? They say I suffer from weak nerves.' Hitler then started shouting, 'Slander!' Hitler finally launched into one of his trade-mark rants against Jews and the Jewish menace. , "Our national policies will not be revoked or modified. Even for scientists. If the dismissal of Jewish scientists means the annihilation of contemporary German science, then we shall do without science for a few years!" One of the Hungarian pysicists was Leó Szilárd (1898-1964). Szilárd conceived of the nuclear chain reaction (1933). He had fled from Germany to England and from nglnd accepted a position at Columbia University in America. It was Szilárd that wrote the Albert Einstein letter sent to President Roosevelt that launched the Manhatan Poject. And it was Szilárd along with Enrico Fermi that built the first nuclear reactor wjich they called a pile in of all places in the middle of the city of Chicago (1942).

Territiorial Claims

Hungary had territorial claims on neighboring countries. The World War I peace settlement had awarded areas Hungaeians thoughtv rightfully belonged to them. Here the claim was historic dynastic claims and not the ethnicity of the population which was largely not Hungarian. The Hungarians wanted the areas of reigboring states awarded to Romania and Serbia/Yugoslavia) that had fought with the Allies as well as the nely created state of Czechoslovakia. This included areas with some ethnic Hungarian populations. Some Hungarians hoped to obtain these areas through cooperation with the NAZIS. Others advovated war to seze the areas by force.

Vienna Awards (1938-40)

Germany after the Munich Conference and the desmemberment of Czechoslovakia was essentially the dominant power in Eastern Europe. The area included several small countruies territorial disputes. Some were countries that had fought with Germany in World War I and lost territory (Hungary and Bulgaria). Others had fought with the Allies and gained territory (Romania and Serbia/Yugoslavia). Territoorial disputes had sparked a series of Balkan wars earlier. Now Hitler wanted to pacify the region so it did not interfere with his plans for war. Here a key consideration was the security of the Ploesti oil fields which Germany needed to be able to wage war. A war in the Balkans could complicate German war preparations. The Vienna Awards are two arbitral awards designed to pacify Hungary and bring it firmly into the NAZI orbit. Officially the arbitration was conducted by Germany and Italy. As far as I know, Italian participation was, as at Munich, lsargely window dressing. The real decesion was made by Hitler. Describing the awards as an arbitration is a misnomber. Arbitration involves referring negotiations beteen parties. There was no negotiating between the parties. The countries involved were simply informed of what had been decided. (An alternative term for these awards is the Vienna Diktat.) There were two such awards. The First Vienna Award affected Czechoslovakia. It was made only a few weeks after the Muich Conference. NAZI Germany and Italy compelled Czechoslovakia to turn over southern Slovakia and southern Subcarpathia (now part of Ukraine) to Hungary (November 2, 1938). Czechoslovakia after Munich was no longer capable of resisting. The Second Vienna Award affected Romania. NAZI Germany and Italy compelled Romania to cede half of Transylvania (Northern Transylvania) to Hungary (August 30, 1940). Hitler was not particularly interested in Transylvania. The principal objective here was to firmly draw Hungay into the German orbit. This decession reversed the principaal terruitorial provisioj of the Treaty of Trianon. Transyvania like many areas of southern Europe was multi-ethnic. The award set in motion massive movement of popultions.

Labor Brigades

Hungary introduced forced labor service--Act II "on national defence" (March 1939). The Hungarian Government did not want to admit groups seen as potentialy disloyal (Communists, ethnic minorities, Roma, and particularly Jews) into the Army, but they did not want these groups to evade national service. The largest numbers were Jews. 【Braham】 This law accompanied the First and Second Anti-Jewish Laws. The Ministry of Defense nine labor service battalions were organised (each consisting of four companies, thus a total of 7,500 recruits) (July 1939). As Hungary moved closer to the NAZIs and then joined the War, conscription for the the labor brigades increasingly focused on the Jews. And Jews in the Army were transderred to the labor brigades. Officers were stripped of their ranks. Call-ups in some cases were aimed at specific persons. Noted Jewish intellectuals and businessmen were conscrioted, often regardless of age. A substantial portion of these brigades were attached to the Hungarian Second Army deployed in Soviet Union as part of the German summer offensive (1942). About 35,000-40,000 men were involved. The Second Army was not caught in the Stalingrad pocket, but later destroyed on the Don. The Soviets treated the the labor brigade members like regular Hungarian soldiers. For Red Army soldiers any German ally was just a German ally had he been conscripted into the army willingly or unwillingly. The Red Army had its own troops of soldiers armed just with shovels - combat engineering troops, where often only sergeants and officers had firearms. So I suppose Red Army soldiers took those servicemen as a soldiers or maybe volunteers. Add here the fact that Red Army commanders often didnt know any language except Russian and maybe some German was a factor. Most were killed or captured and perished in the Gulag. About 7.000-8,000 are believed to have made it back to Hungary, both during and after the War. The labor brigades were also employed at the Bor copper mines in ocupied Yugoslavia. The Germans and Fascist groups killed Yugoslav Jews soon after the occupationm. They also considered Slavs as parisans. Thus the Germans asked Hungarian authorities to provide the labor needed to operate the mines. After some resistance, the Hungarians did so. Labor brigades began arriing (summer 1943). About 6,000 Hungarians, mostly Jews were eventuallydeployed to work the mines. This anounted to slave labor and eight slave labor camps were set up near Bor around the mine. The camps were Hungarian Army facilities under the command of Lieutenant Colonel András Balogh. The mines was supervised by armed members of the German Orgamization Todt. Conditions varied from camp to camp, but were reasonable, until Lieutenant Colonel Ede Marányi took overcommand of the camps (December 1943). A survivor reports, " under the command of whom our life turned unbearable. We were regularly tortured, beaten and trussed up ... Warrant Officer Pál stated several times: 'No Jews will return home from here'." As result of Red Army adcanceds, the Germans decided to ecacuate the Balans. The evauation began from the Bor Mines (September 1944). This was accomplished by Hungarian-speaking Swabian (ethnic Germans) and Bosnian SS troops. They proceeded to shoot many of the workers. Others were forced to march into the shtinking territory of the Reich where they were interned in various conentration camps where few survived. Along the way while still in Yugoslavia, some of the workers were resuced by partisans. 【Munk】

The Axis (November 1940)

Hitler with the Vienna Awards provided the Hungarians with a substantial slice of Czechoslovakia and Romania. This had been the principal goal of Hungarian diplmacy in the inter-War era. This placated long-simmering nationalist sentiment in Hungary. Hungary which had fought with Germany (as Austro-Hungary) in World War I, joined the Axis (November 20, 1940). Hungary was the first country to adhere to the Axis after the main partners (Germany, Italy, and Japan) formed it. With France defeated and Britain the only country still fighting the NAZIs, joining the AXIS seemed like a low-risk step. The Acis was, however, a fundamentally flawed alliance system. Any country joining the Axis was in essence surendering their siverignity to NAZI Germany. A NAZI dominated Europe would mean that the NAZIs could rule the continent by diktat. Hungary gained the territory it wanted, but in doing so was signing away its national soverignity.

Invasion of Yugoslavia (April 1941)

When the Yugoslaves rebelled against a traty with the NAZIs, Hitler asked the Hungarians to support his invasion of Yugoslavia. He promised to return some territory to Hungary in exchange for military cooperation. unable to prevent Hungary's participation in the war Primeminister Teleki committed suicide. The radical right-winger, László Bárdossy succeeded him as the new primeminister (April 3, 1941). Bárdossy was more than happy to make common cause with the NAZIs. The Hungarians cooperated in the NAZI invasion of Yugoslavia (April 1941). The Hungarians permitted German troops to transit their territory to incade Yugoslavia. The Luftwaffe conducted the terror bombing of Belgrade and the Pazers pourned into Yugoslavia from three sides. They quickly crushed Yugoslav military resistance. Admiral Horthy ordered the Hungarian Third Army to occupy territory claimed by Hungary in Yugoslavia. These areas had ethnic Hungarian populations. Hungary subsequently annexed a part of Vojvodina--Baranja, Bačka, Međimurje, and Prekmurje.. Britain the only country still resistingbthe NAZIs, broke off diplomatic relations, but stopped short of declaring war.

Hungary Enters the War (June 1941)

German successes in the early phases of World War II convinced many in Europe that the NAZIs would prevail in the War. This strengthened the position of right-wing Fascist elements in the country. Admiral Horthy named right-wing politician Laszlo Bardossy to succeed Teleki as primeminister. Bardossy like many Hungarians was convinced that Germany would emergee victorious from the War and dominate Europe. He thus sought to cooperate with the NAZIs as the only possible way of perserving Hungarian independence. Horthy did not initially participate in Operation Barbarossa--the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941). The Red Air Force bombed Košice (Kassa). Historians speculate that this may have been an attack vy the Luftwaffe desguised as a Red Air Force attack to create the casus belli drawing Hungary in the War, there is no string evidence. Hitler as this stage of the War was convinced that the Soviet Union would collapse in weeks and does not seemed to have preasured Horthy to prticipate. Hungary declared war against the Soviets (June 27). The small lightly armed and poorly Hungarian units played a relatively modest role in Barbarossa. Hitler seems content with the Hungarian serving occupation duties in the areas of Romania and Yugoslavia awarded to it. After Hitler declared war on America (December 1941), the Hungarians dutifully followed suit.

The Holocaust

The story of the Hungarian Jews is one of the most tragic in the sad history of the Holocaust because they almost survived. The Hungarian Governent, allied with the NAZIs, introduced anti-semitic measures (April 1939). The Government cancelled the benefits awarded the veterans and widows and orphans of Jewish World War I veteransho had fought in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Prohibitions were enacted on Jewish employment. They were barred from the civil service, newspapers, movies and theater. Nor could Jewish laborers participate in working associations. Liberals in Parliament attempted to descredit Prime Minister Bela Imredy. When it was found that he had Jewish ancestors, he resigned. The new Prime Minister Count Paul Teleki oversaw the enactment of these laws, but did not go further. Hungarian Jews were not forced into ghettos. The pro-NAZI Arrow Cross demanded futher measures, but were in a minotity in Parliament. Hungarian Jews despite the ecoonomic privations, until 1944 they were relatively untouched by the NAZI violence and there had been no transports to the death camps. The Hungarin Jews were the last to be killed at Auschwitz before it was demolished and evacuated as the Red army approached. SS commander Adolf Eichman went to Hungary in 1944 to personally oversee the liquidation of the Hungarian Jews. Eichmann supervised the collection and transport, rushing to accomplish his mission before the Germans were expelled by the Red Army. Despite the pressing war time needs. Priority was given to the transports of the Hungarian Jews to Auchwitz.

Anti-Comintern Pact (November 1941)

The Anti-Comintern Pact (ACP) in Hungry has a rather tortured history. The original ACP targeted the Communist International (Comitern) controlled by the Soviet Union. It was signed by NAZI Germany and the Empire of Japan (November 25, 1936). The signatories were NAZI ambassador-at-large Joachim von Ribbentrop and Japanese ambassador to Germany Kintomo Mushanokōji. Fascist Italy joined (1937), but for diplomatic reasons, Italy was legally recognized as an original signatory. Spain and Hungary joined with the understanding that it was an alliance against the Soviet Union. This is certainly how Stalin and other Soviet officials perceived the ACP. 【Bosworth and Maiolo】 It was in 1939 when it got complicated. The Japanese saw the ACP as an alliance against the Soviet Union. At the Time tghe Strike North Faction was the primary orientation of the Japanese military. Support for expanding north from recently acquired Manchuria was the highest priority in Japan. There was a secret protocol which the policy directed against the Soviet Union. The NAZI-Soviet Pact (August 1939) changed this. It shocked the Japanese, especially as they had just fought a major battle with the Soviets (July 1939). The Germans gave no warning to the Japanese. Suddenly the ACP took more of an anti-Western, specifically an anti-British orientation. 【Ciano】 Japan as a result distanced itself from the NAZIs. This was all followed by the September 1940 which identified the United States as the primary threat rather than the Soviet Union (September 1940). The Japanese were, however, unwilling to fully trust the Germans as a trust-worthy. The ACP after the NAZI invasion of the Soviet was renewed (November 1941 ). Several new smaller NAZI allies entered the Pact. The NAZIs used the ACP as a kind of 'litmus test of loyalty'. 【Goda】 The commitment of the Japanese had, however, been seriously eroded. And thus the Soviets unlike the NAZIs would not have a two-front war. Hungary was one of the 13 countries to sign the Anti-Comintern Pact (November 25, 1941).

Home Front

Hungary like other areas of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had difficulty adjusting to defeat in World War I and life as a small independent country. The Treaty of Trianon ending the War, a short-lived Communist state, and the Great Depression all affected post-war adjustments. Border adjustments and irredentist feelings became important resulting in a shifting political move toward the right. Regent Miklós Horthy appointed Gyula Gömbös prime-minister. Gömbös was associated with the Hungarian National Defense Association (Magyar Országos Véderő Egylet-- MOVE). Soon after the NAZIs seized power in Germany. Gömbös adopted a foreign policy of closer cooperation with Germany. He also pursued a policy of assimilate minorities. Gömbös negotiated a trade agreement with Germany (1934). 【Forndran】 This was part of a NAZI effort to bring central Europe within the NAZI orbit. Hungary benefited from the economic arrangements with Germany, especially recovering from the Depression. It also tied Hungary to the German economy. Germany became increasingly important as an export market. Germany also became the major source of raw material. Irredentist issues with Czechoslovakia and Romania also pushed Hungary into the German camp. As Europe spiraled toward war, Hungarian politicians had to assess what country was going to win the War. Gömbös saw a German dominated Europe. Pál Teleki, Hungary’s prime-minister at the onset was less sure. He preferred neutrality or at least a 'non-belligerent' role. With little enthusiasm, he joined the Axis (November 1940). He then negotiated a 'Treaty of Eternal Friendship' with Yugoslavia (December 1940). When the Yugoslavs revolted against a an alliance with Germany, Hitler pressured Hungary for help invading Yugoslavia. Teleki found himself cornered and having to choose. He collapsing under the pressure and shot himself (April 1941). Hungary thus found itself in the shooting war, but only at a limited level. As a result, the country was at first not greatly impacted by the War. And as a largely agricultural country, food was not a severe problem as was the case in many other European counties. Shortly after Teleki shot himself, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). The Hungarian Army did not participate significantly in Barbarossa. Hitler did not think that they were needed. As a result in 1941, Hungary remained largely untouched by the War. The Red Army after taking huge losses as a result of the Soviet Winter Counter Offensive before Moscow (December 1941). The Germans suffered huge losses in men and material. As a result, Hitler pressured Hungary to participate seriously in the 1942 offensive and at Stalingrad suffered massive losses (November 1942). Thus for the first time Hungarians began to feel the impact of the War.

German Manpower Needs (1942)

The Hungarian Army played a modest role in Operation Barbarossa (Junr 1941). The Soviet Winter Offense before Moscow resultef in massive losses of ,en and equioment (December 1941) ended the NAZI dream of a swift Blitzkrieg victory in Russia. The substantial German losses in Russia forced Hitler to seek additional manpower for the Eastern Front. Now he demanded a major Hungarian participation. NAZI Foreign Minister Von Ribentrop met with Hungarian officials in Budapest (January 1942). He insisted on a further mobilization of Hungarian forces to participate in a new summer offensive. The Hungarians promised further territorial awards in Transylvania as an enducement. Bardossy acceeded to the NAZI demands and one third of the Hungarian Army was committed to the upcoming German offensive.

Hungarian Dilema

The Soviet Winter Offensive was a shock to Admiral Horthy who had expected a NAZI victory. He began to have second thoughts about the War and lost confidence with Bardossy who was cmmitted to the NAZI alliance. Bardossy resigned (March 1942). Admiral Horthy appointed Miklos Kallay, a conservative and former member of the Bethlen government as prime minister. Kallay desired to withdraw from the War, but had few options. If he withdrew from the War and attempted to negotiate a separate peace, Hitler would undoubtedly occupy Hungary. The country's small, poorly armed army could not hope to resist the NAZIs. If he continued to support the Germans, Hungary would be dragged deeper into the war, meaning not only death and destruction but expanding influence of the Fascist Arrow Cross. Horthy and Kallay attempted duplicity. The Hungarians stopped the deportation of Jews. Hungarian agents secretly met with Allied (British and American) diplomats and promised not to target Allied aircraft (1941-42). The hope was to prevent Allied bombing raids.

Summer Offensive: Stalingrad (1942)

The Soviet Winter Offensive had so depleted the Wehrmact that forces were available only for one sector of the front. Hitler chose the south to seize the rest of the Ukraine and the vital Caucausian oil fields. The Hungarians committed their best equipped field army--the Second Army. While it was the best Hungarian unit. It was not equipped or well trained. Nor did most of the sldiers understand why they were being sent to fight deep in the Soviet Union. The Second Army was committed to Operation Blue in support of the German 6th Army. The Wehrmacht found Axis units (Hungarian, Italian, and Romanian) units of limited value in offensive operations. They were less well armed and not as motivated as German units. Thus these units were often used for occupation duties or in relatively quiet sections of the front. The Wehrmacht had to use the Axis units to fully man the huge Eastern front. German inteligence detected no serious oposition the north and south of Stalingrad. So as the 6th Army drove into the City, the relatively quiet flanks were covered by the Axis units. The Hungarians were north of Stalingrad. The Soviet Winter Offensive struck first at the AXis units to the north and south of Stalingrad. The Hungarians managed to escape encirclement. The Red Army, however, smashed The Second Hungarian Army near Voronezh, on the banks of the Don River. An estimated 40,000 Hungarians were killed and 70,000 men wounded--84 percent casualties.

Withdraw of the Hungarian Army (April 1943)

the Germann 6thb Army trapped at Stalingrad was the best equipped and strongest formation in the Ostheer. The decision to commitb it ton urban warfar was a huge mistake. Most of the Ostheer was poorly equipped unmotorized infantry. Germany's allies ((Hungary, Itlay, and Romania on thev flanks of Stalingrad weec even more poorly equipped lacking the armor and artillery needed for modern warfare explanning why the Rd army coukld smash through them. ike the Grans, very few of these me would ever return home. After the Stalingrad dissaster Kallay ordered what remained of the Second Army back to Hungary (April 1943). Only a small nominal force remained to fight with the Germans.

NAZI Occupation (March 1944)

Adminral Horthy with the Red Army advancing toward Hungary, attempted to reach an armistice with the Allies. A furious Adolf Hitler decided to occupy Hungary, exasperated with Hungarian duplicity. He concluded that this was the only way of precenting the Hungarians from withdrawing from the War and signinging a separate peace and to ensure that Hungary continued to support the war effort and the to get his hands on the surviving Hungarian Jews. Kallay eluded the Germans and took asylum in the Turkish embassy. Hitler engineered the appointment of Hungaian Fascist Dome Sztojay, as prime minister. The new government began arresting political opponents, banned labor unions, and resumed the deportation of Jews. The attempt to assasinate Hitler (July 1944) caused some confusion. Admiral Horthy replaced Sztojay with General Geza Lakatos and stopped the deportation of Jews from Budapest (August 1944). Budapest at the time had the only significan population of Hungarian Jews that had not yet been deported and murdered.

Red Army Enters Hungary (September 1944)

The Red Army driving east finally crossed the biorder into eastern Hungary (September 1944).

Armistice (October 15, 1944)

Admiral Horthy had led Hungary into the Axis and commited the Hungarian Army to the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union. Now the Red Army had reached Hungary. Horthy announced an armistice with the Soviet Union (October 15).

NAZI Coup (October 1944)

Unlike Romania, Hitler was determined to fight in Hungary to protect Germany' southern flank. Operation Panzerfaust (Unternehmen Panzerfaust) was the designatio for the German operations to keep Hungary in the war on Germany's side (October 1944). The inteventiom was launched after Hitler learned Admiral Horthy was secretly negotiating his country's surrender to the advancing Red Army. He ordered his favorite Waffen-SS commander, Otto Skorzeny, and former special forces commander Adrian von Fölkersam to Hungary with orders to keep Hungary in the War. Thus Hungary became a battlefield. Retreating German units destroyed the country's rail, road, and communications systems. Further damage was done by the advancing Red Army. The NAZIs in Budapest abducted the regent and compeled him to abrogate the armistice. The NAZIs still controlling Budapest deposed the Lakatos government and replaced it with Ferenc Szalasi--the leader of the Arrow Cross. Admiral Horthy was forced to resign. The fanatical Arrow Cross was determined to fight the Soviets and kill any Jews they could lay their hands on. Horthy had stopped the deportations (August 1944). This meant a number of Jews were left in the city. The loss of Poland and the collapsing transport system, meant the Jews could no longer be transported and the SS had had to close the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The Arrow Cross began killing Jews when and where they found them. The grisely methods employed makes for horrifying reading.

Budapest: Winter Seige (November 1944 - February 1945)

The Germans turned Budapest into a battlefield, but only by committing forces needed for the defense of Berlin. The city has been bombed earlier. Stalin preparing for Yalta where the occupation zones would be settled, ordere his overstreached forces to seize the city immeditely. The battle there raged for 7 weeks. The Arrow Cross murdered many of the surviving Jews. The Soviets succeeded in surrounding the city (December 1944). Hitler shocked his generals by bolstered the defense of Budapest with last-remaining SS armored reserves. He decided that te Soviets were not planning a major offensive on Berlin and thus decided that forces preparing to defend Berlin could be shifted south to Budapest, a decision brdering on insanity. The result was Operation Konrad, the German-Hungarian effort to relieve the encircled garrison of Budapest (January 1945). The operation consisted of three separate efforts, primarily conducted by IV SS Panzer Corps. Konrad I was launched by IV Panzer Korps from Tata (January 1, 1945). The Soviets halted it near Bicske. Konrad II again led by IV Panzer Korps began from Esztergom (January 7). It was halted near Pilisszentkereszt. The final effort to releave Budapest was Konrad III (January 17). Again it wasled by the now chewedup IV SS Panzer Corps supported by III Panzer Corps. They attacked south of Budapest near Székesfehérvár. They attempt to encircle ten Soviet divisions, but were halted south of Ercsi. Budapest finally fell (February 1945). Most of the German defenders were killed. The beautiful city on the Danube was devestated. Emense damage occurred, both from the fighting and by the Germans destoying the rail, road, and communications infrastructure as they were forced back by the Soviets. The German defense of Budapest seriously depleted the forces that had been held in reserve to defend Berlin. An estimated 80,000 Russians died in taking the city. 【Ungváry】 The Soviets, however, could afford such lossess. The Germans coud not. As a result, the German defense of Berlin would largely be conducted by Volksturm boys and older men. Further south, the Red Army advances were delayed. As a result, the Americans drove into Bavaria and western Austriawith light opposition.

Final Operations: Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen (March 1945)

The last surviving German and Hungarian units within Budapest surrendered (February 13). This largely defeated the German forces in Hungary. There were, however, some German units in western Hungary as well as die-hard Arrow Cross units. These units laubched the surprise Lake Balaton/Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen (Spring Awakeniung) Offensive (March 6). Hitler genius that he was sent some of thev last Panzers forces left to support the offensive. This meant that as the Red Army drive toward Berlin, Hitler moved the major units capable of defending the city south to western Hungary. Col. Gen. Gotthard Heinrici who Hitler would reluctantly turn to derfend Berlin was agast. He confronted Hitler who insisted that anyone who thought that any one who thought that the Red Army was preparing to attack Berlin was an 'idiot'. Frühlingserwachen would ptove to be the last German World War II offensdive of any size (March 6-15). The purpose was to secure the last oil field still supplying the collapsing NAZI war effort and to block the Red Army drive on Vienna. The major German force was 6th Panzer Army and its subordinate Waffen-SS divisions. Both had been ithdrawn from the failed Bulge offensive in ythe West. The over-wealming superior Red Army forces defeated the German offense in 2 weeks and had retaken lost ground (March 19). 【Dollinger, p. 182.】 The Soviets destroyed remanents of the Hungarian Third Army 50 km west of Budapest (March 16-25). The last operation in Hungary of consequences was a joint Soviet-Bulgarian Nagykanizsa–Kermend Offensive which destroyed other Hungarian remnahts and what was left of the 2nd Panzer Army (March 26-April 15). With this, the last Germans along with the Arrow Cross retreated out of Hungary into the collapsing Reich. Arrow Cross leader Szálasi escaped with the Germans, but it was short escape from justice. Szálasi would be captured by American troops and returned to Hungary to be tried by a People's Tribunl. The Soviets drove the remaining Germans from Hungary just as preparations were being finalized for the final assault on Berlin (April 4).


A few pro-German Hungarian units continued to fight within the Reich until the War ended. The most prominant was the Szent László Infantry Division in southern Austria. A Hungarian unit in Landsberg, Bavaria surrenders to the Americans. There was also a Hungarian unit in Denmark. The Germans in Berliin surrendered (May 2). Admiral Dönitz's last NAZI Government surrendered (May 7). This ended the War in Europe.

Peace Settlement

Hungary signed the Peace Treaty of Paris. This stripped Hungary of all the territories that it gained as a NAZI ally from Czechoslovakia. Romania, and Yugoslavia (1938-41). In addition, the Soviet Union annexed Subcarpathia. This former area of Hungary is now part of Ukraine.

Population Exchanges

Major population changes occurred during and after the War. The Gerrmans with varying degrees of Hungarian support destroyedmuch of tge country's Jewish population. The Hungarian Government expelled about two thirds of the ethnic German minority (202,000 people) was expelled (1946-48). Hungary and Czechoslovakis negotiated a forced exchange of population.

Post-War Hungary

Hungary under effective Soviet control formed a provisional government while fighting wa still raging in Budapest (December 22, 1944). It was based on a Provisional National Assembly which was composed of large numbers of Communist and the other "antifascist" parties. A cabinet was formed of both regozizable figuees from the old regime and many new figures. The first major action of this government was to conclude an armistice with the Soviet Union (January 20, 1945). Fightingvwas still going on, in part because much of it was being carried on by German units. Under the terms pf the armistice, an Allied Control Commission (ACC) was established with Soviet, American, and British representatives. Hungary was treated legally as a defeated Axis nation. The ACC theoretically held sovereignty over occupied Hungary. In reality the Soviets controlled the situatioin as there were no Allied military forces in Hungary. The ACC chairman, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, was very close to Stalin. Thus he in effect had virtually absolute control of the country. Hungary was affected by the War in a range of ways. Large numbers of Hungarians were killed or captured in the Soviet Union. As the War went against Germany, more of Hungary's economic output was devoted to the war effort, causing shortages and inflation. The German scorced earth retreat ad Soviet offensive devestated thgeccountry. Budapest was in ruins. There was little support for Communism in Hungary, Bela Kun's short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919) had turned most Hungarians against Communism. The following white terror had eliminated many Hungarian Communists. There were two small Hungarian Communist groups during World War II. Laszlo Rajk was a student communist leader who fought with the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Durungthe War he organized a communist cell which operated underground in the country. Matyas Rakosi led a Moscow-based Hungarian group. Rakosi returned to Hungary in the wake of the Red Army. His group became known as the "Muscovites". Rajk's organization also surfaced. Rakosi's close ties with the Soviets greatly strngthened his his influence within the Party. A rivalry developed between the two factions. As the Red Army moved steadily west through Hungary, Party membership swelled. Hungary formally abolished the Kingdom of Hungary and created the Second Republic (February 1, 1946). Post-war Hungary was eventually taken over by a Soviet-allied government and it became part of the Eastern Bloc. The People's Republic of Hungary was declared (1949). The Communists divided the large estates among the peasantry and nationalised industry and other means of production, following the Stalinist line of heavy industry and collectivised agriculture. Secret police terror, forced displays of loyalty and worsening living standards generated deepening resentment among the Hungarian people..


Bosworth, Richard J. B. and Joseph A. Maiolo, eds. (2015). >Politics and Ideology. The Cambridge History of the Second World War. Vol. 2. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Braham, Rudolph L. The Hungarian Labor Service System, 1939-45.

Ciano, Galeazzo. 1937–1938: Diario (Milan: Cappelli Editore, 1980).

Dollinger, Hans. The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Forndran, Erhard. Innen- und Außenpolitik unter nationalsozialistischer Bedrohung (Westdeutscher Verlag).

Goda, Norman J. W. "The diplomacy of the Axis, 1940–1945," The Cambridge History of the Second World War. (2015), pp. 276–300.

Munk, Tibor. Munk was one of the Jewish laborers. He posted his experiences on the internet, but we do not see a title.

Ungváry, Krisztián. The Siege of Budapest: 100 Days in World War II (Yale, 2005).


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Created: 12:16 AM 3/29/2005
Last updated: 2:17 AM 4/26/2024