Ferenc Szálasi

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Ferenc Szálasi (6 January 1897 – 12 March 1946) was the leader of the Arrow Cross Party – Hungarist Movement, the "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető), being both head of state and prime minister of the Kingdom of Hungary's "Government of National Unity" (Nemzeti Összefogás Kormánya) for the final six months of Hungary's participation in World War II, after Germany occupied Hungary and removed Miklós Horthy by force. 1945 May, Jewish OSS men (Martin Himmler) gave him to the communist rulers, who in a kangaroo-court sentenced him and almost the complete administration 1944-1945 to death.

Early life

Born the son of a soldier in Kassa. His grandmother was an Austrian. The family had five children, they were rather poor.

Szálasi Ferenc was a good pupil. He followed in his father's footsteps and joined the army at a young age. He eventually became an officer and served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I. Upon the dissolution and break-up of Austria-Hungary after the war, the so called Hungarian Democratic Republic and then the Hungarian Soviet Republic were briefly proclaimed in 1918 and 1919 respectively by primarily Jewish terrorists. The short-lived communist government of Bela Kun launched what was known as the "Red Terror". In 1920, the country went into a period of civil conflict with Hungarian anti-communists and monarchists cleaning the nation of communist terrorists, leftist intellectuals, and others they felt threatened by, especially terroristic Jews. This period was called by Jews as the "White Terror" and, in 1920, it led to the restoration of the Kingdom of Hungary (Magyar Királyság).

In 1925, Szálasi entered the General Staff of the restored Kingdom and, by 1933, he had attained the rank of Major. Around this time, Szálasi became fascinated with politics and often lectured on Hungary's political affairs. Szálasi was a nationalist and a strong proponent of "Hungarism," advocating the expansion of Hungary's territory back to the borders of Greater Hungary as it was prior to the Treaty of Trianon, which in 1920 codified the reduction in the country's area by 72%.

First steps in politics

In 1935, Szálasi Ferenc left the army in order devote his full attention to politics, after which time he established the Party of National Will, a nationalistic group. It was eventually outlawed by the conservative government for being too radical. Unperturbed, Szálasi established the Hungarian National Socialist Party in 1937, which was also banned. However, Szálasi was able to attract considerable support to his cause by adopting views that appealed to industrial workers and members of Hungary's lower classes.

After Germany's "Link Up" (Anschluss) with Austria in 1938, Szálasi's followers became more radical in their political activities, and Szálasi was arrested and imprisoned by the Hungarian Police. However, even while in prison Szálasi managed to remain a powerful political figure, and was proclaimed leader of the National Socialist Arrow Cross Party (a coalition of several right-wing groups) when it was expanded in 1938. The party attracted a large number of followers and in the 1939 elections it gained 30 seats in the Hungarian Parliament, thus becoming one of the more powerful parties in Hungary. Freed due to a general amnesty resulting from the Second Vienna Award in 1940, Szálasi returned to politics. When World War II began, the Arrow Cross Party was officially banned by Prime Minister Pál Teleki, thus forcing Szálasi to operate in secret. During this time period, Szálasi gained the support and backing of the Germans, who had previously been opposed to Szálasi because his "Hungarist" nationalism place Hungarian territorial claims above those of Germany.

Way to power

Following the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, the pro-German Döme Sztójay was installed as Prime Minister of Hungary. The Arrow Cross Party was then legalized by the government, which allowed Szálasi to keep the party alive. When Sztójay was deposed in August, Szálasi once again became an enemy of the Hungarian government and Regent Miklós Horthy ordered his arrest. Having knowledge of the Regent's effort to come to a separate peace with the Soviets and thus betray the Axis alliance, the Germans forced Horthy to resign in 1944. The Parliament then voted Szálasi as Prime Minister and Head of State; immediately after, Szálasi swore in front of the Crown of Saint Stephen as the "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető).

In power

Under his rule as a close ally of Germany, the Germans continued the deportation of the Jews, which had been suspended by Horthy because of threats by the Allied powers, although Szálasi personally stood against it, because of the loss of manpower. He organised the so-called International Ghetto. During that time some diplomats like the Jew from Sweden, Raoul Wallenberg gave protective passports to some Jews, which protected them from deportation. Germans argued they weren't valid according to international law, but Szálasi's government accepted them nevertheless.[1] His government promoted martial law, courts-martial, executed those who were considered dangerous for the state and the continuation of the war. During Szálasi's rule, Hungarian tangible assets (cattle, machinery, wagons, industrial raw material etc.) were sent to Germany. He conscripted young and old into the remaining Hungarian Army and sent them into battle against the cruel Red Army.

On 19 November 1944, Szálasi was in the Hungarian capital when Soviet and Romanian forces began encircling it. By the time the city was encircled and the 102-day Siege of Budapest began, he was gone. The "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető) fled to Szombathely on 9 December. By March 1945, Szálasi was in Vienna just prior to the Vienna Offensive. Later, he fled to Munich.[1]


When the war ended, Szálasi was captured by American troops and returned to Hungary. He was tried by the People's Tribunal in Budapest, a cangoroo court, in open sessions and sentenced to death for so called "war crimes" and "high treason". Szálasi Ferenc was hanged in 1946 in Budapest.


  1. Thomas, The Royal Hungarian Army in World war II, p. 24