|Republic of Hungary
His Latin: Cum Deo pro Patria et Libertate ("With the help of God for Homeland and Freedom") or Regnum Mariae Patronae Hungariae ("Kingdom of Mary, the Patron of Hungary")
|Anthem: Himnusz ("Isten, áldd meg a magyart")
"Hymn" or "Anthem" ("God, bless the Hungarians")
and largest city
|Ethnic groups||94% Hungarian,
2% Roma, 1% German, 3% others
|-||President||Pál Schmitt (Fidesz)|
|-||Prime Minister||Viktor Orbán (Fidesz)|
|-||Speaker of the National Assembly||László Kövér (Fidesz)|
|-||Foundation of Hungary||895|
|-||Recognized as Christian kingdom||1000|
|-||Current 3rd republic||23 October 1989|
|-||Total||93,030 km2 (109th)
35,919 sq mi
|-||2010 December estimate||9,986,000 (83rd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2009 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2009 estimate|
low · 3rd
|HDI (2010)|| 0.805
Error: Invalid HDI value · 36th
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|-||Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Drives on the||right|
|1.||Also .eu as part of the European Union.|
Hungary, officially in English the Republic of Hungary (Magyar Köztársaság, literally Magyar (Hungarian) Republic), is today a landlocked country in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Its capital is Budapest. In the 1900 census Hungary's population was 19,255,000. In 1930 the population was only 8,688,319. The population in 1990 was estimated to be 10,563,000. Hungary has been a member state of the European Union since May 1, 2004.
It has been continually in the news since 2015 opposing non-European immigration and 84% of its citizens have stated that opposing alien immigration does not make a person "racist". In 2015 Hungary began constructing a razor-wire border fence to keep aliens out. The following year, in September, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced that Hungary was planning a new and even “more massive” fence to prevent "refugees" from crossing its border on their way to western Europe.
This page deals with Hungary in the 20th century.
- 1 Before Trianon
- 2 Between the World Wars
- 3 World War II
- 4 Jewish affairs
- 5 Post-War
- 6 Climate
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Until 1919 the Hungarian Crown Lands including Hungary, Transylvania, Fiume and its territory, Croatia and Slavonia and also included Slovakia. This area covered 115,428 square miles. Until the end of 1918 Hungary was part of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary - (or Austro-Hungarian Empire), under its last popular Habsburg Emperor, Karl, who had been crowned King of Hungary in Budapest in 1916, following the death of Emperor Franz Josef. At this time Hungary was rich in agriculture and industries and stretched from Transylvania to the Adriatic Sea, where it had a coastline with major cities, towns, ports, and shipbuilding facilities.
Between the World Wars
In the chaos which followed the disintegration of the empire after November 1918, Communists, led by the Jewish revolutionary, Bela Kun, took power, proclaiming Hungary a Republic of Soviets on 21 March 1919. The usual terror and Bolshevik exterminations took place. Seen as a terrorist threat by the Kingdom of Romania, their army, supported by French units, immediately invaded Hungary from the east, while Admiral Horthy's still loyal Royal Hungarian Army advanced from the west. The communists and their "army" collapsed on 31 July and Bela Kun fled to Vienna, where he was arrested and interned, but was released to the Soviet Union in exchange for Austrian prisoners in Russia in July 1920.
Treaty of Trianon
Following The Great War, the victorious plutocratic Western Allies dismembered Hungary in the Treaty of Trianon in June 1920. The draft terms of the Treaty became known in Buda-Pest on 17 January 1920 with the result that the opera was closed, and the Government decreed three days of public mourning. All shops were closed. On the Sunday the entire city was hung with black flags. Four days later, the far-left socialist Austrian Government in Vienna, who had deposed their Emperor, and who were opposed to Admiral Horthy's Hungarian government, stopped the railway services into Hungary, arguing that they didn't have coal for the locomotives. The Danube was in flood and steamers could not reach Vienna, and a starvation scenario arrived: foodstuffs had fallen to their lowest levels ever, and people were being picked up in the streets in a state of collapse from hunger.
Two thirds of Hungary's territory and three quarters of its subjects were lost to newly created countries on former Hungarian territory. One example being Slovakia, which saw many Hungarians becoming aliens in these new states. Romania also became huge (105 000 km2) with the addition of Hungarian territory; leaving Hungary with a territory of just 93,031 km2 (35,919 square miles). Today's smaller Hungary therefore has four main parts: (1) east flatlands (2) northwestern flatlands (3) northern hills (4) some lands left of the Danube.
The Royal crisis
Following the absolute refusal of the Western Allies to permit the Habsburgs to resume their rule in Hungary, the Hungarian Parliament nominated the nobleman Miklós Horthy, the last Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, to be Royal Regent of the Kingdom, governing on behalf of the absent monarch. This was passed by Parliament on 1 March 1920, by 131 votes out of 141. Horthy remained in touch with his King and they regularly communicated. However early on 27 March 1921 Count Sigray, the Government Commissioner for Western Hungary, suddenly arrived at Horthy's residence during breakfast asking for an urgent audience. He disclosed that His Majesty King Karl was in Budapest and was awaiting Horthy in the Prime Minister’s residence. No-one had the slightest idea that His Majesty had left Switzerland. While Horthy was in conference with his monarch word soon got out and travelled fast. The final demarché was made collectively by the Allied Powers. Their representatives delivered a joint Note which referred to their Declaration of 2nd February 1920 forbidding the King's personal return and threatened military action. The King returned to Switzerland. On the 21 October however, it transpired that His Majesty and the Queen had again returned, by plane, the day before at Count Cziraky’s estate at Dénesfa. Again there was great excitement and news was telegraphed everywhere. The Jugoslav Government had been told of the King’s arrival by an agent stationed at Hertenstein. The other powers heard of his arrival at Dénesfa from their military missions at Sopron. The notes of protest of the Great Powers started arriving. Serbia called up three classes of reservists and Romania was preparing partial mobilisation. The Czech leader Edvard Beneš sent telegrams to the Czech legations saying the King’s presence was a casus belli. The British government announced that if the Hungarian Government was not in a position to 'keep order' energetic measures would be taken from abroad. The small British gunboat, HMS Glowworm, was sent up the Danube. British, French and Italian diplomats presented a new Diplomatic Note demanding unambiguously that the Hungarian government take the necessary measures to remove the King from its territory. Ministers of the Little Entente called upon Horthy to inform the King that their troops would cross the border should His Majesty remain. Meanwhile the King had boarded a special train bound for Budapest. Now under extreme pressure, Horthy and his Prime Minister reluctantly issued orders for the train to be halted, which it was, at Biatorbágy, not far from Budapest. Thwarted again, the King proceeded no further. The decision of the Allies was now handed to Horthy in a joint Note: The King was to leave Hungary immediately on board HMS Glowworm and upon arrival in the Black Sea would be transferred to the British warship HMS Cardif which would take them far away into exile, in Madeira (where he would soon die, on 22 April 1922, a desolate and broken young man).
Throughout the inter-war years Hungary lamented her plight and her territorial losses, and made at least plans on paper for recoveries. Admiral Horthy even went as far as writing to twenty-three heads of state in October 1932, on the possibilities of joining forces against the Soviet Union, which he described as "a dangerous purulent abscess on the body of mankind". In his letter he said that "for fifteen years Soviet Russia has been conducting a war of extermination", clear evidence that European leaders knew the full nature of Bolshevism. Meanwhile, the new Prime Minister Major-General Gyula Gömbös had just been appointed. One of his major goals was to align Hungary with Italy and Austria. Gömbös flew to Italy and visited Benito Mussolini, who gave Gömbös his support for the revision of the Treaty of Trianon. Mussolini also promised Gömbös Italy’s aid if Hungary went to war with Yugoslavia and Romania in an attempt to regain Hungary’s former territories from those countries. Gömbös also sought to form an alliance with Germany. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Gömbös became the first foreign head of government to visit him.
With the rise of Hitler, Horthy tried to convince Poland of the necessity of a pro-German policy, and on 18 October 1933 Gömbös went to Poland, with letters from Horthy, to try and promote this. On 13 May 1935 Hitler wrote to Horthy regarding German and Hungarian re-armament, the co-ordination of Foreign Policy of the two countries, and the planned visit (May 24th) of General Goering, in his capacity as Prime Minister of Prussia, to Hungary. In this letter Hitler spoke of "the scope of the struggle of our two nations for their emancipation [from the WW1 Treaties], and the revision of the injustices committed against them." In August 1936 Horthy composed a Memorandum for his discussions with Hitler on their co-ordination of the Foreign Policy of both Hungary and Germany, which was directed against the Little Entente and the Soviet Union. In February 1938 Horthy made a State Visit to Poland.
Hungary was the first state to send its congratulations on the Austrian-German Anschluss. On 14 March 1938 the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Kálmán Kánya, sent a Diplomatic Note to Berlin with his "best wishes that the Union of Austria and Germany has been brought about without bloodshed. We are entertaining best hopes for new neighbourly relations." On October 8th Horthy wrote to the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, asking for support for Hungarian territorial revisionist claims, following the Munich Settlement. Relations with Germany cooled when it became clear that Hungary was not going to recover what she had hoped for, notably Slovakia, where Germany had now guaranteed their autonomous self-government instead.
The Bled Agreement of 22 August 1938 revoked some of the restrictions placed on Hungary by the Treaty of Trianon. Representatives of Hungary and the Little Entente first met at Bled in Yugoslavia the previous day. On the 22nd they announced a joint renunciation of the use of force in their mutual relations, and the Little Entente recognised Hungary as having an equal right to armaments. This gave Hungary legal cover for the re-creation of their Air Force, and the increase of its army in manpower, guns and munitions.
The Hungarian cabinet council which met on October 13th felt that Hungary could not risk a war which could erupt on three fronts were they to move into disputed provinces at the present moment. Horthy never-the-less addressed Hitler again on Hungarian claims in Czecho-Slovakia very firmly , and Chamberlain wrote to Horthy on 0ctober 28 stating that "His Majesty's government recognise that Hungary has legitimate claims" but wanted them resolved peacefully. The end result of this frenetic activity was the First Vienna Award made on 2nd November 1938, whereby Slovakia lost territories with majority Hungarian populations in southern Slovakia, along with the southern Carpathian Ruthenia, south of the line (and inclusive of the towns of) Senec (Szenc), Galanta (Galánta), Vráble (Verebély), Levice (Léva), Lučenec (Losonc), Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszombat), Jelšava (Jolsva), Rožnava (Rozsnyó), Košice (Kassa), Michaľany (Szentmihályfalva), Veľké Kapušany (Nagykapos), Uzhhorod (Ungvár), and Mukachevo (Munkács) – to the border with Romania, about 10,390 km². During the discussions the Czech census of 1930 was dismissed as fraudulent, and the Hungarian Government insisted upon their 1910 census with its more accurate figures.
On January 13, 1939 the Hungarian government officially declared that they had joined the Anti-Comintern Pact. On the 19th, England's Viscount Rothermere wrote an adulatory letter to Admiral Horthy congratulating him on Hungary joining the Pact. When Germany formally annexed the remaining Czech rump of a now partitioned Czecho-Slovakia (the former Austrian Crown Lands of Bohemia and Moravia), on 15 March 1939, and Poland marched into two Czech provinces and annexed them, demonstrations by patriots erupted in Hungary over their government's inaction. Foreign Minister Száky made diplomatic attempts to recover the Carpatho-Ukraine with the aid of the Axis powers. With the abolition of Czechoslovakia complete, Hungary now occupied the Carpatho-Ukraine province, which action was supported politically by Poland, and Slovakia. The French ambassador in Berlin, M. Coulondre, reported to Paris: "the future will show what price Budapest and Warsaw will have to pay for this policy."
Hungary was a traditional patriarchal society with an aristocracy, landed gentry, and class system, much like, say, England. Some 27% of the country consisted of entailed or trust estates, or land owned by the Church, or property based upon feudal structures and rights. However, land reform measures had been passed by Parliament in 1920 (this was subsequently repealed) and 1936. Parliament again debated a Bill on further reforms on 17 January 1939. However the National Hungarian Agrarian Association surprisingly opposed the creation of small leaseholds.
The Hungarian Parliament was two-tier and had a House of (elected) Representatives and a House of Lords (or Magnates). Not unlike the British Parliament, the upper house could send back to the lower house all legislation for reconsideration, twice. In addition, the Regent could delay Bills by a year, or even overturn legislation by virtue of his veto. The latter rarely happened. The Regent also had the power to call and dissolve Parliaments. Suffrage rights in 1938 were as follows: men only could vote above 26 (regional) and 30 years (metropolitan), while womens' age limits stood uniformly at 30. 1937 saw the introduction of agricultural employees' obligatory old-age insurance. Civil servants worked 44 hours a week and for industrial workers 48 hours per a week.
Following the death from cancer of Gömbös, Kálmán Darányi was appointed Prime Minister on 12 October 1936. Darányi was often associated with the right-wing in Hungarian politics, and although not sympathetic to the Hungarian fascists he was equally opposed to The Left. Darányi and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kálmán Kánya, made attempts to strengthen contacts with the United Kingdom and France because of the cumulative pressure of Germany and Italy. However the western powers did not show receptivity to these endeavours. Co-operation between Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Poland was thus resumed. Darány moved against the Right in Hungary several times, but the first Member of Parliament who could be called a National Socialist was elected in a by-election on 4 April 1938; the government decided eventually to act.
Darány stood down as Prime Minister on 11 May 1938 (but continued his services as Speaker of the Lower House from 5 December 1938 to 1 November 1939). He was replaced by Dr. Béla Imrédy, a Roman Catholic former Minister of Finance and later President of the National Bank, who was on particularly good terms with the British and the Americans, and whom the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Montague Norman, had called "one of the ablest of European financiers". Imrédy's attempts to improve Hungary’s diplomatic relations with Britain initially made him very unpopular with Germany and Italy. Imrédy realized that he could not afford to alienate these two powers on a long term basis, however, and from the autumn of 1938 onward his foreign policy became increasingly pro-German and pro-Italian. Imrédy also worked to gain a power-base in Hungarian right-wing circles, founding the 'Movement of Hungarian Life'. He was quick to suppress any rivals in his quest for power, and influential Hungarian fascists such as Ferenc Szálasi were harassed by Imrédy's administration. Imrédy however drifted to the Right, even proposing that the government be reorganized along semi-totalitarian lines, and enacted legislation that restricted the freedom of the press, and carried on a vigorous anti-semitic drive. Inevitably the anti-Imrédy forces acted. In February 1939 Count István Bethlen informed Horthy that a Budapest newspaper was about to publish proofs that one of Imrédy's four great-grandfathers was a Jew. Imrédy was called to the Royal Palace on the 12th and shown the evidence, which meanwhile had been taken there. Aware of the scandal this would cause he appeared on the point of collapse and immediately resigned. He was replaced as Prime Minister on February 16th by Count Pál Telecki "one of the noblest and most outstanding personalities in Hungarian politics." On February 24th the government disbanded the Hungarian National Socialist Party - the Hungarist Movement - but agreed to the continuation of the Arrow Cross Movement.
A General Election was held in May 1939 which gave the Government party, known as the Hungarian Life Party, 183 out of 260 seats, 12 more than in the 1935 elections. For the first time, the Arrow-Cross Party (as it now was) gained 31 seats, and representatives of other smaller so-called National Socialist parties were also elected. Horthy disliked Ferenc Szálasi, the leader of the Arrow-Cross, who, he pointed out, "was of mixed Armenian, Slovak and German descent and had only one Magyar grandparent. Because of his political activities he had been dismissed from the army and was later sentenced by a court to several years imprisonment. It was he who introduced National Socialist propaganda into Hungary."
At a Cabinet Meeting on 18 March 1933 the question of eugenics and race preservation were discussed, led by Dr. Ferenc Tomosvary, who had produced a paper for consideration. Following this meeting Admiral Horthy wrote to Prime Minister Gömbös on the subject, in which letter he stated "in the struggle for life undoubtedly the stronger and more valuable races will be victorious." He urged some kind of consideration be given to persuading the professional and upper classes to have more children, adding that we must "fight the single-child system not just with words, but action......I consider the large-scale growth of the Magyar race important and desireable beyond expression." He added that he wanted huge improvements in health care.
World War II
On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland over German claims to territories taken from them in 1919 in the Versailles Treaty. This should have remained a localised regional dispute. However on 3 September Great Britain and France declared war on Germany, effectively widening the conflict into a world war. Although the conservative administration of Count Pál Teleki continued to seek their own territorial adjustments, Hungary was reluctant to accept the risks involved in a whole-hearted support of the German position. However when Germany requested passage for their troops etc., against Poland, Hungary tried to bargain the German request on the condition of a free hand against Romania which, they said, was occupying their Transylvanian provinces. Germany declined and Hungary refused transit. Count Ciano wrote "The Germans will not forget this refusal!" Horthy later wrote to Hitler on November 3rd on the overall scenario as he saw it. He said the quasi-Nazi Hungarian Arrow Cross Movement was disreputable and "under the leadership of contemptable individuals", and added minorities in Hungary had always been well-treated. With regard to the ever-present Soviet threat, Horthy pointed out that Lenin had said that "our army is being trained in the spirit of internationalism" to become "the army of world revolution" and, Horthy said, Germany was the only country which could prevent Russia "from eating up the world leaf by leaf, just like easting an artichoke." In July 1940 Horthy again wrote to Hitler pressing Hungary's claims in Transylvania following a memo from the Hungarian Ambassador in Berlin, Sztójay, that "Hungarian interests should be brought into harmony with German interests, and that in the matter of defence a strong Hungary with the Carpathians as her frontiers could constitute an advanced rampart toward the East even for Germany." Horthy said, in relation to the recovery of Transylvania, that "we are eager to take vengeance for many things" but "Romania has three times as many aircraft and tanks as us". Horthy said that the Romanians had announced that the river Tisz was the natural frontier of "Greater Romania" and they had "distributed 27,000 rifles amongst the Romanian population in Transylvania." He argued that Transylvania was "the only natural fortress in Europe, and it would be to the advantage of Germany if it were in trustworthy hands."It is clear that Horthy sought Germany's support here.
The Yugoslav-Hungarian Pact of Friendship was signed in Belgrade on December 12th, agreeing to confer on all such questions concerning the two countries mutual relations. (Horthy lated insisted that this did not mean Hungary had abandoned her revisionist claims.) However a coup d'état occurred on 27 March 1941 in Belgrade by pro-British factions, deposing the Regent, Prince Paul. (Horthy had warned Goering that the Serbs were completely untrustworthy.) This coup now changed matters considerably. The following day Hungary made territorial claims in Jugoslavia of former Hungarian lands, notably the Bachka and the Bánát, directly to the Germans, and Hitler replied that he recognised these claims "and for a revision to their full extent" and that "I know that your [Horthy's] heart draws His Highness also to the Adriatic, and that Hungary is in need of a free seaport......I suggest [therefore] that His Highness consider the execution of the appropriate military measures." The Hungarian military therefore started discussions and planning for military operations against Yugolsavia on March 28. Hungary was still a non-belligerant country at this point and the Hungarian Ambassador in London telegraphed Prime Minister Teleki on April 2nd saying that if Germany now attacks Yugoslavia and the latter puts up resistance then they will become Britain's allies "at once". He urged Teleki that Hungary should not get involved, or even permit German transit. He added if Hungary themselves joined in the invasion then Britain and her allies would declare war on Hungary. Teleki, who was an ardent patriot and revisionist and had directed these policies, now realised the dangerous position, and wrote to Horthy saying "I am guilty!". At midnight on April 3rd he blew his brains out. László Bárdossy succeeded him. In a letter to Mussolini on April 3 Horthy said Hungarian intervention in Yugoslavia was "a difficult moral decision for them to take in consequence of recent Pact of Friendship, which had burdened Teleki's conscience." Hitler, however, told Sztójay, in Berlin, on April 6th (the day the Germans invaded Yugoslavia), that the joint military action in Yugoslavia "was in the interests of the prestige of the Hungarian Kingdom", and that the recovery of the Banat and Bacha were "valuable stretches of country which when regained would substantially add to Hungary's economic resources." Hungary invaded their coveted province, the Bachka, in Yugoslavia on April 11th.
War with the Soviet Union
Given the string of successes Germany seemed to be having, in April 1941 Horthy again wrote to Hitler in mid-April (prior to his visit to Hitler on April 24th) saying that "red communism is the greatest jeopardy threatening us all. Its purpose is to annihilate civilisation and to force itself upon the world. In my opinion there will be no happiness, peace and tranquility until Soviet Russia ceases to exist." He added that there were 118 nationalities speaking 46 languages in Russia, and he felt that "if the fake Soviet Republics were all turned into independent states the problem would be solved. Germany could complete this most important work of mankind, for which history would bless her for centuries to come, in a few weeks. If the inexhaustible treasures of Russia's soil would be held by the Germans we could persevere in eternity." Horthy's opinion of the Allies was not high, and he said that "a landing England and America on the Continent is inconceivable." He advised containing Britain and was opposed to a "landing in England [which] is tied up with a thousand dangers." He continued to press for "our old frontiers back". Meanwhile the Hungarian Minister in Berlin, Sztójay, urged, on June 14th, a formal, official pledge of the Hungarian Government to participate in a war against the Soviet Union. He added that Hitler would return Transylvania to Hungary in its entirety by compensating Romania with all of Bessarabia and Moldavia. But Hungary must give something in return.
On 23 June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and requests were made almost immediately for Hungarian assistance, and, so, Hungary caved in. Within a short time 30,000 Hungarian soldiers were sent to the Soviet front. By autumn it seemed to the Hungarian Government that the German advance was irresistable. On December 11th Hungary joined with the Italian and German declarations of war against the United States, which they saw as a formality given that the USA was at war with their ally, Japan. However, with the stalemate outside Moscow at the end of 1941, the Germans announced they needed further Hungarian units. Following a visit to Budapest by the Foreign Minister of the Reich, von Ribbentrop, on January 6th 1942 an agreement was reached to send a further 150,000 troops to the eastern front. Horthy wrote to Hitler on the 10th: "naturally I am firmly convinced that this gigantic struggle will end with success, and that this struggle will perhaps bring the world peace for which mankind has been yearning for centuries. Today it is beyond doubt the greatest concern of the whole world is that Bolshevism be crushed." He then requested nevertheless that he wanted to bring home "our only armoured corps...which is now fairly battered, in order to restore it to fighting condition during the winter." Horthy then went on to discuss the situations in Slovakia and the Balkan countries, saying that "in Serbia there are still armed military forces in the service of the Anglo-Saxon-Bolshevist Alliance and they are assisted by the entire fanatical population including women and children. These fights have now spread into Hungarian territory and have demanded a heavy sacrifice." A former Aide-de-camp to the Emperor Franz Josef, and an Admiral of the Austro-Hungarian fleet, Horthy advised Hitler not to forget the Pan-Slavists, who had plagued the old Empire and could now pose a real threat to the Axis forces. He then said that whilst "today the fate of Europe depends on the victory of German Arms" Hungary had to bear in mind that the Western Allies could land in the Balkans or even in Turkey and that anti-Hungarian hatred, let alone anti-German feelings, in this region, would provide much assistance to them and that Hungary would find itself vulnerable. The exception, he said, was the Bulgarian government, which "has our unconditional confidence." But again, he (correctly) spoke of "this traditionally minded pro-Russian, partly communist-minded people could sweep away King and government" and join in a Pan-Slav movement should Russia be seen to be winning. In this amazingly long letter, more a Memorandum, Horthy spells out the plain truths about the entire war scenario and Hungary's position. He pointed out that when the whole world was against Germany in 1919, Hungary was her only true friend. Hungary would continue as her ally. But he felt that Hungarian troops were "poorly and insufficiently armed and inferior in the face of an enemy equipped with modern and powerful weapons" and that not even good morale could change this. He urged Hitler to bear this in mind and for the release of the Armoured units to be sent home to Hungary.
In his Memoirs Horthy wrote that "following the defeats at Stalingrad and in North Africa at the end of 1942 it became evident that German superiority was over. In Germany itself, and to a yet greater extent beyond its frontiers, the faith in a German victory vanished." Then in the Battle of Voronezh, which commenced on 22 January 1943, the 200,000 strong but ill-equipped Second Hungarian Army was almost wiped out, losing 147,000 men. On the 12 February 1943 the Hungarian Chief-of Staff, General Ferenc Szomathelyi, wrote a memorandum on the military situation, following his visit to General H.Q. in Germany. He commences with the sentence "unfortunately the participation of the Hungarian army on the Eastern front by the side of the Germans and their allies has not produced the success we had anticipated." He felt that amongst the many reasons for this was that "the Germans had failed to recognise the strength of the Soviets to their fullest extent." He adds “Hungary entered this war in the east for purely ideological reasons, only in pursuit of Hungarian interests and that in any case Hungary was never prepared for such a large-scale warfare outside her frontiers, nor was she in the course of her entire history ever engaged in a war of this type." He felt that Hungarian forces should have remained within the Carpathian basin, and had told Germany’s Field-Marshal Keitel that Hungary was unable to send further forces to the Russian front. He added that Hungary had no objection to its forces being used as occupation forces, but ideally it should re-group within Hungary’s borders. He correctly foresaw the treacherous defection of Romania from the Axis, and argued that when that happened Romania would change sides and attack Hungary. Horthy approved this report.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer reported that in 1941 the output of Hungarian oil wells amounted to 200,000 metric tons, of which the Germans alone took away about 80,000 tons; that by 1943 about 80-85 per cent of Hungarian industry was now working for the German war effort, and that there has not been a single act of sabotage in Hungary. In addition he said the presence of communists in Hungary was zero. The Kállay administration, while continuing to oppose the Soviet Union and still maintaining the alliance with Germany, now made covert attempts at establishing contacts with British and American circles. By March 1943 Hungarian governmental quarters made attempts via Turkey to contact the Western Allies, with a view to leaving the war altogether, and these were relayed to Churchill upon his arrival on 30 January 1943.
German demands declined
At the beginning March 1943 the Germans applied to the Hungarian command for two or three divisions which, from June 1st, would be used as an occupation force in Serbia. This demand was discussed by the Cabinet on march 10th and March 30th. In the first meeting the Minister of defence, Vilmos Nagy de Nagybaczon, thought this would be to Hungary’s advantage as the Germans would re-equip three divisions, and in addition he believed the Serbs would prefer Hungary occupying their country rather than Germany, and that Hungary might elicit some sympathy from the Serbs. The Chief-of Staff also felt that they had to go along with it. Prime Minister Kállay “energetically opposed”, and the aforementioned Minster of Home Affairs said he would resign if Hungary complied with the German request. On March 30th the Cabinet replied to Germany in the form of a long explanatory memorandum, the preamble of which stated: "The Royal Hungarian Government do not wish to satisfy the demand addressed to them, due to the following considerations…" On March 31st the Group of Arrow Cross Deputies in Parliament wrote a petition to Admiral Horthy by way of a Memorandum on the necessity of converting Hungary into an authoritarian State. It was not however handed to the Regent until May 8th, when Horthy refused to receive in audience their leader. On May 5th Horthy had already prorogued Parliament by Royal Rescript.
After March 1943, in the wake of numerous military set-backs, Hitler summoned Mussolini, Marshal Antonescu and finally Horthy, with the idea of addressing their dejection. The head of the political department in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Andor Szentmiklósy, worked for a considerable time on a Memorandum for Horthy to prepare him for this meeting. In this blunt but well-researched document, he sets out the now almost hopeless position Hungary found itself in on every front: domestic, military, exports & imports, financially, and in the event of defeat or not leaving the war, with relation to her neighbours. The memo was handed to Hitler at the talks in Klessheim Castle in April. Horthy was given a very hard time at this meeting. Hitler made onslaughts against Horthy for his relaxed attitude towards the Jews, and against the Hungarian Government for its foreign political manoeuvres, which they had somehow discovered, accusing Prime Minister Kállay of having lost faith in the ultimate victory and seeking an armistice. The German formal Memorandum to Hungary was tabled at a Cabinet meeting on April 20th, in Horthy's absence, but Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer said "even after this visit we have to follow the same policy and attitude as if nothing has happened. We shall give a dignified but determined response" [to the Germans]. Horthy himself responded on May 7th much in the spirit of the Hungarian Memo. Kállay meanwhile wrote to Mussolini about the Klessheim talks and asking him to act as mediator; having written the previous month a letter to Pope Pius XII asking for his blessing for the Hungarian people in their struggle against Bolshevism.
A further upset occurred in April when the Hungarian air squadrons, which had been trained in France under German direction, were requested to take part in the intensifying air war against Britain and the USA. General János Voros, chief of the department of operations within the Hungarian General Staff, informed the Luftwaffe attaché in Budapest that these squadrons could only be used against the Soviet Union. Kállay himself had previously made it clear that Hungary's war was against the Soviet Union and had nothing to do with Britain and America.
Writing to Hitler on October 15th to thank him for his generosity on the occasion of his 75th birthday, Admiral Horthy included the usual political comments, including: "communism represents not only a political, but at the same time a social threat. I am afraid that England and other European states will recognise this too late."
On the night of 10 July 1943 the plutocratic western Allies landed in Sicily where the Italian army had melted away in a matter of days. On July 25th Mussolini was dismissed from his posts by King Victor Immanuel III, and arrested. On September 3rd, a secret armistice was signed with the Allies at Fairfield Camp in Sicily. The armistice was publicly announced five days later. By then, the Allies were on the Italian mainland. On October 13th Italy completely changed sides and declared war on Germany. This left Hungary as Germany's most valuable ally in central Europe. Economically and militarily she was Now vital for Germany's survival.
Hungary seeks armistice
On August 17th 1943 László Veres, an official in the press department of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Sterndale-Bennet, the British Minister in Syria, that the Hungarian Government was prepared to capitulate and on September 9th Sir Hugh Knatchbull-Hugessen, the British Ambassador in Turkey, handed over to Veres the preliminary terms of an armistice. These terms were studied at a Cabinet meeting in Budapest, and through Envoy Andor Wodianer in Lisbon, the British Ambassador in Portugal, Ronald Campbell, was informed of the acceptance of the terms by Hungary. This was relayed to Horthy in a full report compiled by Antal Ullein-Reviszky, the Hungarian Minister in Stockholm. At the Tehran Conference (28 Nov - 1 Dec 1943) the Western-Soviet Allies agreed that they were prepared to negotiate with any member state of the Axis on the basis of unconditional surrender. This encouraged a now seriously compromised Hungary, and on 12 February 1944 Admiral Horthy wrote to Hitler to say the defence of the Hungarian frontiers was his duty, and that he wanted all the Hungarian divisions on the Eastern Front withdrawn to the ridge of the line of the Carpathians, where they could also secure the railway line between Lemberg and Odessa.
In the meantime President Roosevelt had received the Archduke Otto von Habsburg who enquired about the USA's position re Hungary once the war was over. The Americans remained ambiguous.
By Spring 1944 the Hungarian Government correctly decided that the Anglo-American forces were not going to stop the Soviet Union's advance into Europe (including Hungary) and that they were therefore forced to continue to rely upon the Germans. Ominously, Hungarian sources became aware of German troop concentrations on the Hungarian frontiers and rumours of an occupation. On March 15th Horthy broadcast an address supporting his government and country's position and opposing the the Anglo-Saxon propaganda about Hungary being broadcast by them. The following day, American parachutists landed in Transdanubia, with draft notes and details regarding an Armistice, where they were received by Hungarian government emissaries. The Germans soon discovered that parachutists had landed, sought them out and made them prisoners-of-war. On March 17th Admiral Horthy was summoned by Hitler to Schloss Klessheim where Hitler accused Hungary of planning to go over to the enemy camp. Horthy emphatically denied this and reminded Hitler that Hungary was pro-German. Hitler then stated that Hungary was doing nothing regarding the Jewish problem! Horthy continued arguing to no avail. Hitler then asked Horthy to sign a proclamation that he would agree that German troops enter Hungary. Horthy flatly refused. Two days later, on the 19th, the German army occupied Hungary. At a Crown Council the same day, the Hungarian Minister of Defence, the Foreign Minister, and Chief-of-Staff of the Army, all told Horthy that the Germans now wanted him to leave his post. However the Hungarian Minister in Berlin, Dome Sztójay, replied that Ribbentrop had said the Regent should not withdraw. Horthy said he and everyone else must stand firm in this crisis. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister announced the government had resigned. A new government was formed on 22nd March 1944 under Dome Sztójay, a Hungarian soldier and diplomat of Serbian origin, who was pro-German, as Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Sztójay legalized Count Ferenc Szálasi’s Arrow Cross Party, increased Hungarian troop levels on the Eastern Front, dissolved the nation’s labor unions, jailed political opponents, and cracked down on left wing politicians and activists.
A Letter of Appointment of the "Plenipotentiary of the Greater German Reich", Edmund Veesenmayer, signed by Hitler himself, said "The Reich Plenipotentiary is responsible for all political developments in Hungary, and receives his directives through the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs........The Reich Plenipotentiary is to ensure that the entire administration of the country, as long as German troops are there, is carried out by the new national government under his guidance in all fields.
Horthy quickly became appalled by Sztójay’s actions and demanded his removal. The Germans finally submitted to Horthy’s pressure in August 1944 and Sztójay resigned as Prime Minister in favour of Colonel-General Géza Lakatos, who took over on 29th August. Lakatos's military government stopped the deportation of Hungarian Jews, with acting Interior Minister Béla Horváth ordering Hungarian gendarmes to use deadly force against any deportation effort. Lakatos also reopened peace talks with the Allies that had previously been begun by Miklós Kállay. He even went as far as to begin talks with the Soviets. On 15 October 1944, Admiral Horthy tried to force the Germans out entirely, and concluded an armistice with the Western Allies. However, when the Regent announced this in a nationwide radio address, the Germans kidnapped Horthy's son, Miklós Horthy, Jr., and placed Horthy under house arrest. He and his family were then conveyed to a castle in Bavaria in Horthy's special train, which undoubtedly saved Horthy's life.
The right-wing Arrow Cross Party, now backed by the Germans, immediately staged a coup and took full control of the government. Lakatos was forced to resign that day, and was initially imprisoned by the Germans in Sopronkőhida, and after that, at Sopron. The new government was named the Government of National Unity and remained in power until the end of March 1945. The Armistice was immediately revoked. The Red Army of the Soviet Union had finally invaded and gradually drove the depleted German and Hungarian forces back across the country, despite their gallant defence. The Red Army reached the outskirts of Budapest in December 1944, and the siege action known as the Battle of Budapest began. The Soviet Army took Pest and the government forces retreated across the Danube to Buda. Szálasi escaped from Budapest on December 11, taking with him the Hungarian Royal Crown of St.Stephen, while Arrow Cross members, remnants of the Hungarian Army, and German forces continued to fight a rear-guard action in the far west of Hungary until the end of the war. Most Arrow Cross government members, including Szálasi, were caught, charged by the communists with ridiculously high numbers of "war crimes" and executed.
In 1920 the Government passed a Bill (Act XXV 1920) imposing limitations on the admission of "untrustworthy persons" and Jews to universities. The Regulations enforcing the Act restricted the number of Jews to 6% of the total number of matriculated students. In 1930 Hungary had 444,567 Jews, some 5.1% of the total population. This fell by approximately 5,000 by the end of 1937, due to emigration. In 1938 the first Jewish Act (Act XV 1938), to create "a more effective safeguarding of the equilibrium in social and economic life", restricted the percentage of Jews employed in learned professions to 20%. It differed from Germany's Nuremberg laws in that it was based on religion and not race. Jews who had been baptised before 1919 or who had fought in The Great War were not affected. The purpose of the law was that banks, limited companies, etc., should be given five years in which to comply. In 1939 the second Jewish Act (Act IV 1939), on the limitation of Jewish Expansion in Public Life and the Economy, considerably amended the first Act by lowering the percentage to 6% and the race principle replaced the criterion of religion. The second Act was hotly debated by Parliament and left Jewish capital intact.
On the 14 October 1940, despite insisting that there were good Hungarians who happened to be Jewish, Horthy, in a letter to Prime Minister Teleki, stated "I find it intolerable that here in Hungary every factory, bank, large fortune, business, theatre, press, commercial enterprise, etc., should be in the hands of the Jews, and that the Jew should be the image reflected of Hungary, especially abroad."
Following the German military occupation of Hungary on 19 March 1944, Jewish property was sequestrated, and deportations began.
Hungary's climate is moderate, with a warm summer, a cold winter, and rain in both spring and autumn.
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- He was murdered by the communists in 1946.
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