|G. Baross: Hungary and Hitler|
After lengthy delays Miklos Kallay, upon invitation, visited Hitler at his East Prussian Headquarters. Apparently in the course of the negotiations the hostile attitude of the Rumanians was brought up and Hitler stated that he did not have anything against the Hungarians attacking Rumania after the war, but at the same time mentioned that: "The Rumanians are better soldiers than the Hungarians" and that at the present time he did not want to mingle In Rumanian internal affairs. Also the Jewish question was brought up, however, without new demands on the part of Hitler. Furthermore, the question of the Volksdeutsch was discussed and Hitler asked the approval of the Hungarian Government to a recruitment into the SS of about 80,000 Hungarians who were of German extraction, reasoning that Germans everywhere in the world should participate in the heroic struggle of the Third Reich.
Shortly after this, the Volksbund, functioning in Hungary, started drafting these people, but the icy attitude of Berlin against the Kallay government remained unchanged. Pretty soon, in the month of October, the Jewish question flared up again. The German Ambassador at Budapest transmitted a note to the Hungarian Government in which the immediate and thorough exclusion of the Jews from public and economic life, a designation of them with a yellow star, and also an organization for their expatriation was demanded. Also the German demands as to food supplies and articles of consumption were increased: Against these the Third Reich promised to deliver industrial products and coal.
In those times, in the second part of the year 1942, rumors had already started about the development of links to England and to the United States by Kallay. These twains led through Lisbon, Madrid, and Ankara, and, of course, were densely enveloped in the veils of strict secrecy. I obtained information concerning these moves from such acquaintances as Andras Mecser, Bela Marton, and others, who frequently visited Germany
This clearly shows that these machinations were by no means secret to the Third Reich. Only many years later in the emigration did I acquire more information about the methods and their results in connection with these. Everybody, however, who kept their eyes open could see the definite change in the attitudes of the government toward the Germans. Kallay declared in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament that Hungary was fighting against Soviet Empire only and did not want to fight the other enemies of the Axis. The German and Italian Governments demanded a declaration of war against Chile, but the Hungarian Government refused to accede. No measures were introduced for the settlement of the Jewish question. Furthermore, neither the manifestations of the left wing parties and social organizations against the Germans nor for the English and the U.S.A. were stopped. The general public, obviously influenced by news media disseminated by government agencies, regardless of political opinion, started to demand the withdrawal of Hungarian Honved troops from the front.
All these symptoms, of course, were sharply observed by the Germans and also naturally by the population of the country itself. These diverging opinions and attitudes created a rather tense situation in the country.
In the first days of April of the year 1943, Kallay travelled to Rome to visit Mussolini and to pay a visit to Pope Pius XII. It did not remain a secret that Kallay brought up his plans for peace at both places and received friendly and understanding statements but complete refusals.
A few days later Hitler invited the Regent to the Castle of Klessheim near the city of Salzburg. In spite of the rather brief comments of the press, we obtained a lot of confidential information of this rather secret meeting. Competent official circles saw to it that the public were informed; the reason and aim of such disclosures were quite obvious. The invitation aimed at the clarification of military questions. As usual the Fuhrer started the negotiations with a torrent of complaints directed against the Regent; that the Honved Army was not fighting enough and this was the cause of his failures on the Eastern front; that the Rumanians were much better soldiers; that they were conducting a double-barreled policy; and he finally demanded new Honved units be sent to the fronts against the Soviets.
The Regent proud of his position, his historical background, and his name, unlike Kalman Daranyi, did not remain cold and reserved against these rude remarks; instead, he refuted the accusations of Hitler rather forcefully and emphasized that the Germans did not keep their promises. Furthermore, he refused to send new troops to the front; on the contrary, he demanded that the Honved units be withdrawn from the first lines and sent back to their own country. He reasoned that this was necessary because of the hostile attitudes of our neighbors. Horthy also demanded that the Hungarian food shipments be paid for by the Third Reich In Pengo, the Hungarian monetary unit.
He acceded to only one wish, namely, that the drafting of the Hungarian Schwabs into German units be continued. The official communique pertaining to these negotiations was changed many times and consisted only of a very brief statement that Budapest and Berlin were continuing their unshaken battle against the Communists.
Horthy, after his return, sent a letter to Hitler in which he again refuted all accusations and emphasized further Hungary's loyal attitude toward her German ally. Kallay, at the same time, in a letter to Mussolini asked him to kindly interfere and explain in a benevolent manner his intentions to Hitler. Apparently Mussolini acceded to the wishes of Kallay but with little results, for the Hungarian Prime Minister was observed from Germany with the same unchanged mistrust. They had good reason to do so, however.
Kallay delivered, in the month of May, a speech in which he stated that he was going to introduce a reserved policy towards the Third Reich. At the same time, as a gesture toward the Western states, he emphasized that Hungary had never had the intention of acquiring new territorial rights through force of arms but desired only those areas which were detached from her, that Hungary did not want to change her constitution, and that he did not intend to introduce any further measures against the Jews. I have to mention here that this speech was not favorably received in Hungary. First, It seemed rather risky to make such statements against the Third Reich when it was known that she would react with all her aggressive force. Second, it was considered valueless to make such expiating statements toward the English and the Americans. As a result of the speech, left wing elements became loud and rather shady and long-forgotten political personalities emerged again.
At the end of July 1943, the Italian King removed Mussolini. This news spread like brush fire in Hungary and created great surprise. The question was whether the Italians were going to conclude a separate peace treaty and even eventually declare war on the Third Reich.
I was able to make the following evaluation of the waves of our inner political life. The Marxists factions manifested in many ways their hope for the future. My friend Endre Bajcsi-Zsilinszky together with Zoltan Tildy, the president of the Small Holders Party, handed over a rather extensive memorandum to Kallay in which they made proposals for the future development of political trends. The right wing parties rattled their sabres on the side of the Germans and in the interest of the continuation of the war. The Government Party divided Into groups and they debated their opposing opinions in lengthy conferences. The military circles emphasized that they were going to follow the orders of the Regent in all loyalty, but at the present moment would consider any decisive step as very risky and futile. Similar opinions were developed by those personalities who thought that the future policies of the country
should follow the actions of the Anglo-Saxon powers In Italy and their successes in the Balkans.
Everybody was, of course, convinced that Kallay was going to increase his activities towards London and Washington. Very little was known about the details, however, and the public did not pay too much attention to them. Many started to listen, however, to the communications of the BBC radio, according to which the English air force was going to bombard Budapest if the Hungarian industry did not cease to produce for the German Wehrmacht. It was also known that the Czechs and the Rumanians had in London personalities in exile to whom the British Government was lending an ear. It was also observed that in Rumania, Croatia, and even in Slovakia, the anti-Hungarian attitude was spreading in spite of the fact that the Kallay government did not spare friendly gestures towards them. For instance, Kallay sent Count Miklos Banffy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and rather popular Transylvanian land owner, to negotiate with the Rumanians.
In August the country learned that Miklos Kallay did not intend to change anything in the flow of the affairs. He expressed this standpoint to only a few of the leading personalities of the opposition parties. His position did not remain a secret, of course, but at the same time served to create a certain stability of opinion.
The opposition, among them also the Marxists, bowed to him because they were afraid of an eventual occupation of the country by the Germans. The right wing parties acknowledged the statement that he wanted to continue the war on the side of he Germans with satisfaction. Those elements who, with great scrutiny, put everything on the scale obtained reassurance that the government was not going to undertake any adventures which would result in an immediate and merciless German takeover. Had that occurred, we could not have counted on any effective help from the Anglo-Saxon powers.
In the meantime, the allies landed In Sicily and continued their thrust towards Rome. The Italian Army, in compliance with the stipulations of the armistice which General Badoglio had concluded with the Anglo-Saxons, put down their arms and the German army units, fighting in Italy, withdrew towards the north. The German Government demanded that the Hungarian Government arrest every Italian civilian or member of a military organization or individual In the country and that all shipments directed to Italy be immediately cancelled and stopped. The Regent summoned all outstanding and leading personalities of the country to a conference at which they decided to refuse all German demands and ordered that a military mission be sent to Berlin to negotiate the withdrawal of the Hungarian army units fighting on the eastern front. If the Germans did not accede to this request of the government, the Regent, using his power as supreme commander of the army, was going to
order their return. All the general public knew about this conference was that the policy of the government was going to be drawn in accordance with the interest of the country. At the end of September, a military mission headed by the Chief of Staff, General Szombathelyi, traveled to Hitler, who immediately and categorically declined the withdrawal of Hungarian Honved units from the eastern front. He demanded that they should be sent to the Balkans and utilized for tactical moves introduced to halt the allied forces. This demand was refused by Szombathelyi. Finally, the military decided that only to a certain extent and only certain lines of the Hungarian railroads were to be used for transportation of the German Army and its supplies and that the Germans were not going to insist on the increase of food supply shipments.
In October German Admiral Raeder came to Budapest and reported to the Regent that Hitler was presenting him with a luxury yacht. This rather tactless gift created great resentment and painful surprise all over the country. Since Hungary did not have any sea, it is easy to see why such a present was rather misplaced: more so, since Admiral Raeder delivered an outstanding lecture in front of a selected and large audience in the Houses of Parliament, in the course of which he stated that the German fleet would not be able to defend the Adriatic Sea. As far as I know, Raeder did not negotiate about any military or political questions.
Also in October the two Houses of the Parliament convened to deal with the budget of the country. The uneasiness of the public was mirrored in the speeches made in the course of the debates. Count Janos Zichy and Count Antal Sigray, both of the opposition party, propagated a Christian Democratic program and demanded that the war be ended immediately on our side and that we detach ourselves from the Third Reich.
Against al this, the Right Wing representatives made loud speeches In the interest of the efficient continuation of the war. Bela Imredy, who was so very much reserved towards the Germans before, emphasized loyalty to the Third Reich and accused the Hungarian Government of a double-faced policy. From these statements a very heated debate developed between him and Kallay. The members of the Small Holders' Party talked about the spreading of Bolshevism, whereas the Social Democrats openly requested an Anglo-Saxon orientation and protested against dictatorial methods.
The attitude of the Hungarian press also reflected all the characteristic trends of the rather perplexed public. The Marxist papers came out with articles which the courts could have easily prosecuted as treacherous at any time. Milotay, congressional representative and noted publicist, wrote articles about the victory of the Germans and stated that the allies could not gain victory in Europe. Representative Jaross wrote in one of his articles that the Bolshevist imperialism could be smashed
only by the Germans. The paper entitled Hungary, printed articles asking that since there was no enemy at her frontiers as yet, to whom should Hungary lay down her arms? The Government press could hardly find any explanation for the very precarious situation of the country.
In November a very good friend of mine, Representative Bela Jurcsek, visited Berlin. He was an expert in public alimentation and worked out an excellent plan for the improvement of the food distribution which was deteriorating more and more. His plan was accepted by the Government and entrusted to him for execution. Jurcsek traveled to Germany in this capacity to negotiate a possible decrease of food shipments. Upon his return, he related to me how unpopular Kallay was in the Third Reich and he also mentioned, and I quote: "Hungary is full of German spies."
At the end of the year, the Hungarian Government renewed its investigations of the terror actions committed in 1941 in the course of the occupation of the Bacska. These investigations were interrupted upon the request of the Germans and the military in those times. As a consequence of the investigations, two generals, General Feketehalmy-Zeidner and General Grassy, and some other officers were sentenced to prison. In accordance with the Hungarian Military Penal Code, high ranking officers may be freed upon their own recognizance. The two generals and also two staff officers were granted this privilege, upon which they immediately escaped to Germany and were accepted into the SS formations at their old Hungarian rank. This news created extremely great resentment In Hungary, not only because Hungarian Honved officers broke their word of honor, but mainly because of the fact that a so-called ally immediately engaged their services in her armed forces. It should be emphasized, however, that all four of the above officers were of German extraction.
Also at the end of the year, several new civilian organizations were created, such as: the Turani Vadaszok" (Turanian Hunters), "Szekely Loveszek" (Sekler Fusiliers), and the "Nemzet Vedelmi Kereszt" (National Defence Cross). All of these organizations aimed to improve security conditions by serving loyally the person of the Regent and eventually fighting against subversive elements and the communists by force of arms if necessary. All three organizations had members of all walks of Hungarian life and the number was placed around four-five hundred thousand. I, myself, belonged to the National Defense Cross organization. I studied its aims and evaluated its importance. The organization was comprised exclusively of patriotic elements who were against subversion even in 1918 during the communist terror regime of Bela Kun. The Cross emblem was donated to them by the Regent. Sometime later a young lawyer Karoly Ney, under the influence of Imredy, organized another
association called "Keleti Arcvonal Bajtarsi Szovetseg" (Eastern Front Collegiate Federation). Much later in the year 1945, Ney formed a battalion of a few hundred young boys who fought valiantly against the occupying Soviet forces.
At the beginning of the tragic year 1944, influenced by the news of the nearing of the Russian Army, the political and press circles and the majority of the country requested and demanded that the country's defense be bolstered. We hoped that the mountain chain of the Carpathians would stop the Red Army. This was the opinion of the Endre Bajcsi-Zsilinsky and his adherents; the same characterizing the Christian Democrats, the party of Imredy, and that of the Government (MEP). Opinion diverged only on one point: whether this defense should be developed with the help of the Germans, with the help of the allies, or should be done alone with our own armed forces through an entire mobilization of the country. With the exception of the Marxists, public opinion was leaning toward the decision to fight on the side of the Germans because this was the only way to keep the Russians from overrunning the country.
It was felt, however, that food shipments and industrial supplies to the Third Reich should be decreased. The political leadership of Kallay followed the requirements of this developing public opinion and, being aware of the intimate and friendly relationship between the Regent and Kallay, no one doubted that this attitude and trend was condoned and approved by Horthy and the Honved Army. The confidence of the country In the force of her arms was so great that even the ever opposing Count Istvan Bethlen, former Minister President and Lower House Representative, proposed at one of the sessions of the defence committee of the Lower House that the Honvedseg occupy those parts of Transylvania which were left to the Rumanians and take defense positions In the southern Carpathians in the snowy mountain chains of Szoreny and Vulkan. His speech was received with great acclamation, although every-body knew that such action against Rumania would not be possible without the approval of the Germans and that the Rumanian Army, which was in readiness against Soviet Russians, obviously would have turned against us and war would have broken out.
At the beginning of the year 1944, preparations were started for a general mobilization. Fortifications were constructed In the Carpatho-Ruthenian and Hungarian-Transylvanian sectors of the Carpathian mountain chains.
The supply shipments of food staples to the Third Reich were noticeably reduced. The Government Party (MEP) voted confidence to Kallay. Furthermore, everyone was convinced that he was continuing his secret diplomatic activities with the Anglo-Saxon allies. When news was spread about the internment of some English officers at the castle of Count Mihaly Andrassy at Szigetvar, however, the question was put up whether they were really prisoners of
war or secret political agents preparing the take over Transdanubia by parachutists.
Although the press was completely silent, it was well known that our Chief of Staff General Szombathelyi paid a visit in January to Hitler and to Keitel. It was felt that, while there, Szombathelyi probably negotiated about the return of the Honved Army units to the country and about the defense of the Hungarian Carpathian Line. We also heard vague news which stated that the Germans declined the release of the Hungarian Army but at the same time promised to send adequate forces to defend Hungary. (This was something we were afraid of.)
Well, I remember how feverishly the population of the country was preparing for the national holiday of March 15. This was to be a great demonstration in the interest of a free and independent Hungary with a strong army and with a social and economic life based on the ideas of Szeged: vanquishing the Communist threat and regaining the old historical position in the Valley of the Danube.
But then came the fatal month of March of the year 1944.
Before I start with the description of the political consequences of this tragic day, I would like to say a few words about the actions of the Hungarian Expeditionary Force sent to the front. In this brief description I have used the outstanding and factual book of Vitez Ferenc Adonyi, former major in the General Staff, entitled "The Hungarian Soldier in the Second World War."
I stated previously that the Hungarian Government turned over to the disposition of the Wehrmacht the so-called Second Hungarian Army, composed of the III, IV, VII Honved Army Corps. This Hungarian Expeditionary Army moved on to the Soviet Russian front between April and July in the year 1942. In these months the military situation was as follows: in compliance with the strategic plans of Hitler, German General Weichs received orders to move with his army groups (Armee Gruppe B) attacking towards Voronyezs. This was done for the protection of the left wing of the German main forces thrusting forward towards the region of the Caucasian Mountains and Stalingrad. General Weichs started his tactical moves in June of the year 1942 from the Kurks-Bjeiograd-Wolcsansk triangle. The Third Hungarian Army Corps, a part of the Second Hungarian Army, arrived at the front first and immediately participated in the tactical moves of the Weichs Army Group by cutting through the Russian lines and in the beginning of July they reached the River Don. Here the Third Corps was joined by the Fourth and Seventh Corps of the Honved Army which became also attached to the Weichs Army Group. Half way trough the year 1942, while battle was carried on for Stalingrad, the Second Hungarian Army held a front approximately 200 kilometers long along the River Don: the approximate geographical
location being near the cities of Voronyezss-Urym-Csucsje.
At that time Hugo Stinnes was again in Budapest. We had dinner together in one of the well-known restaurants of Buda and since I knew that he had two sons fighting at Stalingrad, I asked him what news he had of them. He became very serious and after a period of painful silence, he said the following and I quote: "Listen, Mr. Baross. The end will be a 'Festung Mittleuropa' (Translated: Middle European fortress) and it is questionable whether we will be able to hold it." I asked him with great concern: "But, for heaven's sake, what is going to happen to Hungary then?" Upon which he answered: "'Hungary Is going to be either Inside the fortress or outside, but she is going to be annihilated in any case." The writer remarks here that Stinnes hinted to the eventuality that Hungary may detach herself from the Third Reich. We finished our dinner in prolonged silence and I, after a sleepless night, hurried up to the Fortress to see Miklos Kallay and to tell him what Stinnes had said. Listening to my words, his face became darker and darker and then suddenly a broad smile appeared and he said: "Tell your friends that as long as I am sitting here, in this position, we are going to stick to the Germans." His answer, knowing his political activities, greatly surprised me.
|G. Baross: Hungary and Hitler|