|G. Baross: Hungary and Hitler|
"HUNGARY AND HITLER"
Still I am of the opinion that this study needs some further explanation and completion. Namely, I think that I have to give certain background information pertaining to the events surrounding October 15, 1944: events which preceded this date and followed it. I was not able to observe all of these events personally because of my military service. I want to write about those more or less secret diplomatic connections which were maintained by various Hungarian governments with the "Western Allies," that is to say, with the enemies of the "Axis Powers," and those negotiations which were used in the interest of the Hungarian nation. I would like to mention also the questions surrounding the activities of the governments, formed abroad and remaining in exile, and finally, I would like to give an account of those intentions and occurrences which were planned by the Pan-Germanic movement and which began towards the end of the Thirties, and to give details about those plans, which Hitler wanted to carry out, involving the future of Hungary.
Data pertaining to these questions were gathered by me in emigration after 1945 from statements by fellow refuges and on the basis of works of scientific value written by Hungarian or foreign authors. This collection of data and in-formation is of value to elucidate more details of the painful and terrible years which characterized the connection between Hungary and Hitler.
THE SITUATION BEFORE AND AFTER OCTOBER 1944
The Sztojai Government feverishly worked on the reorientation of Hungarian public life. The leading personalities of public offices in the government proper and in the municipal administration and also in the spheres of education, were substituted with individuals who were sympathetic towards the politics and interests of the Third Reich. Thus, for instance, the outstanding and very loyal Chief of the General Staff General Szombathelyi was replaced by General Janos Voros. All these personnel changes resulted in strifes, antagonisms and growing anarchy between the various political parties, the Government Party, the followers of Imredy, the National Socialists, and the Arrow Cross movement, which all had a great influence on the events as already mentioned in my study. Bardossy, and later Sztojai, tried to smooth out these controversies, but without success. On the other hand, the opposition, or left wing political factor, was cut out pretty quickly and thoroughly by the Gestapo. The lathers activities did not spare circles adhering to the Small Holders Party and the Christian Social Party either.
In accordance with the interests of the Third Reich, Minister of the Interior Jaross, with the cooperation of his Under Secretary of State Baky and Laszlo Endre, started to carry out measures to settle the Jewish question. Being under the influence of the notorious Eichmann, Jaross was instigated to have the Jews arrested, taken to concentration camps, and later shipped to Germany. In those times there were many rumors pertaining to an understanding between a high ranking SS Staff officer and wealthy Jewish families, which gave the latter the opportunity to leave the country with all their belongings.
In May, Bela Imredy was designated top Minister of Economics and he expedited shipments of victuals and industrial products to Germany.
The foreign political machinations soon became impossible because of the well-planned vigilance of the Germans. Nevertheless, they were continued and information pertaining to some actions reached me also. For instance, my very good friend Andras Hory, our former Ambassador to Warsaw, maintained a relationship and communication with former Minister President Mihailovic, leader of the Yugoslav Royalists, and he even visited him. At the same time the Allies introduced widespread left wing propaganda in Hungary. Of course, the Soviet Russians immediately started a Communist underground movement. In London, Count Mihaly Karolyi started a "Free Hungary" movement. This movement was formed in London by former officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also diplomats
who had become "dissidents," and this, of course, was a chance for doing good work in the interest of the country. It is said that Washington D.C. was under the false impression that the leftists were the only national democratic forces and that she did not keep in contact with the expatriot circles, but dealt exclusively with the leftist ones.
The Allied Air Force conducted heavy air raids against the country and neither the Hungarian nor the German anti-aircraft batteries could stop these raids and as a result caused the Hungarians to lose their faith in the good will of the Anglo-Saxon powers.
This tense and rather mournful atmosphere was characterized by three main trends: trends which were represented by multifarious and diverse shades of opinions, but that were all well discernible,
The first trend of thought was represented by those national and loyalist elements who vigorously opposed the insupportable servility of the Sztojai Government and who wanted to stop the inhuman actions surrounding the liquidation of the Jewish people. These same elements were opposed to the ever increasing shipments of staples and supplies to the Third Reich, which were causing a shortage in the country proper, and at the same time these elements demanded measures be taken to cope with the social situation and problems arising out of the war.
As a second current against these elements stood the extreme right wing circles, the "Imredist" movement and the great variety of the scatter groups of Hungarian National Socialists and their sympathizers.
The third trend was represented by groups which developed between the two above mentioned extremes. These were the so-called leftists: the democrats who relied upon the sympathies of the Anglo-Saxon powers, Socialists and Communists organizing under the influence of Soviet Russian propaganda, who conducted their activities in spite of the serious threat of persecution by the Gestapo.
Under the influence of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant Clergy, the Holy See, and the Swedish and British rulers, and not in the least as a reflection of his own opinion, the Regent tried to get rid of the Sztojai Government. He desired to designate a new Cabinet which was to be headed by Geza Lakatos, a general called back to the capital from the eastern front. His intentions were no secret to the Germans, of course, and Veesenmayer read to him a rude and demanding letter from Hitler, in which he threatened to send two Panzer divisions to Hungary, and demanded the continuation of the Sztojai Government and that they serve the German interests in the future. At the same time, a coup d'etat was planned by Baky in order to eliminate the Regent and kill Istvan Barczy, the Under Secretary of State of the Minister Presidency. The Regent, however, postponed the replacement of
Sztojai, stopped the deportation of the Jews, made a few changes in the Cabinet (namely having Imredy and his followers resign), and undertook a few measures for his personal security.
The situation at the front changed fundamentally. In June, the Anglo-Saxon powers landed in Normandy. In August, the Rumanians defected to the Russians, the Allies landed in Southern France, and the Soviet Russian Army fought in the foot-hills of the Carpathian Mountains, thrusting towards Rumania. That the Third Reich had lost the war was overpowering everywhere in Hungary. The population of Hungary was tormented by the nightmare of Soviet Russian terror and occupation and by the problem of how to avoid it. In the clear as to the difficulties of a solution to this problem were the regent and his intimate inner circle, the broad political circles which also consisted of the Government Party, and the Democratic Socialist, and Small Holder Party elements of the so-called Peace Party.
First of all, the German Army, which consisted of regular and SS units, held the most important strategical points of the country in their hands including all air fields. The Hungarian armed forces prepared for battle were fighting in the Carpathians defending the country. In the interior, inadequately armed and badly equipped Honved cadres represented merely mobilization centers. The Allies landing on the Balkan Peninsula, a much hoped for event by the Hungarians, never happened. The secret connections of the Hungarian Government with countries abroad were stopped because of the activities of the German intelligence and counter-intelligence. It was hopeless also to expect the arrival of Allied parachutists in the Transdanubian area. After the Rumanian defection to the Russians in August, the Hungarian-German front was broken through in the south by the Soviet Russian Army, and with the Rumanian units to bolster them, they threatened to inundate the Hungarian Plains through the gap in the line.
Under these circumstances the Regent and several serious minded politicians, called by the German sympathizers the "Palace clique," discussed the possibilities of an armistice as a means to avoid further bloodshed in this hopeless situation.
First of all, Horthy insisted that the army units in the country proper be reinforced in order to be able to withstand eventual German atrocities and to this end, he ordered that in the mobilization areas of each division a so-called reserve division should be called to arms and form a reserve army. He recalled General Beregfi and placed his trustworthy Chief of the Military Cabinet General Bela Miklos in the commanders position of the First Hungarian Army, and nominated General Janos Vattay to head his Military Cabinet. He again toyed with the idea of replacing the Sztojai Government and of nominating a Cabinet consisting of a majority of soldiers who were above party politics. This intentions of his, however, was learned by
the Germans through Winkelmann, and Hitler stopped it with a new rude, threatening letter.
However, when Eichmann again demanded the shipping of Jews to Germany, the Regent threatened him with armed resistance and refused to comply with his request.
The defections of the Rumanians had its influence not only on the military situation but also in the inner political situation. Dissenting diplomats from abroad sent messages which expressed the Allied Powers opinion that it was necessary that the Hungarian Government follow the example of the Rumanian King Michael, and the Hungarian Ambassador at Ankara Voernle received similar advice from the English Ambassador in the same town. The Hungarian "Peace Party" and the left wing parties submitted memorandums to this effect to the Regent. The Germans, acting as if the Rumanian defection had shaken their self-reliance, began to adopt more understanding attitudes towards the Hungarian Government. Veesenmayer finally approved the substitution of Sztojai, and Himmler dropped the goal of controlling the personal property question of the Hungarian Jews and ordered Eichmann back to Germany.
The German general staff, on the other hand, requested that Hungarian Army units should occupy the southern slopes of the Carpathians, which had been given at the Second Viennese Arbitrage to Rumania. Regent Horthy, however, was hesitant to take any of these steps for two reasons. First of all, he was reluctant to lay down arms solely and exclusively to the Soviet Russian Army, and then as a soldier and a gentleman he was reluctant to go behind his allies and commit treason. At a Cabinet meeting which was held in the absence of Sztojai, who was in the hospital for treatment, he had his standpoint accepted which was to oppose the occupation of the southern slopes of the Carpathians because if the Hungarian Army, which was still left in the country, were driven from there entirely, it would leave the country delivered to the whims of the Third Reich. Instead of implementing the requested actions, the Regent made a few precautions and postponing preparations.
He asked the English Colonel Howie to visit him. Colonel Howie had escaped from a German prison camp in 1943 and was hiding in Hungary. The Regent asked him to get in touch, with the help of the secret radio transmitter hidden in the Royal Palace, with the Allies and respectively the English Army fighting in Italy.
At the same time he signed Sztojais resignation and began negotiations with Veesenmayer about the formation of the Lakatos Cabinet. This Government took over in late August 1944 and its members, with the exception of only two, were all loyal and reliable followers of Horthy. This Cabinet regarded its first task to free the Government and the public administration of those extremist elements who were members of the Arrow Cross Party or were German friends. Also, it wanted to finalize and solve the Jewish question forever by
coming to an understanding with the Germans that the deportations were to be stopped and that Jews who were fit for military service should be inducted and should be utilized on public work projects, receiving regular pay; also that the property which had been confiscated from them should be inventoried and indemnity should be paid to them. The Government started negotiations with the Germans toward the release of deported and detained members of Parliament and Government officials, and decided to defend the Carpathian line against the Russians with all forces of the country.
Before Lakatos and his Government stood tremendous administrative questions: questions which arose out of the state of war, the Hungarian and German Armies, the industrial working capacity, and the public nutrition of the country and its cities, etc. Difficulties also arose out of the fact that the railroad lines were utilized to an excessive amount by the Army, and that the air raids had hit bridges, railroads, major arterials, highways, and industrial centers. Also, the collection of staples of food and other commodities required tremendous efforts of organization.
The political situation in August and September 1944 may be characterized as follows. The Government Party was unchanged in its loyalty. The Imredyst, having lost their representation in the Government, maintained their relationships with the Germans but enveloped themselves in a great silence.
The extreme right wing groups developed and strived for power and position, although Weesenmayer refrained from supporting them and the Government refused to deal with their demands.
The left wing elements became more active. In secret they formed the "Hungarian Communist Party," and the latter entered into very close communication and relationship with the Social Democrats and even with some more extremist elements of the Small Holders Party.
And not last was the "Peace Party." Upon the influence of the son of the Regent, Miklos. Horthy Jr., this political group composed and submitted a memorandum to the Regent asking that he lay down arms to the Soviet Russians and that a Plenipotentiary be sent from Moscow to negotiate and to inform the Anglo-Saxon powers of his decisions. The Regent did not answer this memorandum.
In the course of the same months, great activity was conducted also in the foreign political sphere. Also Colonel Howie took up negotiations with the British through the radio. The only consequence of this was the immediate announcement by the Germans that they were going to direct artillery fire against Budapest if the secret radio transmitting continued. In spite of this, another secret message was sent to Prince Charles Louis in Lisbon, in which he was asked to interfere with the Western Powers and to request them to participate in the Hungarian negotiations pertaining to the laying down of arms in order that the Hungarians not be left alone with the Soviet Russians
This message was relayed to Crown Prince Otto In the United States and he communicated the same to President Roosevelt. At the same time the dissident diplomat Bakach Bessenyei, a former ambassador then living in Switzerland, was entrusted to conduct negotiations with the Western Powers. As a result of the mission, he got in touch with Harrison, Ambassador of the United States to Switzerland, and from him he learned that the allied powers were demanding an unconditional surrender and that they did not want to exclude the Soviet Union from such negotiations; however, the American Ambassador and his British counterpart immediately requested orders from their respective governments, of course. Bessenyei reported all this to Budapest and requested also further orders.
During this time another important happening influenced Hungary's fate. General Heinz Guderian, the German Chief of Staff, arrived in Budapest. He negotiated with the Regent, with the Hungarian Minister of Defense, and the Chief of Staff. The result of these conferences was an agreement, according to which the Germans were going to lend support in the defense of the Hungarian frontiers, that the Hungarian armies which were fighting outside the country were to be concentrated in the country, and that the Hungarian Reserve Army Corps were going to be equipped with modern arms and sent to bolster the defenses. The negotiations also stated that in all these strategic military actions the frontier lines drawn at the Second Viennese Arbitrage did not have to be taken into consideration, meaning that the Hungarian Army units could take up defense positions anywhere in the southern Carpathians. Finally, they stated that the so-called "secret arms" were going to be also utilized in the defense of Hungary.
However, all of this happened otherwise. The routed German Army did not stop in the Carpathian Mountain Chain but withdrew through the passes into the Hungarian Plains. The First Hungarian Army, to avoid an attack in her back, swung down to the Tisza River, and the Second and Third Hungarian Armies, hastily formed from the Reserve Army Corps with their obsolete equipment, were not strong enough to resist the overpowering enemy forces along the line of the Maros River and between the two rivers Tisza and the Danube. The unified Soviet Russian and Rumanian Armies now were thrusting towards the Great Hungarian Plains. All the Regents hopes that the Soviet Russian armies could be stopped at the frontiers of the country tumbled down. To expect the arrival of Anglo-Saxon troops into Hungary was hopeless. Thus, the Regent and his circle of intimate counselors decided that negotiations ought to be entered into to arrange for an unconditional surrender, that they should try to establish certain important points as possible conditions:
(a), the Allies would occupy in Hungary only strategically important points;
(b), that the Rumanian
and Yugoslav armies would not participate in the occupation;
(c), that the Hungarian Administration might stay at their respective posts; and
(d), that the German Army would be allowed to withdraw from Hungary.
It was decided also that the request for surrender would be relayed through the Swedish and Turkish Embassies functioning in Hungary to the Western Powers to the effect that they should send out their representatives for negotiations. At the same time a wire was sent to Bessenyei which informed him that decisive steps for surrender would be undertaken on September 8. The Regent communicated his decisions and the chosen measures undertaken with the Council of Ministers; the Cabinet acknowledged the measures and also his decision to communicate, in a suitable form to Berlin, a request for surrender. This "suitable form" was that the regent, upon advice of the Minister of Defense Csatay, directed a demand to the Germans to send within twenty-four hours five armored divisions to Hungary in support of the Hungarian Army fighting between the rivers Tisza and Danube, or otherwise Hungary would be obliged to request an armistice.
The Regent also notified Hitler of this decision in a private letter. It was expected that the Germans would not be able to comply with the request of this "ultimatum," and in that case he would have a free hand in any negotiations taken up. But the situation formed itself again in an entirely different way. In the last minutes of this "ultimatum," the Germans notified General Lakatos, Prime Minister, that four German armored divisions are already on the way to Hungary and the fifth would arrive within a few days, and that several army divisions of the German Army fighting in the Balkans were going to thrust forward from the direction of Belgrade.
All this taken into consideration, an immediate wire was sent to Bessenyei notifying him that the negotiations for an unconditional surrender had to be postponed to avoid an eventual civil war, and that Hungary was asking the help of Anglo-Saxon parachutist division.
The Soviet Russian Army gained impetus in its attack, in spite of the strong resistance of the Second and Third Hungarian Armies and that of the Wehrmacht, and it penetrated always further into the interior of Hungary.
Political circles of the left wing, coupled with those of Transylvanian Parliamentary representatives, repeated their request for negotiations for an armistice, pointing out that the Allies had decided in Teheran that Hungary belonged in the Soviet Russian sphere of interest. The Lakatos Government threatened to abdicate and at a Crown Council, which consisted of former and new political personalities, the opinions were rather divergent as to the steps to be taken in this precarious situation. The Houses of Parliament, called together to listen to the inauguration speech of Minister President Lakatos at the end of September, decided to continue the war. Refugees which came from every
where, from all parts of the country in Transdanubia, gave accounts of the terrible atrocities and debasing attitudes of the Soviet Russian armies.
In the midst of the entangled situation which had been complicated by opposing opinions, the Regent finally decided to take the initiative in his own hands. There were two possible ways to make Moscow cognizant of Hungary's stand in this situation and of the actions which she might undertake. There was the opportunity to request Count Wladimir Zichy, a large land owner in Slovakia, to get in touch with Russian intelligence agents operating in that country and to gather information through them. The second way was to make use of the services of Baron Ede Atzel, a large land owner in Transylvania, who declared that he was a member of the Communist party and would be inclined to travel to negotiate with Moscow. The Regent made use of the services of both of the above persons.
Count Zichy soon reported that one of his men had traveled to Moscow and had come back with a reply from Stalin that he was ready to guarantee the territorial rights of Hungary in her present boundaries and that the Hungarian Army need not lay down her arms, that the Hungarian administration would continue to function, that the Rumanian troops fighting in Hungary were going to be withdrawn and also that he was ready to receive in Moscow a Hungarian delegation empowered to negotiate. Baron Atzel came back from Moscow and reported that Soviet Russian General Zukow would be ready to receive immediately a delegation consisting of three Hungarian plenipotentiaries if they were sent immediately to Moscow.
Upon the receipt of this news, the Regent immediately communicated to our Ambassador in Sweden that he had decided to stop the state of war with the Russians and was going to send representatives to Moscow. He also asked the Ambassador to communicate these facts to the British, American, and the Russian Embassies. At the same time he sent General Naday and English Colonel Howie to Italy by airplane to negotiate with Lord Wilson, and English general, and to solicit the support of the English Government at the negotiations to be conducted with the Russians. Although these two above mentioned officers successfully reached Foggia in Italy and negotiated with Lord Wilson, they were unable to secure any success.
|G. Baross: Hungary and Hitler|