The Race to the Sea continued into October after the stalemate of the Aisne and culminated with the first battle at Ypres. German attacks were met with strong resistance by the remnants of the original British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and new troops recently arrived from Britain and India, alongside French and Belgian units.
At one point on 31 October the British line was breached and Ypres lay undefended. Only a rushed attack by the 2nd Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment atablised the situation.
A platoon of the Worcester Regiment march to the Western Front
Casualties were high on both sides. The Germans had a high percentage of young and inexperienced soldiers known as the Kindercorps. One unit suffered 75 per cent casualties. The Germans called the battle The Massacre of the Innocents. On the British side the losses meant the effective end of the Old Contemptibles, the BEF.
Negotiations in Lesko, 18-23 October:
In the early hours of 18 October the Hungarian Peace Delegation in Moscow took off for Lesko, the HQ of General Petrov, in Marshal Stalin’s own plane. Domokos Szent-Iványi’s negotiations with the Hungarian generals at the Transylvanian front were concerned with the swift, decisive action that the Russians wanted from the Hungarian military. They wanted to build up a force from the Hungarian POWs they held and attack the Szálasi forces with Hungarian troops under the command of General Miklós. In order to give a political foundation to such a military action the Russians wanted to quickly create some kind of temporary Hungarian Government-in-Exile. Back in Moscow, Faragho and Teleki had been asked to make suggestions as to the formation and membership of such a government. For Szent-Iványi, it seemed obvious that the Premier of the Cabinet should be one of the three generals at the front. General Miklós had a unique advantage over the other two as he had been the Head of the Regent’s military Cabinet and could therefore be considered by the Russians as being from the top tier of Hungarian politics, competent in military matters, and free from any taint of civil collaboration with the Nazis. Szent-Iványi rejected the suggestion that he himself should become Foreign Minister, instead putting forward his own candidate, Baron György Bakách-Bessenyey, who had the great advantage of being of Jewish origin. When the discussions ended at midnight on 21st, Szent-Iványi felt that he had been able to show both the Russian and Hungarian negotiators that he was a friend of Russia and the Russians… not an opportunist, a job-seeker, not to say a carpetbagger. He returned to Moscow on 23rd where Faragho and Teleki informed him of their discussions on the forming of a Democratic Hungarian Government.
The Last Verses of Miklós Radnóti, 24 & 31 October 1944:
As Radnóti’s work company marched on they arrived first at Mohács, on 24 October. From there they were sent on towards Germany (the Austrian border), via Szentkirályszabadja. Out of the 3,600 who had set out from the Serbian mountains, only a handful survived. The words Der springt noch auf refer to Miklós Lorsi, a violinist who was murdered at Cservenka by an SS man on a horse. Having been shot once, Lorsi collapsed; but soon after, he stood up again, staggering. He is still moving, called the SS man, taking aim a second time, this time successfully.
The surviving servicemen ended up in German concentration camps. Radnóti, however, was too weak to continue the march. Separated from the rest of the group with twenty-one of his comrades, he was shot at the dam near Abda on or about 8 November, 1944.
The oxen drool saliva mixed with blood.
Each one of us is urinating blood.
The squad stands about in knots, stinking, mad.
Death, hideous, is blowing overhead.
Mohács, October 24, 1944
I fell beside him and his corpse turned over,
tight already as a snapping string.
Shot in the neck. “And that’s how you’ll end too,”
I whispered to myself; “Lie still, no moving.
Now patience flowers in death.” Then I could hear
“Der springt noch auf,” above, and very near.
Blood mixed with mud was drying on my ear.
Szentkirályszabadja, October 31, 1944.
These weeks in history: 19 October – 8 November 1989 in the GDR
Following Erich Honecker’s resignation on 18 October Egon Krenz’s promise of Change and Renewal was too little too late to satisfy the demand for sweeping reform. The more conciliatory Krenz appeared to be, the greater was the call for radical change. At the end of October, 300,000 demonstrators in Leipzig and Dresden called for the removal of the Communist regime. The border with Czechoslovakia was reopened on 3 November. On 4 November, half a million people jammed East Berlin’s streets to hear a concert carried live on East German and West German television. The whole event was intended to rally support for reform while preserving the socialist system. But the protesters had by then grown brave.
People power: Demonstrations in East Berlin at the Wall and in the centre of the city. One more puff and we’ll blow the Wall down!
One by one, poets, musicians, and writers recited or sang satires about East Germany and its failings and demanded full democracy. Stefan Heym, a dissident, said he felt as if the windows had been pushed open and suddenly fresh air was coming in. The huge rally made it clear that the people no longer had any interest in preserving the East German state.On 7 November, Krenz fired his entire cabinet and the following day, two-thirds of the Politburo. Still this was not enough, so Krenz called Gorbachev in the Kremlin to ask for advice. The Soviet leader suggested that the opening of the borders would let off steam and avoid an explanation. In the next few days, another fifty thousand people fled the country. The German Democratic Republic was on the verge of total disintegration. Hans Modrow was proposed as prime minister. Krenz hesitated but finally decided that he had no alternative but to open the borders to the West.
The HSWP HQ in Budapest.
In these three weeks, the whole international order was transformed, and so too was the political and constitutional order within Hungary. In early October, the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party officially abandoned Marxist-Leninism, and on the 23rd, the anniversary of the 1956 Uprising, it changed the country’s name from the Hungarian People’s Republic,the typical styling of countries in the Soviet bloc, to the Republic of Hungary. In Budapest, for the first time, a ruling Communist Party behind the iron curtain, abandoned its own ideological basis and proclaimed its belief in democracy and democratic socialism.The shift towards a capitalist free-market economy was already well underway.
An article from ‘5 Perc Angol’ (Five Minutes’ English’), Oct 2014.