Horthy, Hitler and the Hungarian Holocaust of 1944-45: Part Two: Documents and Debates (Appendix)   Leave a comment

The Jewish Laws, Anti-Semitism and the Nazi Occupation of 1944

A. From Domokos Szent-Iványi, The Hungarian Independence Movement (Hungarian Review Books, 2013);

On Political Trends and Public Opinion in Hungary, from Autumn, 1937:

001There was a group in Hungary dominated by the fear of an eventual Nazi take-over in Austria, followed by another take-over, i.e. that of Hungary. The majority of that group was composed of Jews: Hungarian Jews and Jews who had fled from Germany and Austria to Hungary; Hungary was considered by the British, American and other international newspapers as the ’last islet of liberty’ in Nazi-dominated Central-Europe. Their idea of resistance was quite one-sided: for them, there was just one danger, that of Nazi expansion… fear and passion are poor counsellors, and particularly so in political matters… That particular attitude, anti-German and even pro-Communist, of the Hungarian Jewry served to speed up the Russian take-over of Hungary in 1944-47.

On the Győr Programme:

Darányi tried out his ideas on the general public in a long speech at Győr… he indicated that some diminution of Jewish influence would be necessary, ’as the best guarantee against anti-Semitism and intolerance’…

… At the same time, the President of the Hungarian National Bank, Imrédy, arrived at the same conclusion… as big industry was in its great part under Jewish control, Hungary’s rearmament seemed to be being held up by the Jewish directors of the great industrial enterprises; fuel was now added to pre-existing anti-Semitism., which had intensified in consequence of the atrocities of the Jewish leaders of Béla Kun’s dictatorship like Szamuely, Corvin, Kerekes and others.

Macartney:

’The author of the Győr Programme, Imrédy, when outlining his views as to the problems of rearmament and how to solve them, believed that the funds could be raised from one source: there was a lot of tax not being paid to the state, either because the income it was due from was not known to the exchequer or because it was hidden in complex financial schemes… It so happened that the people behind such huge and opaque incomes were in their bulk of Jewish descent, so what had started as merely a way to raise funds for the army became something of a racial question. Imrédy was supported in his new policy by the army. It is characteristic of the atmosphere in military circles that there were rumours circling that… ’the leaders of the political parties were under Jewish influence and therefore refusing to grant armament credits’.

As Imrédy produced the necessary funds for the rearmament of the army while also reining in the tycoons of finance and industry, he became something of a hero to the military and anti-Semitic leaders.

On the effects of the Austrian Anschluss, 11-13 March 1938:

Macartney:

Instead of Hungary’s old partner, it was now Nazi Germany that would keep frontier guards along the old boundary and the Hungarian guards had to be furnished with instructions as soon as possible. The urgency of the measures to be taken was also motivated by the fact that large numbers of refugees were arriving at the frontier (mainly of Jewish stock) trying to escape Nazi rule… outbursts of joy came from… sections of the middle classes and petite bourgeoisie that were now so besotted with anti-Semitism as to be unable to see any other aspect of the situation. For them Hitler was practically a God, precisely because he was tough with the Jews, and all they saw now was that the influence of the God would penetrate Hungary and deal with the Jews there also.

On The First Jewish Law

Macartney:

’The first weeks of Imrédy’s Premiership were characterised by a vigorous drive against all Right-wing activities and organisations. One of the first steps of Imrédy was to forbid all employees of the State to belong to political parties… The second step of the Cabinet was directed against Szálasi’s person; for it had now become an idée fixe in Hungary that his Party was the most dangerous party, and he himself the most formidable individual, in all Hungary… The pretext for the new move was the fact that the streets of Pest had been whitened by another shower of leaflets, one of which bore on one side the familiar ’Long live Szálasi’ and on the other the text ’Out with Rebecca from the Palace’, an allusion to the Regent’s wife, of whom rumours had it that she had in her veins a strain of Jewish blood. The latter was in fact what Szálasi himself describes in his diary, a ’filthy forgery’ (… it seems possible that Imrédy was party to this manoeuvre), with the purpose of discrediting Szálasi; in which it was highly successful, for the effect was to send the Regent, who was devoted to his wife, into an extreme of fury against Szálasi. A new indictment was prepared against him. In July he was tried again on another charge of issuing subversive leaflets and condemned… to three years’ hard labour and five years’ loss of civil rights. On 27 August he was arrested and taken to Szeged Prison.’

In connection with the poorly controlled Press, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky has written…:

‘Nazi-German officials… were… simply boycotted while at the same time British, French and Americans… were greatly favoured in social intercourse. I remember a passage published in one of the Jewish periodicals beseeching Hungarian Jewry not to provoke the Germans with public ostentatious behaviour… One should not forget that most of the Germans passing through Hungarian territory had already been on either of the battlefronts and thus, having seen endless misery and human suffering they were now watching luxury shown off by Jewish people. And in consequence such men were making bitter remarks about the peaceful conditions in Hungary and Jewish extravagancy.’

Editors:

The First Jewish Law ’on a more efficient safeguarding of the balance of social and economic life’ (1938: XV.), drafted under the Darányi government and passed by the National Assembly under the Imrédy government, came into force on 29 May 1938. It restricted the proportion of Jews in the professions and the economy to twenty per cent, which was to be executed in five years. It defined Jews by religion, but those who had Christianised after 1 August 1919 were also classified as Jews. Exemption was granted to Jews who had gained distinction in the First World War and the counter-revolution, and to widows and childrenof the War dead. Fifty-nine non-Jewish Hungarian artists, among them composers Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály and writers Lajos Zilahy, Zsigmond Móricz lodged a petition against the law.

Macartney:

… The Jewish Law had an extremely mixed reception in Parliament, Speakers of almost all parties outside the Government – Conservatives, Christians, Liberals, Socialists – opposed it on grounds of principle as being un-Christian and contrary to Hungarian tradition; some also on grounds of expediency. Others descibed it frankly as an unworthy concession to foreign pressure. Most of the Government spokesmen themselves were almost apologetic; but argued that – whatever the remote causes – Jewish influence had now become so powerful in the national life as to make a measure a pragmatic necessity…

… it was moderate in practice. Briefly, it limited the numbers of persons of Jewish religion to be admitted to the professions of the Press, the Theatre (including films), the Law, Medicine, and Engineering, and to black-coated employment both in these professions and in financial, commercial or industrial enterprises employing more than ten persons to twenty per cent. A ’Jew’ was defined as a person holding the Jewish faith, or converted… at a date subsequent to 31 July 1919, or born after that date if his father and mother had at that time been of the Jewish faith. War invalids, persons who had seen active service, etc., were exempted.

These provisions did not touch the Jewish capital in any form, and still left the Jews a quota in the employment affected amounting to over three times their numerical proportion in the country, although lower in most cases than the quota occupied by them at the time.

According to a work issued at the time, based on the 1930 Census… the percentage of Jewish lawyers… was 49.2…; of doctors in private practice, 54.5;….

Imrédy was supported by Jews in business and the media… in the Summer of 1938, Imrédy was feted and praised by men of Jewish stock… he was referred to as ’the superman’… ’the super politician’ and so on… those same people who had lionised Imrédy… in January 1939… detested Imrédy, even going so far as to produce snapshots showing the mysterious and legendary Hun-Magyar stag in the form of a donkey with antlers attached to its head, being fastened to a lamp-post in front of Budapest’s Piarist Church.

On The Second Jewish Law

004… Imrédy was vulnerable… his political opponents suggested that they had discovered he had Jewish ancestry. Imrédy, in order to deflect attention from this, went almost completely over to the Right-wing and became the main promoter of anti-Semitic legislature… Many of those who were hit by his new tax regime were of Jewish origin and so began a feud between them and Imrédy, which was to ultimately end up in the latter’s trial before the People’s Court and his subsequent execution. As a consequence of this feud, Imrédy began to develop strong anti-Semitic views which, naturally, resulted in his being admired by those on the Right… The failure to secure closer cooperation with Germany was considered by the Revisionists as a near mortal blow to their hopes. As a result they now turned their attention to those they believed had thwarted them: the Government, the liberals and the Jews. Thus Revisionism now ’usurped’ Resistance in the consciousness of the Hungarian public; Imrédy did not fail to notice this and in consequence made his infamous volte-farce.

Imrédy… hinted at a Second Jewish Law… As the Kiel affair had damaged Germano-Hungarian relations, Imrédy’s government now attempted to win back the confidence and good will of Berlin… Hungary was willing to join the Anti-Comintern Pact, and to continue with anti-Jewish legislation… The (Anglophone) Group, becoming increasingly alarmed at the acceleration of Hungarian-German rapprochement as well as with the Second Jewish Law, had decided to act in the hope of forcing Imrédy out… With the passing of Hungary’s anti-Semitic legislation, anyone with Jewish ancestry found it an obstacle to their career, and that included politicians; thus, Imrédy’s background began to be probed. The investigation started by political opponents… brought to light documentary evidence showing that among Imrédy’s ancestors there was a Jewish woman, and that fact alone, because of the new Law – his own making – was enough to bring about Imrédy’s fall… he resigned when the Regent informed him that according to certain information,he, Imrédy, had Jewish ancestry, but in fact the Regent forced him to resign for going too far with his anti-Semitic legislation.

Editors:

The Second Jewish Law, ’on the restriction of the Jews gaining ground in public life and economy’ (1939), drafted under the Imrédy government and passed under the Teleki government, came into force on 5 May 1939. It defined Jews predominantly on racial grounds, but religious affiliation remained a point for consideration. Persons with one parent or two grandparents of Israelite denomination were qualified as Jews. Exemption was granted to Jewish families who had been Christianised for three generations. The ratio of Jews in intellectual professions was limited to six per cent, they were banned from state and industrial organs. Acquisition of agricultural property by Jews was restricted. They were excluded from industrial and commercial professions that required a license, and their existing licenses were gradually revoked. (It led to the emergence of the concept of the ’stróman’, from the German ’Strohmann’, the nominal partner who lent his name to a Jewish-owned enterprise for a share of the profit).

On the Premierships of Teleki, Bárdossy and ’The Third Jewish Law’, 1939-41

008Teleki … had… sympathy with some of Imrédy’s objectives… In particular, he was not against appreciable restrictions on the Jews in so far as these constituted, in his eyes, a measure of protection for non-Jews (and he was prepared to regard the Second Jewish Law in that light), although not to the point where they developed into persecution of Jews.

… Teleki instructed me to prepare a book in German, for the consumption of the Nazi Party and the Army, dealing with the Jewish question. The main theme of this book was the idea that a full and complete solution to the Jewish question should be postponed until the end of the Second World War; once again Teleki was attempting to buy time… ’Die Judenfrage in Ungarn’ by Professor István Barta… (was) a sketch of a book on the Jewish question purportedly reflecting the views espoused by Teleki. His belief was that if the Germans won the war, which he did not believe, the Hungarian Jewry could not be saved. On the other hand, if Germany were defeated, the same Jewry would be saved from destruction without risking Hungary’s existence.

The Third Jewish Law ’on the extension and amendment of marital law (1894) and pertaining necessary race protection measures’ (1941), introduced and passed by the National Assembly under the Bárdossy government, came into force on 8 August 1941. Modelled onthe Nuremberg Laws, it defined the term ’Jewish’ as a person descending from two grandparents of Israelite denomination. It prohibited intermarriage and penalised sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews. The Hungarian Christian Churches protested against the law.

On The First Klessheim Entrevue, Horthy-Hitler, 17-18 April 1943; Kállay and ’The Jewish Question’:

005In the following I am giving some quotations from the… Aide Mémoire:…

‘THE JEWISH QUESTION

Hungary is well aware of the all-European nature of the Jewish Question. It is of the opinion, however, this question should be addressed by each country in their sovereignty. With the measures introduced in 1920, Hungary has proved its readiness, even in the face of the international climate, to restrict the gaining of ground of Jews. However, neither legal, nor technical conditions exist for the deportation of Jews from Hungary. At the same time, while eliciting considerable satisfaction, such move is bound to create serious difficulties in the operation of the war industry.’

…It was this particular issue which formed one of the most important points in the list of ’Hungarian offences against Germany’ since, according to the Germans, this important question was, and was to remain as late as 1944, still unresolved in consequence of the stalling methods of the Hungarian Government.

… the Germans began making accusations against the person and policy of Premier Kállay, accusations which they presented in writing to the Hungarians.

The Editors:

An outline of the German Memorandum;

’It has come to the attention of the German government that under Kállay’s premiership negotiations were conducted in a defeatist way with the hostile British-American powers on Hungary’s withdrawal from the Tripartite Pact… the Hungarian government initiated these negotiations. At the same time it evades its economic duties and supports Jews’.

In order to refute the accusations brought up against the Kállay regime, the Foreign Ministry prepared a reply of several pages which then was sent to Hitler in the form of a personal letter signed by Regent Horthy…:

An outline of the letter;

Horthy objects to Hitler’s reprimands as regards the heroism of Hungarian soldiers… A stronger initiative to take measures against Jews would jeopardise economic functionality. He refuses to relieve Miklós Kállay, as per his ’defeatism’, he stresses his prime minister enjoys his full confidence both in foreign and interior questions.

As secrets could not be kept very well in Hungary, not only Kállay, but also other individuals were frightened by the aspect of the victorious Western Powers eliminating and destroying everything of past and present Hungary, and handing power to the Extreme Left, including all persecuted persons, first of all to the Hungarian Jews inside Hungary or those working in foreign countries against Nazism as well as against ’Quislingism’.

There was a difference in the tenor of the communications going through serious individuals, like Barcza, Bessenyey… and of those handled by young, politically inexperienced agents, the messages of the latter being more threatening… the responsibility… for this trouble rests on the shoulders of Kállay, Szentmiklósy,… Ullein, etc., for they selected these young overconfident representatives, mainly of Jewish origin. Quite naturally, such individuals were thinking and acting under the shadow of the terrible nightmare of what had happened and what still could happen to European Jews, and in particular in Hungary which had come to be a safe haven not only for Hungarian Jews, but all Jews who could safely reach the country. Regrettably, their actions and behaviour were making the situation of the Hungarian Jews more critical, instead of alleviating it. Of course, living outside the frontiers of the countries under Nazi domination… made… Hungarian agents of Jewish stock hasty and heedless, being ignorant of the circumstances faced by Jews at home. Those Jews in Hungary were constantly asking the Government not to break off with Berlin as it could lead to the total destruction of all Jews in Hungary. I remember reading quite a few articles written by eminent Jewish leaders in Hungary, including rabbis, imploring the Hungarian Jews not to provoke the Germans with anti-German activities or attitudes.

The Governments of the Western Powers, too, were responsible for employing Hungarians of Jewish stock as ’experts’ or as speakers on their broadcasting stations, supposedly to increase sympathy for the Allies, yet such strategies had the opposite effect…

… the Germans… were not satisfied with the outcome of the reshuffle in the Foreign Ministry… the Right-wing and even some MPs of the Government party began expressing their dissatisfaction with the changes… they were also alarmed by the news that key advisers… of the Foreign Ministry… were men of Jewish origin.

On Kállay’s Dual Strategy, September 1943 – February 1944:

… Kállay’s strategy was to prepare for the defence of the Carpathians and arrive at an agreement with the British and American military leaders for an Anglo-Saxon landing in Hungary. Such a policy, thought Kállay, would be supported by the overwhelming majority of the Hungarian nation

Macartney:

’It is certain that most of the Jewish population of Hungary and a perceptible number of non-Jews did not regard the Germans as a lesser evil than the Russians’.

On The Nazi-German Occupation of Hungary, 19 March 1944:

The Regent’s idea was not to abdicate since that would end in the destruction of the lives of many thousands of people, first of all Hungarian Jews. His old thesis was that he was still captain of the ship of State and that his duty was to remain on the bridge until the ship was saved or went down, of course with him, the Commander of the ship…

Macartney:

Even the Jews have reason to be thankful that he decided as he did. He did not save the Jews outside Budapest (and it may well be that a more subtle politician or one less easily influenced, could have done more than Horthy did in this direction). But he saved the Jews of Budapest, and no other man could have done it…

The Jews of Budapest itself, numbering about 230,000, had not yet been touched except that they had been required to move into Jewish Houses. The negotiations between the Jewish leaders and the Germans were still going on… although at one time Eichmann offered to suspend the deportations, or at least the gassings, pending the conclusion of a bargain, his price was far higher than anything which the Hungarian Jews could pay. Most of the negotiations concerned relatively small numbers – in the first place, only 750 emigrants for Palestine. Later… larger numbers were mentioned, partly in connection with a remarkable offer made by the Germans to trade the Jews for war material. The Allies rejected this; and in the end the Kastner-Brand negotiations brought release of only a few thousand Jews. A few Jews bought their way out privately, and these included one group whose fate involved issues of nation-wide importance. These were the inter-linked families of the Weiss, the Kornfelds, the Chorins and the Mauthners, who between them owned not only the Weiss Manfred Works on Csepel, by far the biggest heavy industrial plant in Hungary, which alone employed over forty thousand workers, but also a very large number of other assets…

In the 1930s the vast holdings of these gentlemen had been converted into a company known as the Labour Trust Limited, in which fifty-one per cent of the shares were held by persons ranking as non-Jews. The wives of Baron Weiss’ two sons, the Baronesses Jenő and Alfred Weiss, Baroness György Kornfeld, Dr Borbély (grandson-in-law), and one or two others. Thanks to this device, the Labour Trust as a whole could claim to be an ’Aryan’ concern under the Hungarian Jewish laws, although the private fortunes of many members of the group were, under the same law, indisputably Jewish. Throughout the war the Labour Trust turned out large quantities of arms and munitions for the Axis, including some special engine parts, etc., which it made in Budapest for the German Army.’

B. Some Comments from other contributors to Szent-Iványi’s book and The Hungarian Review (March, 2014):

János Horváth (1921, Cece, Hungary), economist, MP 1945-7, imprisoned in a show trial in 1947, participated in the 1956 Revolution, emigrated to the US, founder-President of the Kossuth Foundation in New York, returned to Hungary in 1997 and became an MP again after 1998;

How can I, as a modern democrat, an anti-Nazi and an anti-Communist , account for apparent blemishes and weaknesses in the image of my hero, a statesman who in very difficult conditions had to steer a ravaged country through the lethally dangerous waters of the inter-war years? Today, an occasional allegation against Pál Teleki is that he was an anti-Semite. This charge was rarely raised against Teleki while prominent Jewish contemporaries were alive… In our debating circle, I never heard an abusive sentence or even an ambiguous slur about Jews from him. Anti-Semitism was simply not present in the Teleki family. Teleki1s only son, his loyal political heir, Géza, had a Jewish wife. And it is a telling argument that the single Hungarian official who did most to save the Jews from deportation and death in 1944, namely Géza Soos, was Szent-Iványi’s deputy both in their office and in the secret Hungarian Independence Movement…

It was Soos who got hold of the Auschwitz testimonies written by two Slovakian Jews, who had been able to escape from the death camp in early 1944. He had it translated and sent to diplomats and Jewish leaders abroad and in Hungary, as well as to Regent Horthy’s daughter-in-law, Ilona. This was the first time… as late as spring 1944, when political leaders in Europe and America read authentic personal testimony about systematic Nazi extermination going on in Auschwitz. The saving of most of the Budapest Jews was made possible by Horthy’s reserve corps, the elite armoured battalion of Esztergom marching on Budapest on 5 July under the command of Colonel Ferenc Koszorús, dispersing and disarming pro-Nazi ’gendarmerie’ units. This was a direct result of Horthy’s stunned reading of the testimonies…

But two unsettling questions remain: the first is the two sets of ’Jewish Laws’, one passed in 1938 under Imrédy’s Premiership, the other in 1939 when Teleki was Premier… in both cases, especially the Second Law, was a surrender to German Pressure. It disappointed German expectations at a time when risking a German invasion from Austria was a possible consequence of displeasing Hitler. The anti-Jewish laws were not meticulously executed in Hungary… the expectation of Horthy’s circle and most Hungarian patriots in the democratic opposition as well as Jewish leaders in Hungary was that Hitler would meet his end by late 1943, and the nightmare would be over…

The Second question concerns the ’numerus clausus’ Pál Teleki enacted during his first premiership in 1921, which set a quota for Jewish students in the universities equal to the proportion of Jews in the Hungarian population. This law was clearly born during the violent backlash against the Hungarian Commune where intellectuals of Jewish background had a dominant role… such laws curtailing the academic and economic opportunities of Jews… must be seen in a different light before and after Auschwitz. Auschwitz is a political, moral and metaphysical dividing line in history…

… From our post-Auschwitz perspective, the so-called Second Jewish Law Teleki approved was a moral error… But this should not negate the man’s fundamentally moral character and his otherwise liberal statecraft…

(Recorded from conversations and translated by the editors)

Nóra Szekér (1976, Budapest), historian, Óbuda University;

We have to note that when… Szent-Iványi talks in terms of rebuke about the strong Jewish element in these diplomatic and other contacts of the Kállay government, we should not suspect anti-Semitism on his part. It is the pragmatic analysis of a man of realpolitik, who had, at the same time, given evidence of high moral and political standards. In the multi-ethnic Hungary of that time mentioning ethnic background was a regular theme of everyday conversation, which from the liberal mid-1800s on did not necessarily carry negative overtones. It was with the emergence of Nazism that ethnic and racial connections took on ominous connotations – not as a matter of political discourse but of life and death.In the 1930s Jews began to feel threatened by the rhetoric and violence of Nazis not only in Germany but in the whole of East-Central Europe. The threat was all the more real because, since, as Szent-Iványi discusses in several more passages… the Nazis recruited a fifth column from among ethnic Germans and middle class people of German family background in Hungary, and planted agents and sympathisers to all spheres and levels of social and political life.

Under the circumstances of war, prominent Jews became special targets of German intelligence gathering and surveillance. At the same time, many ethnic Germans (whom Szent-Iványi calls Swabians, again in accordance with common Hungarian usage) became a liability and serious threat at high levels of Hungarian administration, especially the armed forces… Szent-Iványi cannot be labelled as an anti-German racist on this account either…

With the German military occupation… on 19 March 1944, Hungary lost her sovereignty, and both Hungarian foreign and internal affairs fell under German control. Arrests of many members of the anti-Nazi circles followed immediately, and Eichmann was sent to Budapest by Hitler in order to organise the ’final solution’ for Jews in Hungary… In this situation the Hungarian Independence Movement pursued two main goals; on the one hand to save people’s lives, from which of course saving Hungarian Jews was the greater task. On the other hand, the preparations for the break-off from the Axis continued in Horthy’s circle… MFM’s life-saving efforts were co-ordinated by Szent-Iványi’s deputy Géza Soos…

Gyula Kodolányi (1942, Budapest), poet and essayist, Member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, taught at ELTE in Budapest, and in the US, Senior Advisor on Foreign Policy to Hungarian PM’s, 1990-94, editor of the Hungarian Review since 2010;

… in the aftermath of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, the most acute social inequalities had to be addressed, while the preponderence of Jewish intellectuals in the leadership of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 contributed to a backlash in some parts of society.

C.  Reflections on 19 March and its Aftermath: A Perfect Storm of Tragedy and Folly

Frank Koszurus, Jr., practises law in Washington DC, founder of the Hungarian American Coaltion and President of the American Hungarian Federation of Wahington DC; in the March edition of The Hungarian Review, he writes;

The American Hungarian Federation, representing a cross-section of the Hungarian American community, strongly supports historical accuracy, completeness and integrity… Considering the extent of the catastrophe of the Holocaust, great care should be taken to avoid actions that serve no purpose other than to open old wounds and needlessly exacerbate controversies. Care should also be taken to objectively discuss all aspects of a period and not abuse history for political purposes.

Considering these general principles, the Federation believes:

First, that any attempt to whitewash the catastrophe of 19 March 1944 – when Hitler occupied Hungary – and the ensuing deportation and murder of 550,000 Hungarian Jews or the involvement of Hungarian authorities cannot be tolerated.

… The great majority of knowledgeable commentators and historians agree… that Nazi Germany ’occupied’ Hungary on 19 March 1944… As… noted by historian Randolph Braham, a specialist of that period, ’the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, the last surviving large bloc of European Jewry, was to a large extent concomitant of ths German Military decision’. Tragically, the lack of adequate predisposition of several officers of the General Staff and senior officers in key positions and a fear of Bolshevism were among the factors that precluded any military opposition to the German invasion…

Ignác Romsics observed that ’… although Horthy      formally appointed the government (under duress)… the cabinet did not usually clear its actions with him but with Edmund Veesenmayer, whom Hitler had sent a Reich Plenipotentiary to replace the German ambassador in Budapest. Lucy Dawidowicz (1975) also argued that, after 19 March, ’the real rulers of Hungary were the SS and… Veesenmayer. … Under these circumstances Horthy perhaps should have resigned, to avoid the semblance of legitimacy, as Kállay implored. A Jewish delegation, headed by Ferenc Chorin and Móric Kornfeld, on the other hand, urged Horthy not to resign because, they believed, if he failed to appease the Germans the Jews would face extermination… ’His decision to remain as Regent has been one of the most intensely debated among Hungarians ever since’.

Since Horthy did not abdicate, could he have done more than to protect just the 250,000 Jews of Budapest? According to Fenyvesi (2003), ’Horthy as head of state did not have enough power to protect its Jewish citizens. … Horthy overestimated his freedom of action and underestimated the force of the great power facing him.’ Veesenmayer’s cable to Berlin on 13 July (confirms this): ’He has no personal influence left whatsoever, which is apparent from his inability even to have Undersecretaries of the Ministry of the Interior, Baky and Endre, removed.’

During his five months in office, Sztójay set about doing all the things that the Germans and the Hungarian right-wing had been demanding but which so far had been more or less successfully blocked by the conservative regime. On 28 March he dissolved all parties of the left-wing and bourgeois democratic opposition, including the Independent Smallholders and Social Democrats. During March and April over three thousand people were taken into custody by the Gestapo and the Hungarian police and gendarmerie… In order to preserve a semblance of legal continuity, the Parliament was allowed to carry on functioning but there was a massive clear-out of officials in key positions of the state administration and army command, including twenty-nine of the forty-one high sheriffs and two-thirds of the country’s burgomasters.’

002The ’clear-out’ was successful. Deborah Cornelius (2011) has written of how the German’s goal of eradicating the Hungarian Jews ’was facilitated by the fact that they had destroyed the traditional Hungarian political leadership; the anti-German groups… had been removed from positions of influence. The conservative-liberals, left-liberals and social democrats who had protested against the Jewish laws had either been taken into German prison or concentration camps or had gone into hiding’.

The roles of German and Hungarians in the Holocaust are summarised by Braham as follows, ’while the Germans were eager to solve the Jewish question, they could not have proceeded without the consent of the newly established (Stójáy) puppet government and the cooperation of the Hungarian instrumentalities of power…’

… And in examining the events, it is important to recall the anti-Jewish laws, Kamenets-Podolsk (halted by Interior Minister Keresztes-Fischer), the Novi Sad massacres… and the labour battalions.

Both the German and the Hungarian roles must be acknowledged (as Hungary’s ambassador to the United Nations, Csaba Körösi, did recently), remembered and taught objectively not only for the sake of accuracy, but also to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

… the Federation further believes that rescue efforts by non-Jewish Hungarians who stood up against evil, such as Col. Ferenc Kozorús who intervened with his loyal troops to prevent the deportation of the Jews of Budapest in July 1944, must not be omitted, denied, forgotten or minimised. Such rescue efforts must also be acknowledged, taught and remembered for the sake of historical accuracy and to serve as examples for this and future generations of how one should behave in the face of barbarism that characterised the Nazis and their collaborators…

On the fiftieth anniversary of the Holocaust, Congressman Tom Lantos, a survivor of the Holocaust himself and a liberal Democrat who served as Chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, recognised Colonel Ferenc Koszorús:

‘Colonel Koszurús’ unparalleled action (in July 1944) was the only case in which Axis powers used military force for the purpose of preventing the deportation of the Jews. As a result of his extraordinarily brave efforts, taken at great risk in an extremely volatile situation, the eventual takeover of Budapest by the Nazis was delayed by three and a half months. This hiatus allowed thousands of Jews to seek safety in Budapest, thus sparing them from certain execution. It also permitted the famous Raoul Wallenberg , who arrived in Budapest on 9 July 1944, to coordinate his successful and effective rescue mission…’

(Hon. Tom Lantos, ’Ferenc Koszurús: A Hero of the Hungarian Holocaust’, Congressional Record, 26 May 1994.)

006Other Hungarian heroes include … General Vilmos Nagybaczoni-Nagy (who upon being appointed Minister of Defence by the Kállay government took measures to end the gross abuses threatening the lives of Jews in the auxiliary labour force); Tibor Baránszky (who as secretary to Monsegneur Angelo Rotta, the Vatican’s ambassador to Budapest, distributed protective letters to Jews on forced marches and elsewhere); Roman Catholic priest Ferenc Kálló (who gave Jews certificates of baptism and was killed by the Arrow Cross on 29 October 1944); József Antall, Sr (who as a commissioner of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for civilian refugees gave refuge to Jews and Poles); Prince-Primate Jusztinian Serédi, Bishop László Ravasz of the Reformed Church and István Bethlen (who communicated protests to Regent Horthy in 1944 against deportations).      

In sum, 19 March and its consequences are interconnected historical facts relating to one of the most tragic periods of Hungarian history. It can be hoped that politics is not injected into what should be a serious and honest historical debate…

 

 

 

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Posted May 12, 2014 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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