The Eden File: One More Day in the Hungarian Holocaust, 8th August 1944.   Leave a comment

Eden File018

The National Archives in London have just released a secret document from 8 August 1944, a Memorandum prepared for the War Cabinet by Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, of an “offer” from Admiral Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, that, provided the United Kingdom and United States governments could find sufficient accommodation, the Hungarian government would be prepared to allow all Jewish children under ten years of age, with visas for other countries, and all adults and children with Palestine immigration certificates, to leave Hungary. Horthy also announced that there would be no further transportations of Jews to Poland, i.e. to Auschwitz.

This document, and the attached correspondence between Washington and Whitehall, is significant in that it clarifies the controversy about if, when and how Horthy acted to bring the deportations to an end, and to enable the remaining Jews (mainly trapped in Budapest, many of them refugees from other countries) to seek asylum elsewhere.

The matter was discussed at the War Cabinet Committee on Refugees meeting on 4 June, although Eden himself was not present. The Government faced a dilemma, since refusing to accept this offer would result in a hostile public reaction both in the United States and Britain, but accepting it would be ‘risking civil war in Palestine owing to the inroad of Jews from Hungary into the Levant.’  Despite the obvious urgency of the situation, the Cabinet reached no decision.The proposal of the International Red Cross for the almost immediate removal of 41,000 Jews from Hungary to Roumania alarmed the meeting, which was generally against joining the US in accepting. The Secretary of State for the Colonies argued that the British Empire would be signing a blank cheque which we could not honour.

Although both Foreign Office and Home Office secretaries argued that the offer should be accepted in concert with the USA, they felt that in doing so the US Government must accept that the British authorities should not be forced to deliver the impossible in terms of accommodating the refugees, and it was eventually agreed to extend the transit camp originally established for Yugoslav refugees, especially to contain a potential sudden influx of immigrants to Palestine. There had even been suspicions expressed within the Cabinet that Hitler himself had inspired Horthy’s offer in order to create fundamental difficulties for the Allies in the Near East by allowing an exodus of Jews. Certainly, at this point we know that the Regency in Budapest was incapable of acting independently from the occupying Nazi forces and Hitler’s all-powerful agent in the capital, Veesenmayer. It was not until the end of the month that the Romanians defected from the Axis camp and it became possible for a more independent Hungarian government to be formed again, so the Allies were rightly cautious about any overtures from Budapest at this stage.

However, not to accept the offer would give the Nazis and the pro-Nazi Hungarian government a propaganda coup, and Eden agreed that the acceptance of the offer should be widely publicised, and that the Dominion governments should be asked to help in receiving some of the refugees. He also suggested that it might be necessary to establish a transit camp in Syria in order to prevent the situation in Palestine from becoming ‘acute’. In a flurry of telegrams, the US Government agreed to wait before accepting the offer until after the full British War Cabinet on 8th, although before writing his Cabinet memorandum, Eden had already sent a third telegram to Washington signalling HM’s Government’s acceptance, subject to the detailed terms of transport and accommodation being agreed by the two governments.

What effect this agreement had in Hungary we do not yet know, neither can we say that the deportations had been ended by this time, whatever the Regent’s intentions might be. Horthy had already ordered their suspension on 6 July, but a further 45,000 Jews from Trans-Danubia and the County of Pest had continued to be deported. We know that the Sztójay Government had rescheduled the deportation of the Budapest Jews for 27 August, but the Romanians switched sides on 23rd, and it was Himmler who cancelled any further deportations on 27th.

Throughout August and September, the ‘Shoah’ continued within Hungary and its occupied territories, with massacres by government troops and continued forced marches. These were also experienced increasingly by the Roma communities. On the same day the War Cabinet met in London, Jewish poet Miklós Radnóti wrote the following from his work camp in the mountains above Zagubica:

004ROOT 

Root, now, gushes with its power, 

rain to drink and earth to grow,

and its dream is white as snow.

 

Earthed, it heaves above the earthly,

crafty in its clamberings,

arm clamped like a cable’s strings.

 

On its wrists pale worms are sleeping,

and its ankles worms caress;

world is but  wormeatenness.

 

Root, though, for the world cares nothing,

thrives and labours there below,

labours for the leafthick bough;

marvels at the bough it nurses,

liquors succulent and sweet,

feeds celestially sweet.

 

Root is what I am, rootpoet,

here at home among the worms,

finding here the poem’s terms.

 

I the root was once the flower,

under these dim tons my bower,

comes the shearing of the thread,

deathsaw wailing overhead.

 

Radnóti’s words continued to be prophetic. The deathsaw continued to wail overhead for many caught up in the Hungarian holocaust.

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Posted August 8, 2014 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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