This Week at War, 19-25 April 1915 &1945   Leave a comment

This week in the First World War, 19-25 April 1915

20 April: Batteries in action are not to hang (up) their washing in the vicinity of the guns. Routine orders.

22 April: Major battles: Second Ypres, 22 April – 25 May:

The Second Battle of Ypres is known for being the site of the first use of poison gas on the Western Front (it had been used by the Germans on the Eastern Front at Bulimov in January). The chlorine gas surprised the Allies despite earlier clues, such as captured German soldiers carrying gas masks. The greenish-yellow cloud caused panic in the lines – the French Algerian 45th Division fled. A four-mile-wide gap opened up into which the Germans advanced but they didn’t take advantage as insufficient reserves were available. An attack the next day also used gas but the Canadians who faced it were prepared – they had been told to douse handkerchiefs in urine to counteract its effects. By the end of the battle the Allies had lost 60,000 men in a defeat in which the the Germans sustained around half the Allied casualties. On the first day of the battle, 168 tons of chlorine gas were released. British General Horace Smith-Dorrien was sacked after he suggested a tactical withdrawal. The British withdrew days later.

This week in the Second World War, 19th – 25th April

19/20 April: Domokos Szent-Iványi, the former envoy to Moscow for the now exiled Regent Horthy, returned to Budapest from Debrecen. He stayed in the capital until his arrest in December 1946. He was hesitating as to whether to remain in Hungary or go abroad whensome decisive events took place:

The Hungarian Communist Party in 1945 was very much divided and a great part of the Left still belonged to the Social-Democratic Party. The Russians were making a great mistake in supporting those Party members who had been living in Moscow during the war, i.e. in relative peace and comfort. They were given the nickname “Caviar Boys”, which meant that such men, like Rákosi, Gerő, György Lukács, Jenő Varga, Zoltán Vas, etc., instead of risking their lives fighting the Gestapo and the Arrow-Cross (like János Kádár, Gyula Kállai, László Rajk, Antal Bán, Pál Demény, József Dudás, Aladár Weiszhaus, etc.) had been indulging in the finer things of life. Rákosi, was considered as Caviar Boy No. 1. and was very much disliked, but he enjoyed the support of the Russians. Later, however, opposition to him grew in the Party and soon names were circulating of individuals who could take on the leading positions in the Party. Among such names those of Rajk, Kádár, and Imre Nagy were, of course, the favourites…

Gyula Kodolányi and Nóra Szekér (eds.)(2013), Domokos Szent-Iványi: The Hungarian Independence Movement, 1939-45.

Meanwhile, outside the capital, the last Hungarian town had been liberated earlier in April, but the wildest hyperinflation in history raged everywhere. The last pengő banknote issued bore the denomination 100 quadrillion, and one unit of the new currency was equivalent to 400,000 quadrillion pengő by July 1946, and the dollar was equivalent to 4,600,000 pengő. Land reform, decreed by the Provisional Government without debate, on 17 March, was beginning to have far-reaching social, economic and political consequences. The aristocracy and the gentry lost their traditional means of subsistence and effectively disappeared. The age-old dream of the Hungarian peasant appeared to have come true, but the Smallholdrers’ Party were rightly concerned about the economic soundness of the plan. The average size of the plots allocated to the recipients was only seven acres, which meant an end to viable farms, which were between fifty and a hundred acres. Nevertheless, Imre Nagy, the Communist Party’s Minister of Agriculture in the coalition government became popularly acclaimed from this point on as the land distributor. In reality, the land reform, together with the drastic reduction of draught-stock, machinery and implements, added to the economic disarray and difficulties of supply faced by the country. Rations, especially in the cities, were at starvation levels. Urban workers were surviving on less than a thousand calories a day. These hardships and shortages were aggravated by an occupying force of 1.5 million Soviets, whom the Hungarians were supposed to supply with food, fuel, free transport and other services. After the Germans left, the Red Army removed industrial installations, art treasures, and all manner of movable public equipment and property during the last weeks of the war. The Provisional Government was powerless to resist this wholesale confiscation, since the western powers refused to recognise it until the Soviets agreed to the holding of free elections. These did not take place until 4 November

Posted April 19, 2015 by AngloMagyarMedia in Uncategorized

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