The end of Hungarian sovereignty on March 19, 1944?

On the last day of 2013 at 6:32 p.m. MTI, the Hungarian news agency, reported that the government had decided to erect sometime before March 19, 2014 a memorial to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the country’s occupation by Germany. Most commentators are baffled. They don’t understand why it is necessary to commemorate such an event. And why it was announced only three months before the deadline. And why did they wait until New Year’s Eve for the announcement? In addition, as one blogger noted, MTI referred to Magyar Közlöny‘s December 31 issue as the source of the news, but at the time of the announcement that particular issue was still not available.

Due to time constraints there will be no competition for the design. The government most likely already has its favorite artist, who will come up with something that will please the conservative taste of the government party’s politicians. And it will be placed on the same Szabadság tér which is already home to the Soviet memorial marking the liberation of Hungary in April of 1945.

In order to understand this latest move of the Orbán government we have to go back to the preamble of the new constitution which states  that “We date the restoration of our country’s self-determination, lost on the nineteenth day of March 1944, from the second day of May 1990, when the first freely elected body of popular representation was formed.” Clearly, the Fidesz government refuses to recognize any Hungarian responsibility for what happened after the German occupation. This is a falsification of history. Not only did Miklós Horthy remain in his post after March 19 but he still had a fair amount of freedom to act. For example, to appoint governments or even to stop the deportations when he came to fear that Hungary’s German ally would lose the war and he personally might be held responsible for the deportation and ultimate death of approximately 600,000 Jewish citizens of Hungary.

Együtt 2014-PM was the first to raise an objection to this “nonsense memorial,” as someone called it. Péter Juhász demanded a suspension of the project. According to Juhász, instead of a monument to the occupation the government should erect a column to commemorate the members of the resistance movement and the victims. Mind you, the former were appallingly few.

Mazsihisz, the association of Jewish religious communities, also objected to the decision. In their objection they pointed to the hurried decision without any prior consultation which “raised worries in the Jewish community at home and abroad.” They recognize only a Memorial Year of the Hungarian Holocaust, which allows for open and fruitful dialogue, not central decisions whose purpose is not at all clear.

MEASZ (Magyar Ellenállók es Antifasiszták Szövetsége), the association of anti-fascists and members of the resistance movement, hoped that the announcement about a new memorial is just a “bad joke.” They fear that the monument might become a gathering place for Hungary’s neo-Nazis.

Well, knowing the Fidesz government, I can predict that all these organizations can protest till Doomsday. On March 19, with sorrowful pomp and circumstance, Fidesz supporters will commemorate the loss of Hungarian sovereignty at the unveiling.

Jobbik, as might have been predicted, welcomed the idea. As far as the politicians of this neo-Nazi party are concerned, the memorial to German occupation should actually replace the Soviet monument standing on the same square right across from the U.S. Embassy. They would take the Soviet statue to the cemetery in which there is a section where high-ranking communist leaders are buried. So, there is no question on which side Jobbik stands.

Up to now only one historian was asked about his reaction to the project–Krisztián Ungváry, whose excellent book on anti-Semitism between the two world wars appeared a couple of weeks ago. The title of the book is A Horthy-rendszer mérlege: Diszkrimináció, szociálpolitika és antiszemitizmus  [The Balance Sheet of the Horthy Regime: Discrimination, Social Policy and anti-Semitism in Hungary] (Pécs: Jelenkor, 2013). It is a book of more than 600 pages and so far I’ve managed to read only 120 pages of it. But even that is enough to recognize that interwar Hungarian governments systematically strove to eliminate Jewish economic and professional preponderance and influence. It wasn’t only the numerus clausus; there were numerous administrative measures that made the economic and professional advancement of Hungary’s Jewish citizens difficult. That effort began in the early 1920s and continued all through the period.

Hungarian gendarmes supervise the transportation of provincial Jews to the designated railroad stations

Hungarian gendarmes supervise the transportation of provincial Jews to the designated railroad stations /Múlt-Kor

Ungváry points out that it is nonsense to claim that Hungary lost its right to self-determination on March 19, 1944. First, Hungary was an ally of Germany, and thus Hungary’s occupation cannot be compared to the German occupation of other countries in both the West and the East. Second, the Hungarian parliament, whose members were elected in 1939, was in session even after March 19, 1944. Moreover, the majority of the ministers of the Sztójai and Lakatos governments appointed by Horthy after March 19 also served in the government of Miklós Kállay (March 1942-March 19, 1944).

But the exculpatory rewriting of Hungarian history continues unabated. In a year or so the new school textbooks, which will be approved by a new body whose members will be selected by the government, will carry on the job of proving that the Hungarian government and the Hungarian people had nothing whatsoever to do with the deportation of the Hungarian Jewry. It was exclusively the Germans’ fault.

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James Atkins

Half OT. You might be interested in a new film called Gitel (produced and directed by UK film director Bob Mullan) which tells of a massacre of Jews at Kovno / Kaunas, Lithuania during the war and which deals with the willing involvement of Lithuanians in the event. This has been swept under the carpet until now. Moreover it is a beautiful film.


The Orban government answered to the objection of the largest Jewish denomination MaZsiHisz to the 1944 memorial with defiance today.

They do not understand the Jewish community. “It is in Hungary’s [Fidesz-created] basic law that Hungary did not have independence between March 19, 1944 and May 2, 1990.”

The “basic law” forgot to mention that Hungary also lacked independence between 1526 and 1918.


Tappanch you are frighteningly correct. Indeed what about those centuries? Mind you the official start of the Turkish occupation is only 1541. Nonetheless, your point is excellent.

lost lost lost

The basic law must record that Orban has sold out Hungary to his wealthy friends.
From 2010 on, Hungary has lost its independence again.
Orban was the grave digger.


I am not a “green”. But I find it frightening that Fidesz cuts out lots of trees in every unnecessary project in Budapest – Parliament, Varosliget, Szabadsag ter.

These Fidesz bumpkins want to smother Budapest not only intellectually, but also physically.

James Atkins


Chopping down trees often reflects ignorance, arrogance, poor taste and greed. I can’t say if that is “jellemzo” of these people, but if there is a pattern it might be.

One of the influencers of Fidesz back at the time of the change in the system was the English philosopher Roger Scruton. He writes persuasively how green thinking is at the heart of traditional conservative thinking in his book Green Philosophy. It might be that Fidesz has not yet read this important book. Too busy chopping down trees I guess.


“It was exclusively the Germans’ fault.”

The only dumkin bumpkins who’ll believe that are the heroic Orbanites with the blue marks on their assets.

To show the difference between German and Hungarian society today, one only has to note
German reactions to anti-semitism. They’ve come a long way. Hence writers like the Nobel Prize Winner, Imre Kertesz, live in Berlin; and Kertesz has even removed all his original papers from Budapest as well.

But the real test would be if those moronic bike riders with the “Give Gaz” signs would attempt a demonstration in Berlin. They’d be attacked and ripped to shreds…and it wouldn’t even be the jews who did it.

cry cry cry

The crimes of Hungarian leaders can be dated even to the non-independent periods.
There is no amnesty for treason, genocide, and crimes against humanity
Equally, the heroic acts of many decent Hungarians was also recorded in non-independent periods, too.
There was rarely a regime as immoral as the Orban one.
What is their excuse?


As a contemporary anecdote says, the German occupation took a whole day, but it could have been faster. How? If they had not have to listen on all Railway stations to the welcome speeches of the Hungarian officials…


THere is another important anniversary in 2014.

Five hundred years ago, the oppressed Hungarians rose up against the oppressing Hungarian noblemen.

After three months of fighting, the noblemen were victorious, Dozsa, the leader of the uprising was cannibalized by the victors.

The vast majority of the population were deprived from their previously enjoyed right to escape a bad landlord.

Verbewci’s (!) Tripartitum became the de facto law of the land justifying the oppression of the majority.

Hungary became the land of the oppressed and oppressor in the last 500 years.

The “jogászkodó” (legalistic to justify injustice) ideologues in the Orban government regard the Tripartitum as their guide, their Bible to devise new antidemocratic laws.


So in my opinion, the Hungarian people lost its sovereignty in 1514.


Since we live on Dózsa G ut I’ve read up a bit on this. Something similar happened in most European countries – in Germany even Martin Luther was on the side of the oppressing aristocracy.

So afaik Feudalism reigned in Hungary even after WW1 – the number of people who could vote was astonishingly low.

I’ve read on for example that many in Fidesz would like a return to these glorious times of Feudalism …

don't cry for me deak
don't cry for me deak

The escape from feudalism had a name: Ferenc Deak 1803-1876
The return to feudalism will be called: Ferenc Deak Erased Again
Democracy and Deak start with the same D and E.


“And why it was announced only three months before the deadline.”

Because, like all laws, policies, and actions of this government, it is essentially improvised. This government came into power with no program other than to secure, in any way possible, it’s continuing reelection. Hence the storm of laws and codes and the unbelievable amateur constitution written in days on someone’s laptop during train trips, which come rapidly to votes and, oh so often, rapidly to amendments


You’re absolutely right about the trees. One could not have imagined that a self-styled anti-communist government would chop down trees with Stalinist zeal, but they have not only done that, but exceeded it. The government sections of Pest are now surrounded by plazas that mimic Sophia, Bucharest, and Pyongyang in their defoliated monumental ugliness. I have noticed real anger among my Hungarian friends about this, even among the Fidesz faithful. I believe that Fidesz has played its cards very badly here and misjudged their own voter’s tastes. I even believe that an LMP, if it were to put emphasis on this as a green issue, could sway a large number of conservative voters simply by promising to make the parliament place green again.

James Atkins

Didn’t green issues (nagymaros) have some role in felling the previous regime? Although we ceaselessly plunder nature, perhaps she can save us again.


The carving in stone of the whole Fidesz constitution has been postponed until the government has run out of ideas for amendments. However the government cannot wait that long to have one particular paragraph hammered out in stone to last for eternity: “(The) country’s self-determination (was) lost on the nineteenth day of March 1944”. By this paragraph the Hungarians are by law relieved of any responsibility for the deportation of the Jews. The Germans did it. Not our problem.

In fact it is the core problem. Hungary is doomed if the Hungarians are for ever allowed to reject responsibility and wallow in the postulated courage, wisdom and sanctity of their forebears. This attitude does not posses a competitive edge in our time. Tell peopled the truth in stead making monuments for lies. The lie about the non- involvement of Hungarians in the deportations must be tackled first. All the other lies will fall with it.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Eva S. Balogh : Ungváry points out that it is nonsense to claim that Hungary lost its right to self-determination on March 19, 1944. First, Hungary was an ally of Germany, and thus Hungary’s occupation cannot be compared to the German occupation of other countries in both the West and the East. Actually, a parallel could be attempted with what happened in France in November 1942, when the German and Italian armies invaded the “Free Zone”. The Vichy Regime continued to operate until August 44. Obviously, no ruling party in France would consider commemorating Nov. 11th, 1942, but that’s because Pétain’s rule is generally considered illegitimate from its start in July 1940. The legal situation is more complex, nevertheless the political myth of Vichy’s native illegitimacy – created by De Gaulle – proved quite convenient. It even allowed the French Republic to eventually assume the sins of Vichy, however fifty years later. In the present Hungarian case, this is yet another example of Horthyculture, Fidesz style. Unlike historians (thanks for mentioning Ungváry’s book, it looks extremely interesting) politicians know they have to draw the line somewhere in time. Problem is, choosing the date they choosed it seems they’re eager to… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)

Jean P :
By this paragraph the Hungarians are by law relieved of any responsibility for the deportation of the Jews. The Germans did it. Not our problem.

I agree with your analysis, but I think it is only part of the issue. The behavior of the Royal Hungarian armed forces and administration during the occupation of Serbian and Slovenian territories, for instance, was notoriously infamous. It’s weird to read the same day Dr. Balogh’s piece on this subject and a news dispatch according to which “The Hungarian Air Force will secure Slovenia’s air space”.


I look forward to see one more new monument as soon as possible too, to the Great Kahn, Batu, commemorating the occupation of Hungary as well.
Seriously, it’s missing! Long overdue, even with orbanist standards more than 700 years!
(It happened 773 years ago, as you well know.)

Then, and only then could we rightfully claim our place among the red-dotted nations..!
(Sorry petofi, our learned dr.Matolcsy just can’t be wrong, – he genetically unable to err, you know..!)


“Anomaly has descended on Hungary”

(Weather report, Jan 3, 2014)


I don’t really understand what is going on here.

A few questions have to be asked:

Was this a real historical event on March 19 in 1944?


Was this historical event a good thing or a bad thing?


Is it a common occurence to commemorate negative/bad historical events?

-yes it is extremely common with thousands of example

So what is the issue here, I don’t get it.

If the argument was: Let’s not live in the past, look into the future, nobody cares what happened a long time ago, let’s not waste money on these things. I would understand that, but that seems not to be the argument.
I don’t see how is this any different from thousands of things about negative historical events and or suffering.

I would guess that 99% of the population had no idea that anything happened at all on March 19, and if articles talk about it, that can only be a good thing.



Are there sculptures in Budapest squares to commemorate the successful Mongol, Turkish, and numerous Austrian occupations of Hungary? I do not think so.

It is horrible and shameful, but
the Nazi occupation of Hungary was met with the approval of a large percentage of the Hungarian population in 1944.

A March 19 memorial and the Horthy bust on the same square will be magnets for demonstrations by Nazi groups.


Eva: ” If foreign occupation is an excuse for what happened in 1944 how can they deny the same to the communist commissars of Rákosi and Kádár?”

I think the argument goes: It’s not Hungary that’s responsible but a well isolated group of Hungarians who has been punished for collaborating with the occupying forces in the Nazi case but the communist ones walked away freely.

Of course, the first half of this is false in both cases. This country doesn’t just refuse to take responsibility for being either silent or complicit with the antisemitic policies of the Horthy era and later the holocaust, but also that after the 50s we made the deal with Kádár and we were also complicit in our own oppression. Of course this is not an individual issue for most people, there were victims, there were some who did the right thing, helped, resisted, leave the collective guilt to Edouard Benes. On the other hand, we – as the community of the people of Hungary, (note that I say we, even though I was -50 years old then) can’t relieve ourselves from the responsibility.


@Mr. Paul You are right in the sense that there is nothing wrong with commemorating a historical event of negative impact. The problem is with the governments motives behind it. This is not an honest commemoration.

What the present Hungarian Government wishes to do by commemorating the day when Hitler finally gave up on the Hungarian and Horthy’s Kallay Kettös is indeed confusing. Maybe they wish to take the example of the British and Australians who like to commemorate battles they lost, such as Gallipoli, etc. But I am more inclined to agree with Ms Balogh that it is an attempt to divorce responsibility of the Hungary of 1944 from the disaster of not only the murder of the Jews but also the loss of some 250,000 or more Hungarians during WWII. But any person with a sense of justice and a bit of knowledge of the years after WWI know that Hungary was rushing into the disaster without the need for the occupation by the Germans on March 19th 1944. Any way, what was this date and how was it different from others. I have been exactly 17 years and 10 month old and can recall everything what happened during the next period while we were supposed to have been under German occupation. Well, I can vouch for the fact that while there were some German soldiers seen on the streets as they were peacefully… Read more »

Sorry, the third anti-Jewish law was in 1941.


Thank you, Mr Colman – that was a very succinct but also moving account of those times!

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Sacolman : Hungary did not require the peaceful occupation of the Germans to be against the Jews or the Communists, they were very much ahead of the Germans with their first ever anti-Jewish legislation in 1920, just a year after the Admiral became the Regent and the subsequent anti-Jewish laws of 1938, 1939 and 1942 and they were happily went along with the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the murders of Novi-Sad and the deportations to Kamenets Podolsk. No occupation of the country were required for these actions by the Hungarian Governments. (…) No, 19th March 1944 maybe a date which should be mentioned as a historical date, but to erect a memorial for this date, when it did only mean the appointment of a new Government , which shared members of the new and old one and by the same Regent who approved it and watched from his palace as his army was being destroyed, while his Government mistreated and deported and interned Jews, some of whom fought in WWI with his “vitez” comrades is a shameless attempt by the present Government of Hungary to whitewash the shame of not only 1944 but the period between 1919 and 1945. I absolutely… Read more »

The English wiki says about the Arrow Cross:
“When it contested the May 1939 elections – the only ones in which it participated – the party won 15% of the vote and 29 seats in the Hungarian Parliament.”

On the other hand, the German version:

“Bei der ungarischen Parlamentswahl im Jahre 1939 erreichte die Pfeilkreuzlerpartei ihren größten Erfolg. Sie erhielt 900.000 Stimmen (rund 25 Prozent) und zählte 250.000 Parteimitglieder”

Which is correct ?

Also the German wiki remarks that many Hungarians were not allowed to vote …