German-Hungarian cooperation in the destruction of the Hungarian Jewry

Yesterday I wrote about the Orbán government’s bizarre plan to erect a statue to commemorate the occupation of Hungary by the German army. Since then a flash mob was organized on Szabadság tér where the memorial will be placed and several more people expressed their misgivings about the very idea.

Magyar Nemzet was content to republish the official explanation, according to which the monument will pay homage to the spirit of the new constitution’s preamble which points to Hungary’s loss of sovereignty on March 19, 1944. It seems, however, that even this pro-government paper found the explanation meaningless and hence came up with an imaginative headline: “The government honors every Hungarian victim.” That is, if we are to believe Magyar Nemzet, this monument is a gesture to the victims of the Holocaust.

Magyar Hírlap, a paper to the right of Magyar Nemzet, ran a fairly lengthy op/ed piece by Péter Szentmihályi Szabó, a poet and writer of far-right political views. He, as opposed to historians specializing in the period, is certain that “the German occupation eliminated even the appearance of Hungarian independence, made it impossible to sign a separate peace and made the territory of the country a battleground.” According to Szentmihályi Szabó, placing the new memorial on the same square as the monument to the Soviet liberation of Hungary is an excellent idea because it emphasizes the geopolitical impossibility of a good decision on the part of the Hungarian government.

Even without a detailed knowledge of German-Hungarian relations during the 1930s and 1940s it is obvious that Szentmihályi Szabó doesn’t know what he is talking about. We can’t really speak of “occupation” in the classical meaning of the word because, after all, sending German troops to Hungary came about with Miklós Horthy’s consent. No notes were taken of the conversation between Hitler and Horthy in Klessheim, but it can be reconstructed fairly well. Horthy wasn’t threatened as one recent article claimed. And the main topic wasn’t the deportation of Hungary’s Jewry, although Hitler demanded 50,000 men to work in Germany, which Horthy agreed to. As for making a separate peace with the Russians, Szentmihályi should know that this idea was abhorrent to Horthy, who was a fierce anti-communist. He didn’t entertain the idea until the Soviets were on Hungarian soil. As for the German occupation being the reason that Hungary became a battleground, this is also a patent misinterpretation of history. As the Soviet Union moved westward it engaged the remaining members of the Axis powers, which included the Hungarian army.

Hitler and Horthy

Horthy instructed the Hungarian military and public officials to cooperate with the German forces. The Germans couldn’t complain about the Hungarian attitude. Or, if they had any complaint it was about the Hungarian eagerness to get rid of as many Hungarian Jews as possible. Auschwitz wasn’t prepared for the onslaught that Hungarian officials sent. They were ready for one transport of 3,000 a day, but the undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior which handled the deportation sent six transports a day. The Germans eventually managed to convince their Hungarian friends to send no more than four transports daily. And the old story that Horthy was so despondent and so discouraged that he completely withdrew from the affairs of state is also inaccurate. There are documents that attest to the fact that on April 13, 1944 he approved sending the 50,000 Jewish workers to Germany as he promised in Klessheim.

The op/ed piece that appeared in HVG yesterday (“Monument to the Hungarian Collaborators”) is pretty close to the truth. Adolf Eichmann’s staff, including even the drivers, was no larger than 60-80 men. They had to rely exclusively on Hungarian cooperation. In fact, Hungary was so well organized that the Germans themselves were surprised. Given the well-oiled machine, the consensus is that the deportation of Hungarian Jews had been worked out in detail ahead of time. The Germans in occupied countries let the local forces do the dirty work, and “solutions” varied from country to country. In Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and France the local authorities chose paths that enabled most of their Jewish population to survive. If the Hungarian authorities had been less eager to get rid of their Jewish compatriots the result might have been very different. Just as in July when Horthy halted the deportation of Budapest’s Jewish population, he could have forbidden it in April with the possible exception of the 50,000 workers he promised to Hitler. Or, if the local authorities had sabotaged or slowed down the process, the number of victims could have been much smaller. But about 200,000 people were obediently working to fulfill the Hungarian plan. Krisztián Ungváry figured out that if the Hungarian authorities had stuck to the quota the Germans wanted (3,000 a day) 267,000 people would have survived the ordeal.

Historians studying the period find that the deportation was welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the Hungarian people. Yes, there were a few people who tried to save lives, but the majority approved the segregation and eventual removal of the Jewish population. In Veszprém the Catholic Church even organized a Te Deum mass to celebrate the deportation. There was wide consensus on the “Jewish question,” especially when it became clear that it was the Hungarian state that was the main beneficiary of the destruction of the Hungarian Jewry. Mind you, eventually some of the confiscated material was destroyed, lost, or stolen.

Hungarian historians have done an incredible amount of research on the subject in the last thirty-forty years, and I’m sure that thousands more articles and books will appear on seemingly every aspect of the question in the future. So, the problem is not a lack of knowledge. The trouble is that that information simply doesn’t penetrate the consciousness of the wider public, most likely because they don’t want to hear about all the horrors that took place in their country with Hungarian complicity. It is easier to say that the Hungarian government and the Hungarian people could do nothing to prevent the German atrocities.

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Minusio
Guest

Éva, as a German I can only say that without German political strong-arming the Hungarian hidden or open desire to murder Jews and plunder their belongings would never have produced such fatal results on such a large scale. Most “salon anti-semites” either didn’t want to have to do with Jews socially or wanted their role in various important fields deminished. That had already happened under Horthy. But most didn’t want them physically extinguished. They got the idea to actually wipe out 600000 Jewish men, women and children as soon as Eichmann appeared. It must have made them high – and made them guilty. Whatever Orbán says about March 19, 1944.

As most Hungarians seem to be believers with a challenged reality-check capability, Orbán’s reconstruction of history seems to them just fine. None of them will ever read the articles that prove that history was indeed quite different.

I guess we have many countries with a certain percentage of reality-shy believers, but probably not many where they represent the majority as in Hungary.

Orbán’s authoritarianism will end some time, but not 2014. I shudder at the thought about who will be able to pick up the pieces.

zsuzsir
Guest

Very good article. Some of the things as much as I know the truth I just fund out . I had no idea the Germans don’t want or (can’t handle) that many transport. So Hungarians really put a lot of extra person to they death . How sweet it is to blame everything on the Germans. We all know that the first Jewish law was in Hungary much before Germany. Germany was still a decadent free spirited country when Horthy had restriction on the Jewish population.

civ civ civ
Guest

The Hungarian leaders have failed us.
Name a decent prime minister, governor, bishop or cardinal.
We had a history of failures.
Our anthem is beautiful, but full of bitterness.
Our citizens are not like the average Canadian, American….
We are not civilized.

Lászlo
Guest

I believe Minusio is right. The Germans played the music, but it takes two to tango.
In Szolnok 3 German soldiers put about 7 thousand Jews into railroad cars to send them to concentration camps. Dozens of Hungarian policemen helped them (and took all valuables).
Only a small minority of the Hungarian population condemned these atrocities.

LS

andy - Add another Statue, Lets Go for It !
Guest
The intended statue in of all places on Szabadság (Freedom) square commemorating the German Occupation of Hungary is another edifice to muck the already somber, dark waters of history – on a Square which is beginning to be the ‘garbage dump’ of the skeletons of past conflicting ideologies and systems of the 20th Century as played out in a nearly inexpicable and painful sequence in Hungary. Effectively this area then will commemorate the Soviet “Liberation of Hungary” The Nazi “Domination of Hungary”, the 1956 uprising with the Imre Nagy Statue just in kitty-corner of the park and of course the presence of the American Embassy along the Edge of the Square, as well as the Hungarian National Bank and lastly the Bank Center symbolizing the Western Banking System… Add to this the notorious Bust of Horthy recently erected on Church property also along the edge of the square, and you might well find other edifices to add to this contradictory historical list of Panteons. I am 100% certain that the new German comemorative statue to German domination is being erected to utterly confuse the already confused Hungarian Mind and Ethos. One more contradictory mess of a statue will again muck… Read more »
Steve
Guest

Without devaluing Eva’s 2nd blog, the best part is seeing an Admiral bowing to a Corporal.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Two years before the German occupation one could read on the front page of a “christian national” (Orbáns ilk also call themselves “Christian”):

“Primeminister Miklós Kállay:
There is no other final solution than the expulsion of 800.000 Jews”
Györ, “Nemzeti Hirlap”, “Christian national daily 21 April 1942”

Ágnes Heller wrote about “Orbáns looting of corpses” (Orbáns Leichenfledderei)

Orbans Leichenfledderei
Ágnes Heller findet es unerträglich, dass Ungarns Regierung mit Holocaust-Opfern ihr Image aufpoliert
http://www.juedische-allgemeine.de/article/view/id/17978

tappanch
Guest
Excerpts from Veesenmayer’s report on Hungary, December 10, 1943: “Since 1526, Hungary has never been an independent country. … Even the Rakoczi revolution was not a genuine revolution, only a revolt. … Hungarians usually liked the risk-free, passive resistance… The so-called Hungarian nation has existed since 1918, but it proved to be unfit for national life, and this will not change in the future…. Fear cannot substitute ideology… The Hungarian national anthem was written by a German from Cologne, Erkel… Their most famous poets were Slovaks… Gömbös also had German blood… Regent Horthy spoke only broken Hungarian until 1925… If he becomes agitated he still turns to German… According to a Budapest joke, an optimist learns English, a pessimist learns Russian… The biggest enemy is the 1.1 million Jews in Hungary… The regent is a soldier, he is unfit for politics. We have to make him the Fuhrer’s soldier indirectly, by ridding [Horthy] from his entourage… We should copy the British principle and the Hungarians should work, fight and spill blood instead of us [Germans]… The Hungarian soldiers will never turn their weapons against the Germans, even if they get such orders… [from the 3rd attachment] We should use the… Read more »
Joe Simon
Guest

Horthy did attempt a “kiugrás”, prompting German occupation March 19, 1944. Stalin himself had acknowledged this fact and for this reason he didnot agree to exradite Horthy to Yugoslavia to be tried.

tappanch
Guest

From a Fidesz flyer, probably from 1989:

————-
What does Fidesz want?

Parliamentary democracy based on the free competition of political forces.

Responsible government, independent courts.

Democratic education, free of ideology, independence of educational institutions.

Churches freed from the state, state freed from the Church.

Life free of fear.

Freedom, equality, solidarity!
——————

Source:
http://orulunkvincent.blog.hu/2014/01/02/idezet_a_reggeli_kavehoz_481

tappanch
Guest

@Joe Simon
The attempted “kiugrás” was on October 15, 1944

tappanch
Guest

From a Fidesz flyer, probably from 1989:

What does Fidesz want?

Parliamentary democracy based on the free competition of political forces.

Responsible government, independent courts.

Democratic education, free of ideology, independence of educational institutions.

Churches freed from the state, state freed from the Church.

Life free of fear.

Freedom, equality, solidarity!

Ferkó
Guest

Tappanch, you are too smart. That was then, this is now. After the shock of 1994, Fidesz needed some time to adjust to the real demands of the people, but eventually it did adjust rather well. Now Fidesz does not much more (well, it collects literally hundreds of billions of HUF into its own coffers) than satisfying what the majority wants: cheaper energy, tougher stance on the dirty homeless, foreign investors, the gipsies et cetera. This is what people seem to want first and foremost, and this is what they will get. That is how democracy works (well, a new election system and suchlike do help).

spectator
Guest

Ferkó :
Tappanch, you are too smart. That was then, this is now. After the shock of 1994, Fidesz needed some time to adjust to the real demands of the people, but eventually it did adjust rather well.

I would rather say, that Fidesz managed to adjust the people’s real(?) demands to fit to their purpose – what is to rule and prosper, take as much as possible in any way possible, while feeding the public with empty slogans and pseudo/virtual-welfare BS in order to keep them dependent of their ‘good will’ – and they got away with it smoothly.

Unfortunately it proves, that such people doesn’t even deserve anything better.

tappanch
Guest

Hungary 2014

comment image

An
Guest

An interesting point was raised in Amerikai Nepszava the other day… Fidesz recently created a law about the “crimes of communism”…. but wait… wasn’t Hungary occupied by the Soviet army when those atrocities were committed? Yet leaders cooperating with the Soviets are guilty, while leader cooperating with the Nazis are not responsible.

tappanch
Guest

Hungarian children in Hungarian coats in Auschwitz before extermination.

http://collections.yadvashem.org/photosarchive/en-us/97836_33027.html

The full album is located at

collections.yadvashem. org/photosarchive/en-us/97836-container.html

Earnest
Guest

civ civ civ :
The Hungarian leaders have failed us.
Name a decent prime minister, governor, bishop or cardinal.
We had a history of failures.
Our anthem is beautiful, but full of bitterness.
Our citizens are not like the average Canadian, American….
We are not civilized.

Hungarians have an absolute lack of long term vision. Even people on the streets seem to be barely able to look past the tip of their own noses, so self-occupied they are with their own little thoughts and lives. Dealing with things like democracy is too much to ask…

Eliezer
Guest
“Primeminister Miklós Kállay: There is no other final solution than the expulsion of 800.000 Jews” This an example of the quote which is cut in the middle and is quoted out of context. The text continues that the expulsion problem should be postponed until after the war. Kallay did not want Horthy to appoint him because he thought he would not be able to rule due to his not-antisemitism. He met the leaders of the government party and ask them on conditions of their support. They replied that antisemitism is one of them, and he promised the anti-Jewish land reforms and anti-Jewish speeches that he sometimes coordinated with Jewish leaders. The expulsion was meaningless because he postponed it until the end of the war. Kallay’s consistent pro-Jewish policies (while included some anti-Jewish rules) was a major reason of his dismissal and the occupation. he rejected all German demands in relation to the Jews. He was very good in Kallai-Kettos in relation to both Germans and his domestic right-wing politicians. If Horthy dismissed Kallay in April 1943, as Hitler demanded and Horthy firmly refused, Imredy or Stozai were made premiers, and the deportations would start a year earlier and with much… Read more »
Eliezer
Guest
My additional comment. This sentence of the author shows how careless the author about truth: “As for making a separate peace with the Russians, Szentmihályi should know that this idea was abhorrent to Horthy, who was a fierce anti-communist. ” Is not it true that Horthy and premier Lakatoz did made a truce with the Russians on October 15, 1944, and while Horthy prepared his proclamation to the nation, his son Miklos jr. was abducted? Not true that the proclamation was read over radio, and this was the reason of Horthy immediate arrest and replacement with Salazci? If no minutes of Horthy’s meeting with Hitler exist, how the author knows that Horthy agreed to occupation if he himself firmly denied it? Is it not true that Hitler delayed departure and kept him incommunicado until completing the occupation? The minutes of the last meeting of Kallay’s government do exist – Horthy never agreed. Also, the German minister Vassenmeyer transferredn Horthy Hitler’s demand that he need to keep only appearances and not to participate in governing. Horthy returned himself partial power with military coup on July 5th, and then he stopped the deportations. Then he did the 2nd coup in August when… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Eliezer Eliezer : “Primeminister Miklós Kállay: There is no other final solution than the expulsion of 800.000 Jews” This an example of the quote which is cut in the middle and is quoted out of context. The text continues that the expulsion problem should be postponed until after the war. Kallay did not want Horthy to appoint him because he thought he would not be able to rule due to his not-antisemitism. He met the leaders of the government party and ask them on conditions of their support. They replied that antisemitism is one of them, and he promised the anti-Jewish land reforms and anti-Jewish speeches that he sometimes coordinated with Jewish leaders. The expulsion was meaningless because he postponed it until the end of the war. Kallay’s consistent pro-Jewish policies (while included some anti-Jewish rules) was a major reason of his dismissal and the occupation. he rejected all German demands in relation to the Jews. He was very good in Kallai-Kettos in relation to both Germans and his domestic right-wing politicians. If Horthy dismissed Kallay in April 1943, as Hitler demanded and Horthy firmly refused, Imredy or Stozai were made premiers, and the deportations would start a year earlier… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Map of the destruction of the Hungarian Jewry in 1944.

comment image

tappanch
Guest

The fate of the Arrow-Cross (Nyilas) leaders after 1945.

Out of the 241 leaders,

15 were executed,
2 died in custody,
3 were sentenced to life,
7 received more than 10 years,
22 from 1 to 10 years,
4 less than 1 year,

The remaining 188 escaped justice.

http://www.rev.hu/portal/page/portal/rev/rendezvenyek/20131211_konf_ungvary

Eliezer
Guest

Does such a map exist in English?

tappanch
Guest

Death marches and massacres of Jews inside Hungary, 1944-1945

http://www.holokausztmagyarorszagon.hu/maps/maps_4.html

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I don’t know where “Eliezer” gets his information but I’m afraid it is no more than a fairy tale version of what happened. For example, there was no military coup in Hungary in July 1944 or truce between Hungary and the Soviet Union on October 15.

Actually, a coup attempt led by Baky (with Csendőrség units supported by the Gestapo) was thwarted by Gal. Koszorús under Horthy’s orders on July 5th-6th, 1944. It is fair to say that the move contributed to save a considerable number of Budapest Jews.

However, unless one lives in the world of Horthy’s memoirs, this was only a side effect of the wider struggle beetween Hungarian pro-nazis and Hungarian nazi-allied fascists and national-conservatives. A struggle which was the direct consequence of Horthy’s previous bad choices from 1935 on. The regime only reaped what he sowed.

And I know that comparison isn’t reason – especially as the geostrategy and history of Hungary and Spain are of course different – but in those years Francisco Franco, when supping with the devil, proved he had a much longer spoon than the Admiral’s.