In Orbán’s opinion Miklós Horthy was an exceptional statesman

Another day, another speech. Yes, Viktor Orbán delivered another speech which, with the exception of one short passage, was nothing more than his usual collection of clichés about “those people whose aim is the transformation of Europe’s cultural subsoil, which will lead to the atrophy of its root system.”

The occasion was the opening of the newly renovated, sumptuous house of Kuno Klebelsberg, minister of education between 1922 and 1931, in Pesthidegkút, today part of District XII of Budapest. Along with István Bethlen, prime minister between 1921 and 1931, Klebelsberg was his favorite politician of the interwar period. Neither of them was a champion of democracy, but they stood far above the average Hungarian politicians of the period. I devoted a post to Klebelsberg in 2011 when the government decided that the new centralized public school system would be overseen by a monstrous organization called Klebelsberg Intézményfenntartó Központ (KLIK).

As I said, there was only one passage in the whole speech that will not easily be forgotten. After describing the 1920s and 1930s as “a grave touchstone” of Hungarian history, Orbán said that the nation was able to survive thanks to “some exceptional statesmen like Governor Miklós Horthy, Prime Minister István Bethlen, and Kuno Klebelsberg.” Thanks to them, “history didn’t bury us under the weight of the lost war, the 133 days of red terror, and the Diktat of Trianon. Without the governor there is no prime minister, and without the prime minister there is no minister. Even Hungary’s dismal role in World War II cannot call into question this fact.” Jaws dropped even at the conservative Válasz, which called Horthy’s description as an exceptional statesman “a historical hornet’s nest” which will be followed by a long, far-reaching, and most likely acrimonious debate.

Source: Miniszterelnöki Kabinet / Károly Árvai

Maybe we could quibble over whether István Bethlen was a statesman, but that Miklós Horthy was not is certain, and not just because of his dismal political career. When we think of a statesman we think of a highly respected, influential politician who exhibits great ability, wisdom, and integrity. None of these fits Miklós Horthy. He was a narrow-minded man without any political experience. Why did Orbán feel it necessary to join Horthy to Bethlen and Klebelsberg as great statesmen of the interwar period, especially by employing such twisted logic? One cannot think of anything else but that he has some political reason for his “re-evaluation” of Horthy.

This interpretation is new because it wasn’t a terribly long time ago when, in the wake of the Bálint Hóman statue controversy in Székesfehérvár in December 2015, Orbán said in parliament that he couldn’t support the erection of the Hóman statue because the constitution doesn’t allow anyone to be honored who held political office after March 19, 1944, because any political activity after that date meant collaboration with the oppressors, i.e. the Germans. For that reason, he wouldn’t support a statue for Governor Miklós Horthy either. So, this is quite a leap, which may have even international consequences. Although Horthy was not officially declared to be a war criminal, historical memory has not been kind to him. I am certain that the news that Viktor Orbán embraced Miklós Horthy as one of the great Hungarian statesmen of the twentieth century will be all over the international media.

The Hungarian reaction in anti-Fidesz circles was that Orbán’s change of heart as far as Horthy is concerned has something to do with his desire to weaken Jobbik, a party which has been most fervent in its rehabilitation efforts on behalf of Miklós Horthy. Orbán has been waging a war against Jobbik for some time, and Jobbik’s very effective billboards infuriated him. He wants to destroy Vona and his party. He is vying for Jobbik votes by courting far-right Jobbik supporters who might be dissatisfied with Vona’s new, more moderate policies. Perhaps Horthy will do the trick.

As far as Horthy’s political abilities are concerned, his best years were the first ten years of his governorship when he had the good sense to let Bethlen run the affairs of state. Every time he was active in politics he made grievous mistakes or worse, be it in the years 1919 and 1920 or in the second half of the 1930s and early 1940s.

You may have noticed that Orbán talked about the red terror but didn’t mention the white terror that was conducted by Horthy’s so-called officer detachments (különítmények). They roamed the countryside and exercised summary justice against people they suspected of support for or participation in the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Horthy knew about their activities and most likely even encouraged them. The number of victims of white terror was about three times the number of those who were killed by the so-called Lenin Boys.

Horthy’s election to the position of governor was mostly due to the fact that the only military force that existed in the country in late 1919 and early 1920 was his detachments. Politicians were worried about the possibility of a military coup. Horthy expressed his impatience with the politicians several times as they tried to hammer out a coalition government the allies would accept. And his officers made it clear that it is Horthy or else. His political views at that time were identical to those of his far-right officers who later claimed that they were the first national socialists in Europe.

Horthy’s real inability as a politician came to light when the world was edging toward a new world war. Perhaps his greatest sin was Hungary’s declaration of war against the Soviet Union. He volunteered Hungary’s military assistance when Germany didn’t even press for it. He also bears an immense responsibility for the Hungarian Holocaust when, after the German occupation on March 19, 1944, the government he appointed sent half a million Hungarian Jewish citizens to their death while he himself did nothing. And we know that he could have prevented it, as he was able to stop the transports later, mind you only after 450,000 Jewish citizens had already been sent to die in Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

Orbán’s decision to declare Horthy a national hero shows the true nature of his regime.

June 21, 2017
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Michael Kaplan
Guest

Great essay. Certainly, you are accurate regarding Horthy Miklos. The great Hungarian-American historian, Istvan Deak has written about the handful of German SS in Hungary, as compared to the 200,000 Hungarians, most employed by Hungarian government, who deported their fellow 400,000 Jewish Hungarians. Horthy’s lame and late response-after the fact-compares poorly to nearby Romania, let alone Bulgaria. Those governments, not with out their faults during the Shoah, at least prevented the deportation of most of their fellow Jewish citizens.

Member

Horthy was responsible for the death of about 500,000 thousand Jews from July 1941 through October 1944.

Romania was responsible for the death of at least 300,000 Jews in Iasi, Bukovina, Bessarabia and Transnistria between June 1941 and October 1942, but the Jews of Southern Transylvania and Bucharest were spared.

Bulgaria deported about 14,000 Jews from Macedonia and Thrace in March 1943 , but resisted German demands to hand over the Jews of pre-WW2 Bulgaria.

Michael Kaplan
Guest

Yes, I should have been clearer about the harm Romania and Bulgaria did do; however, a Jew within the pre war borders of Romania and Bulgaria still stood a better chance of being alive after World War II than one in Hungary’s pre war borders, let alone expanded borders. Still you are correct to remind us of the harm done by Romania between June, 1941 and October, 1943 as the Romanian army and their native fascists were exceedingly brutal. Regarding Horthy being responsible for greater loss of life, I was only discussing the mass deportations of 1944; however, as you suggest, an argument for even more culpability can be made if one includes the harm done by earlier deportations, the role of the Hungarian army in occupied Yugoslavia, USSR etc., let alone the Hungarian Labor Service (in which one of my relatives served. I think we are both in agreement with Eva’s comments regarding Horthy. Thanks for your feedback.

Observer
Guest

Tappanch

Pls advise source on the Bulgarian deportation.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest

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Observer
Guest

Tnx. I got these and wiki.

Istvan
Guest
Eva I believe there are a good number of American Hungarians who share the opinions of Orban about Admiral Horthy. Frank Koszorus, Jr. from the AHF I believe takes a position similar to Orban on Horthy, ultimately it is an apology for Horthy. But it a carefully crafted one indeed, Orban has no such need to be so cautious. It is important to recognize that Horthy had his supporters in the USA even during WWII, one being Tibor Eckhardt who claimed to want a free Hungary but was part of Horthy’s parliamentary coalition up to 1941 before he arrived in the USA. If I could summarize the attitude towards Horthy among many American Hungarians with historical awareness is simply he was not all bad, he did get back some land taken from Hungary and fought the communists who were far worse than Horthy’s regime. Horthy was the protector of the Jews is also the standard line when they discuss him. Korszorus has this tortured passage in an essay he work about the Jewish issue and Hungary: It gets hard to defend a man who declared war on the USA and the Allies sometimes. There is an old question that American… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

The passage reads

Under these circumstances Horthy perhaps should have resigned to avoid the semblance of legitimacy as anti-Nazi Prime Minister Miklos 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 questions among Hungarians ever since.” Had Horthy resigned, Hungary undoubtedly would have been considered as an occupied country by the Allies, not as an enemy state, and he would not be associated with the deportation of the Jews from the provinces. The Jews of Budapest in all likelihood would have been deported to the German death camps, however.
Since Horthy did not abdicate could he have done more than to protect just the 250,000 Jews of Budapest? According to Charles Fenyvesi, “Horthy as head of state did have enough power to protect its Jewish citizens. … Horthy underestimated his freedom of action and overestimated the force of the great power facing him.”

Member

Systematic distortions worthy of the OJ Simpson “Dream Team”… Orban’s mafia regime is the Danubian incarnation of the OJS Dream Team. Koszorus & the AHF are its stateside cheerleaders. Goes to show just how deeply rooted, long-lasting and far-reaching (into the Hungarian “diaspora” and its descendents) is this Hungarian cultural trait.
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wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘the Hungarian diaspora and its descendants’

As a child I had noted I was at the UN protest when the Russians went in with the tanks blasting away. It took years though for me to see its etiology and come to grips with the rot in the history. The prevarications, the falsehoods, the betrayals, the murders. Further it was stunning to learn my father fought for ‘them’ and from what I heard was a POW.
Unfirtunately I didn’t really get to know him as he died when I was in my teens. He could have given an eye witness recollection of the War for my edification.

The community I was a part of in my perception was apolitical. I do not recall a single political ‘duscussion’. Perhaps I could have learned more if they were not. On the other hand maybe the secrets they knew were better left buried and unsaid for a growing citizen of the United States because I had an allegiance to another ‘New World’.

Observe
Guest

Your suspicion is well justified – the Hungarians always talk politics – 75% is Trianon and the Russians/ communism as causes of all suffering, the rest is general hate talk against other ” enemies” of the Magyar. If they don’t talk there must be a weighty reason.

wrfree
Guest
Re: ‘tortured passages’ Reading them as such is the sentiment I have had always had when reading AHF rationalizations of conduct and behavior of leaders within Magyarorszag during the War and their stewardship of the US relationship. It is enough those leaders made the grave mistake to their armies to Hitler as it would help advance their own ‘program’ as well as theirs. In the end they made their bed and slept in it… until the dunyha started to smell. Real bad But hindsight now has raised a certain consciousness where the past presents uncomfortable truths for the American-Magyar institution who ironically take a page from the current regime where there are always ‘other sides’ to a story. I’m not too sure though it’s in the function for truth. But rather to assuage a shame which lies deep and has not been dealt with. Now that the dream- horror show has ended what do we find but another has popped up with its own version of historical personages and events. The ‘difficult’ past apparently has to be made malleable in such a way to comport to a ‘new’ illiberal society and its view of the world. And it would seem… Read more »
Pole
Guest

It’s not only Hungary. General love for authoritarian rulers of interwar period is growing in CEE countries together with authoritarian surge in the region. In Poland marshall Pilsudski (counterpart of Horthy) is universally beloved figure. He’s definitelely more complex historical figure than Horthy. One of the fathers of polish independence and the man who lead the country during Polish–Soviet War in 1919-1921 can’t be easily denounced. But his coup d’état in 1926 and following authoritarian rule never have been denounced in Poland. In fact he started with soft autocracy which with time and his own aging became more opressive. He should also be blamed for totally unjust, inept and corrupt rule of his associates after his death in 1935 which left defenceless Poland without allies in 1939.

Problem is polish authoritarian mentality. Around 60% of population has strongly authoritarian views (strong leader in national-Catholic welfare state). What interesting Jaroslaw Kaczynski pose himself as a new Pilsudski and even as him tries to rule Poland from the back seat without major formal position in state apparatus.

caprice goldberg
Guest

Eva,

It’s quite trivial, particularly in the scope of such an superb post, but I’m almost certain that Pesthidegkut is now part of the second district, not the twelfth.

exTor
Guest

BUDAPEST DISTRICT II … comment image

Perhaps Éva gave the map of Budapest a quick glance and saw XII, instead of II. By the way, Pesthidegkut is very picturesque, especially by streetcar.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Andrew James
Guest

Actually, Horthy’s ‘order’ to halt transportations was ignored by both the SS and the Stojáy government. They were eventually stopped on Himmler’s orders because the German troops were withdrawn from Budapest to the Eastern Front. By this stage, Himmler was able to resist Hitler and Eichmann in their determination to complete their ‘final solution’. Horthy certainly accepted the SS occupation of 19 March 1944, and ordered the Gendarmerie to co-operate in the deportations. He was therefore a collaborator and a war criminal.

Bastiat2
Guest

I believe that Horthy’s main characteristic was to have been a feeble man. Certainly not a statesman, a far cry from it, but not either the monster you make him to be.
There were indeed counter massacres in 1919 (the word “counter” referring to previous massacres by the communists). But putting the entire responsibility on Horthy is simply inaccurate. The situation was complex, there was no stable government. responsibilities were as always in troubled times, mixed.
Last, do not forget that after Trianon, the Magyars were in a state of shock. As if one had carved a piece of flesh out of them. Just think of Erdély!
Finally the Romanians were playing a nasty game after their last minute turncoat at the end of WWI.
The last three decent Hungarian statesmen of the XXth century, all Transylvanians, were Tisza, Bethlen and Teleki. Definitely, Horthy is not one of them. He is not a monster either, just a man who came to power when he should have stayed a military man, had not events put him in the wrong place. He was a man of the XIXth century, narrow minded and arch-conservative.

Guest
I’ve already written some time ago about that Austrian quasi documentary film about Horthy’s foolish action in WW1 when he (after many years of keeping his battleships in the dock) tried to break out to the open Mediterranean sea. He was so proud of “his” ships that he took a film crew aboard – and that crew filmed the sinking of one of his cruisers by Italian torpedoes from a small boat … The problem was that the ship had engine problems, not only making it move slowly but also leaving a trace of smoke for the Italians to follow. That film was really sarcastic – showing the main occupation of the seamen during the first years of the war: Going to brothels – of course different ones for simple sailors and officers because Hungary was a class society (and still is …). And if I remember correctly there’s also a scen where Horthy shows off his tattoos! A really sarcastic film – grandiose! PS: Of course the German Kaiser’s ideas of a strong fleet were equally idiotic considering the German situation regarding Britain and its fleet – but Krupp sold a lot of steel and none of the admirals… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Wolfi

Contrary to the popular belief, Horthy served as captain of the fast cruiser Novara for most of the war and was appointed navy commander only in 1918. Novara and two sister ships were involved in more action (using their superior speed), but nothing extraordinary took place.
The tactics of preserving the fleet to pose a continuous threat and so tie down enemy forces originated from Adm.Haus and was generally successful.

Guest

Have you seen the film?
I’m not sure about the “success” of the Austrian fleet – essentially they did nothing worthwhile …
And that batltle was also for nought.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Strait_of_Otranto_(1917)
Also interesting:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattaro_Mutiny
The seamen were really frustrated – like in Germany.

PS and rather OT:
I was working part time most of my life so we often, sometimes several times a year (!), went on holiday to Croatia (when it was still part of Yugoslavia too) and have seen all these places like Kotor but never was really much interested in those war stories – though it’s fun to read in a way, but really crazy …

aida
Guest

We have had Horthy assessments on this excellent blog many times. Whilst clearly opinions are divided he was not a democrat, enlightened or a liberal. He was probably an instinctive fascist and war criminal and a racist. Whilst he had his moments of success and glory he was a typical representative of the bulk of the Hungarian nation. A looser.
The Orbanist raptures are unmerited. They reflect poorly on the country also. On a charitable assessment of the guy he was out of his depth, not corrupt, but he presided over and contributed to a disaster ridden period of history. Eminently forgettable as a symbol for the nation.

Observer
Guest

Well said.

Horthy served some time as aide de camp to emperor Franz Josef and was steeped in authoritarian tradition.

bimbi
Guest

Thank you, Prof. Balogh, for setting out, yet again, the truth with respect to Admiral Horthy’s pathetic performance as a “statesman”. Can anyone dispute this? The answer is, of course, that Viktor Orbán can – he merely ignores historical fact and dresses up his own prejudices with fine words and lies (carefully selected) all to be consumed by his Fidesz faithful and by a non-caring Hungarian public at large.

“Orbán’s decision to declare Horthy a national hero shows the true nature of his regime.”

Exactly. Yes it does.

petofi
Guest

People seem to miss the point of Orban’s Pava jig…Orban cares not about going against History. If he can bring shame to Hungary, he doesn’t mind a whit if he stains himself with drech at the same time.

Orban is the stuff that gypsy legends will be made of for hundreds of years to come…

old1956
Guest

I think that Orban can not care less for Horthy, but he can use him as a vote raiser. Ca. 20-25% of the Hungarians will take the bait, and vote for a Horthy admirer gladly. Just to prove their anti-communism.

This is a cheap electoral act. Nothing more.

But where are the Hungarian intellectuals to reject the superficial plots of Orban, aided by Finkelstein, and the Kremlin2

Peter I. Hidas
Guest

K Kuno was Glatz Ferenc’s favourite minister of education. When he was minister he proudly showed me Klebersberg’s desk in his office.

tappanch
Guest

Mr Orbelsberg’s world.

Public spending on education among the OECD countries, 2013.

Who is the very last ?

https://data.oecd.org/eduresource/public-spending-on-education.htm

tappanch
Guest

The Orban government resubmits the bill to ban political advertisements it does not like.

This time simple majority in the Parliament will suffice.

http://hirtv.hu/ahirtvhirei/ezzel-a-javaslattal-akarja-a-fidesz-kdnp-kikerulni-a-plakattorveny-ketharmados-reszeit-1397860

Observer
Guest

What a primitive and disgusting farce – the rule of law is dead in Hungary. I have no idea how can someone start to separate paragraphs and subs from a statute and amend them under different legislative procedures.

To add insult to injury in the justification the shameless little fascists mention transparency, one thing they have done away with, i.e. the accounts of the Trading House of the Forreign Affairs Ministry have not been released even after a court ruling ordered them to, as the Orban mafia cares little about the courts.

Ferenc
Guest

OV&Co got a “taste of their own medicine” and basically “got beaten at their own game” by Jobbik/Simicska with the “ti dolgoztok, ok lopnak” [you work, they steal] billboards.
This shows the current level of politics in Hungary: public debate by billboard slogans.
And now the two billboard parties (Orban against Simicska), both at heart without any grasp of real democracy, started their fight for the billboard system using all ‘democratic’ tools at their command (parliament, media, etc.).
Hopefully each and every person in Hungary will sense this to be a disgrace of their society as a whole and an insult to their own human being. If so, the best possible outcome of all this might be that when after summer “the two dogs keep fighting for a bone”, next spring “a third one runs away with it”.

Observer
Guest

Ferenc

“Hopefully each and every person in Hungary will sense this to be a disgrace of their society ..”

No chance. There are about 1.8 mil faithfuls which will accept even cannibalism if advanced by the “nemzeti” leader. Another 3 million will tacitly consider. Note the Hungarian propensity to shoot themselves in the foot/ go suicidial, they are at it again.

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