In the latest in Hungarian Review’s series evoking the tragic events of March 1944– April 1945 in Hungary, I have selected testimonies that focus on what happened in June– July 1944. While Regent Horthy did not resign, for the reasons discussed in our May issue, following the 19 March occupation by Germany, he was under virtual house arrest in the Royal Palace, and had few means to influence the pro-German puppet government of Döme Sztójay. However, Horthy began to gather force in June, after the Allied landing in France, the receipt of a copy of the Auschwitz Testimonies written by two escaped Slovakian Jews, and translated by the office of Géza Soos, who secretly distributed them to Jewish authorities and foreign diplomats. By then the majority of the Jewry of the countryside was rounded up and deported to Auschwitz in a sudden campaign organised by Eichmann and his men, under pretext of war service. Despite coming under serious threats, as witnessed by the attempt on the life of his closest confidant István Bárczy, the Permanent Under Secretary of the Cabinet, Horthy ordered the halting of the deportations on 24 June. This order was made effective by his surprise moves in the early hours of 5 June, and the loyal First Armoured Division which took all strategic positions in Budapest the following night under command of General Staff Lientenant Colonel Ferenc Koszorús (see Letter in the May 2012 issue of Hungarian Review). These actions saved the life of the 250,000 strong Jewry of Budapest, many of whom had found shelter from abroad and from the countryside. At least 60 per cent of them were to survive the War in the city, despite ghettoisation and the carnage that the Nazi Arrow Cross gangs would wage against them after the outright Nazi coup on 16 October, when Horthy and his family were arrested and deported to Germany, and countless Hungarian anti-Nazis were also deported, imprisoned and murdered.

G. K.


We had planned that, on our way home, we would stop awhile in Budapest. We found out from the newspapers that they were establishing ghettos there. We did not want to believe they would do this, and if they actually did, even then not in Transylvania, that was impossible. But we immediately started for home.

We were the only Christians in our entire apartment house. The residents on the floor above us were very good friends; they were the ones who, right in the middle of a terrible housing shortage, turned over to us the ground-floor section of the building; they were drawing closer together because they were afraid. We served as a screen for them in matters of one kind or another; they helped János, who was then working for the Helikon Publishers, to a second job and income. He had also obtained his position at the Helikon through the intervention of our Jewish friends, particularly mine. Laci Kovács’s wife, the bright and energetic Sulika who, the truth be told, actually ran Helikon and the Szépmíves Céh, another publishing house, was a Jew herself. So we rushed home.

The German occupation.

I am crossing the promenade at night on the way home. German tanks stand under the century-old wild chestnuts, ready to fire. Soldiers beside them, motionless and mute. Only their lighted cigarettes glow red in the darkness of the blackout and the foliage. It seems as if I can hear them breathing. A woman is walking alone in the darkness in front of the tanks, and the soldiers watch, motionless and silent. I am afraid. Not for myself, I do not count. It was strange how quiet it was, not a murmur, not a movement on the entire long road. This scene still haunts me. It was then I began to fear the Germans.

Terror and turmoil everywhere.

When we were being married, the Yellow Star already had to be worn. Böske Horváth, my girlfriend, did not come; she would not, she said, go to a Calvinist church, and I rebuked her stupidly, saying I willingly went to a synagogue with her. The young girl with whom my brother was in love, Margitka, did not come either, but that did not surprise me, because I was friends with her only outside my home. Ferkó Dőry, when he learned he had to wear a star, suffered a crying fit and never left his apartment again.

Pista Kovács brought him to the wedding in a jacket in a taxi, saying he would tear apart anyone who dared to demand their papers. All this was a part of the atmosphere of the first days of my marriage, and it was with this memory that we hurried home from Budapest.

The day after we arrived home, they hauled off Imre Kádár1from our street. János ran to the school for his little girl, Anna, so she would not go home, and took her to Sulika. From there she was sent for safety to the provinces. She survived. In the meantime, Jánoska, their son, ran home and looked for Anna at our place. I detained him to no avail, he left. He did not survive. I have no other recollection of these days other than waiting with the Sebőks, who lived in the building, for the time when they would be taken away. It was horrible. Of course, we did not sit idly by. We succeeded in getting Péter, the Sebőks’ son, into forced labour service. Soldiers had to be fitted out hastily, within hours. My sister Irénke whipped the soldier’s cap off her suitor’s head, for which he was then put in jail. To this day I do not understand why she did it, for she was the only anti-Semite in the family. My brother Egon’s hobnailed boots were a bit large for Péter; he returned them after the war with thanks.

Meanwhile, we ran about with suitcases, warm clothing, medicines, false papers, false medical certificates. We helped confine people in mental institutions, and so on. Others did the same; in those days, this was a matter of course.

János behaved very decently, not just with me, but with everyone. He helped without a word, he felt no fear, and he did not expect any expressions of gratitude. Other than that, he kept his silence. I was unaware of many things myself. The Gestapo took the most notable and wealthiest Jews into custody at night. My brother Egon was working for the city. The Germans always requested a truck from there. This way we knew about it in advance. I passed the tip on to Böske, she sent it on, and then they would not sleep in their own beds that night.

Böske and her family brought their jewels and other valuables over to our place. We rescued Ferkó Dőry, he became a soldier. They hauled away Margitka, Egon’s sweetheart, in a garbage truck.

They were coming closer to our street. Sebők, his elderly mother, Mrs Sebők, János and I spent the evenings talking endlessly. Then – well, they are not coming today, we can go to bed.

Mrs Sebők lugged her belongings to our place in the daytime. The elderly mother suffered a stroke; half her side became paralysed. Let’s go quickly, get papers – we can save her from the camp! I sat on the bed beside her and assured her that she would not be taken away, that she would get to the hospital. When I ran off to the market, she wept and shouted, “Call her back, I believe her when she says I won’t be hauled away.”

Three days later, they hauled away all the residents in the building. They herded them down the staircase. There were little children, howling in despair; milk bottles broke, milk ran down the steps. I rushed out to help them. I wanted to speak to Magda. A gendarme yelled at me, “What do you want from them?” and he pushed me back in through the vestibule door. Magda, Mrs Sebők, smiled and waved as she went down the stairs. The gendarme slammed the door in my face; I stood against the wall and heard the rattle in the old woman’s breathing. Her son pleaded, “Don’t rush her, the poor woman has had a stroke.” “Then we will make her journey easier with a rifle butt”, I heard this, too, then János grabbed my wrist, pushed me into the living room, and locked the door on me. This was his most compassionate act during the seven years of our marriage.

(From Alaine Polcz: One Woman in the War. Translated by Albert Tezla. CEU Press, Budapest. We published another passage from this book in our November 2010 issue.)

 1 “A Transylvanian writer” – author’s note. Kádár (1894–1972) founded the Erdélyi Szépmíves Céh in 1924 and served as director of the Hungarian Theatre in Kolozsvár 1933–40. He turned to Protestant theology in 1940, and settled in Hungary in 1944, where he taught theology from 1952 and edited the Theologiai Szemle [Theological Review] from 1958.


The ruses and obfuscations that had worked reasonably well in the countryside had to be dropped in the case of the Budapest “mission”, which had to be executed before the eyes of neutral embassies, central authorities, large masses of the proletariat, and the admittedly small faction of left-wing Christians who were sympathetic to the predicament of the Jewry. Furthermore, the numbers involved were an order of a magnitude greater than in any concentration centre in the countryside: the largest of these was Nagyvárad with a head count of 35,000, whereas Budapest had nearly 250,000 Jews. No wonder that the “crowning moment” of Hungary’s dejewification required extensive preparations. Yet while the Jewry was being boxed in from all directions, resistance began to gather at the same time. This only made sense in terms of sociology and history. The success of the deportations from the countryside lay in the smokescreen tactics and cunning lies of the Nazis, their obstruction of lines of communication, and the inescapable psychological fact that people do not like to take notice of news detrimental to them. However, the tighter the noose of deportation was drawn around the city, the weaker grew the forces that drew it. Clearly, the elderly, babies, lunatics, and hospital patients recently operated could not have been brutally loaded into wagons and carried off under the watchful gaze of the Nuncio, neutral ambassadors, church leaders and the central authorities. Concealing or even glazing over what was really happening would be definitely out of the question.

At the session of the Council of Ministers, of 21 June, Jungerth-Arnóthy described at length the prevailing international opinion of the government and people of Hungary on account of the persecution and deportation of Jews, providing a detailed account of the facts relayed to him by the ambassadors. Jungerth-Arnóthy had access to all the secret radio transmissions via the MTI, the Hungarian national news agency. There were at least 30 or 40 reports about the persecutions daily. (One can form an idea of the thickness of the veil of secrecy that surrounded the brutal ghettoisation and deportation of Jews from the fact that the head of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to be informed thereof by foreign ambassadors, who obviously had no executive jurisdiction in the country. Under the circumstances, how much was the general public really expected to know?) Jungerth-Arnóthy also relayed news received from abroad and from the ambassadors about the Jews deported to Poland being taken to Auschwitz where they were to be gassed and cremated. After the Swedish Ambassador delivered a memorandum to Jungerth-Arnóthy divulging the horrors of Auschwitz, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs cautioned the government that international opinion could no longer be ignored: “As a small nation, we will need all the friendship and goodwill of the big ones when the war is over. Conversely, by persisting in our ways we will lose the sympathy of all nations, and Hungary will be forsaken and left alone by everyone in its desire to reconnect with the economic and cultural life of the world.”

Overall, it seems that in his objections to, and later prohibition of, the deportations, Premier Sztójay obeyed suggestions and, later, orders from the Regent. In his testimony, he did mention that the source of his information about the atrocities in connection with the deportations was the Regent’s cabinet office which handled incoming complaints. It was this intelligence that prompted him, on 21 June, to propose that the Council of Ministers summon the two secretaries overseeing deportations. Sztójay testified that the session two days later concluded by the minister’s conceding the request of foreign countries (to wit, the permission for the transportation of Jews to neutral foreign territory) and by the government’s own decision to ban further deportations. Jaross took exception to this account. He maintained that the Ministers had merely resolved to instruct the two reporting Secretaries to prevent further atrocities within their own competence, “but no resolution was adopted for the government itself to halt the deportations, because the Council of Ministers had not yet found the strength to do so in its own discretion. It is true that the Prime Minister was personally against the deportations but, like the others, he felt that the government lacked necessary power to enforce such a ban on its own.”

This indecision on the part of the government compelled Horthy to convene the Crown Council three days later. It had taken a fatefully long process of incremental considerations and a specific constellation of various factors before the Regent finally took the matter of ending deportations into his own hands.

The testimony of Móric Esterházy sheds light on the influence of Angelo Rotta, Nuncio to the Pope. At the beginning of 1944, fleeing the air raids, most of the foreign embassies had moved to the countryside. The Nuncio holed up in Esterházy’s estate in Csákvár, while the ambassador of Switzerland went to Vajna some 40 kilometres away. The Episcopal Bench assigned Apor, Bishop of Győr, to the task of shoring up support for the Jewry. Father József Jánosi kept in touch with him and with the Nuncio, making daily visits to the Ministry of the Interior and bringing news directly from the Jewish Council. Esterházy was in contact with Apor as well as his guest the Nuncio. Rotta acted not simply in his capacity as envoy of the Holy Seat but also as the doyen of ambassadors based in Budapest. Esterházy requested the Nuncio to intercede mainly on his own behalf and, on the side, to communicate regularly with his colleagues, particularly the ambassadors of Sweden, Switzerland and, while he remained in the country, the ambassador of Portugal. This diplomatic mission unfolded in two directions. One was the effort to enlist the help of the government and the Regent by divulging the inhumane atrocities to them. The second front consisted of persuading the ambassadors to inform their own governments in the deepest possible detail, leaving no doubt in their minds that the ongoing horrors perpetrated in Hungary could not be construed as anything other than a heap of heinous crimes. It was also by agency of the neutral ambassadors that the general public and the press of foreign countries were kept up to date. The Regent received intelligence from the Nuncio mainly through his son, Miklós Horthy, Jr., who was in turn informed by Verolino, the Councillor to the Ambassador. (Esterházy himself would pay visits to the Regent to talk about the atrocities.) The Nuncio had a rather pessimistic outlook on the prospects, to the point of outright declaring that “It is unlikely that any meaningful change will be achieved while Endre and Baky remain in charge.” […] Later, Esterházy himself paid another visit to Horthy and brought up the issue of persecutions. At that time, the Regent admitted that “Jaross is hardly up to the task of bringing order to the chaos in the ministry, never mind the country”. He added that he was unable to keep the reins on his Secretaries who refused to obey his instructions. “The country must be ridden of Endre and Baky”, he concluded.

By then, the Jewish Council had forged its own connections to the Regent. The messenger was none other than Miklós Horthy, Jr., who had been contacted by Dr Ernő Pető with the help of the Regent’s personal secretary, Dr Dezső Ónody. Horthy, Jr. had set up a meeting and called Pető to Castle Hill one late afternoon at the end of May. There he was greeted by Ónody in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ushered through a small door and a square courtyard to the reception room of the Regent’s son. This was the first in a series of frequent meetings in which the Council exposed various anti-Jewish measures, from the vicissitudes of the concentration of Jews in Budapest to the deportations and ultimately to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Horthy, Jr. would listen to these accounts in utter shock and pledged his help by relaying the information to his father. In some cases, though, he remained in doubt as to the truth of the reports. As he said, his father had called Jaross and Winkelmann to task over the fate of the deportees, and both had dismissed the allegations as “sheer Jewish chimera”. More than once, Horthy, Jr. also complained about his inability to produce results on account of the Ministers who lied to his father incessantly.

I have already mentioned that, as the threat of deportation edged closer and closer to the capital, so did the forces of resistance pick up speed and so did foreign countries acquire more and more knowledge of the events. Even following the Crown Council meeting, further details kept coming to light from which the Regent had to realise that the government and the country would soon be held accountable for everything perpetrated against the Jewry of Hungary. The memorandum of protest by American President Roosevelt, a sharp speech of condemnation by the American Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and the warnings of British Minister of Foreign Affairs Eden all had a very clear impact.(1) But the most effective message was no doubt delivered by the first large-scale daytime bombing of Budapest during the morning hours of 2 July, with a destructive force that convinced even the most hardened sceptics about who was winning the war. At the same time, the raid served as retribution against the audacity of Endre and his cohorts to go through with the ghettoisation of Budapest.

As it happened, the Jewry of the suburbs was taken away, but the deportation from the city proper never came to pass, for reasons we have already seen. Horthy did not like such a concentration of gendarmes in the city at all, particularly in view of reports he received about Baky scheming to overthrow him by coup. Under the circumstances, Horthy had reason to suspect that the battalions had been really reassigned to Budapest to lend armed support for the impending coup. No wonder that the Regent and his aides had frowned on the colour- dedication ceremony from the start, and in the last moment called off the event on the pretext of imminent air raids. Specific news of the contemplated coup reached Horthy on Wednesday, 5 July, prompting the Regent to send for Faragho(2) and the officer corps of the two armed battalions. He addressed a speech to them and gave them instructions on how to return to their stations.

Yet the suspicion must have lingered on among the Regent’s followers. Was this gang really going to give up its craving for more blood and loot and pack their tents? What if they attempted the coup anyway and managed to sideline the Regent? On the night of 5 July and the next day, these doubts prompted a series of resolute measures that boded well for a rebirth of Hungarian national sovereignty and had been unprecedented in their firmness since 19 March.

That night saw a series of dramatic events take place. Colonels Tölgyesy and Paksy-Kiss, the anointed executioners of the Jewry, had booked into the Hotel Pannonia on Rákóczi Avenue, coincidentally just a stone’s throw from the centre of Jewish life in Budapest and the headquarters of the Jewish Council in Síp Street. Around two o’clock at night, a car from the Regency pulled up in front of the hotel. A high-ranking officer got out and brought Tölgyesy to the Royal Castle, where he had to report to Lieutenant Colonel Lázár, the commander-in- chief of the gendarmerie forces. Lázár handed to him orders made out specifically in his name, to the effect that the command of the consolidated law enforcement forces in Budapest had been transferred to Lázár by the Regent. Around four at dawn, the car of the Regency returned to the hotel and took Paksy-Kiss to the Castle. In both cases, the vehicle was escorted by sidecar motorcycles armed with submachine guns. Paksy-Kiss was also given his personalised orders by Lázár.

The deportation did not happen not because anyone was directly ordered to halt it, but simply because no gendarmerie had remained to implement it. When the presiding judge of the people’s tribunal asked Ferenczy whether the Germans alone would have been capable of carrying out the deportation, he replied that “The Germans would not have been able to pull it off, because the implementation had been scheduled for the 6th.”

(From Ernő Munkácsi, How did it Happen? Documenting the Tragedy of the Hungarian Jewry. Budapest: Renaissance Publishing, 1947.)

This is the first time that any part of Ernő Munkácsi‘s book has appeared in English. The book is scheduled for publication in English translation later this year, co-published by the Aurea Foundation of Toronto and the Memorial Holocaust Museum of Washington, D.C. Ernő Munkácsi was a member of the Board of the Jewish Council of Budapest, the main body representing the interests of Budapest Jews after the German occupation of March 1944. The translator is Péter B. Lengyel. We are grateful to Peter Munk for his permission to publish these excerpts.

1 These arrived in fact after Horthy had already, at the 24 June Crown Council, ordered the halting of the deportations. Hovever, the pro-Nazi Minister of the Interior Jaross, and his State Secretaries Endre and Baky, sabotaged the Regent’s order. Eds.

2 Colonel General Faragho was the Govrnment Superintendent of the gendarmerie, as an anti-Nazi

loyal to Horthy, but he had failed to intercept the real purport of Baky’s concentration of batallions in Budapest. Eds.


Besides his strong personal friendship with the Regent, Bárczy had other great positional advantages. Being the administrative Permanent Under Secretary in the Premier’s Office, he was above all political infighting, immune from political attacks. The location of the two palaces, the Royal Palace and Sándor Palace was very favourable to Bárczy’s inconspicuous, unobtrusive contacts with the Regent: the two palaces faced each other, and in addition Bárczy had in his possession two very important keys: one to open the garden of the Royal Palace, the other to open the secret door to the underground passage leading from Sándor Palace to the apartment of the Regent.(1)So Bárczy could any time go and see the Regent without being followed or observed. Thus while other visitors, advisers like Count Gyula Károlyi, Count Móric Esterházy, Kálmán Kánya and others restricted their visits in order to avoid German suspicion, Bárczy had almost daily contacts with the Regent, and consequently became the Regent’s most intimate adviser and friend. […] Undoubtedly, in 1944 I was the closest friend and associate of Bárczy, besides Gyöngyi, the Countess St Genois, and there was not a single day without our seeing each other.

This particular friendship was of enormous value for the information service of MFM [Magyar Függetlenségi Mozgalom – Hungarian Independence Movement], and so it was for Bárczy. We regularly exchanged our information and views and I dare say we were very well informed as to the life and activities of the Regent, the Government and the Germans. Add to this the existence of the Special Bureau in the Royal Palace, as well as my research work in connection with the question of war guilt, work which was still going on, and one may get an idea about MFM as a very good and efficient centre of intelligence. […] Besides gathering information, MFM was also rather active in trying to influence public opinion in Hungary by circulating important information to people. At the very top of the political system, Horthy and Bárczy and some of their advisers, MFM had a lot of authority over shaping the main lines of Hungarian policy.

The friendship between Horthy and Bárczy had been very strong already during the previous years, and after 19 March 1944(2)it became the most important influence on the Regent’s decision making process. This particular friendship became even stronger, if possible, in the middle of the year when during the night of 28–29 June, an attempt on Bárczy’s life was carried out which ended in total failure. It was an attempt motivated by political reasons and carried out by Right- wing extremists. And here I am quoting some lines from my MS-III:

[…] Bárczy was – and justly – considered as one of the closest friends and one of the chief advisers of Regent Horthy, as well as a staunch anti-Nazi and a 100 percent pro-British. Later gossips began spreading in Budapest about a secret underground tunnel connecting the Royal Palace and Sándor Palace (i.e. the Regent’s office and that of the Premier) and that the keys to the doors were kept in custody by Bárczy who “every night went over to Horthy to influence him in an anti-German direction”. Many people were puzzled in many respects about the Regent’s being informed with a certain tendency and they concluded that it was the Under Secretary of State who was informing Admiral Horthy. By eliminating Bárczy, some of the Right-wing extremists believed, they would remove the main obstacle to the “victorious march of the extreme Right”.

(MS-III, Vol. II, pp. 667–668.)

The assassination attempt had the opposite effect, it merely served to strengthen the Horthy–Bárczy friendship and stiffen the resolve of the Regent. And Macartney:

The National Socialists decided to murder István Bárczy, chef de protocol in the Minister Presidency, and Horthy’s personal friend, and the keeper for nearly thirty years of the minutes of the Crown and Ministerial Councils


There had been much talk in Right-wing circles of the impossibility of getting at the Regent and bringing him to a proper frame of mind as long as he was surrounded by his ”clique of pro-Allied and pro-Jewish advisers”, […] this particular matter […] seemed to have had its part in stiffening Horthy’s attitude.

(Macartney, op. cit., Vol. II., pp. 303–304.)

Next day – on 30 June – Bárczy was received by Regent Horthy. The Regent was very cordial, pressed Bárczy to his bosom and declared that whoever the criminals were they would receive their deserved punishment.

Next to the question of MFM influence in connection with the Head of State and his advisers came the problem of influencing the masses and the effective military strength. Although MFM around Summer 1944 had not more than four-five hundred members, since it was fully backed and supported by MTK [Magyar Testvéri Közösség – Community of Hungarian Brotherhood] whose existence was still unknown to me, it could influence well over 200,000 persons in Hungary. MTK around this time had about 50,000 members and, of course all MFM and MTK members had their own circles of family members and confidential friends; in consequence the above number of 200,000 was very likely well over 500,000 in reality, and the bulk of these persons could be considered as without a single exception honest, reliable, patriotic Hungarians, as well as in their own field as above the average. In addition the work of information as carried out by them was systematically organised and kept in permanent functioning. The effect of this kind of influencing and forming public opinion in Hungary therefore was considerable.

The main efforts of MFM in May to August 1944 consisted of creating the Lakatos Government, the organisation of the Second Army under General Lajos Dálnoki Veress and the preparations for armistice negotiation with the Allied Powers.
The general political and military situation as reviewed by MFM in March–April 1944 was as follows:

1. By “arresting” the Head of State(3), a great number of Cabinet Ministers, including the Premier, members of both Houses of Parliament, generals and many other people, the Germans themselves had absolved Hungary from all her moral and legal obligations to Germany.
2. Constitutionally the Regent was authorised to conclude an armistice without the previous concurrence of the Cabinet. Thus MFM accepted the legal interpretation of Act of 1920, interpretation given by Gyula Ambrózy and other eminent jurists. Thus full confidentiality could be safeguarded and not even Premier Lakatos had any idea about the armistice preparations until in the last moment, when General Faragho informed him confidentially about what was going on.
3. The Regent was alive and was active, although much restricted. His person was absolutely necessary for the success of the attempt (Attempt Three).
4. The second main prerequisite – after the Regent’s person and cooperation, consisted in keeping the Hungarian armed forces under the influence of MFM. This aim was fully achieved by August when the First Army, the Second Army, the united Gendarmerie and Police forces, the Transylvanian Division etc. all had come under the control of MFM-members or Transylvanians.

The final aim of MFM consisted in securing Hungary’s independence and sovereignty and in breaking away from the Germans. It was also planned to dissolve MFM as soon as these objectives could have been reached.

The Main Points of MFM’s Plans

The plans of MFM were based on the full and effective cooperation of the Regent, the armed forces and all members of MFM. The main points of the plan of execution were as follows:

1. To secure the safety of the Regent and his family. According to the plans of MFM the Regent was to go secretly to Transylvania, to the Second Army (General L. Veress) shortly before the action was to begin. At General Veress’s headquarters the Regent, surrounded and protected by the Second Army and Atzél’s Free Sharpshooters with Count Bethlen as political adviser at his side, would be completely safe and would have the necessary armed forces to break from the Germans. (Macartney in Vol. II of his work seems surprised at the striking similarity existing between the break-away plan as prepared in the Royal Palace in March and the plans made for the Third Attempt prepared in September 1944 – cf. Macartney, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 218. Of course both plans had been developed by MFM members, and in particular General Lajos D. Veress, General Ferenc Horváth, General G. Faragho, Assistant Bishop Szent-Iványi, Baron E. Atzél, Tibor Gyulai, Chief Justice A., Col. Jenő Padányi, Col. Lajos Kudar and the author of the present MS.)

2. To be prepared to all eventualities – including an eventual “kidnapping” or the sudden death of the Regent. The MFM concentrated its efforts on choosing an individual appointed to act as Deputy Regent or Homo Regius whose appointment would become automatically effective in the case of the Regent’s death, his grave illness or capture by the Germans. This plan, the importance of which had been continuously stressed and repeated by those MFM members who had access to the Regent, was finally accepted by Admiral Horthy and so General Lajos Dálnoki Veress, Commander of the Second Army, was appointed secretly by the Regent to succeed him or rather to replace him in case anything should happen to him.

3. To wait until the First Army would reach the Carpathians and establish itself along the very strong Hunyadi Defence Line, the entrenched position, in order to assist in carrying out the Third Attempt.

4. To wait until the Second Army was fully organised and brought up to fighting strength.

5. To take preparatory steps in connection with organising armistice delegations. As some kind of armistice negotiations with the Red Army or directly with Moscow seemed of the greatest importance, MFM had started, as early as January 1944, to prepare General Faragho as the Regent’s candidate to conduct armistice negotiations with Soviet Russia, since the general was considered by MFM as the best qualified for such a role, given his command of the Slavic languages and his personal contacts in Moscow.

6. Armed resistance to the Germans would be futile. The proximity of the Allied forces to Hungary therefore became a very important factor in the planning of MFM. Thus another time limit was imposed: the Allied forces needed to be close enough to ensure military success.

7. To wait until a Lakatos Cabinet could be installed.

On 10 July, Horthy bluntly informed Lakatos that as Premier his first duty would be to take steps to swiftly leave the Axis. This, however, Lakatos considered impossible, and as there was strong German opposition to any plan to replace Sztójay with someone less docile and less pro-German, the matter – i.e. Lakatos’s appointment – was for the time being dropped.

In the meanwhile, however, the Jewish question became once more one of the most burning issues between Hungary and Germany, and Horthy again concentrated on the problem of replacing Sztójay, who proved not sufficiently resistant to German demands. The final decision then came when the news of Romania’s defection from the Axis became known in Budapest, on 23 August.

(From Domonkos Szent-Iványi. The Hungarian Independence Movement, 1936–1946. Hungarian Review, Budapest, 2013.)

Note: Domonkos Szent-Iványi, diplomat, a former aide at the PM’s office, was head of the clandestine anti-Nazi MFM Hungarian Independence Movement, and administratic Director of Regant Horthy’s Special Bureau, breaded his son Nicky (Miklós Jr). The Bureau co-ordinated plans to jump the Axis camp from January 1944. Szent-Iványi became head of the arunistice delegation Horthy sent to Moscow in September 1944. See also Hungarian Review, September and November 2013.

1 A door to a staircase and underground passage was hidden in the wall of the Prime Minister’s private office, through which István Bethlen also fled from arrest in March 1944.

2 The German occupation of Hungary. Eds

3 Already in Klessheim in March 1944 Horthy accepted Hitler’s decision for occupation under force.

Legally, the Regent regarded his condition as an arrest, which together with the violent elimination of his power base in the administration, made all political obligations to Hitler nil. The Editors.


As soon as the first anti-Semitic measures were enacted, the Hungarian Independence Movement (MFM), or rather the Community of Hungarian Brotherhood, immediately assigned Kálmán Saláta and me to make contact with the oppressed and try to help. Both of us got in touch and maintained regular contact with members of Jewish mission branches of the Churches (Catholic: Holy Cross Society, József Cavallier, P. Jánosi; Protestant: Good Shepherd Foundation, József Éliás, Albert Berecky, Gyula Muraközy), and to some degree the various Jewish organisations (Jewish Council, etc.) and its members (Ottó Komoly, György Kemény). That is how I came to meet the legendary Raoul Wallenberg; I was among the first persons he looked up on his arrival in Budapest, and later I spent a long evening with him and his friend Anger. With him and primarily with József Éliás, we discussed and worked out plans. I regularly notified József Éliás about everything I learned, at the Foreign Ministry, the Regency, and the news services of the MFM that affected the Jews.

Members of the Hungarian Brotherhood, functioning openly or covertly, were among the most agile operators in the activities of the Protestant and Catholic churches (protests, delegations, pastoral letters, etc., in addition to the already mentioned Holy Cross and Good Shepherd practical aid services). The greatest service of the Hungarian Brotherhood, that is, of the MFM, was to work out a plan to SAVE THE JEWS OF BUDAPEST. In the second half of June, the secretly begun deportation of Jews from the countryside turned into a world scandal. On 23 June the Hungarian Protestant bishops protested, on 25 arrived the telegram of protest from the King of Sweden, and subsequently, protests from the Papal nuncio and the Primate of Hungary, Archbishop Serédi, and President Roosevelt. The misinformed Regent finally realised what was happening and forbade the “deportation of Jews for the purpose of forced labour”. The Germans did not want to stop, however, and having talked it over with their Hungarian agents, they prepared for a military takeover. In early July they unexpectedly ordered several SS and Gestapo detachments and two gendarme battalions to Budapest to transport Jews out of Budapest in a military coup and, if necessary, to capture the Regent. The news service of the MFM got wind of this and took countermeasures along two lines: a) along civilian lines, it was my responsibility to work out protection plans with József Éliás. These were the following: we organised a news service among the 2600 “Jewish houses”(1)of Budapest; every ten houses had a coordinator or liaison officer, and the 260 liaison officers had some 13–15 “chief liaison officers”, who kept in touch with the Éliás centre on Lázár Street. The thought was this: should we fail to act in timely and effective fashion militarily, and should we learn some evening that the attack on Jewish houses and the deportation had begun, I would immediately inform Éliás of it and through his people all Jewish households would be notified. At a predetermined time the Jewish inhabitants would rush in to the street, causing an open scandal and probably gain enough time to get the deportation suspended; b) along military lines, we tried to effectuate a plan with the armoured troops of Esztergom: on his own authority, without notifying any of his superiors, General Staff Lieutenant-Colonel Ferenc Koszorús ordered the armoured troops of Esztergom to Budapest, under cover of night, where they surrounded the Castle. Then Koszorús informed the Regent of the action he had taken on his own initiative, which he did because he learned of the plans of the German–Hungarian Nazis and knew that unless troops stood ready to defend him, the Jews and the Regent would be dragged away. The Regent immediately summoned the MFM member Lieutenant-General Faragho and his collaborator General Lázár. He ordered the gendarme units away from Budapest and at the Crown Council meeting at noon the next day, Baky and Endre found themselves dismissed (and later Jaross, Imrédy and Kunder as well). The Jews of Budapest were spared this attempt to deport them. Thus, after ecclesiastical and international intervention, the Jews of Budapest were saved by the help extended by the MEM, or rather the Hungarian Brotherhood, to the Regent, who saw the situation clearly but lacked full power; this is the organisation they are now slinging mud at by calling it racist.

(From a 1947 letter by Géza Soos to Hungary’s Ambassador in Paris, Pál Auer.)

Quoted in István Szent-Miklósy: “What did the Hungarian Community do for Hungarian Jewry?”, in: With the Hungarian Independence Movement, 1943–1947, Praeger, New York, 1984. pp. 22–23.

Note: Géza Soos (1912–1953), lawyer, Calvinist theologian was secretary to Prime Minister Pál Teleki in 1939–41. He worked in the Foreign Ministry, and was the close associate of Domokos Szent-Iványi in the clandestine Hungarian Independence Movement. In September 1944 he flew on a secret mission to Italy to conduct armistice negotiations with the Allied Forces. In 1947, he emigrated to the US. The last sentence refers to the “Hungarian Brotherhood” trial of 1947, where the Communist secret police and the Soviets broke the backbone of the majority Smallholders’ Party under false charges including conspiracy, treason and racism.

1 The Jewish population of Budapest had been moved into “Jewish houses” or (Yellow) Starred Houses by the Nazis after the German occupation. Eds.

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