The stealth Horthy cult

This was the title of a recent article that appeared in Népszabadság. Prompting the article were two recent news items. The first, which hit the newstands on April 24, was an announcement that the council of Gyömrő, a town of 15,000 only seven kilometers from the Franz Liszt Airport and the city limits of Budapest, decided to rename its main square. Freedom Square would become Horthy Square. The council was renaming it because between 1937 and 1945 the square was called Miklós Horthy Square in honor of the governor (1920-1945) of the kingless Kingdom of Hungary. Gyömrő today is politically on the right although one wouldn’t know that by just glancing at the list of city fathers and their party affiliations. Most of them represent a local formation called Gyömrő 200 Kör. The fact that in 1937 the town decided to name the main square for Horthy leads me to believe that the inhabitants’ political outlook has remained pretty constant. Communism or no communism in between.

At first only MIÉP and later Jobbik made a serious effort to “rehabilitate” Miklós Horthy by insisting on celebrating November 16, the day Miklós Horthy and his National Army entered Budapest in 1919. The organizers even managed to find a white horse for the occasion. The Jobbik leaders also wanted to change the name of Béla Bartók Road to Miklós Horthy Road, as it was called between 1920 and 1945. But lately there are more and more signs that the “Horthy cult” is spreading beyond the far right.

I don’t want to get involved here in a discussion of Horthy’s historical role. Just as the historian Ignác Romsics pointed out in a lengthy article in Mozgó Világ, Horthy’s image has gone through several transformations. After 1989-90 there were attempts to burnish Horthy’s post-1945 image, but these efforts were largely unsuccessful, at least until 2000. According to a Medián poll from 1999, Horthy was deemed to be one of the most negative historical characters of the twentieth century, after Mátyás Rákosi and Ferenc Szálasi. However, since then there has been a slow but steady move toward a more positive public assessment of the governor.

The most notable change is that Jobbik is no longer alone in promoting Horthy’s positive image. People close to Fidesz also took up the cause. Film producer Gábor Koltay with the assistance of István Nemeskürty, who likes to call himself a historian, made a film about Horthy that was based on selective truths. Nemeskürty, who in the 1970s called Horthy a murderer, thirty years later portrayed him as someone who had nothing to do with the anti-Jewish laws or the deportation of Hungary’s Jewish citizens.

Until now there was only one street named after Horthy–in Páty, a village of 6,000 west of Budapest. The name change occurred in 2001 when Páty was led by a MIÉP mayor. Last year the Fidesz mayor of Vác (pop. 35,000) wanted to name one of city’s streets after Horthy but the majority of the city council, after a massive protest, voted the suggestion down.

And now here is the strange case of Gyömrő where most of the council seats are held by members of an organization called “Gyömrő 200 Circle.” Who are these people? Most likely they were recruited from the former Smallholders’ Party, Fidesz, and MDF. One interesting tidbit I picked up was that the mayor, Levente Zoltán Gyenes of Gyömrő 2000 Kör, prior to the elections in 2010 tried to join Fidesz but the local Fidesz organization refused to accept him.

One council member’s past is truly fascinating. In 1998 Zoltán Sas represented Fidesz on the council. In 2002 he received a seat as an MDF member. And behold, the same Zoltán Sas showed up in 2010 as a member of Jobbik. He was the one who came up with the idea of renaming the town’s square. Apparently there was only one person who abstained. All the others without any discussion voted for Sas’s proposal.

Gyomro Szabadsag ter

It was the Gyömrő Fidesz organization which announced the name change. A local Internet paper, Gyömrői Hírhatár, responded disapprovingly. The article pointed out that although there is no legal prohibition against naming public places for Horthy or erecting statues of him, the governor is a very divisive historical figure, and it predicted that the Gyömrő town council’s decision would create a nationwide debate. Indeed, it did.

The Gyömrő Fidesz party announced yesterday that the historian Ignác Romsics, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, will visit the town tomorrow where he will give a lecture on “Horthy and the Horthy Regime.” They urged people to attend, especially because “some people are trying to organize demonstrations in reaction to the renaming of Gyömrő’s main square.”

Szabadsag az nem csak egy terWhat the local Fidesz party was referring to was a liberal organization, K.I.Gy.E. Pesti kerekasztal, that was calling for “a silent demonstration” on the same day that Romsics is scheduled to deliver his lecture. Portraying Horthy in an undoubtedly harsher light than Romsics will, Pesti kerekasztal published a piece by László Karsai, a historian of the Hungarian holocaust. According to the organizers of the demonstration: “Freedom is not only a square.”

And so, the debate over Miklós Horthy’s place in history continues. Since 1990 no Hungarian historian had attempted to write a full-fledged biography of Miklós Horthy until a young Ph.D. candidate, Dávid Turbucz, wrote a slim volume (Horthy Miklós, Budapest: Napvilág, 2011). From what I gather, the more moderate Hungarian right likes Turbucz’s portrait of Horthy. But even from this “more balanced” biography Horthy emerges as a man whose thinking was much closer to the radical right than to true conservatism. Although in the 1920s, under the influence of Prime Minister István Bethlen, he suppressed his attraction to right radicalism, in the final analysis he always remained the man who marched into Budapest in 1919 to punish the sinful city. Horthy in no way should serve as a model for a democratic Hungary in the twenty-first century.


  1. You might want to add an update considering these: (on the first sculpture of Horthy)
    “A Vitézi Rendnek hármas célja van: jutalmazni a vitézséggel párosult honfi erényt, megtartani a nagy idők legjobbjait és biztosítani a hősök nemzetségének fennmaradását, végül bennük és utódaikban a magyar fajnak olyan hatalmat biztosítani, amely rettentő erővel sújt le minden felforgató állam- és nemzetellenes törekvésekre.” (pictures of the ball)

  2. Commenter, I’m planning to write another article that would also include the statue of Horthy.

  3. Commenter: I think it’s unclear from the Hírszerző article but two MP’s (including an undersecretary) was scheduled to be present at the ball”
    There is a hilarious article about Peter Kovacs, mayor of the 16th district, on ATV’s website. I think this fellow is an idiot. I think the very low level of intelligence of some of these Fidesz clones will be the death of Fidesz.

  4. There ought to be a new field of study: psychoanalysis
    of nations and their emotionally crippled citizenry–Hungary fits the bill.
    One possible scenario: Hungary leads a right wing rev old in Europe against the IMF and the ‘financiers’ who control the world. Some Poles, Moldavians, and Frenchmen (lost in the woods) will join. Some years pass by and the movement will fall to pieces. Poland and Moldavia will give a sigh of relief: “Wow. We just managed to escape disaster.”
    Unfortunately, Hungary will have a less pleasant experience…

  5. Interesting chapter about the Horty-founded Vitezi Rend in a study:
    Tátrai Szilárd :
    A Vitézi Rend története a harmincas évektől a felszámolásig
    The History of the Knightly order of Vitéz from the Thirties to Its Dissolution
    The Knightly Order of Vitéz, established on the basis of landed property as a reward of military virtue, was founded by Miklós Horthy in 1920. With its foundation, the aim of Horthy was to create a stratum of small and medium landowners, loyal to the political system, and to enlarge his social basis.
    The building up the Order and the legal regulation of its function lasted to the thirties. The main problem was that there was no possibility to bestow all the members of the Order on grants of land: the number of gratuitous allotments was very limited so the Order had to get connected with the redistribution of lands, too. The allotments, granted this way, however, were lands of rent and developing them into profitable smallholdings proved to be extremely hard. This is why the members of the Order could not become decisive elements of the agrarian society of the country – in spite of the positive governmental discrimination. After the reannexations and as a result of the anti-Jewish laws the Knightly Order of Vitéz got into the possession of new lands but the contemporary conditions of war did not help in solving the problem.
    When examining the historical role of the Knightly order of Vitéz one must not disregard that the members of the order were tried soldiers (or descendants of those) and its leaders, officers of the army, all belonged to the staff of the Ministry of War. The military character of the Order was reinforced by its hierarchical structure, its world of ideas was determined by the conservative ideology of the Horthy- era. One can interpret and evaluate the history and activity of the Knightly Order of Vitéz only together with the whole Horthy-Regime: the Captain-General of the Order was Regent Horthy himself and the Order tried to serve the political aims of the Regent from the very beginning to the end. Horthy’s fall, consequently, meant the end of the function of the Order in Hungary, too: the new political system did not intend to keep it after 1945.
    The grants of land, however, in the case of the members of the Order of the rank and file first of all, had serious social aspects, which fact could not be disregarded even by the new political system. This is why the dissolution of the Knightly Order of Vitéz was remarkably slow; the legal basis of it was abolished only in 1948.
    (Source: )
    For those who speak Hungarian, I suggest the chapter called:
    A Vitézi Rend viszonya a zsidókérdéshez.
    A rend részesedése a zsidóingatlanokból.
    (The Vitezi Rend’s attitude towards the Jewish question.
    The allotment of Jewish real estate to the rend.).
    It can be found at this site:
    This guy was a real hero, indeed. And the Vitezi Rend has been revived after the regime change.

  6. Louis: “Even Uncle Stalin liked him. :-)”
    That explains Orban’s attraction.

  7. A tabulation from Gosztonyi’s book “Magyar Golghota.” BP 1993:
    The following table, based on data from the book and ancillary sources
    speaks for itself. As Gosztonyi states, the Kadar-Munnich-Marosan clique
    has the ignominious distinction of having executed more Hungarians than
    Haynau, Horthy and Szalasi combined.
    Regime Dates Est. Executions Notes
    Franz Josef 1849- 123
    Bela Kun 1919 590 (1)
    Miklos Horthy 1919-1944 68 (2)
    Ferenc Szalasi 1944-1945 60 (3)
    Rep. Hungary 1945-1947 189
    Matyas Rakosi 1947- 400 (4)
    Janos Kadar 1956- 600 (5)
    (1) An interesting historical footnote is that the internationally known
    Hungarian intellectual Gyorgy Lukacs is implicated in some of the
    (2) Vigilantes murders raised the total number of victims to an
    estimated 600. The number 68 refers to Royal Court Proceedings.
    (3) Estimate only. Data from all prisons is not available. Figure does not
    include deportation of Hungarians to German concentration camps
    or atrocities commited after the German occupation by fascist gangs.
    (4) It should be noted that between 1945 and 1949 55,000 persons and
    1949-53 23,000 persons were imprisoned without the benefit of judicial
    proceedings. According to Tamas Berecz between 1952 and 1955 1,136,434
    people were “under investigation”.
    (5) Other sources give much larger numbers.

  8. London Calling!
    I am bemused by the Hungarian pastime of renaming things; moving statues; and generally trying to erase or change the past.
    There must be a psychological explanation.
    One administration or council broadcasts its credentials by nailing its colours to the mast and making matching changes – only for a later administration or council to change them back – or change them further to fit their ideology.
    Then you have to move the statues; only for a later administration to move them back? Or change them around to fit THEIR ideologies and beliefs.
    I can see a whole industry building up in specialist statue movers and restorers; street and square name plates manufacturers and many debates and reports being produced to justify each move.
    If all the old street name plates are kept – then a whole new industry in second-hand street signs could start and even an advisory service.
    “Er Hello! We are thinking of renaming Ferencziek Tere – what can you do for us?”
    “Well we’ve got 8 Roosevelt’s, 10 Moscow’s, 15 Andrassy’s, 12 Erzsebet’s, 50 Stalin’s and 256 Lenin’s. And today’s special offer 24 Horthy’s – they’re a bit distressed as they’ve been used quite a few times – but you should find them easy to install as they’ve got quite a few holes. In addition we have hundreds of Orban’s.”
    Then there is all the stationery and other associated changes.
    It’s very Keynesian! Many non-real jobs created to dig holes and fill then in again!
    The inhabitants of Easter Island are believed to have made their island unfit for habitation because they removed all the trees to manufacture their statues. Well okay – they actually made their statues and moved them!
    Hungarian renaming and statue moving could eventually get out of hand and become the largest industry in Hungary!
    And look! – We’ve changed the past.
    It really does seem a futile exercise. Leave them alone! It’s your history!
    Can’t Orban just get on and run the country and not try to change or erase the past? Agree a moratorium on all changes – and just get on and run the country. Look forward – not backwards.
    Strange. Very strange!
    PS Didn’t Horthy get into bed with Hitler to retrieve the Trianon regions – only to lose them again – and Hitler’s support – because he started negotiating with the allies? Hardly a hero – hardly a situation you want to be reminded of!

  9. “István Nemeskürty, who likes to call himself a historian”
    What a malicious description. In fact Nemeskürty holds a degree in art history and has been a Professor since 1979.

  10. Regarding Louis Kovach’s data . I am not sure what is your point? Horthy did not need to execute the Hungarian himself. He sent them to the War. He sent the Hungarian Jews to concentration camps. You cannot argue history. These are hard facts. I actually find it very disturbing that you try to whitewash this criminal.

  11. Tyrker: “What a malicious description. In fact Nemeskürty holds a degree in art history and has been a Professor since 1979.”
    According to you to have a degree in art history is the same as having a Ph.D. or equivalent in history?

  12. Dear Professor Balogh,
    An off-topic question, if I may. Is the Hungarian Quarterly still being published? I see no sign of a 2012 edition on the Internet. Thanks and best wishes.

  13. Some1, don’t be stupid. Even as late as 1943, Horthy and Kállay firmly resisted Hitler’s urges to hand over the country’s Jews to Germany, prompting Hitler to label Hungary a “Jews’ paradise” (Judenparadies) – which was far from being true but shows how outraged Hitler was at the Hungarians’ unwillingness to send the country’s Jewry to concentration camps. It was not long after this meeting that Hitler ordered the OKW to draw up a plan for the occupation of Hungary (Operation Margarethe I).
    And it was during this occupation that a large proportion of the country’s Jewish population – along with a number of people who did not even consider themselves Jews – were actually deported, with the active help of the country’s new prime minister, Döme Sztójay, an ethnic Serb (original name: Dimitrije Stojaković). Kállay, the previous PM, had to take refuge at the Turkish embassy but could not, eventually, escape being deported to Mauthausen and later Dachau.
    Horthy’s idleness through the months of April, May and June proved deadly for Hungarian Jews living in the countryside – but to claim that he sent them to concentration camps himself is totally wrong. As I said elsewhere, Horthy wasn’t a particularly bright or wise man, but he was no criminal either. In fact he was way too old to helm a country, particularly in those turbulent times. In the spring of 1944 he was already past 75. If you think of the 75-year-olds you personally know, you’ll realise that most people of that age can hardly take care of themselves or deal with routine situations in their personal lives. Horthy should have resigned as Governor after the German invasion, ideally several years earlier. Heading a country occupied by a foreign army, at a time of the century’s biggest world-wide turmoil, is “no job for old men” so to speak. Besides, his resignation on the day of the invasion would have shown the world a lot more clearly that the country had lost its independence. So there are lots of reasons to dislike or disapprove of Horthy, but to claim that he was a criminal is simply unacceptable.

  14. London Calling!
    Horthy sent many jews to their deaths – he just slowed the rate down.
    He only stopped the flow after Roosevelt bombed the armaments factories in Hungary.
    A slow-rate criminal – but still a criminal.
    And even at his age he was a feisty old man – he beat up some Arrow Cross supporters in the Budapest Opera House!
    If I was Hungarian I’d keep quiet about Horthy – history has been very kind to him.

  15. @Eva S. Balogh: thanks for your response, looking forward to reading the next article!
    That ATV interview is crazy. I nearly gave up at the point where he replied “It was long ago, it was a war.”

  16. Tryker:””István Nemeskürty, who likes to call himself a historian”
    What a malicious description. In fact Nemeskürty holds a degree in art history and has been a Professor since 1979.”
    Two observations:
    1. Nemeskurthy is not dealing with art history but with history. That seems to be not his specialty.
    2. Having a degree or being a professor in anything in Hungary does not seem to mean to much nowadays, not to speak about 1979….

  17. Tryker:”Horthy should have resigned as Governor after the German invasion, ideally several years earlier.”
    But he didn’t. Thus he bears responsibility for what happened during his “idleness”.

  18. Tyrker: “Some1, don’t be stupid. ” Well, Tyrker I guess the stupid one is you. Mixing up facts, calling a war criminal kind of like a victim of circumstances, is plain stupid. I would not say that to you, but well, you called for it. A REAL man would of stood up for the Jews. A real Hungarian would of protect ALL Hungarians, even if it would of cost him his life. BY you failing to see that makes you also a weak and unreliable commenter. MAybe if your mother would of been on the train because poor Horthy did not resign in time, maybe then you would said, “Hey, this kind is not so brave after all!” THe real man, even if it was not HUngarian was Raoul Wallenberg. You know why? Because he was not even Hungarian, and he had more compassion than Horthy and of his shithead comrades ever had for Hungarians. So Tryker, please do mot be stupid!

  19. @GDF & Some1. I posit that if Horthy resigned or resisted in March of 1945. There would have been no Jews left in Hungary to save by anybody. Under complete German control no other possibility would have existed. IMHO, Hitler would not have given a damn about how it looks in the West and neither would have the West done anything for the Jews.

  20. Louis Kovach:”I posit that if Horthy resigned or resisted in March of 1945. There would have been no Jews left in Hungary to save by anybody.”
    This we will never know.
    But we do know that during Horthy’s “idleness” hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were were sent to their deaths, with active participation of the Hungarian government’s officials. And then the real estate of those killed was gifted to the members of the Horthy-founded Vitezi Rend.

  21. @GDF. If you can’t come to the same conclusion than I do not think you are familiar with the then extant circumstances. Just consider Szalasi(or someone of similar ilk) in power from March 1944. Cite me any person or domestic or foreign power that could have protected the Jews in German occupied Hungary.

  22. Louis Kovach asked:
    “Cite me any person or domestic or foreign power that could have protected the Jews in German occupied Hungary.”
    Raoul Wallenberg and more than 350 helpers.

  23. GW:”Louis Kovach asked:
    “Cite me any person or domestic or foreign power that could have protected the Jews in German occupied Hungary.”
    Raoul Wallenberg and more than 350 helpers.”
    And since Louis Kovach asked who COULD HAVE protected the Jews, I would like to add: the non-nyilas Hungarian population. But that was much harder than cheering Bardossy after he declared war on Russia.

  24. It’s my understanding of things that the Germans actually weren’t so happy about sending Jews off to camps and that the “final solution” was much more vigorously executed in Hungary than it actually was in Germany.

  25. The response to LWiiH:
    @LwiiH. Next you will claim that Auschwitz was run by Hungarians? Lets look at some actual history about the details of German involvement in the deportations. “The German representation in Hungary included a large special team dispatched by the RSHA and headed by HSSPF Otto Winkelman. Also attached to it was Himmler’s special representative, Kurt A. Becher. The Special Operational Commando, which had earlier been constituted by Eichmann in the Mauthausen camp, came to Budapest on the very day of the occupation for the purpose of organizing the deportation of the country’s almost eight hundred thousand Jews. Counted among the team of sixteen men were some of Eichmann’s most experienced office and field aides…Parties were disbanded and ministers and senior officials throughout the country were replaced by people acceptable to the Germans…..two men from the radical right, Laszlo Endre and Laszlo Baky were installed by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the RSHA as chief aides in all matters related to Jews”
    “The Holocaust” by Leni Yahl 1990.
    How the Jews of Hungary stated the case, from the March 23, 1944 issue of Journal of Hungarian Jews “Jewry has been requested to establish a Central Council, which will, as the need arises, establish its own internal committees. The Central Council is the only authorized and responsible organ of all Jewry, and is the competent organ to maintain contact with
    m German authorities” Note NOT Hungarian but German authorities!
    From “Eichmann Interrogation” one can see the detail of German involvement.” in April 4, 1944 Vesenmayer telegram to German minister in Budapest read by Ecichmann “The ghettoization projects in Carpathian Zone I and Transylvanian Zone I have been completed, that the deportation of 310,000 Jews is to begin in mid-May….Since foreign Jews will presumably be included in this concentration. the German Ministry’s liaison man with the Eichmann special team will visit eastern Hungary in the course of the week and will screen out Jews of neutral or hostile countries and remove them to special camps.”….” Eichmann reading a telegram from Berlin to Budapest dated June 14, 1944 “German troops escorting three deportation trains, carrying Jews from Hungary and evidently headed to Auschwitz entered the cars and forced Jews at gunpoint to hand over their jewelry and other valuables….The incident created a stir among the Slovak population that was bad for German image…Request immediate clarification with Eichmann office”….Regarding the negotiations of exchanging a million Jews for 10,000 trucks:
    Question to Eichmann ” What did the Hungarian government say about this idea of exchanging a million Jews for ten thousand trucks?” Eichmann “Well, actually, I don’t think they knew anything about it.” Interrogator “When Joseph Brand went abroad with your consent, to submit your proposal, did you promise him no Jews would deported in his absence?” Eichmann “Some agreement was made..”
    Interrogator citing a report by Dr Kastner of the Jewis Rescue Committee “After Brand and Grosz have left for Istanbul, I went to see Eichmann with Hansi Brand. We knew we were face to face with the man who had done more than any other to organize the extermination of the Jews. The decision of life or death rested with him and him alone.”…For more on the negotiations between the Jews and the Germans see “Emissary of the Doomed” Ronald Florence 2010.
    Based even on the few “historical” information cited here, your assumption about the events in Hungary is found wanting.

  26. Mr. Kovach, if your contention is that several hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were deported by a group of 16 Germans, something is wrong with your thinking process. Give up, please!

  27. @GDF and GW.It is estimated that there were 762,000 jews alive in Hungary on March 19, 1944. Of this number 618,000 were deported or killed and 5,000 succeded in escaping so that when Hungary was occupied by the Szoviets on April 1945, there were 139,000 Jews in Hungary 20,000 of them outside Budapest. 116,500 returned from deportations and yje labor service bringing the number of survivors to 255,000. This indicates that there was a 33 % survival rate of Jews in Hungary.
    Compare this number with the survival rate of other German occupied countries:
    Poland 10 %
    Baltic Countries 10 %
    Germany/Austria 12 %
    Protectorate 11 %
    Slovakia 17 %
    Greece 23 %
    The Netherlands 25 %
    White Russia 35 %
    Ukraine 40 %
    Belgium 40 %
    Norway 50 %….
    So it is not correct to ascribe Hungarians a special “crueler” status than other , including western nations. Besides Wallenberg, there were others in Hungary who protected the Jews and even a much larger number who did not cooperate with the Jews.

  28. @GDF. Oh no it was not the 16 I forgot to add Horthy to it, it was 17…..
    I have stated before, to me, opinions do not count as facts, regardless of who writes them. I really hope that you realize that it was not only 16 Germans occupying Hungary!!!

  29. Louis Kovach,
    In general, I believe that comparing survival rates is an exercise not likely to yield meaningful data, as any single murder on the basis of ethnicity or religion is one too many, but if you want to go down that path, then you have to take into consideration the length of time required for the murders, and as they began late in Hungary, the comparison is far from flattering to Hungary. In brief, the Holocaust began very late in Hungary and had a relatively brief duration but the intensity of killing during that period was extraordinarily high, and that 33% survival rate was, in the end, due entirely to the course of the war, not to any unique generosity and protection provided by the Hungarian state.
    I am guessing that you made an error in your sentence
    ” Besides Wallenberg, there were others in Hungary who protected the Jews and even a much larger number who did not cooperate with the Jews.”
    But, error or not, it appears to be accurate as written, and we should, indeed, honor those Hungarians who helped Jews and Roma from among their fellow citizens to survive, but also be honest about the shame of the greater number who did not and to this day fail to admit this fact, let alone apologize.

  30. @GW You are correct, the cited sentence’s end is an error. It should be “with the Germans”
    Thank you for pointing out the error.

  31. @ Lousi Kovach,You deserve your own statue next to Horthy’s. The man who believes that Horthy was a hero of all Hungarians and his memory is victim of the leftist conspiracy against Hungary.

  32. My mother-in-law, an educated woman and a loving mother and grandmother, but also a staunch Orbán supporter who hates Socialists with a passion, surprised me the other night by rejoicing in Sarkozy’s defeat.
    Why? Because she was so glad to see that nasty little Jew kicked out.
    In Hungary it’s still 1944.

  33. @ Lousi,
    It is my understanding that Eichmann was sent to Hungary to improve the efficiency of operation. My observation is that; the Jewish population has only started to return in the last few years. It was rare to see Jews (wearing traditional garb) in the 90s. Now I pretty much only see them when I’m in Budapest. That said, there are a number of “jewish” villages near where I am that are completely devoid of any jewish population and have been for quite some time. I don’t have any numbers to back up what I’ve seen.. I can only tell you what just that, what I’ve seen.

  34. A friend’s Jewish family was rounded up and sent off to Auschwitz. They survived and could get out. They never recovered from the enthusiasm of their life-long neighbours, friends and colleagues, who stormed into their house, looting and breaking their belongings, taking the family (with children out) out and tying them up and putting them on the train to Budapest.

  35. LwiiH and Dubious
    In my recent visit to Hungary (April this year) my partner drove me past a very run down part of Gyor.
    Some of the houses were almost drunkenly leaning against their neighbours’ – which, had they not been there, would have fallen down completely.
    And yet here and there the tumbledown rows were punctured by an immaculately restored house – with beautifully restored architectural features.
    She told me that this had been the ‘Jewish Quarter’ but was now a Roma ghetto. The council had used the houses for such families – and it used to a very unsafe area too apparently.
    Many of the inhabitants had bought the cheap housing stock and were gradually ‘gentrifying’ the area. In future years the properties would be very valuable when more are restored – it’s so close to the centre.
    It was clear from the architectural features of many of the houses that this had been a very prosperous area – as I said – every house had some interesting and sometimes beautiful architectural feature.
    I was so fascinated by this ‘village’ – very close to the centre of Gyor – that I strolled around the streets for some time. It was clear that this was once a happy, prosperous and thriving area.
    On one restored house was a plaque that said 6000 jews had been taken from this area and surrounding districts in WW2 and loaded onto trains for transportation to Auschwitz. Some embedded old railway lines where still visible.
    So it was clear – property maintenance had ceased from this date for most of the houses – many frozen in time. You could feel the ghostly spirit of the place. And the sadness.
    “…the surrounding districts…” on the plaque was very telling for me.
    I believe the rounding up was done by the csendőrség using the informer network.
    I found myself wondering what would have happened to all the residents furniture, pets and valuable that they could not get in the ‘one suitcase’ allowance. (You have shed a little light on this – Dubious).
    Many would have left their homes believing one day they would return.
    I was shaken to the core – seeing the real evidence of the Holocaust.
    Horthy would have been aware of such round up exercises. He was a self-confessed anti-Semite and was suppressing the Jews well before the war started.
    I think there is a lot more information tied up in the archives (if it has not already been destroyed). It could reveal so much on this episode of Hungary’s history – I have no doubt.

  36. Charlie: “I believe the rounding up was done by the csendőrség using the informer network.”
    I doubt that there was a need for informers at that point. A series of laws started under Horthy assured that all Hungarians of Jewish origin were accounted for, except those few who were hidden by the not too numerous non-collaborators.
    The information in the archives has been researched by many, a leading researcher is Randolph Braham, a professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School. He – and those working under his guidance – published numerous books detailing the holocaust in Hungary.

  37. London Calling!
    GDF: Thanks for the books references. Very interesting.

  38. Braham’s books are very useful in describing events. On the other hand, some current “oral memories” are not credible. As an example, the event written up by Dubious is extremly difficult to believe. In all communities announcementes were made, in villaged by the “drummer” in cities by postings and decrees published in newspapers. In some cities the local Jewish Council was tasked by preparing the list of Jews. The collection and initial guarding of the Jewish population was done by the gendarmerie. (at that time in Hungary there was no national police force) Collection points very typically were brickyards. From there days or weeks later the Jews were shipped out in closed cattle cars.
    That some neighbors would undertake the collection action and put Jews on the train to Auschwitz is a tale. There were no scheduled trains to Ausshwitz or to any other deportation points. Civilian were not
    permitted near the trains being loaded.
    I am sure looting after the departure of the Jews occured, but it was illegal (the property was supposed to become state property and was so sealed) Once the front lines got closer, of course all sorts of looting took place of all “available” property.
    This not secondhand information, I have witnessed most of it.

  39. Kovach: “Civilian were not permitted near the trains being loaded.”
    This was certainly not the case in Pécs. My father and my uncle rushed over to the train station when they saw their Jewish friends being led toward the railway station. No one was there because no wanted to see or hear anything. At least this was my impression from what my father told me. No one stopped them when they were running from car to car looking for friends.

  40. Louis Kovach; THe list that the Jewish Council was preparing were not for the purpose of shipping the Jews to Auschwitz. Horthy made sure to prepare a “non-fault system” for efficiency, and to protect those dirty Hungarians who took part of this awful time of Hungary’s history. As you may see Horthy did an excellent job, as he gets a statue, and people who try to justify what Hungarians done can do so. Again you provide a great example of how half baked snippets can be feed to those who for some very strange reason want to portray some of Hungary’s most disgraced members as some kind of heroes.
    In Budapest the “looting” was done by Hungarians who promised to keep safe some of the jewelries, paintings, etc. just to deny anything upon the family’s return. As Jews could not run their small factories or other business’ they “sold” their business to the “stroman”, usually a close friend or a trusted employee. The idea was that the stroman will run the operation but provide money for the real owners, so they can support their family. In my family’s case the good Hungarian stroman denied that such agreement was made, and got my grandparents business for free, never paid any money out.
    When my father’s family was marched to the Tattersall by Hungarians, other good Hungarians lined the street, and grabbed the food out from an eight years old child’s hand, while screaming at him “You do not need this you dirty Jew no more!”

  41. @Some1:
    Yes, this “selling your business cheap to a Strohmann” i e strawman happened a lot in Germany too – or rather it started in Germany …
    If the jews did not sell soon enough, they were forced to sell for a nominal sum – many well known German companies started in this way with a new owner and a new name like for example Neckermann.
    A bit OT:
    The Jewish company that Josef Neckermann bought on the cheap belonged to the grandfather of rock singer Billy Joel – that family was one of the lucky ones who made it to the USA before the Germans started their deportations …
    After the war the Joel family returned to Nuremberg – I’m not sure but I think they even got some money from the Neckermann company.

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