ISSUE 1-2010
INTERVIEW
Petr Vagner
STUDIES
József Kaló  & Csaba Horváth (†) Ярослав Хрбек & Вит Сметана Анджей Пачковский Vladyslav Hrynevych
RUSSIA AND THE 65TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF WWII
Владимир Воронов Ярослав Шимов
OUR ANALYSES
Иван Поп Petr Vagner
REVIEW
Георгий Касьянов
APROPOS
Mykola Riabchuk


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

TOPlist
STUDIES
SOVIET MILITARY OPERATIONS AND OCCUPATION OF HUNGARY IN 1944 - 1945
By József Kaló | Researcher, Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies Zrinyi Miklos National Defence University, Hungry | Csaba Horváth | Military Expert, Ministry of Defence, Hungary | Issue 1, 2010
In spring 1944 Soviet forces already reached the territory of Western-Ukraine and were approaching the Hungarian border. Situation became critical, as there was a huge breach between German Army Groups „North-Ukraine” and „South-Ukraine”. In order to improve their positions, Germans immediately took over the command of both the Hungarian occupation forces and of the troops just moved there for defending the Eastern-Carpathians. The VIII. Occupation Corps was subordinated to German Army Group „South-Ukraine”. The VII. Occupation Corps got subordinated first to the advancing 1st Hungarian Army, but later the command of the whole formation was taken over by the German Army Group „North-Ukraine”.
This time the VII, the VI Hungarian and the XI Joint Corps belonged to the 1st Hungarian Army. The XI. Joint Corps had German command, but the fighting forces were Hungarians, such as the 1st and 2nd Mountain Brigades, the 24th Infantry Division and the 2nd Tank Division). Though the 1st Hungarian Army was trained and equipped for defense, Germans ordered it to attack on the plains outside the Carpathians in order to fill the gap between the two German army groups. General István Náday did not accept this task, thus was replaced by General Géza Lakatos. The offensive started on 17th April 1944 resulted in intense fighting and heavy losses on both sides. During the two weeks of continuous fighting the 1st Army got completely exhausted, thus its offensive had to be stopped on 30th April. Though the 1st Army could not reach its originally designated targets, it managed to establish connection between the two German army groups, thus enemy advance was stopped for more than two months.
While fighting was going on, the whole country got more and more “set on German course.” Almost everybody the political leadership, who participated in the efforts to improve Western relations under former Prime Minister Miklós Kállay, or assisted the elaboration of the bail-out plans, got replaced. For example Chief of Staff Ferenc Szombathelyi was replaced by Lieutenant General János Vörös. Following this change, many pro-German officers got high positions. Thus General Károly Beregffy was promoted to command the 1st Army. The negative effects of these replacements soon became apparent. “Jewish question” was put on the agenda, arrests were continued and the economic exploitation of the country became more intensive. More and more units of the Royal Hungarian Defense Forces were put under German command. Moreover many of these were put in action not even in order to protect the Hungarian borders, but elsewhere. So were, for example, the 5th, 12th and 23rd Reserve Divisions and the 1st Cavalry Division moved to the territory of Poland.
Meanwhile, fighting became again more intense in the forefront of the Carpathians. The VII. Corps of the 1st Army could not halt the heavy Soviet offensive, as they got no support at all from the Army Command. Due to leadership problems and to the Soviet breach, whole 1st Army had to return to the defense lines named “Hunyadi Stand” As a result, General Beregffy lost his position and was replaced by General Béla Miklós. As a commander of rich combat experience and of high leadership skills, General Miklós quickly restored order. Troops were reinforced and defense was re-organized. (Between 1940 and 1944 three lines of fortifications were built for the defense of the Carpathians. Hunyadi Stand was built outside the border, St. László Line right on the border line, while Árpád Line, the strongest one, was built inside the border, taking the maximum advantage of the terrain.) The remarkably strong border defense conducted later by the 1st Army was mostly the result of the professional command of General Miklós.
To the summer of 1944 the situation of Hungary turned critical. It already became obvious that Western Allies were not going to provide any direct support, thus the Red Army was going to dominate the Hungarian operational theater. Events sped up. Southern flank of the German front was crushed by the Soviet offensive in the Iaşi-Kishinev region. Taking the favorable opportunity, Romania immediately changed side, while Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union.
These developments required immediate political and military counter-measures. Due to the theater-level situation, priority was given to military measures, as the Romanian bail-out resulted in a growing danger of an overwhelming Soviet attack against the Hungarian border from Southern-Transylvania. In order to counter this threat, decision was made to re-group all available forces to the defense of the borders. Besides, Southern-Transylvania was to be taken with a strong preventive attack, which would have enabled Hungary to establish firm defense along the line of the Southern-Carpathians.
However, all these measures were taken too late. The three advancing corps of the 2nd Hungarian Army faced two Romanian armies. Anyways, the offensive launched on 5th September 1944 was successful. While breaking the front of the 1st Romanian Army, the Hungarian 2nd Tank Division reached River Kis-Kükülő already on 7th September. However, operation had to put to a halt and forces had to be withdrawn behind River Maros, because meanwhile Soviets managed to cross Southern-Carpathians. However, due to German political pressure, another offensive was started on 13th September, advancing from the right flank of the front, from the region of Makó and Gyula, towards Arad. This second offensive, which employed the IV. and VII. Corps and the 1st Tank Division was also successful initially. It took Arad already on the very eve of 13th April, and to 18th April it reached the slopes of the Carpathians. Here advance was stopped by the firm Romanian and Soviet defense, moreover, a counter-attack performed by parts of the 53rd Soviet Army and a Soviet tank corps pushed Hungarian forces back to the Dombegyháza-Battonya line.
During the fights of the 2nd Army, the 3rd Army was established from the staff of the IV. Corps. The command of German Army Group “South” formed two operational groups. The 2nd Hungarian and 8th German Armies got subordinated to the Wöhler Group, while the 3rd Hungarian and 6th German Armies were put to the Fretter-Pico operational group. Thus the command and use of the whole Hungarian armed forces were completely taken over by the Germans.
Parallel to operational theater developments, significant political changes started as well. Regent Miklós Horthy and the small circle of officials ready to stand for the Hungarian case have realized that the situation was critical, thus the only solution left was to bail out of the war. However, questions were there: how, with whom, and under what conditions?
The main problem was the situation itself following the German occupation. The whole armed force was under German command, there were German liaison officers working in all staffs, and higher positions were already filled with pro-German officers. Horthy and his supporters were aware that the Finnish example was impossible to follow, and even the Romanian scenario was hard to realize, as all forces were on the front, while in the hinterland (and especially not in Budapest) there were no such forces stationed, with a support of which such a maneuver would have been feasible. Moreover, Germans were already aware of the possibility of a Hungarian bail-out effort, and their intelligence services kept collecting all available information. Among such circumstances, the failure of the bail-out was not surprising.
Horthy dismissed the Sztójay-government in late August in order to prepare the bail-out with a new government, led by Prime Minister General Géza Lakatos. However, the Regent was completely wrong, as this new cabinet was also not in favor of the bail-out; moreover, they immediately informed the Germans about the preparations. However, contacts were successfully established with the Soviets in early September, and armistice conditions arrived to Budapest on 14th September. Horthy decided to accept the preliminary armistice conditions, thus a delegation was sent to Moscow, led by General Gábor Faraghó. After Molotov and Faraghó signed the document, on 15th October Horthy proclaimed the start of the armistice negotiations. He informed the plenipotentiary representative of Germany, Edmund Weesenmayer as well. However, Germans already knew all details, including the message sent to the commander of the 2nd Army about the bail-out, moreover, the son of the Regent, Miklós Horthy junior was taken hostage already before the proclamation.
Following the declaration of Horthy, arrest begun immediately, and Germans set up sentry points on all strategic locations of Budapest. This practically meant the end of the bail-out effort. The failure shocked the fighting troops as well, especially after Germans installed Ferenc Szálasi to rule the country. On the day following the proclamation, General Béla Miklós, together with his Chief of Staff, Colonel Kálmán Kéri has changed side and went to the Soviets. Following their command, approximately 20.000 Hungarian soldiers did the same, and went to the 4th Ukrainian Front.
Commanders of the 2nd Army were arrested, thus more and more soldiers changed side, and desertions started as well. Discipline got loosened in most units, the earlier good spirit and moral disappeared. More and more people realized how senseless it was to continue the war. However, most soldiers faced a serious dilemma, as for them neither Fascism, nor Communism was an acceptable alternative. Thus many professional and conscript soldiers were simply whirled by the events, which formed their individual fate.
Germans quickly realized that no larger units could be left under the command of Hungarian commanders, thus they started to divide the fighting units on the front and assign them to German formations. With the puppet government of Ferenc Szálasi coming to power, top military leadership practically disappeared. General Staff was dismissed, and a „high command” was set up instead, which only tasks were to create new units, send them to the front and build new fortifications in the hinterland meanwhile. Initially army commands were used for similar tasks, but later they loose all their powers.
Defensive Operations for Holding Northern-Transylvania and the Eastern-Tisza Region
To early November 1944 the 2nd Ukrainian Front went through the Southern-Carpathians and closed up to the Hungarian-German defense lines. According to Soviet data, its forces were composed of 630.000 soldiers, 10.200 pieces of artillery, 825 tanks and almost 1200 aircrafts. The Hungarian-German forces of Army Group “D” had only 380.000 soldiers, 3500 pieces of artillery, 350 aircrafts and 300 tanks. In addition to the Soviet numerical superiority another unfavorable circumstance was that the right flank of our defense went through plain, hardly defendable areas, and only ad hoc fortifications could be made, due to the previous retreats. The 3rd Hungarian Army had poor firepower, and practically no anti-tank weapons.
Therefore it was not a coincidence that Marshall Malinovsky planned to break our defense particularly in this section. He assigned the 6th Guard Tank Army and the cavalry-mechanized group of General Pliev (composed of 1 tank, 1 mechanized and 1 cavalry corps) for the breakthrough. His intention was to turn his forces northwards after the breakthrough, and encircle the Hungarian-German forces, which were in defense in Northern-Transylvania.
The poorly equipped 3rd Hungarian Army could not hold its positions against the Pliev Group, thus it had to retreat behind River Tisza. The cavalry group, which was able to maneuver freely deep behind the front line, managed to cut the road traffic between Szolnok and Debrecen, and reached Debrecen. Here it met a strong German group of forces, which was preparing here for a large-scale counter-attack, Operation Gypsy Baron (“Zigeunerbaron” in German) in order to push back the Soviets out of the Southern-Carpathians. [1] 
In the battle, which lasted until 20th October with balanced success, almost 1000 tanks and assault guns combated each other. At first the Pliev Group could not take Debrecen, because some of its forces had to be directed back from the direction of Nagyvárad (Oradea) in order to attack in the back the Hungarian-German defense, which stood firm against the 6th Guard Tank Army. This maneuver proved to be successful, as the Hungarian-German forces, which were thus caught in crossfire, had to give up the city. Thereafter, our forces in Northern-Transylvania started to retreat behind River Tisza, as they were afraid of being encircled. In order to prevent the withdrawal of these forces, Pliev launched an attack towards Nyíregyháza and wanted to take the river crossing points. Though he managed to conquer the city on 21st October, but his units were encircled by Hungarian-German forces, which were partially re-grouped from Debrecen, and partially arrived from Northern-Transylvania. Most of the Soviet formations were destroyed, only a few units managed to break out. Thus the plans of Malinovsky were realized only partially: though he took the Tiszántúl region, more than 150.000 Hungarian and German troops of the Wöhler Group managed to take new defensive lines behind the Tisza.
Defense lines on the territory of Hungary in 1944-45
Defensive fights in the Danube-Tisza Interfluve and for Holding Budapest
Our new defensive lines, which were only partially fortified, were along River Tisza. Though its main forces suffered heavy losses in the Nagyvárad-Debrecen-Nyíregyháza region, the 2nd Ukrainian Front continued its offensive, as Stalin ordered the capture of Budapest with not stop. Despite the unfavorable outcome of the earlier operations, Hungarian and German forces conducted strong and well-organized defense compared to the actual circumstances. They managed to stop the advancing Soviet forces with a series of counterattacks. Malinovksy had to re-group his forces a number of times in order to find the weak points of our defense with changing the points of pressure. In the intense fighting, which lasted from 28th October and 9th December both sides got exhausted. However, Soviet forces slowly and gradually got closer to our capital. To early December they reached the outskirts of Pest, and in the North they got to the Ipoly-Danube line. Then the offensive of the 2nd Ukrainian Front was halted, as it turned out that they could not conquer Budapest with their own forces, thus they had to wait for the re-grouping of the 3rd Ukrainian Front of General Tolbuchin from Yugoslavia to the South-Dunántúl region.
After the 3rd Ukrainian Front finished its operation at Beograd, they had to leave the territory of Yugoslavia. Its front forces crossed the Danube between 7th and 9th November at Batina and Apatin, and established a bridgehead. They launched their offensive against the South-Dunántúl from this extended bridgehead. The Hungarian-German forces retreated in fighting to the Margit Line, which was the best fortified defensive line in Hungary, and was located along the Danube-Budapest-Érd-Lake Velencei – Lake Balaton – Nagybajom line. Fights became less intensive here from 9th December, as Soviets started to prepare for the encirclement of Budapest from the west.
The Margit Line was held on the north by the 2nd Hungarian and 8th German Army, between Érd and Lake Balaton by the 6th German and 3rd Hungarian Army, while south of Lake Balaton those forces defended the fortifications, which were pushed out of Yugoslavia, and were under the command of the 2nd German Tank Army. 
The western encirclement of Budapest was prepared by the 3rd Ukrainian Front. The inner ring of the encirclement had to be formed by the 46th Army, which attacked north of Lake Velencei, while the outer ring was to be established south-west from the lake by the 4th Guard Army, which had to reach the Danube at Komárom. The commander of the 3rd Ukrainian Front decided to strengthen these two armies by two mechanized, one tank and one cavalry corps. On the north the 2nd Ukrainian Front planned to cover the encirclement operation with one tank and one joint forces army. Its aim was to advance to Komárom and there contact the forces of the 4th Guard Army, which was to form the outer ring of the encirclement.
The main weakness of the Hungarian-German defense was its low density. Especially human forces and tanks were lacking, and there were hardly any reserves available. However, the Soviet offensive launched on 20th December could advance only slowly moreover, it got stuck in some places. Defenders managed to utilize the gap between the attacking forces, which was there due to the location of Lake Velencei, and well-prepared counter-attacks were launched. Already on the second day Soviets had to put in combat all their three rapid forces groups (two mechanized and one tank corps) in order to increase the speed of advance. However, the lines of defense got broken on 24th December. Thereafter parts of the Hungarian-German forces were pushed towards Budapest, while other units tried to halt the outer ring of the 4th Soviet Army. To the end of the month encirclement of Budapest from the west was completed, and the 4th Army established its outer ring.
 
Encirclement of Budapest completed by 24th Dec 1944
In order to relieve the forces stuck in Budapest and to re-capture the Margit Line German HQ launched three counter-offensives under the code name “Konrad”. Operation Konrad I. was conducted by the IV. SS Tank Corps between 1st and 7th January 1945, from the region of Komárom towards Bicske-Budapest. The 7th January they reached the Esztergom-Bánhida line, but there their attack was stopped by the strong resistance of the Soviet reserves. The objective of Operation Konrad II. was to renew the attack of the IV. Corps according to the original plans, while the Breit Group had to attack towards Bicske from the south-west. Thereafter the two groups were to join their forces and attack Budapest. This effort was started 7th January, however, after advancing 6-7 kilometers it was again stopped.
Operation Konrad III. was significantly better prepared and larger forces were involved. In order to mislead Soviet intelligence, the IV. Corps was withdrawn to Győr, and then after it was covertly transported to Veszprém, where other forces joined it. Offensive was launched on 18th January between Lake Balaton and Lake Velencei. Germans broke through the Soviet lines, and reached the Danube at Dunapentele (today Dunaújváros). Here they turned to the north, but the Hungarian capital could not be reached, due to the arrival of significant Soviet reserves. Thus the relief efforts remained unsuccessful. [2]
The siege of Budapest
While the relief efforts were going on, Soviet forces started the siege of Budapest. Behind the outer defensive lines (Attila Line), six other defense lines were established by the defenders, whose forces were composed of the remnants of four Hungarian and four German divisions, together with other units of approx. 15-20 companies. On the Pest side two Soviet and one Romanian corps, while on the Buda side two Soviet corps started the capture of Budapest. The Pest side was captured on 18th January, while Buda only on 13th February. In these fights on the Soviet side already participated companies of a Hungarian unit of approx. 2500 soldiers, which unit was later named Buda Volunteer Regiment.
 
To the end of 1944 Hungary became torn to two pieces. Territories west of River Danube were controlled by the German invaders and the Hungarian fascist puppet government. Following the inauguration of Ferenc Szálasi on 4th November 1944, the economic and military pillage of Hungary became faster. More and more forces were mobilized. Even children over the age of ten and elderly people were called up to serve in air defense and supply units, though they did not receive even basic equipment. Deportation of the Hungarian Jewry was sped up, and approximately 50.000 Jews were marched towards the western border for forced labour. Another approximately 30.000 Jews were given a chance of survival by certificates of protection of various origins. Several thousands of them were signed earlier by Horthy himself. Parallel to the advancement of Soviet troops German forces started the economic plunder of Hungary. They took away everything movable, from pieces of art to the treasures of banks, laboratories, whole factories, machines, animals, etc. Among such circumstances more and more people choose to resist the German rule. Partisan and resistance units were formed, and many thousands Hungarians were fighting side by side with the Soviets. One has to mention those approximately 20.000 Hungarians, who fought against fascism abroad, together with local national forces.
In Eastern Hungary, behind the demarcation line new power started to emerge. Following the passing by of the front, people’s committees were formed in order to restart local life, to organize reconstruction, burial of corpses, etc. Besides these bottom-up organizations, newly formed parties started to emerge. The strongest and most influential ones of them established in Szeged the Hungarian National Independence Front on 2nd December 1944. From them on the Temporary National Assembly was set up, which held its first meeting on 21st December 1944 in Debrecen. 
However, fighting was not over yet. In Dunántúl Germans prepared a last, final large counter-attack in order to push back the Soviets behind both the Danube and the Margit Line, which was located from the Dukla Pass to Fiume. The strategic aim was to defend the south-western routes, which led to Germany. As Soviet forces got also exhausted in the battles in Hungary, in order to reinforce the units, to rest and to prepare the attack on Vienna, operational break was held. Germans re-grouped considerable forces from the main strategic direction for Operation ‘Spring Awakening.’ Among other units, the 6th SS Tank Army was also moved here, which fought earlier in the Ardennes against the Allies. Main blow was delivered between Lake Velencei and Lake Balaton towards Dunaföldvár by the 6th Field Army and the 6th SS Tank Army, while a supplementary attack was conducted by the 2nd Tank Army south of Lake Balaton towards Kaposvár. The offensive was covered from the other side of River Drava by a field corps. Altogether more than 400.000 soldiers, 5600 pieces of artillery and 877 tanks were used for the counter-offensive. Five Hungarian divisions were involved in the operations: from the north the 23rd Reserve Division and the 1st Cavalry Division, while between the two German attacking groups the 20th Infantry Division covered the operation. The 25th Infantry Division was in reserve, while the 2nd Tank Division was put to action around Lovasberény, under the command of the IV SS Tank Corps.[3]
To the end of February the reinforcement of the 3rd Ukrainian Front was finished. It got extended with the 1st Bulgarian Army and three new joint armies. One of these (the 9th) had to be reserved for the Vienna offensive. To early March Soviet forces were ready both for offensive and defensive tasks.
The German offensive was launched on 6th Mach, however, among numerous hindering circumstances. Berlin urged the start, because they were afraid that the Soviet offensive might start earlier than they had expected. To be more exact, Berlin stuck to 6th March as the official stating date, though many German troops could not finish re-grouping then. Moreover, the Soviet leadership – mostly with the help of U.S. and British intelligence – knew exactly the location, probable timing and strength of the counter-offensive. Weather and terrain were also favorable for the Soviets. Due to the warn spring weather the soil got loosened, moreover, there was heavy raining. Heavy weaponry of the 6th SS Tank Army (for example King Tiger tanks) could move only on roads. Anyways, Operation ‘Spring Awakening’ was launched on 6th March between 01 and 09 o’clock in all directions. 4. The storm troops in the main direction found two points of intrusion, one at Seregélyes, and another south of the right bank of the Sárvíz-canal. In the first two days stress was put on the Seregélyes direction, because here they could reach the deepest intrusion (6-7 kilometers). However, on 8th March the arrack ha to be stopped, because the Soviets re-grouped so huge reinforcements that continuing to force the offensive became pointless.
Thus from 9th March main forces were put into action south of Sárvíz-canal. Due to the quick shift of pressure point, the attack was more successful here. In five days they could reach 30-35 kilometers of intrusion depth. Attacking forces approached Simontornya, crossed the Sió-canal, but they were not strong enough for reaching the Danube. This huge effort failed finally on 14th March, after they suffered 30% loss in personnel an 50-60% in equipment.[4]
Hungarian-German troops had three another defense lines prepared behind the Margit Line. The first one was established from Általér, Vértes and through the south-western slopes of Bakony forest to Lake Balaton. The second one was along River Vág and River Rába, while the third one started from the south-western slopes of Small Carpathians and went along the Hungarian border. However, these were already not continuous, well-established systems, but closed only the main directions with a loose network of field fortifications. Following the give-up of the Margit Line, Hungarian-German troops were to defeat Soviet forces on these lines. However, power ratio was already disadvantageous. They could fill only one defensive line at one time, which made retreat and re-grouping very complicated. Moreover, during the counter-offensive at Lake Balaton the most powerful units suffered heavy losses, and the advancing Soviet counter-attack threatened them with encirclement.
The objective of the 3rd Ukrainian Front was to break through the Hungarian-German defense with its main forces at Székesfehérvár and Veszprém, to encircle the main units of the 6th Field Army and 6th Tank Army and to finish the invasion of Hungary with putting into action two new armies, and to reach the area of Vienna. As a supplementary move, on the left flank it planned to launch an attack towards Nagykanizsa-Zalaegerszeg with two armies. The main objective in this direction was to crush the German 2nd Tank Army and to invade the South-Austrian regions.
The 4th and 9th Soviet Armies, located on the right flank of the 3rd Ukrainian Front started their offensive on 16th March. The command of Army Group South quickly recognized Soviet intentions and strengthened the defense of the affected regions. Soviet advance got slowed down, and in two days they managed to intrude only to limited depth. On order to renew the attack and to complete the planned encirclement on 19th March the 6th Guard Tank Army was put into action. However, even tanks could not break through the defenses quickly, and they were forced to continuous fighting. They could advance only a few kilometers on the first day. However, 20th March brought significant changes in the combat. General Tolbuchin put new joint armies (the 26th and 27th) to action in the direction of Székesfehérvár. This step proved to be decisive. Though Soviets could not encircle the main Hungarian-German forces, but they had to give up both Veszprém and Székesfehérvár on 23rd March and had to retreat. [5] From then on, Soviets reached successes also on the flanks. Here it happened many times that Soviet units, being in the hope that Hungarian forces would not shoot at Hungarians, tied local people to the turrets of their tanks before they started to attack. The plan was not successful, but many women, children and elderly people lost their lives due to this mad idea.
To 25th March the 3rd Ukrainian Front and forces of the 2nd Ukrainian Front south of River Danube finished the breakthrough of Hungarian-German defense lines, and started chasing. In early April fighting was moved to the territory of Southern-Germany (Austria). From then on there was one more counter-attack, which partially pushed back the Soviets to Hungary, but on 13th April this was halted too.
In early April 1945 fighting was over on the territory of Hungary. However, this had little meaning for those more than 300.000 soldiers, who had to fight under German command to the very last moment. The country suffered severe damage. During the battles in Hungary, approximately 240-280.000 people died and around 900.000 adult, educated men became prisoners of war. More than 40% of the national wealth was destroyed. Road traffic conditions were disastrous. Up to 70% of the bridges were blown up, 40% of railway lines were damaged, and almost 70% of locomotives and railways cars were moved abroad. All in all, industry suffered 50-52% damage, while in livestock losses were around 60-70%.
 
The Soviet occupation and its ‘results’
Sufferings of the Hungarian population were not over with the end of the war. The Red Army broke all norms of international war rights and resolutions of the ceasefire-agreement, and plundered everything they go access to. Moreover, they did not want to include all these to their redemption demands. Besides, Hungary had to supply approximately 1,5 million Soviet soldiers with food. Robberies and raping of women became common, and Soviets collected several thousands able-bodied men and deported them to the Soviet Union. From the end of 1944, more than 250.000 Hungarian and German-speaking men were taken away from Hungary. Most of them never returned. All in all, this was indeed a high price.
Some Hungarian greeted Soviet troops as liberators, until it turned out that they were preparing for longer stay. However, after 1948 there were no more elections and freedom of speech was over.
For the atrocities committed by Soviet soldiers in Hungary during and after the war one could partially blame the atrocities committed earlier by Hungarian and Soviet soldiers in the Soviet Union. However, Red Army soldiers treated brutally the population of the territories they had conquered already before the breakout of the Soviet-German war. One could name Eastern-Poland and the Baltic States as dreadful examples.[6]
The Hungarian wartime propaganda forecasted “invasion of Asian hordes”, “mass graves of Stalin” and deportation to Siberia in case of a Soviet victory. It was quite a surprise to many, especially to Soviet sympathizers that the Red Army partially confirmed the earlier propaganda. Crimes committed by the Soviets put even the political future of the Hungarian Communist Party in danger. Hence leader of the party, Mátyás Rákosi[7] sent a letter of complaint to the Head of International Department of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Georgi Dimitrov. [8] “Our situation is complicated by the fact that the atrocities committed by the Red Army are put onto the party’s account. Though there is indeed some improvement, but the mass rape of women, plunder, etc. got repeated with the liberation of each and every territory, including Budapest. There are still razzias going on, during which workers, among them respected party members are taken to POW camps, and they disappear there.” [9] However, mostly no real response was given to this and such complaints.[10]
Soldiers of the Red Army committed atrocities unrespectable of gender, race, confession and social class background. Mass deportation of civilian population was not motivated primarily by vengeance or simply cruelty, but the need of economic reconstruction, for which the Soviets needed labour force, partially of enslaved people. In the first period of the occupation, deportations were mostly aimed at the German minority. The Soviet State Security Committee on 16th December 1944 ordered that those members of the German minorities living in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania Yugoslavia and Slovakia, who were able to conduct physical work, had to be deported to the Soviet Union. This measure affected primarily men between the age of 17 and 45 and women aged 17-30, whom they intended to force to work in mines and factories. Until 19th January 1945 approximately 67.000 ethnic Germans were deported to the Soviet Union, some 23.000 of them from Hungary. These numbers increased later. Special Ministry of Interior units were organized in order to collect ethnic Germans and deport them to the Soviet Union. Ethnic Germans were selected according to their family names, though József Révai [11], the main ideologist of the Hungarian Communist Party warned that some of the deported people were confirmed anti-fascists: there was a Communist party secretary and even a member of the National Assembly among them. [12]
In addition to ethnic Germans, deportation soon started to affect the Hungarian population as well. Among the Hungarian deportees there were very many civilians, sometimes whole families together with their children, former prisoners of forced labour camps, etc. Soviet authorities used the same tactics all over Hungary: they calmed the collected people that they could return home soon. Anyways, deportations induced widespread panic and outrage, and they hindered Hungary in joining the war against Germany, and questioned its interest in this war. However, Soviet authorities showed no embarrassment by these facts, thus one might come to the conclusion that ensuring free workforce was more important for them than contributing to the victory over Germany. [13] The fate of the 1st Hungarian Volunteer Division is a good example. This unit was organized to the order of the Prisoners of War Department of the NKVD in the POW camp in Timisoara, and was officially established on 1st January 1945 with 5500 soldiers. Though they got no weapons, they received formal and storm training. Units were disciplined, commanders were named and everyday life of the division was organized. However, they did not receive the much-awaited departure command. On 23-25th April 1945 the whole unit was ceremoniously led to the railway station, put to railway cars and deported to POW camps to many years.[14]
 Estimates on the number of Hungarians deported to the Soviet Union vary between 419.000 and 600.000 people. Of these, approximately 200.000 never returned home.[15]
Like in many countries of Central and Eastern-Europe, soldiers of the Red Army committed huge numbers of rape. Approximately 50.000-200.000 cases of rape were committed in Hungary. [16] Among the reasons one could mention the lack of discipline and the low moral standards of Soviet soldiers.[17] Soldiers, who committed such crimes, were often motivated by sexual urge, revenge or simply the will to demonstrate their power. According to some opinions the mass rapes committed in Germany were symbols of the Soviet victory over a nation, which considered herself to be superior by race compared to the inhabitants of the Soviet Union. Similar motivations could play a role also in Hungary. [18]
One might slightly criticize the real grounds of revenge made by the Soviet soldiers.[19] Crimes committed by Hungarian soldiers on Soviet soil between 1941 and 1944 were mostly composed of executions of civilians, who were suspected of being partisans. Hungarian Defense Forces committed most of its crimes in the framework of anti-partisan operations, while in the peaceful background territories, for example on the ones ruled by the western occupation group, atrocities against the civilian population happened only sporadically. However, the killings committed by the Red Army against Hungarian civilian population could hardly have such reasons, simply because in Hungary there was no significant anti-Soviet partisan movement at all. When judging the plunders, one has to take into account also the differences in the standards of living between the two countries. In Hungary a rank and fil soldier of the Red Army could find masses of never-seen treasury (wristwatches, fountain-pens, top hats, etc.) Though there were some highly educated officers also in the Red Army, who spoke numerous foreign languages, the average standards of personnel were extremely low, and this defined their behaviour. [20]
Specially trained Red Army units, focusing on pieces of art and valuable objects systematically plundered banks and financial institutions, private villas and churches. They took away pieces of arts, currency in the approximate value of 3 billion dollars, bonds and shares in 1,75 billion pengő value and 55 kilograms of gold. Even the Swedish embassy in Budapest got plundered. Soviet authorities not only turned a blind eye to the robberies, but sometimes even encouraged them. In Nagykanizsa the Soviet commission opened the treasure of the local bank and confiscated its content. When they were asked about the legal ground of this action they showed an open command signed by the commander of the 3rd Ukrainian Front [21], according to which they had the right to open all treasures and cashiers. [22]
In most cases the massacre of prisoners of war or civilians could not be justified with ‘wartime necessities’: the cruel, often drunk soldiers gratified their killing instincts, and their officers – with a few exceptions - did not put too sufficient stress on disciplining their subordinates in this sense. From the end of 1944 the treatment of Hungarian prisoners of war started to improve, mostly due to the establishment of the Temporary National Government[23], and because Soviet political officers started to make distinction between German and Hungarian POWs. [24]
Though the command of the Red Army and Marshall Malinovsky 26 banned cruelty in a set of orders, these commands did not reach their objectives in an army, which cared little about human life. Aggressive behaviour of the soldiers could not be suppressed even by public executions. Moreover, even these measures were hypocritical: arrests happened also because some officers showed too much sympathy for the civilian population. Red Army did not boggle even at taking civilian hostages.[25]
The Red Army introduced military administration on the territories cleaned of Germans, thus most factories and agricultural enterprises also got under military administrative jurisdiction. These were given back to Hungarian control only very slowly. For example, the control of railway service was given back only half a year after the war. Factories were given back in July 1945, with the exception of twelve plants, which kept producing goods for the Soviets. In order to pay its procurements, Red Army issued its own currency, which was taken out of circulation only a year later. Meanwhile, Soviets forced the Hungarian National Bank to exchange this worthless currency according to a Soviet-set course, moreover, the National Bank was obliged to give back all this money to Soviet authorities without any compensation. Thus in reality Soviets did not pay for their procurements.[26]
The behaviour of the Red Army was not without effect on those Hungarian soldiers, who did not consider fighting completely senseless. Though most of the Hungarian Defense Forces did not have the highest moral, the atrocities committed induced exasperated many soldiers, and encouraged them to fight till the very end.[27]
After the failed bail-out effort of 15th October 1944 and the formation of the Temporary National Government, Hungarian officers had three main options to choose: 1. keep fighting against the Soviets. 2. Accept the calls of Hungarian generals, who joined the Red Army and change side, thus turn against the Germans 3. Leave the Hungarian Defense Forces and wait for the end of the war in hiding, in desertion. Most officers chose the first option, and most probably not because of ideological reasons. The published decision of Regent Horthy about transforming his powers to Ferenc Szálasi meant a continuous legitimacy for them. They thought that they were obliged to continue fighting, following their oaths made on the earlier and newer Highest Warlord. A smaller group of officers were on the opinion that following the unlawful removal of Horthy, their oaths obliged them to participate in the war together with the Soviets, against the Germans and the Hungarians, who supported them. The number of such officers was increasing, as war went on. A third group chose desertion, and took the risk of being executed if captured. They did not want to fraternize with the earlier enemy, but also did not want to serve the new power, also because of their oaths.[28]
Guide of the officers had its effect on ordinary soldiers. As only a fraction of officers went to the Soviets, rank soldiers also did not do this. However, as war was going on and as defeat became more and more obvious, it happened more often that officers got their units out of combat, and either went home, or were just wandering behind the front line.[29]
Of course, the behaviour of the Red Army in Hungary had its effect on the civilian population as well. In those regions, where almost no, or only a few atrocities happened [30], people could live the appearance of the Soviet troops as kind of te liberation, because they indeed got liberated from all the sufferings of the war, and could have a hope in building a newer, better world. The coming-in of the Red Army was a real liberation for those, to whom the presence of either the German army, or of the Hungarian Arrow Cross authorities meant direct life danger: primarily for the remaining Jewry of the Budapest Ghetto, for people serving in forced labour units, for Gypsies, for leftists and for deserted soldiers. However, those parts of the Hungarian population, which directly experienced the crossing of the Red Army and the atrocities committed by them, could hardly perceive all these as liberation, but more as misuse of power committed by soldiers of an occupational army.
Though after the war the Hungarian population was obliged to celebrate the operations of the Red Army as liberation of Hungary, and its anniversary, 4th April was a state holiday between 1950 and 1989, during the war even Communist leaders named the events as occupation. For example, in his speech conducted on 7th November 1944 in Szeged, Ernő Gerő used the expression ‘occupation’ many times. “It is primarily their sin (e.g. of the Hungarian Arrow Cross members and supporters of Horthy – the authors) that the Red Army enters the country not as comrade of the Hungarian people and soldiers, but it has to occupy Hungary like an enemy country. […] The rebirth of Hungary depends also on that the population on the occupied territory has to fully support and help the Red Army, in order to make Soviet soldiers feel that they are not in a hostile country.” [31]  Finally, even Soviet medals testify occupation, and not liberation: thousands of Red Army soldiers got the war medals named “For the capture of Budapest” and “For the defeat of fascist Hungary”, while in case of Prague the expression ‘liberation’ was used.
 
Medal ’For the capture of Budapest’
It becomes even more obvious that the Hungarian population perceived the events as occupation, if one takes into account the political transformation, which followed the arrival of the Red Army. Though these changes have become visible only later, their results were structural and long-lasting.


[1] Friessner, Hans: Árulások, vesztett csaták. Co-Nexus Print teR. Budapest, 1992. pp. 134.
[2] Dombrády, Lóránd - Tóth, Sándor: A Magyar Királyi Honvédség 1919-1945. Zrínyi kiadó Budapest, 1987. pp. 401-403.
[3] Lengyel, Ferenc: Bécstől Párizsig. Honvéd kiadó Budapest, 1999. pp. 86.
[4] Lengyel, Ferenc: ibid. pp. 87.
[5] Veress D.,Csaba: ibid. pp. 305.
[6] Borhi, László: Magyarország a hidegháborúban. A Szovjetunió és az Egyesült Államok között, 1945-1956. Corvina Kiadó, Budapest. 2005. pp. 61.
[7] Rákosi, Mátyás (1892-1971): during WWII he was leader of the Hungarian Communist Party in exile. He returned from the Soviet Union on 30th January 1945. From 1945 he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State. In 1952-53 he led the Council of Ministers (thus de facto he was prime minister). Between 1945 and 1956 he was the leader of Hungarian Communists.
[8] Dimitrov, Georgi (1882-1949): Bulgarian Communist in exile, who lived in Moscow. From 1943 he led the Komintern, and in 1946 he became Prime Minister of Bulgaria.
[9] Letter of Rákosi sent to Dimitrov. Published by: Feitl, István (ed.): „Dokumentumok Rákositól – Rákosiról”. In: Múltunk, 1991/1-2. issue. pp. 247.
[10] Borhi: ibid. pp. 61.
[11] Révai, József (1898-1959): Communist politician, who returned to Hungary from the Soviet Union on 7th November 1944. He membered both the Temporary National Assembly in Debrecen, and later the National High Council as well, which was composed of three people and exercised the rights of the head of state.
[12] Borhi: ibid. pp. 61-63.
[13] Ibid, pp. 62-63.
[14] Csikány, Tamás Dr. Lt. Col. (ed.): A Magyar Honvédség 1848-1989. Zrínyi Miklós Nemzetvédelmi Egyetem Egyetemi Kiadó, Budapest. 2004. Tome II. pp. 182-183.
[15] Borhi: ibid, pp. 63.
[16] Thus the authorities have liberalized the abortion procedure, in order to allow women to get rid of unwanted pregnancy in a legal and free way. As a home-made defense, women often wore shabby clothes, dressed as old ladies, or put some dirt on their faces and hair, but in many cases even such practices did not help.
According to a report of the Swiss embassy: “the main source of misery for the Hungarian population is clearly the raping of women. These cases of rape became so common, that only very few women – between the age of ten and seventy – could avoid such fate. In many cases rape is conducted with unimaginable brutality. Many women rather choose suicide in order to avoid these terrible incidents. […] There are known cases, when females, who serve either in the Red Army or in the Soviet police, raped men. Men were severely beaten up, if they did not want to satisfy the lust of Soviet women.” Ungváry, Krisztián: Budapest ostroma. pp. 100-102. Quoted by Borhi, ibid. pp. 63.
[17] In October 1944 Hungarian-German forces re-conquered Nyíregyháza for a while, and during these days numerous protocols and reports were written about the cruelty of the Red Army. Soldiers of the mechanized-cavalry group of General Pliev committed series of rapes, executions and robberies in a few days. Even a general, most probably commander of the 63rd Cavalry Division participated in the rape, and the youngest victim was not older than 7. In Nagykálló Cossacks raped all patients of the nearby psychiatric clinic. All these had such an effect to the local population, which was earlier not really enthusiastic, that they received German soldiers with kisses and tears of happiness. Hungarian and German soldiers had to provide armed guards for the Soviet POWs in order to protect them from being lynched by the furious local population. Ungváry, Krisztián: A magyar honvédség a második világháborúban. Osiris Kiadó, Budapest. 2004. pp. 339-340.
[18] Borhi: ibid. pp. 63.
[19] Moreover, in Yugoslavia revenge was by definition out ouf question, however, Soviet soldiers committed several crimes against the civilian population also in Yugoslavia. For more information see: Đilas, Milovan: Találkozások Sztálinnal. Magvető Könyvkiadó, Budapest. 1989. pp. 81-83.
[20] Ungváry: ibid. pp. 338-339.
[21] Tolbuchin, Fyodor Ivanovich: Marshall, commander of the 3rd Ukrainian Front.
[22] Borhi: ibid. pp. 64.
[23] The Hungarian Temporary National Government was established on 21st December 1944 in the Soviet-occupied city of Debrecen. Composition of the Temporary National Government was defined in Moscow. The main objective was to divide both the still fighting Hungarian forces and the Hungarian civilian population of the occupied territories.
[24] Ungváry: ibid. pp. 338-339.
[25] Ungváry: ibid. pp. 340-341.
[26] Borhi: ibid, pp. 60-61.
[27] Ungváry: ibid. pp. 342-343.
[28] Szakály, Sándor: Honvédség és tisztikar 1919-1947. Ister Kiadó, Budapest. 2002. pp. 298-299.
[29] Ungváry: ibid. pp. 349.
[30] Atrocities affected various parts of the country with great diversity. In Transsylvania the approach of the Red Amry, which put an end to the atrocities conducted by the Romanians, was perceived almost as liberation. The cities of Nyíregyháza, Debrecen, the eastern and southern parts of the Dunántúl and Budapest suffered a lot from the violence of Red Army soldiers. On the contrary, in Szeged, in Western-Hungary and in Miskolc situation calmed quickly. Ungváry: ibid. pp. 340
[31]Gerő, Ernő: Harcban a szocialista népgazdaságért: válogatott beszédek és cikkek 1944-1950. Szikra Kiadó, Budapest. 1950. pp. 11, 13.
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