Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

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Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Futurist » 31 Dec 2019 23:20

In your opinion, was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace? After all, this Hungarian move resulted in the Nazis occupying Hungary in early 1944 and in annihilating most of Greater Hungary's Jewish population (especially outside of Budapest--though Budapest also apparently endured tens of thousands of Jewish deaths during the Holocaust). So, I was wondering if it would have been more prudent for Horthy to remain allied to the Axis up to the very end if this would have meant the survival of almost all of Greater Hungary's Jewish population.

Any thoughts on this?

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by steppewolf » 08 Jan 2020 10:41

It depends from what point of view you look at. Fro the point of view of Jewish population, certainly this move caused hundred of thousands of death and unleash not only the Reich's forces against them but own Hungarian pro-Nazi party, Arrow Cross.

From Horthy's point of view it was normal to seek a separate peace. The war was anyway lost in late 1943 and Hungary's engagement in the East wasn't whole hearted as they send there the 2nd Army which wasn't considered the best, its divisions being "light" (2 regiments) compared with normal infantry divisions of 3 regiments. 1st Hungarian Army was the main fighting force while 3rd Army was still under organization. During its 1 year activity on Eastern front, the 2nd Hungarian Army's losses were enormous, only about 25% returning after Stalingrad and after this the Hungarian involvement was symbolic.

Italy defected in September 1943, Allies were already in Europe, Soviets were in offensive and the 1940 borders of Hungary were only guaranteed by Hitler. Horthy tried all the time to keep relations with British Empire and initiated contacts with Soviets. The military involvement of Hungary in Eastern front was negligible and after Stalingrad ceased completely except some divisions with security duties and best units were kept home to rebuild and defend the borders.

Germans knew that Hungary was seeking a way out, Horthy was sloppy enough to make it pretty clear this fact and the country was occupied without any fight by Germans (Operation Margarethe I). Horthy put into power German's sympathizers for a short time to appease the Germans and then tried to build up the military forces, defend the Eastern border and looked for an opportunity to get out of the war, secretly negotiating with Allies.

During the summer, when the South Army Group collapsed during Jassy-Khisinev offensive and Romania declared armistice with Allies, Horthy was secretly negotiating with Stalin (through his son) which apparently promised sovereignity and autonomy to Hungarian state. There were also talks with Tito. However, when the war reached Hungarian territory (autumn of 1944), Hitler decided that it was enough in 15th October when Horthy declared an armistice with Soviets. Hungarian army didn't followed his orders which allowed the Germans to force him to abdicate. Szalasi (from Hungarian pro-Nazi party Arrow Cross) took its place and fought until the end.

So looking at this very brief description of events, while Hungary tried to avoid deportation of Jews (but still treated badly with Hungarian own variant of Nurenberg Laws) the main interest of Horthy and Hungary was to preserve the borders newly acquired in 1940 and nothing else. He even considered Stalin the lesser evil despite his anti-communism which shows he would have do anything to keep the borders, this was the main and only political objective.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by wm » 09 Jan 2020 02:48

The Jews weren't killed because Horthy sought peace but because the Nazis obsessively believed they were a serious security threat.

The deportations were going to happen even without the (quite light) occupation, the Hungarians were told the Jews were needed in German factories, they weren't aware of their fate.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by steppewolf » 09 Jan 2020 08:32

Not entirely sure they didn't know. From example, they deported them in 1941 from Carpathian Ruthenia obtained with Hitler's backing in 1939 to Southern Poland, either left to roam wherever they like or handed to the Germans. Families were thrown out of their houses because they didn't lived there since 1850.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by wm » 09 Jan 2020 09:34

But in 1941 the Holocaust didn't exist yet so they couldn't possibly know.
Actually only a few top Nazis knew what the Holocaust was, i.e. destruction of all Jews in the German-occupied territories.

People, the Jews themselves believed it was something that was only going on somewhere else, a local thing. In Lithuania, Russia, later in Poland.
Even the deported Hungarian Jews didn't know what was going to happen to them.
Their leaders knew but didn't tell them.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Futurist » 10 Jan 2020 09:07

wm wrote:
09 Jan 2020 02:48
The Jews weren't killed because Horthy sought peace but because the Nazis obsessively believed they were a serious security threat.

The deportations were going to happen even without the (quite light) occupation, the Hungarians were told the Jews were needed in German factories, they weren't aware of their fate.
Horthy wasn't aware of the mass murder that was going on on the Eastern Front since 1941? This in spite of Hungarian troops actually serving on the Eastern Front?

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by wm » 10 Jan 2020 12:34

We don't know. He probably heard about this or that execution, but such things happened in the Great War too. It was an enormous territory and not that many execution sites. Nobody had a bird's-eye view of the Holocaust.

His Austro-Hungary executed lots of people in Serbia, and the Germans in Belgium too.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Futurist » 10 Jan 2020 18:06

wm wrote:
10 Jan 2020 12:34
We don't know. He probably heard about this or that execution, but such things happened in the Great War too. It was an enormous territory and not that many execution sites. Nobody had a bird's-eye view of the Holocaust.

His Austro-Hungary executed lots of people in Serbia, and the Germans in Belgium too.
Interesting. Why didn't Horthy agree to deport Hungary's Jews before his country was occupied in 1944, though?

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Futurist » 10 Jan 2020 18:08

wm wrote:
09 Jan 2020 02:48
The Jews weren't killed because Horthy sought peace but because the Nazis obsessively believed they were a serious security threat.

The deportations were going to happen even without the (quite light) occupation, the Hungarians were told the Jews were needed in German factories, they weren't aware of their fate.
The Bulgarian Jews and the Jews in the territories of the Romanian Old Kingdom weren't slaughtered en masse by the Nazis, though. The latter were located even closer to the Soviet Union than the Hungarian Jews were and yet they weren't slaughtered due to the fact that Antonescu remained loyal to Nazi Germany until the very end and when King Michael removed Antonescu from power in Romania, it occurred so suddenly that the Germans were unable to respond to this effectively and to occupy Romania.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by wm » 10 Jan 2020 20:19

Why should Horty have deported his Jews? In Hungary the Jewish problem was a serious one but manageable.
(Privileged by birth) Jews were seriously overrepresented in the best professions, universities, economy and that caused problems. Preferential treatment for others could take care of that.
It wasn't like the Nazis and their belief of inherent Jewish destructiveness. The Jews were seen more like one-percenters in the US.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Steve » 11 Jan 2020 01:20

Budapest October 44 was another well carried out operation by Otto Skorzeny whose name is apparently of Polish origin.

Hitler knew of the negotiations with the Soviets and started preparing a coup. Skorzeny was told by Hitler to seize the Citadel of Budapest which was the residence of Horthy and his entourage if the Hungarians betrayed their alliance. Bach-Zalensky who had recently suppressed the Warsaw uprising was put in overall charge. Skorzeny managed to persuade Back-Zalensky not to use a 60cm mortar that had been used at Sebastopol and Warsaw. Instead it was decided to kidnap Horthy’s son Miklos so as to blackmail Horthy. On October 15 after a brief firefight Skorzeny captured Miklos who was rolled up in a carpet thrown in a lorry driven to an airfield flown to Vienna and then to Mauthausen concentration camp. Horthy was told that at the first sign of treason his son would be shot.

Two hours later Horthy made a radio broadcast announcing a separate peace with Russia. The head of the Arrow Cross movement Szalasi now staged a coup. Horthy was told that if he resigned and formally handed power to Szalasi he would be given asylum in Germany and his son freed. If not then the Citadel would be taken by force and his son shot. He resigned and Skorzeny entered the Citadel on the morning of the 16th. Horthy was then taken on the 18th by special train to Schloss Hirschberg in Bavaria. Public tours take place on Sunday afternoons and it is rated quite highly on trip advisor.

Horthy claimed in his memoirs that he did not know about the extermination camps till August 44. That he did not know what was happening to the Jews before this seems unlikely. The Einsatzgruppen started murdering Jews on a huge scale after the USSR was invaded in June 41. The killings were not carried out under a veil of secrecy. A recent programme on the BBC about diary entries and photographs from German solders in Russia proves that. In Bukovina next door to Hungary the Romanians after occupying it in June 1941 carried out large scale killings of Jews and deportations. Slovakian Jews also next door went to Auschwitz in 1942. Large scale killings of Jews in Yugoslavia also next door started immediately the country was occupied in April 1941. But Horthy supposedly thought that Hungarian Jews were going to some sort of work camps! Could he have done anything to stop what happened probably not and after the war everyone claimed they did not know what was happening.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Futurist » 11 Jan 2020 02:49

wm wrote:
10 Jan 2020 20:19
Why should Horty have deported his Jews? In Hungary the Jewish problem was a serious one but manageable.
(Privileged by birth) Jews were seriously overrepresented in the best professions, universities, economy and that caused problems. Preferential treatment for others could take care of that.
It wasn't like the Nazis and their belief of inherent Jewish destructiveness. The Jews were seen more like one-percenters in the US.
So, why not try to avoid Hungary getting occupied by Germany so that the Jews will continue to be ruled by the more civilized Hungarians as opposed to the Nazis?

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Futurist » 11 Jan 2020 02:57

Steve wrote:
11 Jan 2020 01:20
Budapest October 44 was another well carried out operation by Otto Skorzeny whose name is apparently of Polish origin.

Hitler knew of the negotiations with the Soviets and started preparing a coup. Skorzeny was told by Hitler to seize the Citadel of Budapest which was the residence of Horthy and his entourage if the Hungarians betrayed their alliance. Bach-Zalensky who had recently suppressed the Warsaw uprising was put in overall charge. Skorzeny managed to persuade Back-Zalensky not to use a 60cm mortar that had been used at Sebastopol and Warsaw. Instead it was decided to kidnap Horthy’s son Miklos so as to blackmail Horthy. On October 15 after a brief firefight Skorzeny captured Miklos who was rolled up in a carpet thrown in a lorry driven to an airfield flown to Vienna and then to Mauthausen concentration camp. Horthy was told that at the first sign of treason his son would be shot.

Two hours later Horthy made a radio broadcast announcing a separate peace with Russia. The head of the Arrow Cross movement Szalasi now staged a coup. Horthy was told that if he resigned and formally handed power to Szalasi he would be given asylum in Germany and his son freed. If not then the Citadel would be taken by force and his son shot. He resigned and Skorzeny entered the Citadel on the morning of the 16th. Horthy was then taken on the 18th by special train to Schloss Hirschberg in Bavaria. Public tours take place on Sunday afternoons and it is rated quite highly on trip advisor.
I certainly don't blame Horthy for abdicating in October 1944 since it was clearly done with the threat of his son being murdered by the Nazis if he refused. Even so, one can't help but wonder whether, even then, Horthy should have aimed to continue fighting for the Nazis up to the very end considering that this would have probably saved an additional several tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest. AFAIK, in real life, something like 130,000 out of Budapest's 200,000 Jews survived the Holocaust (with a survival rate of about 65%), but this survival rate would have been much higher had it not been for the mass murder of Budapest Jews starting from October 1944 (which, in addition to outright murdering Jews on the banks of the Danube, included sending Jews by foot on death marches--though AFAIK thankfully no Budapest Jews were actually sent to Auschwitz since Auschwitz was already on the verge of shutting down in October 1944).
Horthy claimed in his memoirs that he did not know about the extermination camps till August 44. That he did not know what was happening to the Jews before this seems unlikely. The Einsatzgruppen started murdering Jews on a huge scale after the USSR was invaded in June 41. The killings were not carried out under a veil of secrecy. A recent programme on the BBC about diary entries and photographs from German solders in Russia proves that. In Bukovina next door to Hungary the Romanians after occupying it in June 1941 carried out large scale killings of Jews and deportations. Slovakian Jews also next door went to Auschwitz in 1942. Large scale killings of Jews in Yugoslavia also next door started immediately the country was occupied in April 1941. But Horthy supposedly thought that Hungarian Jews were going to some sort of work camps! Could he have done anything to stop what happened probably not and after the war everyone claimed they did not know what was happening.
Yeah, I'm inclined towards this view as well. TBH, I think that Horthy's best bet at saving the Jews of the Hungarian countryside would have been to remain loyal to Hitler and Nazi Germany up to the very end. Romania and Bulgaria managed to avoid Nazi German occupation and thus managed to save a higher percentage of their Jews then Hungary did--though in Romania Antonescu also murdered a lot of Moldovan, Bukovinian, and Ukrainian Jews on his own initiative (though sometimes a sizable fraction did survive--for instance, almost 20,000 of Chernivtsi's 60,000 Jews)--while largely allowing the 280,000-290,000 Jews of the territories of the Romanian Old Kingdom to survive the Holocaust.

I wonder if Horthy's efforts to make a separate peace had anything to do with a desire on his part to allow Hungary to keep at least some of its Horthy-era territorial gains after the end of the war. Romania did in fact get rewarded for switching sides in August by getting all of Northern Transylvania returned to it after the war by Stalin, but that move could have been justified as simply being a restoration of that aspect of the post-WWI peace settlement.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by wm » 11 Jan 2020 18:35

Futurist wrote:
11 Jan 2020 02:49
So, why not try to avoid Hungary getting occupied by Germany so that the Jews will continue to be ruled by the more civilized Hungarians as opposed to the Nazis?
Hungary was occupied because Horthy was going to betray the Germans, not because of the Jews.
Horthy wasn't aware of their fate, he was promised by seemingly honest Germans they would be treated humanely.
Still, he resisted the deportations because they were Hungarian citizens.

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Re: Was it a mistake for Miklos Horthy (the Hungarian regent) to seek a separate peace?

Post by Steve » 12 Jan 2020 01:37

Hitler met Horthy at Klessheim near Saltzberg on 16-17 April 1943. The following is taken from: - Hitler 1936 -1945 Nemesis by Ian Kershaw page 182/3. His source is Staatsmanner und Diplomaten bei Hitler. Vertrauliche Aufzeichnungen 1942 – 1944, ed Andreas Hillgruber, Munich 1969.

Horthy mentioned that despite tough measures criminality and the black market were flourishing. Hitler said that the Jews were to blame and Horthy asked what was he expected to do with the Jews. He had taken away their economic livelihood; he could scarcely have them all killed. Ribbentrop intervened, saying that the Jews must be “annihilated (vernichtet)” or locked up in concentration camps. There was no other way. Hitler now gave Horthy various statistics about the strength of Jewish influence in Germany. Saying that when left to themselves they had only produced misery and dereliction and that they were parasites. Poland was put forward as a model where things had been “thoroughly cleaned up”. If Jews did not want to work “then they would be shot”. If they could not work, then they would have to rot (verkommen). They would have to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli from which a healthy body could become infected. This would not be cruel if it were considered that even innocent creatures, like hares and deer, had to be killed. Why should the beasts that want to bring us Bolshevism be spared.

The case for Horthy not having any idea about what was happening to the Jews is surely seriously weakened.

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