Jorg Hirsch / Kim Travnor (translation)

Andrew Andersen (map editing for web version)


Longman London and New York 1996






Hungary During the Second World War



The rise of Nazi Germany, Hitler's aggressive revisionist and expansionist policy aimed at acquiring 'living-space' in the East and Hungary's growing dependence on its dynamic and unpredictable neighbour caused growing disquiet in Budapest despite the government's satisfaction at regaining the territories in the north of the country which had previously belonged historically to the Kingdom of Hungary. The sharp increase in support for the extreme Right, even among the workers, was worrying for the Magyar politicians, as were the increasing claims of the leaders of the German minority who stepped up their demands and openly espoused the new 'German ideology', demanding special privileges and a degree of autonomy which Budapest could scarcely tolerate. Many Hungarians were painfully aware of their limited freedom of action in domestic and foreign policy and felt that, for better or for worse, they had been placed at the mercy of Hitler's dictates without any longer being able to represent effectively or give priority to the nation's vital interests. The existing political and social order with its anti-liberal, semi-feudal power structure and spiritual and moral values rooted in the nineteenth century appeared to be threatened if the National Socialist revolution were to spill over to Hungary and if the limited, though still existent opportunities for action, were to be eliminated under a totalitarian system. Since many Hungarians were aware that Nazi Germany would not in the long term be able to maintain military superiority over the anti-Hitler coalition, they hoped to achieve the maximum possible revisionist gains in the wake of German expansion, but at the minimum possible risk. At the same time, however, they sought to maintain contacts with the western Allies who they saw as the ultimate victors in order to avoid territorial losses once more in the wake of a German defeat. Most members of the upper nobility, including the increasingly influential ex-premier, Count István Bethlen, many writers, academics, some of the grande bourgeoisie and, after some vacillation, Horthy himself, took the view that despite Hungary's cautious collaboration with Germany, imposed by the situation, links with the western Allies had to be preserved. The preconditions for the development of a 'strong Hungarian Empire' had to be exploited and every means used to defend Hungarian independence.

The officer corps and the generals, many civil servants, social climbers and even younger industrial workers were convinced that the Third Reich would ultimately win the war, especially after the success of German arms in the summer of 1940. Hitler's Social Darwinist views on race and the Nazi 'Lebensraum' ideology appealed to them. They were also attracted by the thought of bringing about a radical transformation of Hungary's ossified social structure, implementing social changes, completely eliminating the political Left and the Jews and restoring the historic Kingdom of Hungary to its former position of dominance in the Danube region. Although they were very chauvinistic in outlook, they had little sympathy for the anti-Nazism of their internal political opponents which was based on Magyar nationalism and ethical and religious objections. Despite their differences, however, both groups paid homage to the primacy of revisionist policy. Against this background of polarisation in Hungarian politics, the government pursued a vacillating policy over the next five years which was doomed to fail from the outset because of its opportunism. While Horthy and each successive government were at pains to feign unconditional loyalty towards Germany's leaders, they rapidly lost credibility with the Allies because of their collaboration with Hitler and their growing involvement in the war despite the clandestine contacts they maintained with the West. Because Horthy, who habitually procrastinated, was personally incapable of recognising when the right moment had come to desert Germany, Hungary was forced to make immense sacrifices in the final year of the war when it was handed over to the Arrow Cross' reign of terror.

When, in the late summer of 1939, German preparations for the attack against Poland could no longer be kept secret Prime Minister Teleki informed Hitler that his country, which enjoyed good relations with the Poles, would not participate in the campaign. The Ffihrer and Reich Chancellor, who had a low opinion of the Hungarians and their military capabilities, informed Foreign Minister Csáky on 8 August 1939, that he had no intention of requesting Hungary's military assistance, but at the same time did not expect an open declaration of neutrality. Thus, after the outbreak of hostilities Teleki declared Hungary a 'non-belligerent country', refused German troops free passage and opened Hungary's borders to more than 150,000 Polish military and civilian refugees. His appeal to the political parties that they should maintain a political truce for the duration of the war was agreed to by all parliamentary factions except the left-wing deputies and the Arrow Cross. The latter demanded Szálasi's immediate release and the repeal of Ordinance No. 3400 which banned civil servants and state officials from joining the party. As a result of the truce Teleki, supported by a generous consensus, managed to undo many social welfare achievements, limit the freedom of the press and control the trade unions by placing them under the control of government officials. Even those directly affected did not protest. Since the wartime economy required an increasing supply of labour, and German demands -- which proved increasingly difficult to fulfil -- for the volume of raw materials and agricultural exports to be increased, used up every available source of labour, wages rose substantially and living standards noticeably improved which made employees in all sectors of the economy initially contented. The prospect of further revisionist gains also rapidly silenced the critics.

The surprisingly easy successes of the German armies in northern and western Europe led, in the summer of 1940, to growing public pressure on the Teleki government to play an active part in the war. Arguing that even now 'a German victory' was 'by no means certain', Teleki, who had established secret contacts with the British government, refused 'to place ourselves completely and unreservedly on Germany's side'. He stepped up military preparations with the aim of forcing Rumania to return Transylvania. But since Rumania contributed significantly to Germany's oil requirements, and since there was still a danger of British military intervention in the Balkans because of the guarantee pact still in force with Britain, the German government vetoed any unilateral Hungarian military action. Only when the sudden Soviet ultimatum of 26 June 1940 forced the Bucharest government to cede Bessarabia and the northern Bukovina, and King Carol terminated the assistance pact with France and Great Britain, did Hitler and the Italian foreign minister, Ciano, summon Teleki and Csdky to Munich on 10 July, to give them permission to seek a negotiated solution of the Transylvanian conflict with Rumania. Since, however, Hungary's excessive demands ruled out a bilateral agreement, Ribbentrop and Ciano decided to impose the Second Vienna Award on 30 August 1940, giving Hungary northern Transylvania with its mainly Magyar and Szekler-inhabited districts amounting to 43,103 square kilometres and 2.53 million inhabitants. In a special agreement Germany obtained extended rights for the German minority in Hungary and, under the terms of an economic agreement signed on 10 October 1940, larger consignments of Hungarian agricultural produce.

At the same time, the German government, which was dissatisfied with Teleki's vacillating policy made renewed use of its sympathisers within Hungary to secure a domestic and foreign policy which would be unreservedly sympathetic to National Socialism. At the beginning of October Berlin encouraged Béla Imrédy, who had risen rapidly to become the spokesman of the government's increasingly stronger and bolder right-wing, to defect from the Party of Hungarian Life. Joined by eighteen like-minded colleagues, he founded the Party of Hungarian Revival (Magyar Megújulás Pártja) on 21 October 1940. Shortly before, on 29 September, negotiations on a merger between County Pálffy's United National Socialist Party and the Arrow Cross had been successfully concluded. Szálasi, released early from prison, took over as party leader on 7 October and was soon in control of more than 300,000 members. His new programme, however, which alongside 'Hungarianism' proclaimed the unity of nationalism and socialism and aimed at a 'seizure of power', caused arguments and divisions which in turn provoked several splits in the party and a steady decline in membership. With the support of German intermediaries the Hungarian National Socialist Party was refounded on 18 September 1941 and on 24 September fused with the Party of Hungarian Revival to form a new Hungarian Revival and National Socialist Alliance led by Jenő Rátz. Now the German authorities could exert influence through a parliamentary pressure group of over thirty-three deputies who ensured that Germany's demands were satisfied up until the country's occupation by German troops on 19 March 1944. While Teleki attempted to counteract German pressure by strengthening his position by a cabinet reshuffle, he could only curb the growth of right-wing extremism by himself adopting increasingly right-wing policies.

In foreign policy Teleki had to surrender to growing Germanpressure and join the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy and Japan on 20 November 1940. His attempts to exploit what room was left for manoeuvre led to the signing of a Treaty of Eternal Friendship between Hungary and Yugoslavia on 12 December 1940, which was formally ratified in February 1941. The new appointment of the former ambassador to Bucharest, László Bárdossy, to the post of foreign minister on 4 February -- a man known to have little sympathy for National Socialism -- could also be seen as a gesture intended to demonstrate Hungary's independence. But the fall of Cvetković's pro-German Belgrade government on 27 March and Hitler's decision to occupy Yugoslavia in preparation for the attack on Russia also demanded that Hungary adopt a clear position. Whereas Horthy was blinded by the prospect of new territorial gains and wanted to accede to German requests for the right of passage for their troops, Teleki, after sounding out the British government, decided to honour the treaty of friendship with Yugoslavia and maintain Hungary's non-belligerent status. Since he could not, however, make his views prevail against the opposition of the general staff, his cabinet colleagues and the Regent, he shot himself during the night of 2-3 April 1941. Teleki, who had not wanted to place himself on 'the side of the villains' had recognised the consequences of the failure of his 'vacillating policy'. Hungary could achieve revisionist demands which he himself had encouraged only if it joined the Axis and violated the treaties it had signed. Subtle political arguments and the hope that the British government, realising Hungary's predicament, would continue to show goodwill, could not conceal the real power-political situation and the extent of the country's dependence on Germany. The new prime minister, Bárdossy, who was convinced of Germany's ultimate victory and became increasingly subservient to Berlin as time went on, ordered the Hungarian army to follow in the steps of the German Wehrmacht on 11 April 1941 by invading Yugoslavia and occupying the Bácska and parts of the Voivodina, a territory of 11,000 square kilometres with a mainly Serbian and Magyar population, but also some Slovaks and Germans. Thus, within the space of two years, supporting Germany had enabled Hungary to recover an area of 80,000 square kilometres with 5 million inhabitants, including over 2 million Magyars who had been living under foreign rule since the signing of the Trianon peace treaty. With a territory of 172,000 square kilometres Hungary now comprised 52.9 per cent of the historic kingdom of St Stephen. Of its 14,628 million citizens, 9.78 million were Catholic, 2.79 million were Calvinist, 830,000 Lutheran and 725,000 Jewish. Having failed to learn any lessons from its misguided nationalities policy before the First World War, the government implemented new measures of coercion and magyarisation against the national minorities, whose proportion of the total population had now grown to more than a quarter. These policies soon provoked opposition, especially in newly incorporated districts which remained under military rule. In particular, the expropriation of non-Magyar property, undertaken on the pretext of redressing the inequities of land reform measures carried out by the Rumanians and the Czechoslovaks, were especially bitterly opposed.

The new premier, Bárdossy, who had a reputation for arrogance, pride but also intelligence and a certain recklessness, resolutely believed that Hungary was destined to take a leading role in the Danube region. He had little time to familiarise himself with the work of his office before he was required to make some more momentous decisions. News of the German invasion of Russia on 22 June 1941 was welcomed by Hungary's latently anti-Communist political leaders, especially since the military estimated the length of the campaign at about six weeks, basing their forecast on their experience of German Blitzkrieg tactics. Nevertheless, liberalconservative circles had reservations about acceding to Germany's request for the Hungarian army's direct participation in the Russian campaign. But after the bombing of the towns of Kassa and Munkács, which was probably carried out by German aircraft or, perhaps, by Slovakian pilots who had defected to the USSR, Bárdossy violated the constitution and pushed through a declaration of war on the Soviet Union on 27 June 1941. However, only a force of some 40,000 men were initially sent to the eastern front.




Source: Darby, H.C. and Fullard, H. (Eds), The New Cambridge Modern History Atlas, Cambridge, 1970



Hungary now had to place its entire economy in the service of Germany's cause. Around half of its oil production and 90 per cent of its bauxite extraction were henceforth exported to the Reich. The Germans also benefited from Hungary's iron and steel production, which was increased by 30 per cent, and from its increased coal output. The expansion of Hungarian aircraft production and the manufacture of vehicles and weapons similarly benefited the German armaments industry. The export of cereals, oil seeds and meat produce had to be continually stepped up, with the result that Hungary experienced growing food shortages from 1942 onwards, since a lack of artificial fertilisers and insufficient agricultural machinery meant that the harvest yield could not be rapidly increased. Since Germany was very slow in paying its debts and stopped making any further payments after 1943, the economy could be kept going only by another issue of paper currency, which in turn led to high inflation. The money supply grew from 863 million pengé in 1938 to 12.3 billion in 1944. Rising prices and shortages of food and consumer goods for the civilian population led directly to a substantial decline in living standards from 1942 onwards. Longer working hours, increased production targets, the forced subordination of the trade unions to state control, a ban on the free movement of labour and the appointment of military commissars in the factories contributed to a growing opposition which began to emerge in the course of the war and spilled over to the peasants who were forced to produce higher quotas. As against the agricultural sector, the 450,000 or more workers employed in heavy industry and 400,000 or so small tradesmen absorbed an ever larger share of national income exceeding 50 per cent.

Bárdossy's conscientious compliance with German demands, which sprung from his belief in an ultimate German victory, so skilfully promoted by Berlin, led to a situation in the latter half of 1941 where relations between Germany and Hungary ran 'perfectly and harmoniously', to use Ribbentrop's words. Hungary responded to Britain's long awaited declaration of war on 7 December with its own declaration of war on the USA on 13 December. When it became clear after the German defeat before Moscow that the war against the Soviet Union would continue for some time to come, Ribbentrop and the Chief of the Wehrmacht High Command, Wilhelm Keitel, forced Hungary to make a substantially greater military contribution to the war during their visits in January 1942. The Second Hungarian Army, which had around 200,000 combat troops, 50,000 occupation troops and a labour service corps of 40,000 men, had to reinforce certain sectors on the eastern front from the spring of 1942 onwards. In addition, the Waffen-SS was allowed to recruit volunteers from Hungary's German population. Hungary thus found itself increasingly involved on Hitler's side during the Second World War, the successful outcome of which began to look increasingly doubtful.

In order to lend greater stability to his régime, Horthy had his son, István (who died later on 20 August 1942 in an aircrash on the eastern front) elected Vice-Regent on 19 February and moved closer to those advocating closer ties with the Allies. Bárdossy's inability to withstand German pressure and flattery also caused the Regent to nominate a prime minister whom he found personally more acceptable. Miklós Kállay, appointed to the post on 9 March 1942, was a wealthy landowner and agricultural expert. He came from one of Hungary's oldest aristocratic families and had been minister of agriculture under Gömbös, but because of his preference for Bethlen's politics had already retired from public life in 1935. His reservations towards National Socialism, both in its German and Hungarian forms, were well known, with the result that he was expected to pursue a policy which would distance Hungary more from the Third Reich. Resuming Count Pál Teleki's double-edged policy, Kállay moved against both the so-called 'German Party' and the political Left. He also restored clandestine contacts with the Allied governments. The former chairman of the Smallholders' Party, Tibor Eckhardt, who had emigrated to the USA and placed himself at the head of a movement for an independent Hungary (Független Magyarország), tried to make his country's difficult predicament comprehensible to the Allied politicians. His supporters' efforts to transform the Smallholders' Party into a western-style bourgeois-democratic party, which induced many intellectuals to join, facilitated increased cooperation with the Budapest government after Stalingrad. Despite these attempts to maintain a circumspect distance from Germany, Kállay's period in office failed to witness any significant reduction in Hungary's dependence on Hitler's Germany, although growing opposition to German domination was encouraged and cautiously promoted by the country's highest authorities.

As early as the autumn of 1941 anti-German demonstrations were held to coincide with important national festivities. The founding of the Hungarian Historial Memorial Committee in February 1942 saw the creation of a coordinating authority. On 15 March, the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1848-49 War of Independence, a crowd of 8,000 people gathered at the Petöfi Monument in Budapest to demand an 'independent democratic Hungary'. When the insignificant Hungarian Communist Party, which operated underground in Budapest, received fresh impetus from Germany's attack on Russia and tried to participate in the growing opposition movement through sporadically published newspaper and leaflets, the police acted decisively, arresting 500 activists. The party's leaders, Ferenc Rózsa and Zótan Schönherz were executed. Following the dissolution of the Third International in May 1943, János Kádár, who took over as First Party Secretary in December 1942, also had to order that the party officially cease its activities, although it continued to operate as the Peace Party (Békepárt). From now on the régime's left-wing critics were frequently forced into newly formed punishment batallions.

These 'labour companies' had already been used to solve the 'Jewish question', which had been resolutely insisted upon by the Third Reich. As a result of German pressure, a third anti-Jewish law was passed in 1941 which, despite protests from the Christian churches, led to even greater discrimination against Hungary's 787,000 citizens of Jewish origin, including 725,000 professing Jews. The new legislation prohibited marriage between Christians and Jews and prepared the way for the exclusion of more than 80,000 Jewish employees from state employment and the country's economic life. In August 1941, 12,000 Jews, who had been settled mainly in the Carpatho-Ukraine area, were, on account of their ' ambiguous' citizenship, evicted across the border into Germanoccupied Poland and murdered. Later deportations on a smaller scale may well have involved a further 10,000 to 15,000 Jews. When, however, large numbers of Serbs and Jews were massacred in a pogrom in the Novi Sad area in January 1942, public outrage was so great that Horthy and Bárdossy had to order a formal investigation. Those held mainly responsible by the inquiry escaped punishment by fleeing to Germany which refused to extradite them. From 1940 onwards, Jewish males eligible for military service were forcibly conscripted into 'labour companies' which amounted to little more than mobile concentration camps in which they were subjected to brutal treatment. Whereas Jewish women, children and old men were left to continue living in increasingly difficult, but still comparatively tolerable circumstances, German pressure grew on Kállay's government to agree to German plans for a 'final solution'. Horthy was initially able to avoid fulfilling Hitler's and Ribbentrop's threatening demands, made in Klessheim on 17 April 1943, for Hungary's Jews to be sent to concentration camps or liquidated in the mass extermination camps in Poland. But the German authorities, through SS Standartenführer Mayer, subsequently established direct contacts with the 'German Party' and the more prominent antisemitic organisations in order to prepare the way for the 'final solution', as envisaged by Berlin.

From the summer of 1942 onwards, the Second Hungarian Army supported the northern wing of the German advance towards Stalingrad. Its almost complete annihilation at Voronezh on 12 January 1943 was of decisive importance for the future course of Hungarian politics. Prior to the defeat 7,000 men had already frozen to death. Heavy losses suffered in smaller engagements with the enemy had sapped the soldiers' morale and, because the German High Command prevented a timely retreat, 40,000 men were killed and 70,000 taken prisoner during the Soviet counteroffensive. Convinced that the Hungarian troops had been senselessly sacrificed by the Germans and that the Axis had already lost the war, Kállay's government stepped up its contacts with the Allies via its accredited diplomats in neutral countries. In Istanbul, Madrid, Stockholm and Lisbon they attempted to discover which position and role the Allies were prepared to grant Hungary in the Danube region after the war had ended. At the same time, they hoped to receive assurances that Hungary's revisionist gains would be recognised. After the fall of Mussolini on 25 July 1943, the Hungarians stepped up their efforts to create the preconditions for Hungary to get out of the war at the earliest opportunity. In negotations with the British Government, held after the signing of the armistice with Italy on 3 September 1943, Kállay agreed to order the withdrawal of Hungarian troops from the eastern front, which were now engaged only in fighting partisans. He also agreed to reduce the armaments supplies to Germany, to make personnel changes in the general staff and introduce social reforms in the long term, if in return Hungary were given guarantees that the territorial status quo would be maintained and no further conditions imposed in a subsequent peace treaty.



However, influential groups within Hungary's ruling circles, who continued to believe that Germany would ultimately win the war, rejected this programme. Kállay, it is true, no longer had to take notice of parliament whose proceedings had been suspended indefinitely on 4 May 1943. However, the Arrow Cross movement, which had been under pressure from the government and the Left for advocating a closer association with Germany, could count on the support of the right wing of the government party and Imrédy's National Socialist Party Alliance. Its officers, ex-gentry bureaucrats and members of the bourgeoisie who had profited from the economic elimination of the Jews supported continuing the fight against Bolshevism and increasing Hungary's contribution to Germany's war effort. From late 1943 onwards, the Arrow Cross established closer contacts with the German authorities and, helped by Horthy's hesitation, offered Hitler the possibility of preparing operation 'Margarethe', i.e. Hungary's occupation by the Wehrmacht. Although the Germans did not rule out a military solution, they hoped to maintain a semblance of legality when taking over control of the country. Horthy, who was again summoned to Klessheim on 17 March 1944, had to agree to dismiss Kállay and appoint a right-wing puppet government under Hungary's long-serving ambassador to Berlin, the narrow-minded Lieutenant-General Döme Sztójay, in which representatives of the Nationalist Socialist Party Alliance would occupy the key posts. On 19 March, eight German divisions invaded the country 'at the request of the Hungarian government', encountering no opposition. The SS and the Gestapo who followed closely on their heels immediately began their activities. SS Standartenffihrer Dr Edmund Veesenmayer took over the German embassy in Budapest as 'The German Reich's Plenipotentiary in Hungary'.

First of all, the opponents of National Socialism, including Communists, leading officials of the Smallholders' Party, Social Democrats, journalists, academics and even close colleagues of Horthy were arrested and sent to German concentration camps. With the help of the Arrow Cross and the willing assistance of the Hungarian gendarmerie, over 450,000 people, including almost all of Hungary's provincial Jews, were deported under Eichmann's supervision to the German extermination camps in Poland, despite protests by Church leaders and Horthy's hesitant attempts to halt the deportations. Only 200,000 or so Jews herded together in the Budapest ghetto were provisionally spared liquidation. The still relatively free press was banned and only a few newspapers propagating National Socialist aims allowed to appear. The country's economic resources were now openly and shamelessly plundered. On 24 August 1944 a government decree banned all political parties.

But opposition to Sztójay's new policy of collaboration steadily grew. Horthy, encouraged by the D-Day landings in Normandy, the rapid advance of the Red Army and Rumania's defection to the Allies on 23 August, still hoped to ditch the Axis and join the Allies. As a first step in this direction he dismissed the compliant German puppet. Sztójay, on 24 August after the government had been seriously weakened by Imrédy's supporters withdrawing their support on 7 August in protest at the expropriation of Jewish businesses by the SS. General Géza Lakatos, whom Horthy trusted, took over the government on 29 August and immediately tried to establish contact with Allies, but with little success. When the Red Army crossed the Hungarian border on 23 September 1944 a delegation was sent to Moscow to enter into secret negotiations for an armistice and an agreement was reached on 11 October which stipulated that Hungarian troops were in future to be deployed against the German occupation forces.

Blindly trusting in the loyalty of his generals, Horthy wanted simply to announce an armistice and Hungary's change of allegiance without any adequate, political, social or military preparations. But when he ordered the Hungarian troops to stop fighting in a radio broadcast of 15 October, without at the same time ordering any action against the German armed forces, the occupying troops and the Arrow Cross had already taken their own countermeasures. Many officers who had been trained in Germany and instilled with National Socialist values were not prepared to make common cause with the Soviets. The Arrow Cross and their right-wing sympathisers had taken control of vital key positions, particularly since 19 March 1944. The lumpenproletariat now saw its chance of settling scores with the old system, but the underground opposition was still not sufficiently united to be able to put up any active resistance. The hastily deployed 24th German Wehrmacht Panzer Division occupied the Royal Palace in Budapest and by threatening to execute Horthy's younger son, who had been kidnapped and taken to Mauthausen by a special unit under Skorzeny, forced the Regent to withdraw his announcement and appoint Ferenc Szálasi as prime minister. German units and armed Arrow Cross squads had in the meantime occupied public buildings in the capital without encountering any resistance. The Hungarian army also announced its allegiance to the new rulers and Horthy was placed under custody before being taken to Germany.

The new 'leader of the nation', Szálasi, and his supporters established a reign of terror in the few months they were able to hold onto power. This terror was directed against the new government's political opponents and Jews who had not yet been deported. During the winter 1944-45 over 80,000 Jews, mainly older people and children, were driven into concentration camps in forced marches and perished. Whilst most of Hungary's provincial Jews fell victim to the extermination measures carried out by the Germans and the Arrow Cross, almost 100,000 people did, at least, manage to escape death in the Budapest ghetto. As a result of the régime's arbitrary rule and savage reprisals, tens of thousands of Hungarian intellectuals, civil servants, clergymen and workers lost their lives. 'Total mobilisation' meant that all citizens between the ages of 12 and 70 were forced into labour service or military service. But, as defeatism and desertion spread through the Hungarian army, it proved impossible to keep the promise to Hitler to place 1.5 million soldiers at his disposal. Attempts at the forced evacuation of the civilian population and the holding up of the Russians' steady advance by a scorched earth policy provoked growing opposition and a complete rejection of the barbaric excesses of the Arrow Cross cohorts. On 13 February 1945, Budapest, largely destroyed after bitter street fighting, fell to the Red Army. On 4 April 1945, the last Wehrmacht units left the country which was placed under Soviet military occupation. Szálasi's government and other leading personalities of the Horthy era had meanwhile given themselves up to American troops in Austria.



The Hungarian underground opposition contributed little to the military defeat of National Socialism. It was not until July 1943 that the Smallholders' Party, whose 'bourgeois section' included Communist sympathisers alongside its anti-German and radical intellectual elements, suppressed its right wing and adopted Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky's policy of working more closely with the Social Democrats and the Communists. A memorandum to the Kállay government on 31 July had demanded an end to hostilities and a volte face in foreign policy to join the Allies even at the price of armed conflict with the Third Reich. At the beginning of August 1943 a programme of action was formally concluded with the Social Democrats and on 11 September a joint declaration issued condemning the government's continuing prosecution of the war. The various opposition groups, weakened by the harsh repressive measures introduced during the German occupation and deprived of their leaders most of whom had been arrested by the Gestapo, joined forces in May 1944 in the Communist-inspired Hungarian Front (Magyar Front). They demanded a 'new struggle of liberation' against the German occupation forces and their collaborators and called for the creation of a new democratic Hungary after the war. The Communist Party ( Kommunista Párt), reconstituted on 12 September 1944, signed an agreement with the Social Democrats on 10 October which proposed the creation of a united front and the merger of both party organisations to form a united revolutionary and socialist workers' party after the war. The representatives of the Hungarian Front, who were informed by Horthy of plans for an armistice on 11 October, were able to create a coordinating body with the founding of the Committee of Liberation of the Hungarian National Uprising ( Magyar Nemzeti Felkelés Felszabaditó Bizottsága) on 11 November 1944. Although immediately weakened by the arrest and execution of its leaders, it called for an armed uprising in the German-occupied territories, which took the form of limited isolated partisan actions and attacks on German military installations.

The course taken by Hungary's post-war development was decided in December 1944 in Hungary's second biggest town, Szeged, which had been occupied by the Red Army in September 1944. The Social Democratic Party, National Peasants' Party. Bourgeois-Democratic Party, Communists and trade-union representatives formed the Hungarian National Independence Front (Magyar Nemzeti Függetlenségi Front) on 2 December. Its programme called for an immediate break with the Third Reich and wholehearted support for the Red Army. It also demanded a thorough democratisation of public life, a radical land reform to benefit the smallholders and the comprehensive nationalisation of major industries and banks. In the elections held in the eastern part of the country under the auspices of the Red Army the Communists succeeded in winning 71 of the 230 contested seats. The Independent Party of Smallholders won 55 seats, the Social Democrats 38 and the National Peasants' Party 16. The provisional National Assembly, constituted in Debrecen on 22 December 1944, entrusted Colonel Béla Dálnoki Miklós, who had gone over to the Russians on 15 October, with the formation of a government. The new government, which consisted of three generals, three Communists (agriculture, industry and transport, social welfare), two Social Democrats (justice, economics), two Smallholders (foreign affairs and finance) and one representative of the Peasants' Party (interior), revoked all treaties concluded with the Third Reich and declared war on Germany on 28 December. The armistice, which the Hungarians signed with the Allies in Moscow on 20 January 1945, fixed Hungary's borders as they had existed on 31 December 1937, thus renouncing the territorial gains achieved as a result of the Vienna Awards and subsequent military occupation. It was also obliged to play an active role in the war against Germany and pay reparations for damage inflicted by the Hungarian army to the sum of 200 million dollars together with compensation amounting to 100 million US dollars' worth of arms deliveries to both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The Allied Control Commission for Hungary, which was chaired by a representative of the Soviet High Command, was to monitor the disbanding of fascist organisations and the bringing of war criminals to justice. The most urgent practical political tasks were to create a functioning administration, restore public order, feed the population, reconstruct the worst war damage and introduce new reforms. The Supreme National Council, formed on 26 January, consisting of the President of the National Assembly, the prime minister and a delegate from the Political Committee of the provisional parliament took over the duties of the head of state. Civilian government was extended to the entire country only after the final withdrawal of German troops at the beginning of April 1945.

Hungary entered the post-war period with a difficult historical legacy. It was still not easy to recognise what effects the Red Army's 'liberation' of the country would have on its political, social and economic structures. However, broad sections of the population recognised that it was imperative to eradicate the vestiges of the Horthy era, so strongly shaped by semi-feudal traditions rooted in the nineteeenth century, and to give Hungary a modern political and social structure. Since memories of Béla Kun's Soviet dictatorship of a quarter of a century previously were still alive, there was little desire on the part of most people for Socialist or even revolutionary Communist changes. But they also had no wish to see a restoration of the Horthy system which had rested on the power of the large landowners and urban capitalists, supported by the civil service, the judiciary and the army -- a system which had held on to power relatively easily through its manipulation of elections and exploitation of revisionist propaganda. Hungary, once more restored to the frontiers laid down in the Trianon Treaty of 1920 and without hope of restoring the historic Kingdom of St Stephen had once again been confined to its territorial heartland. The country, which had suffered badly from the economic effects of the war and the fighting which had taken place on its territory, had to try as best it could to minimise the consequences of being involved in Germany's catastrophic defeat. The rapid collapse of the Allies' wartime coalition, the consolidation of the opposing post-war power blocs and the start of the Cold War meant that Hungary's path into the post-war world was to prove much more difficult than the country's patriots and democrats expected as they set about energetically rebuilding after the collapse.