Miklós Horthy

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Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya
Date of birth June 18, 1868
Date of death February 9, 1957
Political Party none
Political positions
  • Regent of Hungary (1920-1944)
Horthy redirects here. For other uses, see Horthy (disambiguation).

Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya (Hungarian: Vitéz<ref>"Vitéz" refers to a Hungarian knightly order founded by Miklós Horthy ("Vitézi Rend".) literally, "vitéz" means "valiant".</ref> nagybányai Horthy Miklós; listen , German: Nikolaus von Horthy und Nagybánya; Kenderes, June 18, 1868Estoril, February 9, 1957) was the Regent of Hungary during the interwar years and throughout most of World War II, serving from March 1, 1920 to October 15, 1944. He was originally an Admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Fleet, and after his regency, wrote of his experiences in his memoirs. Horthy was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" (Ő Főméltósága a Magyar Királyság Kormányzója).

Horthy had commanded the Austro-Hungarian fleet in World War I. After Béla Kun seized (1919) power in Hungary, the counterrevolutionary government put Horthy in command of its forces. With the consent of the Triple Entente, Romanian forces invaded Hungary and defeated Kun, but also caused depredations of their own. When they evacuated Budapest (November, 1919), Horthy entered it and in 1920 was made regent and head of the state. He checked two attempts (March and October, 1921) of former Emperor Charles I (Hungarian King Charles IV) to regain his throne in Hungary — once by persuasion and once by armed force. Charles was then formally barred from the throne and exiled, and Horthy found himself regent of a kingless kingdom. A conservative who was distinctly inclined toward the right, he guided Hungary through the years between the two world wars. After the suicide (1941) of the premier, Pál Teleki, Hungary entered World War II as an ally of Germany. Despite Horthy's opposition, German troops occupied Hungary in March, 1944. When Russian troops entered Hungary, Horthy sent an armistice commission to Moscow and announced (October, 1944) the surrender of Hungary. The Germans immediately forced Horthy to countermand his order and resign. He was taken to Bavaria and later was freed by U.S. troops. After appearing as a witness at the Nuremberg war-crimes trial (1946), he settled (1949) in Portugal, where he died. His memoirs appeared in English in 1956.


[edit] Early Life and Naval Career

Miklós Horthy came from an old Calvinist noble family. As a young man Horthy traveled around the world and served as a diplomat for the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Turkey and other countries. From 1908 until 1914 he was an aide-de-camp to Emperor Franz Joseph, for whom he had a great respect. During World War I, Horthy distinguished himself first as a captain and later as an admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. During the war he defeated the Italian Navy several times, and was wounded at the battle of the Otranto Straits. Due to his success on behalf of the Dual Monarchy, he was promoted to Commander in Chief of the Imperial Fleet in March, 1918, and held that position until he was ordered by Emperor Karl to surrender the fleet to the new State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs on October 31.

[edit] Dates of rank and assignments

  • 1896 Fregattenleutnant (fregatthadnagy - Sub-Lieutenant)
  • 1900 Linienschiffleutnant (sorhajóhadnagy - Lieutenant)
  • Jan 1901 SMS Sperber (commander)
  • 1902 SMS Kranich (commander)
  • Jun 1908 SMS Taurus (commander)
  • Aug 1908 SMS Kaiser Karl VI (GDO-Gemeindienstoffizier-First Officer, temporary)
  • 1 Jan 1909 Korvettenkäpitan (korvettkapitány - Lieutenant-Commander)
  • 1 Nov 1909 aide-de-camp to Emperor Franz Josef
  • 1 Nov 1911 Fregattenkäpitan (fregattkapitány - Commander)
  • Dec 1912-Mar 1913 SMS Budapest (commander)
  • 20 Jan 1914 Linienschiffskäpitan (sorhajókapitány - Captain)
  • Aug 1914 SMS Habsburg (commander)
  • Dec 1914 SMS Novara (commander)
  • 1 Feb 1918 SMS Prinz Eugen (commander)
  • 27 Feb 1918 Konteradmiral (ellentengernagy - Rear Admiral)
  • 27 Feb 1918 appointed (last) Commander in Chief of the fleet (over 11 admiral and 24 senior linienschiffskapitän) by Emperor Karl I
  • 30 Oct 1918 Vizeadmiral (altengernagy - Vice Admiral)

[edit] Interwar Period, 1919–1939

[edit] In the counter-government and the commander of the National Army

Image:Horthy the regent.jpg
Horthy, the Regent
The end of the war saw Hungary turned into a landlocked nation, and hence the new government had little need for Horthy's services. Thus, he retired with his family to his private homestead to Kenderes. However, he was still regarded by his people as a war hero, and this status paid off in 1919, when the Communist Béla Kun seized power in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. A counter-government was established on May 30 in the southern city of Szeged, occupied by French forces at the time. There, Gyula Károlyi, who had absolutely adverse concepts than his cousin, Mihály Károlyi, asked Horthy to be the Minister of War in the new government. Soon after, because of the appeal of the Entente, the board was reformed, and Horthy did not receive any place in the new one. With that, the Admiral decided to place the National Army (Hungarian: Nemzeti Hadsereg) – established by anti-Communist forces a bit earlier – in order, and to seize power on it. On August 6 Romanian forces entered Budapest, deserted by the Communists three days before. By early August, Horthy moved with his forces to Siófok, next to Lake Balaton in Transdanubia (with Entente approval). During that time, counter-revolutionaries launched the White Terror against communists, which, first of all, associatable with the names of Pál Prónay, Gyula Ostenburg-Moravek and Iván Héjjas. The Supreme Commander, as Horthy was styled at the time, proclaimed the actions as the judgements of the people, or dismissed them as personal deviations. Anyway, the future Regent never commanded anybody to execute these acts. The existence of the cruelties in August 1919 are also noted in his memoirs, but he does not deny the necessity of them: „The inferno born to the ground was never hushed by anybody just by fanning it with angel wings.” The Romanian army retreated from Budapest on November 14 leaving Horthy to enter the city. The speech what he recited there is immensely remarkable:

"... The nation of the Hungarians beloved and fondled Budapest, which became its polluter in the last years. Now, I call the capital on carcase, there, on the banks of the Danube. This city denied its one thousand years of history; this city trampled the crown and the colors of the nation into the mud, and dressed into red shreds. It imprisoned and chased away the bests of the nation, and, furthermore, melted all of our resources. ..." <ref name="1919speech">1919 speech of Horthy</ref>

Following the orders of the Entente, Romanian troops finally evacuated Hungary on February 25 1920.

[edit] The Regent

Styles of
Miklós Horthy
Image:Hungarian National Crown by toddjames.jpg
Reference style His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary
Spoken style Your Serene Highness
Alternative style Sir

In March, 1920, the National Assembly of Hungary re-established the Kingdom of Hungary, but elected not to recall Charles IV of Hungary from exile. Instead, they proclaimed Horthy as Regent for an indefinite period of time. The Admiral without a fleet, in a country without a coastline, ruled for the next 24 years as the Regent for a Kingdom without a King.

Karl did try to regain his throne three times; see Karl I of Austria's conflict with Miklós Horthy for more details.

Horthy decided not to participate in everyday politics after having been elected as the regent: he narrated speeches on ceremonies, and had strict protocol functions. His importance arose in 1938, when he marched into (with a ceremonious purpose rather than concrete military aim) the Hungarian cities of the territory that Hungary annexed at the time.

A staunch conservative, Horthy eventually began to sympathize with Fascism, although –partially on the grounds of keeping the power – he personally disfavoured the Fascist movement of Hungary (more correctly the Hungarist Arrow Cross Party), and, furthermore, Ferenc Szálasi, the later "Leader of the Hungarian Nation" was imprisoned by Horthy's personal command.

His government was more of conservative authoritarian government rather than a fascist one. Eventually, when the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler began to rise to power and put pressure on neighboring states to return territories lost after the war, Hitler became Horthy's patron. In November 1938, the Vienna Arbitrage enabled him to annex nearly one-third of Slovakia, mainly populated by Hungarians. Five months later, when Hitler took over what remained of Czechoslovakia, the Germans allowed Hungary to seize Carpathian Ruthenia, as well.

[edit] World War II

Horthy's visit to the regained Transylvania in 1940
In 1940, Hungary prepared to go to war against Romania to regain another lost province, Transylvania. Again, Hitler intervened on Horthy's behalf and gave Hungary half of the disputed territory without firing a shot. In April 1941, Hungary became a full member of the Axis, participating together with Germany and Bulgaria in the invasion of Yugoslavia (in protest against this, Prime-Minister Pál Teleki committed suicide). In 1942 Horthy decided to open negotiations with the Allies. The secret delegation was led by Albert Szent-Györgyi, and they met British diplomats in Istanbul on several occasions. These negotiations were known to the German intelligence services, and even the Allies used the talks with Hungary to distract the Nazis.

In January 1942, by the order of some disloyal officers (lieutenant-general Ferenc Feketehalmy-Czeidner, major-general József Grassy, colonel László Deák and gendarmarie-captain Márton Zöldy) numerous Serbian and Jewish civilians were murdered in the Bačka region of Vojvodina, and their corpses were thrown into the rivers Danube and Tisza. When Horthy ordered investigation, the officers responsible fled to Nazi Germany and only returned after the German Nazi regime occupied Hungary in 1944. They were executed after the war.

By 1944, the fortunes of war had turned against Germany and its allies, and the Red Army stood at Hungary's borders. The Germans invited Horthy to Klessheim (today in Austria) for negotiations, and they kept him virtually captive, so he couldn't order resistance. The Wehrmacht occupied Hungary on 19 March to appoint a puppet government in Budapest, which helpfully assisted the Germans in deporting the Jews of Hungary. Horthy stopped the mass deportations in July, after two Jews, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, escaped from the Auschwitz concentration camp, and brought news to the world of the mass murder that was taking place there. Before this, Horthy imperturbably believed that the Jews were being sent to the camps to work, and that they would be returned to Hungary after the war. <ref name=Ilona>Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai, Becsület és kötelesség, part I, page 264. Európa press, Budapest, 2001. ISBN 963-07-6544-6</ref>

After the Romanians switched to the Allied side, Horthy dismissed the government, began to organise another and started negotiations with the Soviets. Again, the Germans intervened by sending commando Otto Skorzeny to Budapest. Skorzeny kidnapped Horthy's son Nicholas on the day he declared an end to the war. Horthy was forced to revoke his declarations and abdicate.

Horthy spent the rest of the war under house arrest in Bavaria, being treated remarkably well under the circumstances, and was arrested by the Americans in May 1945.

[edit] Horthy, Hungary, and the Holocaust

Starting in 1938, Hungary under the regency of Horthy passed a series of anti-Jewish measures. The first, in 1938, restricted the number of Jews in the professions, the administration, and in commerce to twenty percent, and reduced it to five percent the following year; 250,000 Hungarian Jews lost their jobs as a result. A "Third Jewish Law" prohibited intermarriage and defined Jews racially.

The first massacre of Hungarian Jews took place in July 1941 when 20,000 Jews were expelled from Carpathian Ruthenia to German-occupied Soviet territories, where they were killed by SS troops.

Radical Hungarian governments under Horthy — mainly the puppet government of Döme Sztójay, appointed after the German occupation — actively participated in the Holocaust. The mass deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz began on May 15, 1944 and continued at a rate of 12,000 a day until July 9, 1944, when Horthy stopped the transports.<ref name=Ilona/>

Two Jews who escaped from Auschwitz at the end of April passed details of what was happening inside the camps to officials in Slovakia. Horthy received a translation of their report, called the Vrba-Wetzler report, in May. Details from the report were broadcast by the BBC on June 15 and The New York Times on June 20. <ref name=Rees>Rees, Laurence. Auschwitz: A New History. Public Affairs, 2005. ISBN 1-58648-357-9</ref> World leaders, including Pope Pius XII (June 25), President Franklin D. Roosevelt (June 26), and King Gustaf V of Sweden (June 30), <ref name=HolokausztMo>A holokauszt Magyarországon: A deportálások leállítása (in Hungarian; retrieved 11 September 2006)</ref> subsequently appealed to Horthy to stop the deportations. The mass deportations stopped on July 9, after 437,000 Jews had been sent to Auschwitz, most of them to their deaths.<ref name=Rees/> Horthy was informed about the number of the deported Jews some days later: "approximately 400 000". <ref name=Ilona/>

Horthy, under the circumstances, did a great deal more than the non-axis leaders, or the western media. [citation needed] The survival of 200,000 Jews in Budapest until the arrival of the Soviets could not have been possible without Horthy’s active resistance to the German orders, nor without the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, which handed out false baptism certificates and false IDs in an effort to save the nation's Jews from being deported. <ref name="christians&jews1944">http://www.holokausztmagyarorszagon.hu/index.php?section=2&type=content&chapter=11_2_4 </ref> After returning the trainload of Jews to Kistarcsa, <ref name=HolokausztMo/> on July 15, 1944 the The New York Times had an article praising Hungary as the last refuge of Jews in Europe, and that “Hungarians tried to protect the Jews.” <ref>Mrs. Anne O'Hare McCormick, The New York Times of July 15, 1944. Original context: "It must count in the score of Hungary that until the Germans took control it was the last refuge in Central Europe for the Jews able to escape from Germany, Austria, Poland and Rumania. Now these hopeless people are exposed to the same ruthless policy of deportation and extermination that was carried out in Poland. But as long as they exercised any authority in their own house, the Hungarians tried to protect the Jews. " See: http://historicaltextarchive.com/books.php?op=viewbook&bookid=7&cid=8</ref>

After he was forced to abdicate, and was placed under house arrest by Nazis at the end of 1944, Hungarian cooperation resumed; out of 825,000 Jews before the war, only 260,000 survived.

[edit] Post-War Life

Image:Horthy memoirs.jpg
Horthy writing his memoirs

Although the new Yugoslavia demanded that Horthy be tried as a war criminal, the Allies refused to do so. This was mainly the result of American influence, but even Stalin agreed, due to Horthy's age. He was released and settled in Estoril, Portugal, where he died in 1957.

While in Portugal he wrote his memoirs, Ein Leben für Ungarn (English: A Life for Hungary), published under the name of Nikolaus von Horthy, in which he narrated many personal experiences from his youth until the end of World War II, claimed to have distrusted Hitler for much of the time he knew him, claimed that he tried to perform the best actions and appoint the best officials in his country, and gave evidence for Hungary's mistreatment by many other countries since the end of World War I. Horthy was the only Axis head of state to survive the war, and, thus, the only one to write post war memoirs. (If one doesn't include Karl Dönitz, who was President of Germany for 20 days after the death of Hitler.)

Horthy married once, with Magdolna Purgly de Jószáshely. He had two sons, Nicholas and Steven, who served as his political assistants; and two daughters, Magda and Paula. Of his four children, only Nicholas outlived him. According to footnotes in his memoirs, Horthy was very distraught about the failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In his will, Horthy asked that his body not be returned to Hungary "until the last Russian soldier has left." His heirs honored the request. In 1993, when Russian troops evacuated their Cold War bases in Hungary, Horthy's body was returned and he was buried in his hometown of Kenderes.

Preceded by:
Béla Kun
Regent of Hungary
Succeeded by:
Ferenc Szálasi
(as the Leader of the Hungarian Nation)

[edit] Notes

<references />

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Miklós Horthy

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