View Full Version : Hungary in World War 2

01-29-2012, 12:17 AM
Part One: Prelude

After World War One, Hungary became independent. However, since they fought on the losing side of the war they ended up losing roughly two-thirds of its territory as a result of the Treaty of Trianon. One third of all Hungarians were suddenly left outside Hungary's borders as it became increasingly isolated from the west.


The Treaty of Trianon had devastating effects on the Hungarian economy and on their sense of national pride. Trianon was every bit as heartbreaking to the Hungarians as the Treaty of Versailles was to the Germans. Both were treaties drafted by the French, Americans, and the Brits for the purpose of destabilizing Central European powers.


After World War One, when much of the world was demononizing the Germans as warmongering savages, Hungary was one of the few European countries that felt sympathy towards Germany. Germans in turn, then regarded newly independent and anti-Communist Hungary as a friend and potential ally. Because of this, good relations formed between the two countries during the 1920's and the 1930's.


Miklos Horthy had commanded the Austro-Hungarian fleet in World War I. After Béla Kun's (Cohen) Communists seized power in Hungary 1919 and imposed red terror against the enemies of new Hungarian Soviet Republic, the counterrevolutionary government put Horthy in command of its forces. With the consent of the Triple Entente, Romanian forces invaded Hungary and overthrew the Soviet Republic. When the Romanians evacuated Budapest (November, 1919), Horthy entered it and in 1920 was made regent and head of the state. A conservative who was distinctly inclined toward the right, he guided Hungary through the years between the two world wars.


1920. Regent Miklos Horthy enters liberated Budapest after breaking the Jewish-led Communist tyranny of Bela Kun (Cohen)...


In 1938, Horthy's government passed a number of anti-Jewish measures that led to the exclusion and isolation of the Jewish community, including those limiting Jews to five percent or less of university slots. These policies grew more repressive. Starting in 1938, Hungary under Horthy passed a series of anti-Jewish measures. The first, in 1938, restricted the number of Jews in liberal professions, administration, and commerce to twenty percent, and reduced it to five percent the following year. 250,000 Hungarian Jews lost their income. A "Third Jewish Law" was prohibited intermarriage and defined Jews racially.


The late 1930's also saw the rise of Ferenc Szalasi's National Socialist Hungarian Arrow Cross Party.


After Germany's Anschluss with Austria in 1938, Szálasi's followers became more radical and violent in their political activities, and as such Szálasi was arrested by the Hungarian Secret Police and imprisoned. However, Szálasi managed to remain a powerful political figure in prison, and was proclaimed leader of the fascist Arrow Cross Party (a combination of multiple right wing groups) when it was expanded in 1938. The party attracted a large number of followers and in the 1939 elections it gained 30 seats in the Hungarian Parliament, thus becoming one of the most powerful parties in Hungary. Freed due to a general amnesty resulting from the Second Vienna Award in 1940, Szálasi returned to politics. When World War II began, the Arrow Cross Party was officially banned by Prime Minister Pál Teleki, thus forcing Szálasi to operate in secret. During this time period, Szálasi gained the support and backing of the Germans, who had once been opposed to Szálasi due to his advocacy of Hungarian expansionism


The Arrow Cross Party gained close to 30% of the popular vote in the 1939 Hungarian elections. Unfortunately, the Arrow Cross Party was banned shortly after and they were forced to operate underground throughout much of the second world war. While underground, the Arrow Cross remained a powerful political force during much of that time.

The Arrow Cross Party was the closest any other nation ever came to establishing a National Socialist Government. The Arrow Cross had it's roots in extreme nationalism, anti-Semitism, military expansionism, and fierce anti-Communism. The Arrow Cross Party appealed the the working class and it sought to undue the injustices of the Treaty of Trianon in the same way that the NSDAP sought to reverse the injustices which Germany had suffered during the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1938, Hungary signed the Anti-Comintern Pact as it's ties to Nazi Germany began to increase.


Miklós Horthy and Adolf Hitler in Berlin Opera House, 1938.


Hungarian divisions under the leadership of Miklos Horthy at the outset of World War II in 1939.

In 1940, Hitler intervened on Horthy's behalf and gave Hungary the disputed territories of southern Slovakia, Carpatho-Ukraine, and Northern Trannslyvania without firing a shot. In April 1941, Hungary became a full member of the Axis, participating together with Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Finland, and Bulgaria.


Hungarian troops liberating former Hungarian lands which were stolen from them by the Treaty of Triannon (1920). For Hungary's friendship with Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich, Hungary was granted rights to those lands in the Vienna Awards of 1938 and 1940. With the Vienna Awards, southern Slovakia, Ruthenia, and Northern Trannslyvania were restored to the Kingdom of Hungary.


01-29-2012, 12:33 AM
Part 2: Hungary joins the Axis Powers

On November 20, 1940, Hungarian Prime Minister Pál Teleki signed the Tripartite Pact, which allied them with Germany, Italy, and Japan.

A few months later, after a Yugoslavian coup threatened the success of the planned German invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa), Hitler asked Hungarians to support his invasion of Yugoslavia. He promised to return some territory to Hungary in exchange for military cooperation. Unable to prevent Hungary's participation in the war alongside Germany, Teleki committed suicide. The right-wing radical László Bárdossy succeeded him as Prime Minister.

Days after the Teleki's death, the Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade without warning, and German troops invaded Yugoslavia. Horthy dispatched the Hungarian Third Army to occupy Vojvodina, and Hungary eventually annexed sections of Baranja, Bačka, Medjumurje, and Prekomurje.

Outside of 20-30,000 Hungarian volunteers for the Waffen SS, Hungary did not immediately participate in the invasion of the Soviet Union, which began on June 22, 1941, but Hitler did not directly ask for Hungarian assistance. Nonetheless, many Hungarian officials argued for participation in the war so as not to encourage Hitler into favouring Romania in the event of border revisions in Transylvania. Hungary eventually entered the war against the Soviets before the end of June. This was after the Soviet bombing of Košice (Kassa).

On July 1, 1941, at the direction of the Germans, the Hungarian Karpat Group attacked the 12th Soviet Army. Attached to the German 17th Army, the Karpat Group advanced far into southern Russia. At the Battle of Uman (3-8 August 1941), the Karpat Group's mechanized corps acted as one half of a pincer that encircled the 6th Soviet Army and the 12th Soviet Army. Twenty Soviet divisions were captured or destroyed.

Gyorshadtest, was the most modern and best-equipped unit of the Hungarian Army at the beginning of World War II. For this reason it was known as the Gyorshadtest ("Fast Moving Army Corps").

The German High Command's plan for the Karpat Group to shield the right flank of the German 17th Army was known as "Plan 9".

As planned, on 1 July 1941, the Hungarian attack against the 12th Soviet Army began in the morning hours. By 9 July the Karpat Group, paying a price in heavy losses, pushed the stoutly-resisting Soviet forces back and penetrated Russian territory to a depth of 60-70 miles.

The two infantry brigades (mountain and border guard) were unable to maintain such a speedy advance on foot. For this reason, Colonel-General Henrik Werth, the Hungarian Chief of Staff, dissolved the Karpat Group. Werth used the infantry brigades for policing and administrative duties of the occupied territory. He placed the Gyorshadtest at the disposal of the German Army Group South under the command of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt.

By August 1941, the Hungarian mechanized corps was a key participant in the Battle of Uman. The Gyorshadtest represented one half of a pincer which was enveloping the 6th Soviet Army and the 12th Soviet Army. The German 16th Panzer Division represented the other half of the pincer. On 3 August 1941, the pincer halves met and the 6th Soviet Army and the 12th Soviet Army were trapped.

But even victories cost the Hungarians dearly. The Gyorshadtest grew weaker in the summer of 1941. By comparison, the retreating Soviet armies, far from dissolving, seemed to be growing stronger.

Aware of the general situation, Hungarian Regent Admiral Miklós Horthy and the rest of the Hungarian political leadership tried to gain the release of the Hungarian troops.

On 19 October 1941, after the Battle of Kiev, General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel's German 17th Army was advancing through Poltava towards Voroshilovgrad. Facing von Stülpnagel were elements of the Soviet 18th army. General von Runstedt had ordered von Stülpnagel to order the Hungarian mechanized corps to break through the Russian defenses directly in his way. So Stülpnagel ordered Dalnoki-Miklos to attack the Russian defenses and break through them.

Dalnoki-Miklos had many things to consider. The Hungarian mechanized corps was down to six battalions. The Russian defenses had already repelled the attack of forty German battalions. After assessing the situation, Dalnoki-Miklos decided to try something other than the ordered breakthrough. Instead, Dalnoki-Miklos, planned and performed a maneuver which led to the encirclement of the Russian defenses. As a result, a superior Soviet forces was neutralized and the road to Voroshilovgrad was opened up for the continuation of the German advance.


German and Hungarian officers discussing battle strategies during the Battle of Kiev.

The German General Staff had high praise for the outstanding achievements and tactical victories of the Hungarian mechanized corps. The mechanized corps had fought for five months in a long campaign. They had covered over 1,000 miles of territory.

Yet once again these victories were too costly. And the costs was not limited to the mechanized corps itself. The costs were also too high to the whole Hungarian nation. For a country the size of Hungary, the losses were tremendous. By the end of 1941, there were over 200 officers and more than 2,500 rank and file dead. Over 1,500 Hungarians were missing in action. At a minimum, another 7,500 were wounded. Losses in material were high as well. Gone were over 1,200 personnel carriers, 30 airplanes, 28 artillery pieces, 100 per cent of the light tanks, 80 per cent of the medium tanks, and 90 per cent of the armored cars.

On 6 December 1941, the Hungarian mechanized corps was allowed to return to Budapest. The departure of the Gyorshadtest left the Hungarians with only a bicycle battalion, four infantry brigades, and two cavalry brigades on the Eastern Front. This force was poorly-equipped to cope with the vast distances and appalling conditions found there. Only the cavalry was able to make any useful contribution.

Germany continued to demand a maximum effort from the Hungarians and soon the Hungarian Second Army was dispatched. By the end of 1942, this ill-fated army was on the front lines north of Stalingrad protecting the doomed German 6th Army's northern flank.



Bela Miklos and Ferenc Szombathelyi were both personally awarded with the Iron Cross upon their return to Hungary.

Hungary never saw major action in World War Two again until the Battle of Stalingrad. The Hungarian Second Army proved to be less memorable then the Karpat Group (Gyordshadtest).

The Hungarian Second Army is probably the best known of Hungary's World War II-era armies because of the part it played in the Battle of Stalingrad. By the time that the Second Army was sent to Russia, the rank-and-file of the Hungarian Army were made up of Magyars, ethnic Romanians from Transylvania, Slovaks from near the border with Slovakia, ethnic Ukrainians from Ruthenia, Serbs from Bács-Kiskun, and Volksdeutcshe Germans. Many new conscripts had undergone only eight weeks of training.[The only tactical experience for many of these soldiers were the manoeuvers held just prior to the departure for the front. None of this contributed to the homogeneity or the morale of the troops in the Hungarian Second Army.

General Jany Gustav


Commander Geza Lakatos


In 1942, the Hungarian Second Army was given the task of protecting the German Sixth Army's northern flank. This allowed the Sixth Army to continue to attack Soviet General Vasily Chuikov's 62nd Army defending the city of Stalingrad. The Second Army was placed on the Sixth Army's northern flank together with the Italian Eighth Army and the Romanian Third Army. The German Sixth Army's southern flank was protected by the Romanian Fourth Army.

The Hungarian Second Army, along with almost all of the other the armies protecting the German Sixth Army's flanks, was annihilated when the Soviets launched Operation Uranus and Operation Saturn.

The Hungarian Second Army consisted mainly of infantry. Most of it's armored and mobilized divisions had been sent to the aid of Frederich Paulus's 6th Army. The Hungarian Second Army was totally unprepared for the brutal nature of war between the Soviets and the Germans on the Eastern front. They would stand no chance against the massive Soviet artillery barages which were thrown at them.


On 13 January 1943, the Soviets then launched the second stage of Operation Saturn. In this stage the four armies of Soviet General Filipp Golikov's Voronezh Front attacked, encircled, and destroyed the Hungarian Second Army near Svoboda on the Don river bend. An attack on the German 2nd Army further north threatened to bring about an encirclement of that army as well. But the German 2nd Army managed to escape and it was forced to retreat. By 5 February 1943, troops of the Voronezh Front were approaching Kursk and Kharkov.

In February 1943, the Soviets launched the third stage of Operation Saturn. By now the German armies were in a disorganized retreat all across the southern Ukraine. The third stage was an ambitious operation for the Voronezh Front to advance to the Dniepr and encircle the German 2nd Army. In addition to the Voronezh Front, the Southwest Front and South Front were to advance and capture Voroshilovgrad. They would then drive south to the Sea of Azov to encircle Kleist's Army Group A and Manstein's Army Group Don.

On 16 February 1943, not all of the ambitious goals of the third stage of Operation Saturn had been met when the Germans launched the Third Battle of Kharkov.

With the success of the second stage of Operation Saturn, approximately 150,000 Hungarians were killed, wounded, or captured. The Hungarian Second Army, like most of the other allied armies protecting the German Sixth Army's flanks, ceased to represent a meaningful fighting force.

01-29-2012, 12:55 AM
Part 3: Operation Margarethe

March 1944-October 1944

Operation Margarethe was the occupation of Hungary by German forces on March 19, 1944. The Hungarian government under the ailing Regent Miklos Horthy had been an ally of Nazi Germany. After Germany had suffered numerous defeats to the Soviets, the Hungarians had began to lose faith in their German allies as the Red Army continued to move closer and closer to Hungary's eastern borders each day. When the Hungarians had been discussing an armistice with the Allies in 1943-1944, German dictator Adolph Hitler had found out about these discussions and, feeling betrayed by the Hungarians, ordered German troops to implement Operation Margarethe to capture critical Hungarian facilities.


Hungary's leader, Admiral Miklos Horthy was invited by Hitler to the palace of Klessheim in Austria. While they conducted their negotiations, Hungary was quietly overrun by German forces. The occupation was a complete surprise and resulted in it being quick and bloodless. According to German memoirs, the invading Germans were greeted with flowers. This invasion was remembered by many of the German soldiers as their last war with flowers.


In March, 1944 Dome Sztójay an avid supporter of the Nazi's was made Prime Minister. Under Sztojay's leadership he managed to legalize the Arrow Cross Party which allowed Ferenc Szalasi to expand his party even further. While in power, Sztojay stacked the Hungarian Parliament with fascist's still loyal to the German war effort.


Shortly after Operation Margathe, SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann went to work in Hungary to oversee the large-scale deportations of Hungarian Jews.


Above: Hungarian Secretary of State Laszlo Baky and Laszlo Endre; the chief architects of the de-Jewification of Hungary. Eichmann considered them to be the best of friends.

Between May 15 and July 9, SS and Hungarian Arrow Cross authorities managed to deport around 450,000 Jews outside of Hungarian borders.


'The Most Dangerous Man in Europe': Otto Skorzeny was the most successful commando of World War II. An Austrian trained as an engineer, Skorzeny's first big operation was the rescue of Benito Mussolini. In October 1944, Hitler sent Skorzeny to Hungary when he received word that the country's Regent, Miklós Horthy was secretly negotiating his country's surrender to the Red Army. This surrender would have cut off a million German troops fighting in the Balkan peninsula. Skorzeny, in another daring "snatch" operation, kidnapped Horthy's son Nicolas and forced his father to abdicate as Regent. Skorzeny then called Horthy and said if you do a flip-flop, I will kill your son. Horthy, meanwhile, replied to Skorzeny to go ahead and shoot his son. Skorzeny did not do this.


Instead, he clandestinely visited Bergburg, the Citidel in English, where the Hungarian military had their seat of power. Otto had the Burgburg surrounded by an SS panzer division and then later that evening in an incredibly balsy move drove up road to the Burgberg as far as he could and bulled his way past the rest of the obstacles and captured the Admiral and forced the surrender of the Hungarian troops at the palace. He then promptly flew Horthy off to Berlin to speak with Hitler. Skorzeny captured Bergburg with only one or two people being killed, the Hungarians did not do a flip-flop, Horthy faded off the stage of history and Skorzeny radioed Berlin that Operation Micky Maus had succeeded. The pro-German National Socialist Arrow Cross regime was installed in Hungary and fought with Germany until that it was fully overrun by the Red Army in April, 1945.


Shortly afterwards, Ferenc Szalasi and the Arrow Cross staged a military coup and siezed control of the country. The Arrow Cross renewed the deportations of Jews from Hungary which continued until the Soviet troops reached Hungary in December 1944. Szalasi became Prime Minister and established a Fascist government which kept Hungary on the Axis side until the closing days of World War 2.


The Arrow Cross Party had it's own soldiers, they were political soldiers.


Official Arrow Cross uniform


Szalasi's ambitions of a "Greater Hungary" and Hungarian values (which Szálasi labelled "Hungarizmus" or "Hungarianism") clashed with German ambitions in central Europe, which initially delayed Hitler's endorsement of the party. But by 1944, the Arrow Cross regime had Hitler's full support.


Szalasi being sworn into office

Unfortunately, by the time the Arrow Cross Party got into power the war on the Eastern Front was pretty much a lost cause at that point. The Battle of Budapest began in December, 1944 and the Arrow Cross government effectively fell the following month. Arrow Cross members and German forces continued to fight a rear-guard action in the far west of Hungary until the end of the war in April 1945.

Szalasi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baron Gabor Kemeny and the Minister of Defense, Karoly Beregffy, visited Hitler on December 4, 1944. Szalasi wanted to have Budapest declared to be an "open city." Hitler disagreed and demanded the defense of Budapest until spring of 1945 when he would begin the new German offensive with the help of the "secret weapons" which would end the war with a German victory. Following the meeting Hitler permitted the entry of all Hungarian refugees into Germany and more than one million Hungarians crossed the Hungarian/Austrian border.


Budapest was defended by 70,000 German and Hungarian soldiers. The Soviets completed the encirclement of the city on December 24, 1944. Budapest fell 52 days later.

01-29-2012, 01:15 AM
Part 4:Hungary becomes a battlefield

The Siege of Budapest: October 25, 1944-February 13, 1945


The Battle of Budapest was a siege of the Hungarian capital city of Budapest fought towards the end of World War II in Europe. The siege started when Budapest, defended by Hungarian and German troops, was first encircled on 24 December 1944 by Soviet forces. The siege ended when the city was unconditionally surrendered on 13 February 1945. The Soviet forces besieging the city were part of Rodion Malinovsky's 2nd Ukrainian Front. Arrayed against the Soviets was a collection German Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, and Hungarian forces. The Battle of Budapest was one of the bloodiest sieges of the World War II. In terms of casualties, Budapest was comparable to the sieges of Berlin and Stalingrad.


Between the appearance of the first Soviet tank and the final capture of Buda Castle, 102 days were to pass. In comparison, Berlin and Vienna fell after 2 weeks and 6 days respectively, while no other European city, with the exception of Warsaw, was the scene of a major battle. Even those German units that persevered the longest, like Königsberg (Kaliningrad) and Breslau (Wroclaw), resisted the attackers for 77 and 82 days respectively. The fierceness of the battle of Budapest can be compared only to the sieges of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Stalingrad (Volgograd) and Warsaw. Budapest has been one of the most besieged capital cities in Europe, which bares witness to its strategic importance: there have been 15 different major battles fought here throughout history, yet not one of them comes close to the siege of 1944-1945 in the scope of its destruction. The stifling of the Warsaw uprising took 63 days, the blockade of Leningrad lasted almost 3 years but no battles were fought on the streets. Stalingrad was a combat zone for 4 months, but most of the civilian population was evacuated prior to the struggle. At the same time, more than 800,000 people were eyewitnesses to the bloody conflict that contemporaries compared to Stalingrad in its ferocity. The casualties of the Red Army were 80,026 dead and 240,056 wounded during the military operations in Budapest and its vicinity, and for each Soviet soldier killed elsewhere in Hungary, two lost their lives in the capital city. The material damage was also great.

The entire German-Hungarian loss of life amounted to about 60% of Red Army losses. Between November 3, 1944 and February 16, 1945, there were about 40,000 dead and 62,000 wounded (including victims of the attempt to break out of the blockade). In terms of numbers, Hungarian losses did not surpass that of the Germans and were a far cry from the Soviet casualties. However, this was the most inane sacrifice of all three. Regardless of his allegiance, the Hungarian soldier was but a spectator of the destruction of his country. Many felt that it was their duty to fight even when the outcome was obvious, others capitulated right away citing Horthy Miklós' order of cease-fire. To chose meant to wager between the lesser of two evils: persistence only prolonged the bloody war and the sufering of the civilian population, capitulation did not ensure true liberation. During the siege, very few took the risk of taking photographs. Almost all pictures taken by the defenders were destroyed. Therefore this exhibition primarily presents materials of the Soviet war correspondents and civilians, as well as the pictures taken after the siege. For this very reason, there is virtually no evidence of several significant events and important people. The street battles, the atrocities, the Arrow Cross collabaration, or the anti-Fascist resistance cannot be revisited either.

In 1941, Budapest was a city of about 1,165,000 inhabitants. During the war, tens of thousands of Hungarians fled to the West, while thousands of men were on military duty or were doing labor service. The city's population also swelled with refugees from the East, especially from Transylvania. By the time of the siege in 1944-45, there were less than a million people in the Hungarian capital, literally all living in cellars, aside from the nearly 80,000 German and Hungarian soldiers who fought the Soviet advance. A third of these soldiers were killed and the rest would end up in Soviet captivity along with numerous civilians, most of whom would end up perishing in Soviet POW camps.

On 29 October 1944, the Red Army started its offensive against the city Budapest. More than 1,000,000 men split into two operating maneuver groups rushed towards the city. The plan was to cut Budapest off from the rest of the German and Hungarian forces. On November, 7 1944, Soviet troops entered the eastern suburbs of Budapest, 20 kilometers from the old town. On December 19, after a necessary break, the Red Army resumed its offensive. On December 26, a road linking Budapest to Vienna was seized by the Soviet troops, therefore encircling the city.


As a result of the Soviet link-up, nearly 33,000 German and 37,000 Hungarian soldiers, as well as over 800,000 civilians, became trapped within the city. Refusing to authorize a withdrawal, German dictator Adolf Hitler had declared Budapest a fortress city (Festung Budapest), which had to be defended to the last man.


Hungarian Gendamerie's making friends with a German soldier

Budapest was a major target for Josef Stalin. Indeed, the Yalta Conference was approaching and Stalin wanted to display his full strength to Churchill and Roosevelt. Therefore, he ordered General Rodion Malinovsky to seize the city as quickly as possible. Overconfident, Malinovsky said that he would only need 5 days to capture Budapest. In reality, it took him 102 days.

On December 29, 1944, Malinovsky sent two emissaries in order to negotiate the city's capitulation. The emissaries never came back. This particular point is widely disputed by the Soviet Union, with some German and Hungarian historians arguing that the emissaries were deliberately shot. Others believe that they were in fact shot by mistake on their way back. In any case, Soviet commanders considered this act as a refusal and ordered the start of the siege.

The Soviet offensive started in the eastern suburbs, advancing through Pest, making good use of the large central avenues to speed up their progress. The German and Hungarian defenders, overwhelmed, tried to trade space for time to slow down the Soviets advance to a crawl. They ultimately withdrew to shorten their lines, hoping to take advantage of the hilly nature of Buda.

In January of 1945, the Germans launched a three part offensive codenamed Operation Konrad. Operation Konrad was a joint German-Hungarian effort to relieve the encircled garrison of Budapest.



Arrow Cross soldier preparing for battle against incoming Soviet troops

On 1 January, Operation Konrad I was launched. The German IV.SS-Panzerkorps attacked from Táta through hilly terrain north of Budapest in an effort to break the Soviet siege. Simultaneously, Waffen-SS forces struck from the west of Budapest in an effort to gain tactical advantage. On January 3, the Soviet command sent four more divisions to meet the threat. This Soviet action stopped the offensive near Bicske less than 20 kilometers north of Budapest. On 12 January, the German forces were forced to withdraw.



German Panzer tanks in action


Soviet troopa on the offensive

On 7 January, the Germans launched Operation Konrad II. The German IV.SS-Panzerkorps attacked from Esztergom towards the Budapest Airport. They tried to capture the airport in order to improve air supply of the city. This offensive was halted near the airport.

On 17 January, the last part of Operation Konrad was launched - Operation Konrad III. The German IV.SS-Panzerkorps and the III. Panzerkorps attacked from the south of Budapest and attempted to encircle ten Soviet divisions. This encirclement attempt failed.

Meanwhile, urban warfare in Budapest gained in intensity. Supplies became a decisive factor because of the loss of the Ferihegy airport just before the start of the siege, on December 27, 1944. Until January 9, 1945, German troops were able to use some of the main avenues as well as the park next to Buda Castle as landing zones for planes and gliders, although they were under constant artillery fire from the Soviets. Before the Danube froze, some supplies could be passed on barges, under the cover of darkness and fog.

Nevertheless, food shortages were more and more common and soldiers had to rely on finding their own sources of food, some even resorting to eating their own horses. Extreme temperatures also affected German and Hungarian troops.

Quite quickly, the Soviet troops found themselves in the same situation as the Germans had in Stalingrad Still, their troops were able to take advantage of the urban terrain by relying heavily on snipers and sappers to advance. Fights broke out even in the sewers, as both Axis and Soviet troops used them for troops movement. Six Soviet marines even managed to get to the Castle Hill and capture a German officer before returning to their own lines - still underground. But such prowesses were rare because of ambushes set up by the Axis troops using local inhabitants as guides in the sewers.

In mid-January, Csepel Island was taken, along with its military factories which were still producing Panzerfausts and shells, even under Soviet fire. Meanwhile in Pest, the situation deteriorated, with the garrison facing the risk of being cut in half by the advancing Soviet troops.

On 17 January 1945, Hitler accepted to withdraw all the remaining troops from Pest to try to defend Buda. All of the five bridges spanning the Danube were clogged with traffic, evacuating troops and civilians. On January 18, 1945, German troops destroyed the five beautiful bridges, despite protests from Hungarian officers.


Szalasi overseeing the destroyed Franz Joseph Bridge

On January 20, 1945, German troops launched their second major offensive, this time south of the city, blasting a 20 km hole in Soviet lines and advancing to the Danube, threatening Soviet supply lines.

Stalin ordered his troops to hold their ground at all costs, and two Army Corps that were dispatched to assault Budapest were hastily moved south of the city to counter the German offensive. Nevertheless, German troops who got to less than 20 kilometres from the city were unable to maintain their offensive due to fatigue and supply issues. Budapest's defenders asked permission to leave the city and escape the encirclement. Hitler refused.

On January 28, 1945, German troops could no longer hold their ground and were forced to withdraw. The fate of the defenders of Budapest was sealed.

Unlike Pest, built on flat terrain, the city of Buda is built on hills. This allowed the defenders to place artillery and fortifications above the attackers, greatly slowing Soviet advance. The main citadel, Gellért Hill was defended by elite Waffen-SS troops that successfully repelled several Soviet assaults. Nearby, Soviet and German forces were fighting for the city cemetery. Fights on the shell-opened tombs would last for several days. Fighting on Margaret Island, in the middle of the Danube, was particularly merciless. The island was still attached to the rest of the city by the remaining half of the Margaret Bridge and was used as parachuting area as well as for covering improvised airstrips set up in the downtown.


The siege of Buda Castle, otherwise known as the last stand of the Waffen SS

The SS units compromised almost all nationalities. In addition to ethnic Germans many French Alsatians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Romanians, Finns, Flemish, Dutch, Croats, and Spanish volunteers had fought in the SS during the Siege of Budapest.

On February, 11 1945, the Gellért Hill finally fell after a vicious Soviet attack launched from three points of compass simultaneously, after six weeks of fighting. Soviet artillery was finally able to dominate the entire city and to shell the remaining Axis defenders, concentrated on less than two square kilometres and suffering from malnutrition and diseases. Daily rations were reduced to 150 grams of bread and meat from slaughtered horses. Nevertheless, the defenders refused to surrender and defended every street and house, fighting Soviet troops and tanks.

Hitler forbid the German commander, Waffen SS General Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, to abandon Budapest and to attempt a break out of the encirclement. But the last glider flights bringing in supplies landed a few days earlier and the parachute drops had also been discontinued. Finally, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch decided to lead the remnants of his troops out of Budapest. Typically, the German commander did not consult much with the Hungarian commander of the city, General Ivan Hindy. Uncharacteristically, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch included the Hungarian for this last desperate break out attempt.

On the night of February 11, twenty-eight thousand German and Hungarian troops began to stream down from Castle Hill. They moved in three waves. With each wave were thousands of civilians. Entire families, pushing prams, treaded through the snow and ice.

German and Hungarian troops along with several civilians used fog to their advantage and moved in three waves. The first wave managed to surprise the Soviet soldiers and artillery, and its sheer number allowed them to escape. The second and third waves were even less fortunate than the first. Soviet artillery and rocket batteries bracketed the escape area to deadly result. But, despite heavy losses, five to ten thousand people managed to reach the wooded hills northwest of Budapest and escape towards Vienna. Roughly seven-hundred German and Hungarian troops escaped.

Many of the escapees were killed, wounded, or captured by the Soviet troops. Pfeffer-Wildenbruch and Hindy were among the captured. Hindy was later executed by a Soviet military tribunal in 1946.


Victorious Red Army soldiers

On February 13, 1945, the remaining defenders finally surrendered. Budapest lay in ruins, with more than 80 percent of its buildings destroyed or damaged, and historical buildings like the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Castle in ruins.


All five bridges spanning the Danube were destroyed. Some 40,000 civilians were killed, with an unknown number dying from starvation and diseases. Mass rapes of women between ages of 10 and 70 were common. In Budapest alone between 50,000-60,000 are estimated to have been raped by Romanian and Red Army soldiers.

01-29-2012, 01:27 AM
However, the siege didn't really end until 1990 ...


Budapest, 1956

02-03-2012, 05:06 AM