Bluffing on both sides bordering on absurdity. While the Hungarians expected the Germans to turn to them for help, hoping to later negotiate services in return, Berlin remained indecisive until the very last minute.
Chief of Staff Halder explained this position as follows:
“Nobody makes demands because they require payment, but we would be grateful for any support, especially mobile troops. Under no circumstances can German rail transport be disrupted. "
When the Wehrmacht launched its attack on the USSR on June 22, 1941, the Hungarian-Carpathian border was thus lowered for a while. The border was guarded by only four brigades against the vastly superior 12th Soviet army. The latter, with its armored units, was part of the point of the main forces in the Lvov region. From the OKH's point of view, Hungary's initial non-intervention was entirely welcome, as its own attack on the ledge on the front line at Lvov was to target the flanks. But the frontal pressure of the Hungarians in the near future could possibly have prevented the evasive maneuver of the Soviet group.
In the political arena, Hungary's reserve attracted attention.
However, the Hungarian government soon found its own casus belli. Following an unidentified aircraft raid on Hungary, the government issued an order to take "appropriate retaliatory measures." After the blows of the Hungarian aviation across Soviet territories, two border brigades and a mobile army corps of about 45 soldiers launched an offensive. In the first two weeks, they met almost no resistance.
The Mobile Army Corps under the command of Major General Bela von Miklos, the most modern large formation in the Hungarian Armed Forces (about 25 men), was incorporated into the 000th German Army. Nine tank companies, numbering 160 light tanks, were unsuitable for large-scale combat missions. But as long as the corps simply supported the German offensive as a second echelon, their weak equipment was enough even to secure the Uman pocket, where the heavily depleted Soviet units had almost no armored forces left. Hungarian troops were in euphoria, moving along the Bug through Pervomaisk to the Black Sea. By mid-August, the Hungarians reached the sea near Nikolaev.
While senior officers may have been reminded of their service in Ukraine 23 years ago, their commander-in-chief was more sober in his assessments. The quick victory of the Germans receded into a hazy distance, while the Romanians dug in with the bulk of their army in southern Ukraine. Berlin has always sought to keep two mutually hostile allies as far apart as possible. Horthy was now pushing for a swift withdrawal of his elite corps. Chief of Staff Werth, on the other hand, wanted to send more troops to the Eastern Front. As a result, the vice-regent was forced to resign. His successor, Colonel-General Ferenc Sombatele, was pessimistic about Hitler's prospects in the East and spoke in favor of Hungary retaining its armed forces at home.
But the German dictator demanded further obligations from the Hungarians. Their mobile corps joined the Italian to support the offensive across the Dnieper near Dnipropetrovsk. And in October 1941, together with the 17th German Army, they went all the way to the Donets. Then, in stages, it was allowed to resign from the front and return to their homeland. The loss of nearly 10 percent of the personnel was less severe than the loss of almost all of his armored cars and vehicles, worn out as a result of the long march. With the exception of four infantry brigades, which were quite coveted as an occupying army in Galicia - that is, in the "backyard", the former territory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - the Hungarian contribution to Hitler's war in the East seemed to be exhausted in every sense and purpose.
Hitler needed Hungarians
The failure at the Battle of Moscow in December 1941 dramatically changed the situation. Hitler needed the Hungarians to prepare another summer offensive. At the end of January 1942, Keitel began negotiations on conditions in Budapest.
Instead of the 32 requested divisions, Hungary ended up offering seventeen. Ten of which were front-line units that will go into battle as the 2nd Hungarian Army under the leadership of Colonel General Gustav Yana. Keitel's promise to supply them with German equipment was less than plausible, but Budapest wanted to believe he had paid off any further obligations.
The Hungarian contingent was undoubtedly the core of the country's military power. The 2nd Army consisted of 200 troops with nine weak infantry divisions and a panzer division equipped for the most part with outdated German models. Seven occupation divisions took control of large areas in northern Ukraine, thereby freeing German security forces. As for the local population, the Hungarians acted in the same way as the Wehrmacht. On the home front, they stepped up anti-Semitic measures. This, however, did not prevent Jewish Hungarian recruits from being assigned to military service in labor companies on the Eastern Front and elsewhere, where they were among the regular units of the Royal Hungarian Honved.
The 2nd Hungarian Army arrived in the zone of the German Army Group South by the end of July 1942. Here, together with the Italians and Romanians, they were supposed to secure the flank on the Don. A defensive mission that was roughly the limit of what Hitler expected of them. In addition, the Hungarians had to ensure the safety of the northern section near Voronezh, which they helped to capture in mid-July 1942. Colonel Gyula Kovacs, the chief of the operations department of the 2nd Hungarian Army, was skeptical about this operation.
When the German armies moved south, the Hungarians were largely left on their own in a 200-kilometer-wide area. The river was not a reliable protection, as the Soviets held several bridgeheads on the west bank. The Hungarian attacks ended in heavy losses and ended in September. Now they are on the defensive.
As the battle for Stalingrad raged and the Soviet counter-offensive in November 1942 succeeded in encircling the 6th Army, tense calm reigned on the Hungarian front in the north. The Hungarian infantry divisions stationed there were supposed to occupy an area of almost 20 kilometers. Heavy weapons were to be deployed on the main line of resistance. Separate German divisions, stationed as reserves behind the Hungarian lines, were withdrawn in December and January to close the huge gap on the southern front.
Relations with the German liaison headquarters under the command of Major General Hermann von Witzleben were extremely tense. With the withdrawal of the last German divisions from the main line of resistance, Jani declared that his entire army, apparently, had been irrevocably betrayed. And that he is considering sending his troops back home.
The promise of a heavy anti-tank weapons was enough to delay him for a while. Behind the scenes, the Germans did not hide their opinion that the Hungarians were unreliable and not particularly suitable for battle. The Army Group, in any case, provided the main command with a tank corps as a reserve.
In early January 1943, with the 6th Army on its last legs in the Stalingrad cauldron, the Hungarians watched the Soviets prepare for an attack on the Uriv bridgehead. The offensive on the Voronezh Front began on January 12 and stretched along the frozen Don along the entire width of the Hungarian sector. Within three days, units of the 2nd Hungarian army were retreating. Hitler forbade any retreat and was obviously willing to sacrifice his allies in a hopeless situation to buy time to reorganize his line of defense.
Hunger and cold undermined morale, as did the constant friction with the Germans. The order to retreat from the Don was given only on January 26, 1943. In total, the 2nd Hungarian Army lost more than 100 people and all its heavy equipment in the winter battles at the beginning of 000.
Given that their Romanian allies suffered similar losses, the security situation in Hungary at least has not deteriorated in this regard. From the point of view of the Hungarian leaders, at that moment, more than ever before, it was important to find a way out of the war in cooperation with the Western allies, without provoking the Germans. But this was hopeless, because every fortification of internal defense could be requisitioned by Berlin to support the faltering Eastern Front. Therefore, it was highly advisable for Hitler to lose all confidence in the Hungarians militarily after their catastrophe on the Don.
While leaders in Budapest were increasingly worried about pulling troops closer to their own border, the Germans viewed their allied Hungarian occupation divisions as a front reserve that could be deployed, if necessary, to counter the breakthrough Red Army units. Thus, a tough political struggle ensued, which demanded a lot of compromises from the Hungarian leaders.
Contacts with the Western powers were strengthened. In a secret agreement dated September 9, 1943, Hungary promised to reduce its military obligations to Nazi Germany. Military clashes with the allies should be avoided whenever possible. Allied POWs who fled to Hungary will not be handed over to Germany. The government will facilitate the departure of the Polish military, internees, and thus facilitate the formation of an army in exile.
On the other hand, Berlin put increased pressure on Hungary to export more to Germany on a credit basis. The proposal to do so by expropriating Hungarian Jews was categorically rejected by the Kallay government, even though discrimination against this economically powerful minority was accelerated.
Hitler complained about Hungary's lack of commitment to the war against Bolshevism and Jewry during Horthy's visit to Klessheim on April 16, 1943. The vice regent confirmed his absolute loyalty, but said that "he couldn't just kill the Jews." He expected more German support, at least in rebuilding the Hungarian army. But Berlin has retained its trademark restraint. Eight divisions with increased firepower will be sent to Hungary by October 1944.
This army framework most likely took into account the expectations of the Allied offensive. Although the Honved still lacked equipment, he significantly increased the number of his troops, sufficient, at least for national defense. By the end of 1943, he also had eight reserve divisions, two tank divisions, one cavalry division, and eight specialized brigades at his disposal. The arms industry in Hungary, a country still unharmed by the air war, was far from meeting demand. Sixty percent of its capacity worked for the Germans, who ordered an increase in the supply of weapons, especially aircraft.
As a result, in the spring of 1944, the mobilization plans had to be drastically reduced. Only a quarter of those eligible for military service could be conscripted, but even these 500 soldiers did not have enough weapons. Heavy equipment is technically outdated. Tanks "Turan-000" and "Turan-40" with their 41 and 40 mm cannons had no chance against the Soviet T-75. An additional challenge, in terms of morale, was the high proportion of recruits of Romanian, Slovak, Ukrainian and Serbian nationalities. These soldiers were mainly used in the rear, which hardly improved the Germans' opinion of the ally.
The Hungarian western and eastern occupation groups, with their nine divisions, largely bore the brunt of the war in the East in 1943-1944. It was assumed that about 90 troops would provide security for large areas in the rear of the German Army Groups Center and South. Hungarians made up about 000 percent of the total occupation forces. The Vostok group was supposed to control the eastern part of the Pripyat bog between Kiev and Priluki, while the West group was supposed to control the railway lines between Brest-Litovsk and Gomel.
In the Bryansk forest, the partisan war was especially fierce. The remaining units of the Soviet army, provided with continuous air cover, developed military equipment that the lightly armed and poorly trained Hungarians could not match.
Constantly overwhelmed, the Hungarians reacted by creating "dead zones" with harsh repression against the civilian population. In terms of cruelty, only the SS were superior to the Hungarians.
Beginning in 1943, the Hungarian occupation forces became increasingly passive. They failed miserably against the Soviet troops when the latter managed to break through the front.
By the spring of 1944, the front was approaching northeastern Hungary. The critical situation and mistrust of the Allies forced Hitler to act. Plans, developed long before that to occupy a strategically and economically important country, were withdrawn from the reserve.
On March 18, 1944, Hitler put pressure on Horthy in Klessheim. Ultimately, he had no choice but to agree to the occupation of his country by 8 German divisions and to dissolve the Callay government, which Berlin hated so much.
The Germans did not disarm the Honvedians, but they drastically changed their policy towards the Hungarian Jews. A special unit of Adolf Eichmann moved forward and, with the support of the opposition fighting for power, organized the deportation of 437 people to Auschwitz. Not only did the Germans benefit from the confiscation of their belongings, but countless Hungarian citizens helped themselves acquire Jewish property, making the alliance with the Reich more "productive."
The Germans intervened en masse in the organization of the army. Higher headquarters were eliminated and new reserve divisions were formed. Particular attention was paid to the recruitment of Hungarian Germans. About 120 men were mobilized by the Waffen SS. Himmler thus gathered at least five divisions, as well as reserves for his police regiments, in which there were less able-bodied recruits.
Of immediate military importance was the use of the recently activated 1st Hungarian Army in April 1944 to defend the foothills of the Carpathians. About 150 troops under the command of Colonel-General Geza Lakatos fought in units of the German Army Group Northern Ukraine, led by Field Marshal Walter Model. With a constant stream of reinforcements from Hungary, the army on July 000, 22, faced a Soviet offensive on a 1944-kilometer front, which within two days forced the Hungarians to retreat to their positions in the Carpathians.
The 1st Hungarian Army lost in this process about 30 people - killed, wounded and missing in action. But the concentration of two German divisions allowed them to hold their deeply echeloned defense lines against numerous attempts by Soviet troops to break through, especially at the crucial Dukla Pass.
After the collapse of the Romanian front on August 23, 1944, Hungary had to use its 2nd Army to defend Transylvania in the southern Carpathians. She was able to mobilize about 190 soldiers. One of the ways to obtain the necessary strength was to reduce the front of the 000st Army. The occupation forces also received permission to return home from Poland.
Hungarian theater of operations
Hungary suddenly became an important theater of war.
Her oil fields, the only ones that Hitler now had, were under threat. Therefore, from September 1944 to March 1945, several major offensive operations were launched here.
Hitler deployed most of his mobile reserves (15 armored divisions, 4 armored infantry divisions, 4 cavalry divisions, 6 infantry divisions) to try to regain the initiative. The largest concentration of German armored units on the Eastern Front required the support of infantry troops, most of whom were Hungarians.
The Hungarians were actually quite brave in their offensive near Kolossvar (Cluj) against their "sworn enemy" the Romanians, who were preparing, with the support of the Soviet Union, for the "liberation" of northern Transylvania. However, with the deployment of Soviet armored forces, the General Staff in Budapest found it expedient to go on the defensive again in just two weeks.
The Red Army tried to break through Nagyvarad (Oradea) and Debrecen in order to attack the Hungarian capital. One of the fiercest tank battles of World War II took place there in early October 1944.
German-Hungarian troops with 11 divisions defeated the enemy's edge, inflicting heavy losses. Thus, the attempt of the 2nd Ukrainian Front to encircle the 8th German army together with the 1st and 2nd Hungarian armies had the opposite effect. The bulk of these armies were able to retreat in an organized manner to the Budapest area.
Horthy, who deeply despised the Soviets, wanted to avoid negotiating with them at all costs.
But the Western allies rejected a separate ceasefire. Following Finland's example, the vice regent was looking for a way out of the war by mid-September 1944. He even sent a delegation to Moscow. And in a letter to Stalin, he begged for a condescending attitude towards his country.
On October 11, he announced his readiness to accept the Soviet demand for an immediate declaration of war on Germany. However, the Germans were well informed and organized a putsch in Budapest. Under Otto Skorzeny's leadership, individual commandos arrested important officers loyal to Horthy and kidnapped Horthy's son. On October 16, Horthy signed his abdication.
The radical Cross and Arrow Party has now taken the reins of government in Hungary, mobilizing the entire country and intensifying anti-Jewish measures. They promised the Germans four additional divisions, while even their regular troops were disbanded. They disbanded the divisional headquarters and formed mixed German-Hungarian regimental groups.
At the beginning of 1945, the number of Hungarian troops on the ground was 280, as well as 000 rear troops. The Hungarian commanders often had the impression that the Germans shamelessly allowed untrained or exhausted Hungarian units to be "led to the slaughter".
While the country was drowning in the maelstrom of war, Berlin at least wanted to secure some reserves of troops. The logistic installations and training regiments of the Honvedian, with approximately 200 men, were distributed throughout Germany and Denmark. About 000 young men were employed in German anti-aircraft units. Separate Hungarian battalions fought in "fortresses" on the Eastern Front, such as Breslau (Wroclaw), Kohlberg (Kolobrzeg) and Posen (Poznan). At the end of the war, 16 Hungarian soldiers were still deployed, mostly in Army Group South.
Battle of Budapest
The attack on Budapest was of great strategic importance for Stalin. A quick takeover attempt in early November 1944 failed, and the Germans seized the opportunity to fortify their defenses with the help of Jewish forced laborers. The attacks of the 2nd Ukrainian Front moved very slowly against the outnumbered German-Hungarian defenders. Several German counter-offensives endangered the Soviet victory.
The Hungarians did not expect to defend their capital for a long time, but Hitler ordered to keep the "fortress" at any cost, regardless of civilian casualties. Thus, the battle for Budapest became "Stalingrad on the Danube". By the end of the year, about 100 soldiers were surrounded, half of them Germans and half Hungarians. They managed to hold the city for 000 days against superior Soviet forces.
The worse the hopeless military situation became, the more often there were German reports of the allegedly low morale of the Hungarians and their high level of desertion. The fact that the Germans themselves contributed to this, in fact, incapacitating the Hungarian officers and treating them condescendingly, without giving them any real reason to push their troops, was not mentioned.
The SS units recruited from the Hungarian Germans did not make a much better impression. The fighting outside the city, with their eventually failed offensive relief operations, was fought almost exclusively by German units. On February 11, 1945, the attempt to escape the last defenders ended in disaster.
After the failure of the last German offensive on Lake Balaton in mid-March 1945, the Red Army continued its campaign to occupy the country. Its vastly superior forces defeated the Hungarian defensive front in the Wertes Mountains and pursued the 6th German Panzer Army westward.
The defense of the German-Hungarian positions north of the Danube in the Komarom region collapsed on 25 March. The complete dissolution of the Hungarian units loomed on the horizon. The Chief of Staff of the St. Laszlo Division went over to the Soviet side and called on his soldiers to do the same.
Hungarian troops were subsequently disarmed in the operational area of the 6th German Army. They had to hand over their cars and walk to the indicated neighborhoods.
An estimated 360 Hungarians died, more than a third of them (000 to 120) on the Eastern Front and at least 000 in captivity. During the war, 155 civilians were killed. About 000 people died during the Allied bombing raids, and another 55 during the fighting in the last months of the war.
The 1947 Paris Peace Treaties returned the country to its 1920 territorial status. Moreover, she was forced to pay $ 300 million in reparations.