Operation Panzerfaust

Last updated
Operation Panzerfaust
Part of World War II
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-680-8282A-11A, Budapest, SS-Manner auf der Burg.jpg
SS soldiers from 22 SS-Freiwilligen-Kavallerie-Division Maria Theresa review captured weapons found in courtyard of Buda Castle, including a Hungarian anti-aircraft self-propelled gun 40M Nimród (back) and a 40mm 40M anti-tank gun.
Date15–16 October 1944
Location
Result Overthrow of Regent Miklós Horthy
Pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party came to power
Beginning of the Holocaust in Hungary
Belligerents
Flag of Hungary (1920-1946).svg Hungary Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Nazi Germany
Flag of the Arrow Cross Party 1942 to 1945.svg Arrow Cross Party
Commanders and leaders

Operation Panzerfaust (Unternehmen Panzerfaust) was a military operation to keep the Kingdom of Hungary at Germany's side in the war, conducted in October 1944 by the German Wehrmacht. When German dictator Adolf Hitler received word that Hungary's Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, was secretly negotiating his country's surrender to the advancing Red Army, he sent commando leader Otto Skorzeny of the Waffen-SS and former special forces commander Adrian von Fölkersam to Hungary. Hitler feared that Hungary's surrender would expose his southern flank, where the Kingdom of Romania had just joined with the Soviets and cut off a million German troops still fighting the Soviet advance in the Balkan peninsula. The operation was preceded by Operation Margarethe in March 1944, which was the occupation of Hungary by German forces, which Hitler had hoped would secure Hungary's place in the Axis powers. [1]

Kingdom of Hungary (1920–1946) Central European state between 1920 and 1946

The Kingdom of Hungary, sometimes referred to as the Regency or Horthy era (Horthy-korszak), existed as a country from 1920 to 1946 under the rule of Regent Miklós Horthy. Horthy officially represented the Hungarian monarchy of Charles IV, Apostolic King of Hungary. Attempts by Charles IV to return to the throne were prevented by threats of war from neighbouring countries and by the lack of support from Horthy.

<i>Wehrmacht</i> unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Contents

Prelude

Having anticipated Horthy's move, Skorzeny had been instructed to remove Horthy from power. Horthy's son Miklós Horthy Jr. was meeting with Soviet representatives. Miklós Jr. was informed by the German Security Service through intermediaries that envoys of Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia wanted to meet with him. Miklós Jr. had failed to keep a prior meeting when he observed suspicious individuals near the proposed meeting place. A second meeting was set for early 15 October at the offices of Felix Bornemisza, the Director of the Hungarian Danube ports. He hoped that the Yugoslavian representatives might have important news, but upon entering the building, Skorzeny and his troops attacked and beat him into submission. They then kidnapped Miklós at gunpoint, trussed him up in a carpet, immediately drove him to the airport and flew him to Vienna. From there, he was transported to the concentration camp at Mauthausen. [2]

Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya II was the younger son of Hungarian regent Admiral Miklós Horthy and, until the end of World War II, a politician.

Josip Broz Tito Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman

Josip Broz, commonly known as Tito, was a Yugoslav communist revolutionary and statesman, serving in various roles from 1943 until his death in 1980. During World War II, he was the leader of the Partisans, often regarded as the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian and concerns about the repression of political opponents have been raised, most Yugoslavs considered him popular and a benevolent dictator. He was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad. Viewed as a unifying symbol, his internal policies maintained the peaceful coexistence of the nations of the Yugoslav federation. He gained further international attention as the chief leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, alongside Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Nicolae Ceaușescu of Romania, Sukarno of Indonesia, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.

Horthy's declaration of armistice

Working through his trustworthy General Béla Miklós, who was in contact with Soviet forces in eastern Hungary, Horthy attempted to negotiate the end of the war, seeking to surrender to the Soviets while preserving the government's autonomy. Although Horthy was an intractable anti-Communist, his dealings with the Nazis led him to conclude the Soviets were the lesser evil. The Soviets willingly promised that Hungary would remain autonomous and sovereign.

Béla Miklós Hungarian politician

Béla Miklós de Dálnok, Vitéz of Dálnok was a Hungarian military officer and politician who served as acting Prime Minister of Hungary, at first in opposition, and then officially, from 1944 to 1945. He was the last Prime Minister of war-time Hungary.

Horthy governed from Castle Hill in central Budapest, an ancient and now well-guarded fortress. He blamed the German government for "forcing" Hungary into war, and during a meeting of the Crown Council declared that:

Buda Castle castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest

Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. It was first completed in 1265, but the massive Baroque palace today occupying most of the site was built between 1749 and 1769. The complex in the past was referred to as either the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle. The castle now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum.

Today it is obvious to any sober-minded person that the German Reich has lost the war. All governments responsible for the destiny of their countries must draw the appropriate conclusions from this fact, for as a great German statesman, Bismarck, once said, "No nation ought to sacrifice itself on the altar of an alliance." … I decided to safeguard Hungary’s honour even against her former ally, although this ally, instead of supplying the promised military help, meant finally to rob the Hungarian nation of its greatest treasure, its freedom and independence. I informed a representative of the German Reich that we were about to conclude a military armistice with our former enemies and to cease all hostilities against them. [2]

At 2:00 p.m. on 15 October 1944, Horthy announced in a national radio broadcast that Hungary had signed an armistice with the Soviets. However, the Germans had been aware of Horthy's behind-the-scenes manoeuvring and had already set in motion plans to replace his government with forces loyal to the German cause, effectively occupying Hungary. With Nazi help, the Arrow Cross Party seized the radio station shortly after Horthy signed off. A party member wrote a counter-proclamation and used the name of the Hungarian Army's Chief of the General Staff, General Vörös. The commanding officer and his assistant of the two remaining Hungarian army units in Budapest were arrested or disappeared, and their soldiers fell in line with the Arrow-Cross party. [2]

Arrow Cross Party political party

The Arrow Cross Party was a far-right Hungarist party led by Ferenc Szálasi, which formed a government in Hungary known as the Government of National Unity. They were in power from 15 October 1944 to 28 March 1945. During its short rule, ten to fifteen thousand civilians were murdered outright, and 80,000 people were deported from Hungary to various concentration camps in Austria. After the war, Szálasi and other Arrow Cross leaders were tried as war criminals by Hungarian courts.

Royal Hungarian Army 1922-1945 land warfare branch of Hungarys military

The Royal Hungarian Army was the name given to the land forces of the Kingdom of Hungary in the period from 1922 to 1945. Its name was inherited from the Royal Hungarian Honvéd which went under the same Hungarian title of Magyar Királyi Honvédség from 1867 to 1918. Initially restricted by the Treaty of Trianon to 35,000 men, the army was steadily upgraded during the 1930s and fought on the side of the Axis powers in the Second World War.

János Vörös Hungarian politician

János Vörös was a Hungarian military officer and politician, who served as Minister of Defence in the unofficial Interim National Government which led by Béla Miklós. He fought in the First World War at the Eastern Front and the Italian Campaign. He was appointed as Chief of Army Staff on 19 March 1944, when the Nazis occupied Hungary. Later Vörös joined to the Red Army which arrived to Hungary's eastern border.

A Tiger II tank in Budapest near Buda Castle. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-680-8282A-38A, Budapest, Panzer VI (Tiger II, Konigstiger).jpg
A Tiger II tank in Budapest near Buda Castle.

Skorzeny then brazenly led a convoy of German troops and four Tiger II tanks to the Vienna Gates of Castle Hill. Horthy recognized that he had no means to fight the German armor and superior forces. He issued orders that "no resistance should be made." [2] :290 One unit did not get these orders, and fought the Germans for about 30 minutes.[ citation needed ]

Capture of Horthy

Horthy was taken into custody by Edmund Veesenmayer and his staff later on 15 October. Kept overnight in the Waffen SS offices, he returned to the Palace to collect his personal belongings. There he was confronted with a demand to sign a typewritten statement handed to him by Premier Géza Lakatos. The statement announced that Horthy was renouncing the armistice and abdicating in favour of Arrow Cross leader Ferenc Szálasi. Surprised that his loyal friend would encourage him to sign the document, Horthy was told by Lakatos that his son's life was at stake. When Horthy asked Veesenmayer if this was true, Veesenmayer confirmed the threat. The regent understood that this was an effort to put the stamp of his prestige on a Nazi-sponsored Arrow Cross coup, but signed anyway. [2]

Horthy later explained his capitulation: "I neither resigned nor appointed Szálasi Premier, I merely exchanged my signature for my son’s life. A signature wrung from a man at machine-gun point can have little legality." [2]

Despite Veesenmayer's solemn promise to obtain Horthy's son's release from the German concentration camp, Miklós Jr. remained a prisoner until the war's end on 8 May 1945. Horthy himself was transported to the Schloss Hirschberg near Weilheim, Germany, and guarded by 100 Waffen SS men at all times. On 1 May 1945, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch, the commander of the US 7th Army, visited Horthy in his castle prison. Because Hungary had fought on to the end defending Germany, Horthy was considered a prisoner of war. Seven months later, on 17 December 1945, he was released from the Nuremberg penitentiary and was reunited with his family in a private home in Weilheim. [2]

See also

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References

  1. Earl F. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Horthy:, Admiral Miklós (2000). Admiral Nicholas Horthy Memoirs. Nicholas Horthy, Miklós Horthy, Andrew L. Simon, Nicholas Roosevelt (illustrated ed.). Simon Publications LLC. p. 348. ISBN   0-9665734-3-9.