Siege of Budapest

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Siege of Budapest
Part of the Budapest Offensive (Eastern Front of World War II)
Russian Soldier Budapest.JPG
A Soviet soldier writing "Budapest" in Cyrillic on a signpost after the siege
Date24 December 1944 – 13 February 1945
(1 month, 2 weeks and 6 days)
Location
Result Soviet victory
Belligerents
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Germany
Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg Hungary
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Soviet Union
Flag of Romania.svg Romania
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch   (POW)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Gerhard Schmidhuber  
Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg Dezső László
Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg Iván Hindy   (POW)
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Rodion Malinovsky
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Fyodor Tolbukhin
Flag of Romania.svg Nicolae Șova  [ ro ]
Strength

In the city: [1]

79,000 men
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg 41,000 men (ration strength)
Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg 38,000 men (ration strength)
489 guns
125 tanks and assault guns
117 heavy anti-tank guns

In the city: [2] [3]

177,000 men
1,000 guns
Casualties and losses

3 November–15 February: 137,000 men [4]
24 December–15 February: 114,000 men [4]
City:

Contents

79,000 men
  • Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg 30,000 killed
  • Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg 11,000 captured
  • Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg 9,000 killed
  • Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg 29,000 captured

Relief attempts:

35,000 men
  • 8,000 killed
  • 26,000 wounded
  • 1,000 captured

3 November–11 February: 280,000 men [4]
Relief attempts:

80,000 men
  • 15,000 killed
  • 60,000 wounded
  • 5,100 captured
76,000 civilians dead [5]
38,000 civilians died in the siege (7,000 executed)
38,000 died in labour or POW camps

The Siege of Budapest or Battle of Budapest was the 50-day-long encirclement by Soviet forces of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, near the end of World War II. Part of the broader Budapest Offensive, the siege began when Budapest, defended by Hungarian and German troops, was first encircled on 26 December 1944 by the Red Army and the Romanian Army. During the siege, about 38,000 civilians died through starvation or military action. The city unconditionally surrendered on 13 February 1945. It was a strategic victory for the Allies in their push towards Berlin. [6]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Budapest Capital city in Hungary

Budapest is the capital and the most populous city of Hungary, and the tenth-largest city in the European Union by population within city limits. The city had an estimated population of 1,752,704 in 2016 distributed over a land area of about 525 square kilometres. Budapest is both a city and county, and forms the centre of the Budapest metropolitan area, which has an area of 7,626 square kilometres and a population of 3,303,786, comprising 33 percent of the population of Hungary.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

General situation

Having suffered nearly 200,000 deaths in three years fighting the Soviet Union, and with the front lines approaching its own cities, Hungary was by early 1944 ready to exit World War II. As political forces within Hungary pushed for an end to the fighting, Germany preemptively launched Operation Margarethe on 19 March 1944, and entered Hungary.

Operation Margarethe military operation

Operation Margarethe was the occupation of Hungary by Nazi German forces during World War II, as it was ordered by Hitler on 12 March 1944. A plan for the occupation of Romania was devised under the name Operation Margarethe II but was never carried out.

In October 1944, after successive Allied victories at Normandy and Falaise, and after the collapse of the Eastern Front following the stunning success of the Soviet summer offensive, Operation Bagration, Regent of Hungary Miklós Horthy again attempted to negotiate a separate peace with the Allies. Upon hearing of Horthy's efforts, Hitler launched Operation Panzerfaust to keep Hungary on the Axis side, and forced Horthy to abdicate. Horthy and his government were replaced by "Hungarist" Ferenc Szálasi, led by the far-right National Socialist Arrow Cross Party. As the new right-wing government and its German allies prepared the defense of the capital, IX SS Mountain Corps, consisting of two Waffen-SS divisions, was sent to Budapest to strengthen the city's defense.

Operation Overlord Successful invasion of Nazi-held northern Europe in World War II

Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings. A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.

Operation Bagration military offensive

Operation Bagration was the codename for the Soviet 1944 Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation, a military campaign fought between 23 June and 19 August 1944 in Soviet Byelorussia in the Eastern Front of World War II. The Soviet Union inflicted the biggest defeat in German military history by destroying 28 out of 34 divisions of Army Group Centre and completely shattered the German front line.

Miklós Horthy Hungarian Admiral and Regent 1920-1944

Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was a Hungarian admiral and statesman, who became the Regent of Hungary. He served as Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary between World Wars I and II and throughout most of World War II, from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. He was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary".

Soviet offensive

The besieging Soviet forces were part of Rodion Malinovsky's 2nd Ukrainian Front. Formations that actually took part in the fighting appear to have included the 53rd Army, 7th Guards Army, portions of the 3rd Ukrainian Front, including the 46th Army, and the Romanian 7th Army Corps. [6]

Rodion Malinovsky Soviet military commander and politician

Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky was a Soviet military commander in World War II, Marshal of the Soviet Union, and Defense Minister of the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and 1960s. He contributed to the major defeat of Germany at the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Budapest. During the post-war era, he made a pivotal contribution to the strengthening of the Soviet Union as a military superpower.

The 53rd Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army which was formed in August 1941, disbanded in December 1941, and reformed in May 1942. It fought throughout World War II before again being disbanded after the war in October 1945. The army was first formed for the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran and was disbanded there in December 1941. The army reformed in May 1942. It fought in the Demyansk Pocket, the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Belgorod, the Battle of the Dnieper, the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket, the Uman–Botoșani Offensive, the Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, the Battle of Debrecen, the Budapest Offensive, and the Prague Offensive. At the end of the war in Europe it was moved to the Far East and fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. The army was disbanded in October 1945.

7th Guards Army

The 7th Guards Army was a field army of the Red Army during World War II and of the Soviet Army during the Cold War.

Arrayed against the Soviets was a collection of German Army ( Heer ), Waffen-SS and Hungarian Army forces. The Siege of Budapest was one of the bloodiest sieges of World War II.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

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.

Encirclement of Budapest

A counterattack of Soviet infantry and tanks of the 18th tank corps BUDAPEST 45 V.jpg
A counterattack of Soviet infantry and tanks of the 18th tank corps
Map of German defensive lines (german: Stellung) in Hungary 1944 Map of German defensive lines in Hungary 1944.png
Map of German defensive lines (german: Stellung) in Hungary 1944

The Red Army started its offensive against the city on 29 October 1944. More than 1,000,000 men, split into two operating maneuver groups, advanced. The plan was to isolate Budapest from the rest of the German and Hungarian forces. On 7 November 1944, Soviet and Romanian troops entered the eastern suburbs, 20 kilometers from the old town. The Red Army, after a much-needed pause in operations, resumed its offensive on 19 December. On 26 December, a road linking Budapest to Vienna was seized by Soviet troops, thereby completing the encirclement. The Nazi-supported "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető), Ferenc Szálasi, had already fled from the city on 9 December.

Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare, is a military strategy that advocates attempting to defeat the enemy by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption.

Vienna Capital city and state of Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Ferenc Szálasi Hungarian fascist politician, executed for war crimes

Ferenc Szálasi was the leader of the Arrow Cross Party – Hungarist Movement, the "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető), being both Head of State and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary's "Government of National Unity" for the final six months of Hungary's participation in World War II, after Germany occupied Hungary and removed Miklós Horthy by force. During his brief rule, Szálasi's men murdered 10,000–15,000 Jews. After the war, he was tried and executed by the Hungarian court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during World War II.

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, Adolf Hitler had declared Budapest a fortress city ( Festung Budapest), which was to be defended to the last man. Waffen SS General Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, the commander of the IX Waffen SS Alpine Corps, was put in charge of the city's defenses.

Budapest was a major target for Joseph Stalin. The Yalta Conference was approaching, and Stalin wanted to display his full strength to Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He therefore ordered General Rodion Malinovsky to seize the city without delay. [7]

Hungarian troops man a 7.5 cm Pak 40 antitank gun in a Budapest suburb Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1986-064-15, Ungarn, Strassenkampfe, ungarische Pak.jpg
Hungarian troops man a 7.5 cm Pak 40 antitank gun in a Budapest suburb

During the night of 28 December 1944, the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Front contacted the besieged Germans by radios and loudspeakers, and told them about a negotiation for the city's capitulation. The Soviets promised to provide humane surrender conditions and not to mistreat the German and Hungarian prisoners. [8] They also promised that the emissaries' groups would not bring weapons and would appear in cars with white flags.

The next day, two groups of Soviet emissaries appeared as expected. The first, belonging to the 3rd Ukrainian Front, arrived at 10:00 AM in the Budafok sector and was taken to the headquarters of General Wildenbruch. Their negotiating effort was a failure; Wildenbruch refused the surrender conditions and sent the Soviet agents back to the battlefield. While the emissaries were en route to their camps, the Germans suddenly opened fire, killing Captain I. A. Ostapenko. Lieutenant N. F. Orlov and Sergeant Ye. T. Gorbatyuk quickly jumped into a trench and narrowly escaped. Owing to heavy German fire, the Soviets were not able to retrieve Ostapenko's body until the night of 29 December. He was buried at Budafok with full military honors. [9] [10] [11]

The second group of emissaries belonged to the 2nd Ukrainian Front and arrived at 11:00 AM in the Kispest sector. When the emissaries arrived, the German garrison fired at them. The leader of the emissaries, Captain Miklós Steinmetz, appealed for a negotiation, but to no avail. He was killed together with his two subordinates when the German fire struck the Soviet car. [9] [12]

First German relief attempt

The Soviet offensive began 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 Soviet advance. They ultimately withdrew to shorten their lines, hoping to take advantage of the hilly nature of Buda.

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

Operation Konrad I was launched on 1 January. The German IV SS Panzer Corps attacked from Tata through hilly terrain north-west of Budapest in an effort to break the siege. On 3 January, the Soviet command sent four more divisions to meet the threat. This Soviet action stopped the offensive near Bicske, less than 20 kilometers west of Budapest. The Germans were forced to withdraw on 12 January.

They then launched Operation Konrad II on 7 January. The IV SS Panzer Corps attacked from Esztergom toward Budapest Airport in an attempt to capture it and improve ability to supply the city by air. This offensive was halted near the airport.

Combat in the city

Meanwhile, urban warfare in Budapest increased in intensity. Re-supply became a decisive factor because of the loss of the Ferihegy airport on 27 December 1944, just before the start of the siege. Until 9 January 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 sent 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 sustenance, some even resorting to eating their own horses. The extreme temperatures also affected German and Hungarian troops.

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

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 for the Axis forces deteriorated, with the garrison facing the risk of being cut in half by the advancing Soviet troops.

On 17 January 1945, Hitler agreed to withdraw the remaining troops from Pest to try to defend Buda. All five bridges spanning the Danube were clogged with traffic, evacuating troops and civilians. German troops destroyed the bridges 18 January, despite protests from Hungarian officers. One of them was the famous Chain Bridge, dating from 1849.

Second German relief attempt

On 18 January 1945, the IV SS Panzer Corps, whose relocation to the region north-east of Lake Balaton had been completed on the previous day, was again thrown into battle. This was Operation Konrad III. In two days the Germans tanks reached the Danube at Dunapentele, tearing the Soviet Transdanubian front apart, and by 26 January the offensive had reached a point roughly 25 kilometers from the ring around the capital.

Stalin ordered his troops to hold their ground at all costs, and two Army Corps that were dispatched to assault Budapest were hastily moved to the 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 impetus due to fatigue and supply problems. Budapest's defenders asked permission to leave the city and escape the encirclement. Hitler refused.

German troops could no longer hold their ground; they were forced to withdraw on 28 January 1945, and to abandon much of the occupied territory with the notable exception of Székesfehérvár. The fate of the defenders of Budapest was sealed.

The Battle for Buda

Unlike Pest, which is built on flat terrain, Buda is built on hills. This allowed the defenders to site artillery and fortifications above the attackers, greatly slowing the Soviet advance. The main citadel, (Gellért Hill), was defended by Waffen-SS troops who successfully repelled several Soviet assaults. Nearby, Soviet and German forces were fighting for the city cemetery amongst shell-opened tombs; it would last for several days.

The 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 a parachute drop zone as well as for covering improvised airstrips set up in the city center. The 25th Guards Rifle Division operated from the Soviet side in combat on the island (for losses see below).

On 11 February 1945, Gellért Hill finally fell after six weeks of fighting when the Soviets launched a heavy attack from three directions simultaneously. Soviet artillery was able to dominate the entire city and to shell the remaining Axis defenders, who were concentrated in less than two square kilometres and suffering from malnutrition and disease.

Despite the lack of supplies, the Axis troops refused to surrender and defended every street and house. By this time, some captured Hungarian soldiers defected and fought on the Soviet side. They were known collectively as the "Volunteer Regiment of Buda".

After capturing the southern railway station during a two-day bloodbath, Soviet troops advanced to Castle Hill. On 10 February, after a violent assault, Soviet marines established a bridgehead on Castle Hill, while almost cutting the remaining garrison in half.

Breakout and surrender

Hitler still forbade the German commander, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, to abandon Budapest or to attempt a breakout. But the glider flights (DFS 230) bringing in supplies had ended a few days earlier and parachute drops had also been discontinued.

In desperation, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch decided to lead the remnants of his troops out of Budapest. The German commander did not typically consult the Hungarian commander of the city. However, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch now uncharacteristically included General Iván Hindy in this last desperate breakout attempt.

On the night of 11 February, some 28,000 German and Hungarian troops began to stream north-westwards away from Castle Hill. They moved in three waves. Thousands of civilians were with each wave. Entire families, pushing prams, trudged through the snow and ice. Unfortunately for the would-be escapees, the Soviets awaited them in prepared positions around the Széll Kálmán tér area.

Troops, along with the civilians, used heavy fog to their advantage. The first wave managed to surprise the waiting Soviet soldiers and artillery; their sheer numbers allowed many to escape. The second and third waves were less fortunate. Soviet artillery and rocket batteries bracketed the escape area, with deadly results that killed thousands. Despite heavy losses, five to ten thousand people managed to reach the wooded hills northwest of Budapest and escape towards Vienna, but only 600–700 German soldiers reached the main German lines from Budapest. [6] [13]

The majority of the escapees were killed, wounded, or captured by the Soviet troops. Pfeffer-Wildenbruch and Hindy were captured by waiting Soviet troops as they emerged from an underground tunnel running from the Castle District.

Aftermath

The remaining defenders finally surrendered 13 February 1945. German and Hungarian military losses were high, with entire divisions having been eliminated. The Germans lost all or most of the 13th Panzer Division, 60th Panzergrenadier Division Feldherrnhalle, 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer and the 22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division Maria Theresa. The Hungarian I Corps was virtually annihilated, as well as the 10th and 12th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Armored Division.

The Soviet forces suffered between 100,000 and 160,000 casualties. The Soviets claimed that they had trapped 180,000 German and Hungarian 'fighters' in the pocket, and declared they had captured 110,000 of these soldiers. However, immediately after the siege, they rounded up thousands of Hungarian civilians and added them to the prisoner-of-war count, allowing the Soviets to validate their previously inflated figures. [14]

Budapest lay in ruins, with more than 80 percent of its buildings destroyed or damaged, with historical buildings like the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Castle among them. All seven bridges spanning the Danube were destroyed.

In January 1945, 32,000 ethnic Germans from within Hungary were arrested and transported to the Soviet Union as forced laborers. In some villages, the entire adult population were taken to labor camps in the Donets Basin. [15] [16] :21 Many died there as a result of hardship and ill-treatment. Overall, more than 500,000 Hungarians were transported to the Soviet Union (including between 100,000 and 170,000 Hungarian ethnic Germans). [17] :38

With the exception of Operation Spring Awakening (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen), which was launched in March 1945, the siege of Budapest was the last major operation on the southern front for the Germans. The siege further depleted the Wehrmacht and especially the Waffen-SS. For the Soviet troops, the Siege of Budapest was a final rehearsal before the Battle of Berlin. It also allowed the Soviets to launch the Vienna Offensive. On 13 April 1945, exactly two months after the surrender of Budapest, Vienna fell. [18]

Raoul Wallenberg, Sweden's special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, had issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory, saving tens of thousands of lives. [19] On January 17, 1945, [20] Wallenberg, who allegedly had links with British, American and Swedish intelligence, [21] was detained by Soviet authorities and taken to Moscow with his Hungarian driver, Vilmos Langfelder. He subsequently disappeared in the USSR and his fate is still unknown. [21]

After the city's surrender, occupying troops forcibly conscripted all able-bodied Hungarian men and youth to build pontoon bridges across the Danube River. For weeks afterward, especially after the spring thaw, bloated bodies piled up against these same pontoons and bridge pylons. [14]

Impact on civilians

According to researcher and author Krisztián Ungváry, some 38,000 civilians died during the siege: about 13,000 from military action and 25,000 from starvation, disease and other causes. Although the Soviet staff gave orders prohibiting ill-treatment of prisoners of war and civilians to almost every unit [6] :278 and took harsh measures against the violators, [6] :295 after the end of hostilities Budapest was flooded by Soviet deserters living on pillage and fighting against the Soviet security service and police, [6] :294 and excesses such as looting and mass rape were carried out by Soviets and Hungarian criminals. [6] :286, 294 Despite the fact that the Soviets often took children and entire families under their protection and had a taboo on hurting children, [6] :293 a high number of women and girls were raped, [6] :348–350 [22] [notes 1] although estimates vary from 5,000 to 200,000. [23] :129 Professor Andrea Pető warns that "uncertain, wild estimates" were used for political purposes in Hungary to divert public attention away from the crimes committed by that country, including rapes committed against Soviet women by Hungarians. [23] :133 [notes 2] Hungarian girls were kidnapped and taken to Red Army quarters, where they were imprisoned, repeatedly raped and sometimes murdered. [24] :70–71

Memoirs and diaries

The events in the Naphegy and Krisztinaváros neighborhoods of Budapest are told in a few surviving diaries and memoirs. Charles Farkas (Farkas Karoly) was born in 1926 and includes his experience during the siege in his memoir Vanished by the Danube: Peace, War, Revolution, and Flight to the West. László Dezső, a 15-year-old boy in 1944, lived at 32 Mészáros Street with his family. This area was heavily attacked because of its proximity to the Southern Railway Station (Déli pályaudvar) and the strategic importance of the hill. Dezső kept a diary throughout the siege. [25] The memoirs of András Németh also describe the siege and the bombing of the empty school buildings which he and his fellow soldiers used as an observation post. [26]

The memoirs of Heinz Landau, Goodbye Transylvania, present a German soldier's view of the battle. Pinball Games: Arts of Survival in Nazi and Communist Eras, [27] written by George F. Eber, a richly detailed account of a 20-year-old Hungarian and his family living through the siege, was published posthumously in 2010. It chronicles the clever strategies employed for survival and outlined the boredom and terror of a family that was trapped, but would not capitulate. Eber, who had become an internationally-known architect, included sketches with the memoir. One of them depicts a Russian soldier silhouetted against a Budapest wall on the first night the Germans were driven out of his neighborhood. The memoir also includes an account of World War II and the post-war transition of the country into Soviet-style Communism.

The memoirs of the 14-year-old dispatch runner of the Vannay Volunteer Battalion, Ervin Y. Galantay, give an insight into the battle and urban combat. The diary of the young runner describes day-to-day life and survival of both civilians and soldiers. It was published in English by the Militaria press in Budapest in 2005, under the title Boy Soldier.

Joseph Szentkiralyi, who had worked in the United States prior to World War II, had been deported to Hungary as an enemy alien after the war began. During the siege, he and his family endured constant artillery bombardment and street-by-street tank and infantry battles between the Germans, the remnants of the Royal Hungarian Army, and the attacking Romanian, and Soviet forces. Szentkiralyi, wanted for questioning by Hungarian army officers, hid on the upper floors of buildings during bombing raids to avoid capture. To prevent starvation and help keep their families alive, Szentkiralyi and others risked their lives to leave their bomb shelters at night and butcher frozen horse carcasses they found in the streets. At the end, daily rations consisted of melted snow, horse meat, and 150 grams of bread. Szentkiralyi worked for the Allies after the war ended. Learning that he faced imminent arrest, he fled to Switzerland to avoid detention and likely execution by the Soviets. [28]

See also

Notes

  1. "The worst suffering of the Hungarian population is due to the rape of women. Rapes—affecting all age groups from ten to seventy are so common that very few women in Hungary have been spared." Swiss embassy report cited in Ungváry 2005, p.350. (Krisztian Ungvary The Siege of Budapest 2005)
  2. "...the uncertain, wild numbers circulating publicly allowed Hungary to redefine its national identity after the war, creating the myth that Hungary suffered at the hands of not only Nazi Germany but also the Red Army. In Hungary, mentioning the crimes (rape and looting) committed by the Red Army was viewed as a diversion of public attention away from the crimes committed by Hungary as a part of the Nazi war machine. Because the Red Army was stationed in Hungary permanently after 1945, the rapes became a nonissue at the level of public discourse. A predictable development of post-1989 Hungarian historiography has been to stress the martyrdom of Hungary, following the lead of scholarship written and published in the West by Hungarian emigres who were far away not only from archival sources but also from the monolithic historical explanation of communist historiography. The uncertain, wild estimates allowed both Austria and Hungary to redefine their national identities after the war, creating for Austria the myth of the first victim to suffer not only from Nazi Germany but from the Red Army as well." Andrea Pető. Memory and the Narrative of Rape in Budapest and Vienna in 1945 // Life after Death, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 133

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The IX Waffen Mountain Corps of the SS (Croatian), later simply IX SS Mountain Corps, was a German Waffen-SS alpine corps which saw action on the Eastern Front during World War II.

22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division <i>Maria Theresia</i>

The 22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division was a German Waffen SS cavalry division which was active on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. The division was composed primarily of Hungarian Army Volksdeutsche conscripts who were transferred to the Waffen-SS following an agreement between Germany and Hungary. The division is commonly known under the Maria Theresia name in publications, although no documents have been found to confirm this name.

The 6th Panzer Army was a formation of the German Army, formed in the autumn of 1944. The 6th Panzer Army was first used as an offensive force during the Battle of the Bulge, in which it operated as the northernmost element of the German offensive. The army was subsequently transferred to Hungary in early 1945 and used in both offensive and defensive actions there. The final battles of the 6th Panzer Army were fought in Austria until the collapse of Nazi Germany, at which point the army was completely demoralized. The remnants of the army eventually surrendered to the United States Army. Army commander throughout the army's existence, SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Dietrich said in early 1945:

"We call ourselves the "6th Panzer Army", because we've only got 6 Panzers left".

SS Sturmbrigade RONA

S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. was a collaborationist formation composed of Soviet nationals from the territory of Lokot Autonomy during German-occupied areas of Russia during the German-Soviet War of 1939−45.

Vienna Offensive conflict

The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts in order to capture Vienna, Austria, during World War II. The offensive lasted from 2 April to 13 April 1945.

8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer SS division

The 8th SS Cavalry Division "Florian Geyer" was a German Waffen-SS cavalry division during World War II. It was formed in 1942 from a cadre of the SS Cavalry Brigade which was involved in the Bandenbekämpfung ("bandit-fighting") operations behind the front line and was responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of the civilian population. It continued "pacification" operations in the occupied Soviet Union, leading to further atrocities.

Budapest Offensive military offensive

The Budapest Offensive was the general attack by Soviet and Romanian armies against Nazi Germany and their Axis allies from Hungary. The offensive lasted from 29 October 1944 until the fall of Budapest on 13 February 1945. This was one of the most difficult and complicated offensives that the Soviet Army carried on in Central Europe. It resulted in a decisive victory for the USSR, as it disabled the last European political ally of Nazi Germany and greatly sped up the ending of World War II in Europe.

Iván Hindy Hungarian Army officer

"Vitéz" is a Hungarian title given to members of the Knightly Order of Vitéz, not a first or middle name.

History of Budapest history of the capital city of Hungary

The city of Budapest was officially created on 17 November 1873 by the merging of the neighboring cities of Pest, Buda and Óbuda, with smaller outskirt towns amalgamated into Greater Budapest in 1950. Its origins can be traced to the Celtic people who occupied the plains of Hungary from the 4th century BC, until its conquest by the Roman Empire who established the fortress and town of Aquincum on the site of today's Budapest around AD 100, and the subsequent arrival of the Hungarian people. Their conquest of the Carpathian Basin started at the end of the 9th century and the Kingdom of Hungary established on the year 1000.

Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch German Army general

Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch was an Obergruppenführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. He commanded the 4th SS Polizei Division and the VI SS Army Corps and the IX SS Mountain Corps; he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.

VI SS Army Corps (Latvian) or VI. SS-Freiwilligen-Armeekorps (Lettisches) (German) was a unit of the Waffen SS during World War II. It was formed in October 1943, to command the Latvian Waffen SS divisions. It fought in the northern sector of the Eastern Front as part of the 18th Army. They were part of the Army Group North until early 1945, when it was subordinated to Army Group Kurland. In October 1944, they were encircled by the Red Army offensives and spent the remainder of the war in the Courland Pocket, until they surrendered to the Red Army at end of the war.

Operation Konrad III

Operation Konrad III was a German military offensive on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. It was the third and most ambitious of the three Konrad Operations and had the objective of relieving the siege of Budapest and recapturing the entire Transdanubia region. Achieving complete surprise, the German offensive began on 18 January 1945. Supported by the Luftwaffe, the IV SS Panzer Corps, the principal German attack formation, overran the Soviet 4th Guards Army in two days, destroying hundreds of Soviet tanks along the way, reached the Danube river on 19 January and recaptured 400 square kilometers of territory in four days. After nine days of high-intensity combat, and the destruction by the SS of nearly all Soviet tanks in the entire 3rd Ukrainian Front, the German offensive was stopped by Soviet reinforcements 25 kilometers short of Budapest on 26 January.

References

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Further reading