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Admiral Nicholas Horthy:MEMOIRSAnnotated by Andrew L. Simon

Copyright 2000 Andrew L. SimonOriginal manuscript copyright 1957, Ilona BowdenLibrary of Congress Card Number: 00-101186Copyright under International Copyright UnionAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or byany electronic or mechanical means, including information storage andretrieval devices or systems, without prior written permission from thepublisher.ISBN 0-9665734-9Printed by Lightning Print, Inc. La Vergne, TN 37086Published by Simon Publications, P.O. Box 321, Safety Harbor, FL 34695

Admiral Horthy at age 75.

Publication record of Horthy’s memoirs: First Hungarian Edition: Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1953.German Edition: Munich, Germany, 1953.Spanish Edition: AHR - Barcelona, Spain, 1955.Finnish Edition: Otava, Helsinki, Finland, 1955.Italian Edition, Corso, Rome, Italy, 1956.U. S. Edition: Robert Speller & Sons, Publishers, New York, NY, 1957.British Edition: Hutchinson, London, 1957.Second Hungarian Edition: Toronto, Canada: Vörösváry Publ., 1974.Third Hungarian Edition: Budapest, Hungary:Europa Historia, 1993.

Table of ContentsFOREWORD 1INTRODUCTIONPREFACE591. Out into the World112. New Appointments333. Aide-de-Camp to Emperor Francis Joseph I at the Court of Vienna1909-1914494. Archduke Francis Ferdinand695. Naval Warfare in the Adriatic. The Coronation of King Charles IV6. The Naval Battle of Otranto937. Appointment as Commander of the Fleet. The End1018. Revolution in Hungary: from Michael Károlyi to Béla Kun1099. Counter-Revolution. I am Appointed Minister of War AndCommander-in-Chief 11710. Regent of Hungary 12711. Attempts at the Restoration of King Charles in 192112. The Road to Freedom7913915313. The Rome Protocols and the Rome-Berlin Axis16314. Travels and Visitors 17315. Friction with Hitler 18916. The Second World War; Hungary’s Non-Belligerence 20517. Hungary Enters the Second World War18. Appointment of a Deputy Regent22523719. The Search for the Way Out 24520. The Occupation of Hungary 25721. Appealing for Armistice. My Imprisonment22. The Arrival of the Americans 301281

23. A Last Glance in Retrospect and Outlook on the Future315APPENDICES 3211. Horthy’s October 15, 1944 Proclamation 3212. Recollections by Mrs. Ilona Bowden, widow of Stephen Horthy 3233. Letters to the Editor on Horthy’s re-burial 3284. New data on Julius Gömbös 3355. On Horthy and the Hungarian Jews 3376. The Forgotten Rescue 344

FOREWORDby Andrew L. Simon, Professor Emeritus, The University of AkronIt is a sure sign of respectability if one is routinely vilified for 80 years by theCommunists and for 60 years by the Nazis. Without the opportunity forrebuttal, a fiction repeated often enough, will become ‘self evident truth’.Goebbels knew this, so did Beneš, two of the 20th century’s masterpropagandists. When Admiral Nicholas Horthy, Regent of Hungary for aquarter of a century, was re-buried in his family’s cript in September of 1993,there was an international uproar in the media. The Economist wrote about‘Hungary’s shameful past’. The New York Times served up a dire warningabout the return of Fascism, the Frankfurter Allgemeine ‘would rather forgetit’, the Brazilian Veja commented that ‘Hungary honors a Nazi’. There is noend to the list. One sane opinion appeared in The Financial Times: ‘westernhistoriography was interested exclusively in his alliance with Hitler, and theCommunists characterized the anti-Bolshevik as a monster’.Admiral Horthy, privy to the domestic policies of the Habsburg empire at thehighest level, naval hero, last commandant of the Austro-Hungarian Navy,Regent of a destroyed country that he led into relative prosperity against greatodds, an anti-Bolshevik, a prisoner of the Nazis, was indisputably a statesman.Under his rule, to quote Columbia University history professor Istv n De k,“Hungary was an island in the heart of Europe where a semblance of therule of law and a pluralistic society had been preserved in a sea of barbarism”.Having traveled the world while in the navy, speaking six languages(Hungarian, Croat, Italian, German, French, English), serving asaide-de-camp of Emperor Francis Joseph, he had a solid background for hisposition. Horthy was not a narrow-minded Nationalist but a patriot whogreatly preferred the multi-ethic, multi-religious, multi-lingual diversity ofthe Monarchy in which he grew up and had an admirable career, even as aHungarian Protestant in a Austrian Catholic “regime.” Above all, he was agentleman in the old, true sense of the word. His intimate knowledge of thepolitics of Central Europe during a time that led from the heights of thecultured, law-abiding, modernizing, developing age of the Monarchy to thedepths of the Communist reigns of terror throughout the region makes hisMemoirs an interesting, informative reading.1

The death of Communism, (if not the Communists) revived the old ethnicand religious conflicts in Central and Eastern Europe, not only in Bosnia butthroughout the Danubian basin. To address these problems westernstatesmen, and indeed, the general public, must understand them. Alas, thisunderstanding will not come from western history books. As a 1993 survey ofstandard American college history textbooks indicated, these are saturatedwith some eighty years worth of propaganda. First, this propaganda wasdirected toward the dissolution of the Habsburg empire. Then it was areaction of Hungary’s demand of the peaceful return to her historic borders.Hungary lost two thirds of her territory at the end of the first world war; oneout of every three Magyars became “ethnic minorities” in their own land ofbirth. Hungary wanted ‘everything back’, the Successor States were notprepared to give an inch. The end of the second world war, and theCommunist oppression that followed, has placed a lid on the boiling pot.Now the lid is off.The age-old concept of the Danubian Federation, in the form of the EuropeanUnion, reemerged from the ashes of nationalistic madness and communistoppression that plagued the region during the 20th century. “The oldAustro-Hungarian empire is reemerging in the new political geography”wrote The Boston Globe as early as August 20, 1989. Columnist Flora Lewisechoed from Paris that in proposing a Danubian Federation “Kossuth’s Idea isTimely” (September 24, 1989). Otto von Habsburg, quoted in Le Figaro assaying in 1991: “under Austria one should not consider the present tinycountry but a cultural sphere that spread from Czernowitz to Sarajevo. Asurvey article in The Economist (November 18, 1995) David Lawday wrote:“The countries of Central Europe, unavoidably detained for a while, areclamoring to join the European Union. When they do, it will be ahomecoming.” Hungary’s joining NATO in 1999 was the first step towardher reintegration to the European community of nations. Horthy would bepleased.For this edition, the text was compared to the Hungarian original and itsEnglish version was edited accordingly. About 600 footnotes were added toclarify names and some issues the reader may not be familiar with. The sourcesof these footnotes range from the private letters of Wallenberg to the recordsof the interrogations of Eichmann by the Israeli police, from long hiddenmemoirs of Hungarian generals and politicians, and a wide variety of books,articles and private recollections, mainly dealing with Hungary during World2

War II, the German occupation of Hungary in the Spring of 1944, Horthy’sattempts at saving his country, getting out of the war and his eventualimprisonment by the Nazis. The primary aim of this book is not to presentHorthy’s memoirs but to describe the history of Hungary during the ‘HorthyEra’ through a rich mosaic of views and comments of a multitude ofparticipants. The Memoirs, originally published in several languages in the1950’s, serves as the structural support, the skeleton, of the story.The text was reviewed by Mrs Ilona Bowden, widow of Stephen Horthy,Professor István Deák of Columbia University, Professor Scott F. Korom ofthe University of North Dakota, and Sandor Balogh, Professor Emeritus,Hudson Valley Community College. Their helpful comments and assistancein minimizing the number of errors in the text is gratefully appreciated.Without the help of Dr. Antal Simon of Budapest, who collected a huge arrayof reference material, this work could not have been done.Safety Harbor, Florida, St. Stephen’s Day, 1999.Andrew L. Simon3


INTRODUCTIONby Nicholas Roosevelt, former U.S. Minister to HungaryNICHOLAS HORTHY will figure in European history of the 20th centuryas the powerful head of a small state who was powerless to prevent theabsorption of his country first by the German Nazis and then by the RussianCommunists. His failure was due not to incapacity, weakness or blunderingon his part, but rather to the simple fact that the Hungarians wereoutnumbered ten to one by the Germans and twenty to one by the Russians,and that Germany and Russia each regarded occupation of Hungary as apre-requisite to its own aggrandizement. Hungary had no more chance ofeffective resistance against either aggressor than a wounded stag attacked by apack of wolves.I saw Admiral Horthy from time to time when he was Regent of Hungary andI was United States’ Minister to that country. This was in 1930-33. Inappearance he was a typical sea-dog, red faced, sturdy, energetic, powerful,though relatively short in stature. Many a retired British admiral could havebeen mistaken for him. His integrity and courage were outstanding, as was hisdevotion to duty. Unlike other “strong men" he was singularly lacking invanity, ambition and selfishness. He did not seek the high offices that werethrust upon him, but rather accepted them in the fervent hope that by sodoing he could serve the country that he so dearly loved. Stern when need be,he was fundamentally kind. Proud of his office of regent, and punctiliousabout official etiquette, he yet was simple in his tastes and courteous andconsiderate of others. His official life was given over to an unending round offormalities, from which the only relief was escape to the country to hunt wildboars or stags, or shoot game birds. His energy in the field, even when in hissixties, exhausted many a younger man, and his skill with rifle and shotgunplaced him among the best shots in a country where shooting as a sport wasalmost a profession.Nicholas Horthy had just turned forty-one when, in 1909, the old AustrianEmperor, Franz Josef, appointed him one of his personal aides, thus bringingthe future admiral into intimate contact with this survivor of an age that isutterly remote from our own. Franz Josef in his youth had known PrinceMetternich, leader of the Congress of Vienna in the winter of 1814-15, and5

relentless enemy of liberalism in Europe, who had been forced to resign asChancellor of the Empire just before Franz Joseph was crowned emperor inDecember of 1848. By the time that Nicholas Horthy came to serve FranzJosef the Emperor had become a legendary figure, Emperor-King, for morethan sixty years, an autocrat who ruled his court and family with rigid regardfor formality, a bureaucrat with a prodigious capacity for work, and, withal, agreat gentleman. The admiral several times told me of the admiration, respectand affection which he had for the old man, not the hero-worship of a youthin his twenties, but the considered appraisal of a man in his forties for anemployer still vigorous and efficient as he turned eighty. It is a tribute alike toFranz Josef’s influence and to Nicholas Horthy’s modesty that the Admiral, asRegent of Hungary, when faced with a grave problem of state always askedhimself what the old Emperor would have done under the the circumstances.Admiral Horthy’s life, as set forth in this volume, covers the mostrevolutionary century in the world’s history. His early training as a naval cadetwas in the age of sails. Electric lighting was almost unknown in Europe whenhe completed his naval schooling. The Turks were still in control of parts ofthe Balkan peninsula. Russia’s ambition to bring all Slavic-speaking peoplesunder its sway, while recognized, seemed unlikely ever to be realized. Therecently achieved Italian unity was regarded by Austrians and Hungarians asan affront to historic realities. Prussia’s domination of the newly createdGerman Empire was resented by Austrians in particular, who looked down onthe Prussians as ill-mannered, pushy people who had usurped the position ofleadership of German culture which so long had belonged deservedly to theAustrians. As for the United States, it was regarded by European rulers as asmall, isolated country inhabited by a bumptious, money-grubbing lot oftransplanted Europeans, a nation which deservedly played no role in worldaffairs.Yet within thirty years an American President, Woodrow Wilson, withmillions of American soldiers backing the Allies against Germany andAustria-Hungary, proclaimed the principle of self-determination whichhastened the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the abdication ofFranz Josef’s successor, Charles, the last of the Habsburg emperors. NicholasHorthy, as commander-in-chief of the Austro-Hungarian navy, had thehumiliation of carrying out Charles’s order to surrender the imperial fleet tothe scorned Yugoslavs without any resistance. German Austria proclaimeditself a republic. The Magyar remnant of Hungary, under the leadership of a6

Magyar count regarded by his peers as weak, unreliable and unbalanced,declared its independence.Dominated at first by socialists, it was shortly taken over by communists. InRussia Marxism replaced Czarism. The megalomanic Kaiser William II ofGermany fled to Holland and took to sawing wood in his refuge at Doom,soon to see another megalomaniac, this time an Austrian by birth, AdolphHitler, backed by one of Germany’s greatest generals, Ludendorff, make hisfirst (and unsuccessful) attempt to dominate and re-integrate Germany.Ludendorff was soon to be locked up as a lunatic. A decade later Hitlerbecame Fuehrer of the “eternal” German Reich which endured a scant tenyears.Throughout most of the two decades that followed the armistice of 1918 theauthor of this book was a symbol of sanity, order and stability in an unstable,disordered and sick Europe. As head of the counterrevolutionary movementin Hungary, which, before he was named Regent in 1920, had rescued thatcountry from the Communists, he had incurred the hatred of left wingersinside and out of Hungary1. As Regent his policy was to try to restore toHungary the boundaries it had had before the Habsburg empire broke up, apolicy which, however commendable to Magyars, ran counter to thenationalist aspirations and fears of non-Magyars, and was doomed to failure.In the ensuing years most of the supporters of the Habsburgs and many of thelanded nobility of Hungary believed this upholder of the ancien regime to be“dangerously” liberal and suspected him of wanting to establish a Horthydynasty to replace the Habsburgs. Royalists never forgave him for havingtwice thwarted ex-King Charles’s attempts to regain the throne of Hungary,attempts which, if successful, would surely have brought about the invasionand occupation of Hungary by the neighbor states. The words put into themouth of Brutus at Caesar’s funeral by Shakespeare could well beparaphrased: “Not that Horthy loved Charles less, but Hungary more.”When, twenty years later, Regent Horthy appeared to go along with Hitler, itwas because he was faced with force which neither resistance nor appeasementcould curb. What the outside world did not realize was that Hitler’s hatred ofHorthy’s independence and fearlessness was one of the reasons why theFuehrer took over control of Hungary and virtually made the Regent hisprisoner.1A fact still true in the end of the 1990’s. (Ed.)7

The last time I saw this staunch old admiral was when I paid my farewell visitto him before returning to the United States in 1933. He spoke withpassionate earnestness about his conviction that Russia was the greatest threatnot only to Hungary but to the western world. For years this subject had beenan obsession of his, so much so, in fact, that the members of the diplomaticcorps in Budapest in the 1930s discounted it as a phobia. Events have provedthat his fears were justified. True, it was the Nazis who started Hungary downthe path of destruction. But it was the Russians who crushed the spirit of theHungarian nation and reduced the economic level of the Magyars topre-feudal poverty. The Hungarian Regent in this case had foreseen correctly,but he was unable to convince either British or American leaders thatCommunist Russia was even more rapacious and greedy than Czarist Russia,and that it was folly to believe that if Russia was treated as a friendly ally thatcountry would respond in kind.If any of Admiral Horthy’s critics continue to question his clarity of thinkingand his abundant common sense, let them read this book. Written simply andmodestly, it is an absorbing record of the life of a gallant man who foughthopelessly but bravely to save as much as he could for his country in the midstof the conflicting jealousies, ambitions and hatreds of Eastern Europe whichhad been inflamed by World War I. He was a conservator rather than aconservative, a traditionalist rather than a fascist, a practical man rather thanan idealist. He would have restored the old order had he been able to do so.Instead, he saw the Iron Curtain close over his beloved Hungary, and retiredto Portugal, where, at the age of eighty-eight he is still living with hismemories of a world that is gone forever. Fearless, incorruptible, steadfast, hisinfluence, like that of George Washington, stemmed from strength ofcharacter rather than brilliance of intellect. Men might disagree with him, buteven his enemies respected him. They might question his judgment, but nonequestioned his integrity and uprightness.Big Sur, California, April 1956.2Nicholas Roosevelt2(1893 - 1982) Nicholas Roosevelt served in the U.S. Army during WW1. Hawas American Minister to Hungary between 1930 and 1933.8

PREFACETwice, and each time without my having striven after it, I have beenappointed to a position of leadership. Towards the end of the First WorldWar, His Majesty the Emperor Charles appointed me Commander-in-Chiefof the Fleet of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. A few years later theHungarian people elected me Regent of Hungary, an appointment that mademe the virtual head of the Hungarian State. Many honours have come my wayunbidden. In this attempt at authorship, I am not seeking fame;circumstances have compelled me to lay down the sword and take up the pen.When I began jotting down experiences and incidents from my long lifeduring the forced inactivity, first of my imprisonment during the years 1944and 1945, later of my sojourn in hospitable Portugal, I did so with no otherpurpose than that of leaving notes as a memento for my family. That thesepages are now being offered to the public is the outcome of the insistence ofmany friends who have overcome my reluctance with the words of Goethe:“The question whether a man should write his own biography is a vexed one. Iam of the opinion that to do so is the greatest possible act of courtesy."This duty of courtesy towards history and my contemporaries is not one I wishto shirk, especially as I am now the only surviving witness of a number ofevents which have involved other people as well as myself. I am at the sametime activated by the wish to speak a word of encouragement to my belovedHungarian countrymen, who, after the crash of 1919, have now been plungedinto the yet deeper abyss of Communist terror and foreign domination. Themisfortunes of 1945 cannot and must not be the finale of Hungarian history. Iprofess my adherence to the words of our great Hungarian poet, ImreMadách, who in his The Tragedy of

The Memoirs, originally published in several languages in the 1950’s, serves as the structural support, the skeleton, of the story. The text was reviewed by Mrs Ilona Bowden, widow of Stephen Horthy, Professor István Deák of Columbia University, Professor Scott F.Koro m of