July 1944: Deportation of the Jews of Budapest Foiled

Géza Jeszenszky ed.

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The aim of this volume is to shed light on a little known controversy about the most tragic year 1944, in Hungary: did a unit of the Hungarian army prevent the deportation of 300,000 Jewish Hungarians living in Budapest to the Nazi death camps?

Colonel Ferenc Koszorús used the 1st Hungarian Armored Division under his command to force the removal of the gendarmerie loyal to the pro-Nazi puppet government and ready to carry out the deportation of the Jews from Budapest. By that time the Regent, Admiral Horthy, under international pressure and learning from the Auschwitz Protocol of what was in store for the deported Hungarian nationals, ordered the ending of the deportations. There were rumors in town that the pro-Nazi and rabidly anti-Semitic State Secretary Baky was planning a coup to remove the Regent and to continue the deportations. As the round-up of Jews, contrary to the order of the Regent, was started on the outskirts of Budapest, Col. Koszorús, with the approval of Horthy entered Budapest with his troops and sent a courier to Baky threatening him with military action unless the gendarmerie is evacuated. Baky had no alternative but to comply. This action foiled both the coup (if that was really planned) and the continuation of the deportations.  The Jews of Budapest were thus temporarily saved and Wallenberg and others could help them to survive the war until the Soviet Army occupied Budapest and expelled the Germans by February 1945.

The late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) called Col. Koszorús a “Hero of the Hungarian Holocaust” as entered in the Congressional Record on May 26, 1994. In his introduction, Mr. Lantos said, “I rise today to recognize one of the great heroes of the Hungarian holocaust. Ferenc Koszorus, who at great personal sacrifice to his own life, saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps.” 

Contributors to this volume include its editor, Géza Jeszenszky, Col. Attila Bonhardt, head of the Military Archives in Budapest, journalist and author Charles Fenyvesi, historians István Deak, Tamás Stark, Susanne Berger, Deborah Cornelius, the son of Colonel Koszorús, Ferenc Koszorús Jr., and the late renowned Hungarian historian György Ránki. The remarks of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos complete the volume. The Appendix includes translations of archival documents from the German Foreign Office related to Hungary’s role in World War II and specifically on the deportation of its Jewish population.

 

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