Magyar-British Relations in the Era of the Two World Wars: Documents and Debates, Part Four – 1942: The Kállay Regime.   6 comments

Documentary Appendix, Part Four:

Extracts from Domokos Szent-Iványi (ed. 2013)

The Hungarian Independence Movement, 1936-46

(Hungarian Review Books)



A. Important International and Hungarian Events, January-December 1942:

1 January – Washington Declaration of the United Nations;

6-7 January – Ribbentrop in Budapest;

15-18 January – Ciano (Italian Foreign Minister) in Budapest;

21-23 January – Massacre at Újvidék;

7 March – Bárdossy’s Cabinet resigns

9 March – Kállay Cabinet appointed;

12 April – Hungarian 2nd Army sent to the Russian Front;

26 May – Anglo-Soviet Alliance formed;

2-5 June – USA declares war on Hungary…

20 August – Death of István Horthy, jnr., Vice-Regent

4 September – Attack by Soviet airplanes on Budapest;

23 October – 4 November – Rommel’s defeat at El Alamein;

7-8 November – Anglo-American landing in North Africa;

13 December – Sztójay handed the Berlin Government a note on ‘the Jewish Question’, on which the Germans expressed their ‘very deep regret’.


B. On Horthy and Bárdossy; The Regent and The Premier (Macartney):

“Horthy was entirely convinced… that no effort by herself or her allies could save Germa005ny from defeat. And with his eternal, unconquerable optimism., Horthy simply could not bring himself to believe that Britain and America would sacrifice Hungary to Bolshevism unless she herself absolutely forced them to do so. He was even convinced that the West did not mind Hungary’s fighting Bolshevism… And he held that Hungary could still save herself… by dissociating herself from Germany to the utmost measure and most conspicuously, and following a ‘Hungarian line’… Horthy… came increasingly to lay the blame for the whole mess on ‘Bárdossy’s un-Hungarian policy’ and to look out for some ‘real Hungarian’ who would bring Hungary back to the true path.”

C. On Miklós Kállay as Bárdossy’s Replacement (Macartney):

“Goebbels wrote in his diary:

‘The new Minister President, Kállay, has long been known as an anti-German… Thank God, we have never had any illusions about Hungary, so we are undergoing no disillusionment now’… On the other hand, the rank and file of the Left in Hungary was further discouraged and depressed and the British Political Warfare experts, for whom it was always axiomatic that any change in Hungary must have been effected under German pressure and must be for the worse, took all the flourishes at their face value… and wrote the new Hungarian Government down as no less pro-Axis than its predecessor. Meanwhile the Czech and Yugoslav Governments ensconced in London gleefully compiled enormous dossiers for the conviction of Hungary out of her own mouth.”

D. Premier Kállay’s Flawed Plan (Macartney):

“… Although Kállays intentions were sound, regrettably those he chose to carry out his plan of distancing Hungary from Germany were not. Kállay had many weaknesses… he had very scanty ideas and notions of the Anglo-Saxon world… In addition…   among those working in the offices of the Regent, of the Premier and in the Foreign Ministry, there were very few individuals who had solid connections with the leaders of the three Allied Powers… György Barcza had links with those responsible for the foreign policy of Great Britain, namely… Churchill, Cadogan, Sargent, and others; But neither Ghyczy, nor Ullein, nor Szentmiklósy had ever done service in Britain, the United States or the Soviet Union. And this proved the source of many of the blunders that occurred in the Hungarian foreign policy of 1942-44.”

“… he (Kállay) was, if not anti-German, at least anti-Nazi and from the first sincerely worked to prize Hungary free from Hitler’s grasp at the earliest possible moment. This, of course, implied the wish to reach understanding with other forces opposed to Hitler. But… it would be a dangerous over-simplification to call his policy, on that account, ‘pro-Allied’.


E. On Antal Ullein-Reviczky, Chief of the Press Bureau:

Despite being married to a British citizen, whose father was suspected of being the head of the British intelligence service in the Near-East, Ullein tried to get the backing of the Germans in his quest for the post of Foreign Minister while at the same time trying to improve relations with Britain. In the long run Ullein lost all support. The Germans did not trust him and neither did the British.  

F. The “Davidson Letters” (editors):

‘Basil Davidson, a British intelligence agent of left-wing political bias, worked in Hungary as the Budapest correspondent of The Economist. In 1942 he became head of the Hungarian station of the Special Operations Executive in Istanbul. On 2 May 1942 he wrote a letter to Árpád Szakasits and Imre Kovács. It was delivered to them by Mary Allison Walters, British wife of Baron Jenő Miske-Gerstenberger, Hungarian consul-general in Munich and Istanbul. She was the Ankara courier of the British intelligence service and had taken several secret documents to Hungary. In his letter Davidson proposed that the social democrats send a reliable representative both to London and Washington. The letter was found during a police search of the editorial offices of the party daily, Népszava. Mary Allison Walters was arrested and sentenced to death for espionage by a military tribunal. Through the mediation of conservative circles the sentence was mitigated to life imprisonment. Later she was allowed to leave the country in a prisoner exchange. Imre Kovács was also arrested in connection with this case.’


She had also brought letters (which)…stated most categorically that it was untrue that the Anglo-Saxon Powers ‘were abandoning Central and Eastern Europe to Boshevism’. The Soviets had no revolutionary or imperialist aims in the States of Central and South-Eastern Europe and would not interfere in their affairs if those States were led by real popular governments. ‘Agreement between the USA, Britain and the Soviet Union on this point is complete’. On the other hand, none of the three wanted Horthy’s rule to continue, still less a Habsburg restoration, nor a regime which had suddenly swung round at the last moment. They knew that they could not rely on the existing regime, and while not wishing to undervalue the work of émigrés such as Károlyi and Eckhardt, yet felt that their real allies must be found inside Hungary. They therefore wanted a strong Opposition which should start building up during the war and be able in time to take over the government ‘against the existing regime’. Therefore they had watched the progress of the Popular Front, which they regarded as their allies, with warm approval, and the recipients were invited to persevere courageously in their work. Szakasits was asked to send a reliable personal representative of the Social Democratic Party to London and Washington to maintain touch.

Szakasits was scared out of his wits. He consulted the Party’s two principal Parliamentary leaders, Peyer and Anna Kéthely, and it was decided not to answer the letter, but to deposit it, in a sealed envelope, with a lawyer. A day or two days later, the military counter-espionage service searched the offices of the ‘Népszava’, found the lawyer’s receipt, followed it up and discovered the letter. Kovács had already been caught with his letter. He and Szakasits were arrested and brought before a military court.

The affair was hushed up to the extent that Kállay had Szakasits released from arrest (although he had to resign the Secretaryship of the Party) and blocked the efforts of the military to get Peyer’s and Mme Kéthly’s Parliamentary immunity suspended in order that they might be put on trial as accomplices after the event. Kovács, however, did a turn in prison.

The result of all this was that the ‘Independence Front’ practically disintegrated from this time… under these conditions ‘the Right Wing of the Social Democrat Party raised the question whether they should continue the policy of national co-operation now that it had become clear that Communists were standing at the head of the ‘Independence Movement’.

In the Summer of 1942 it was decided to send Gellért (who had acted as a ‘private eye’in Berlin in 1938) to Stockholm, under cover of representing the Revision League, to re-establish contact (with members of the former US Embassy in Germany). When he visited Budapest before taking up his new post, Gellért was also commissioned by members of the Popular Front and of the Social Democratic Party to try, in addition, to make contact with their opposite numbers in Great Britain. Arriving in Stockholm, he approached an M. Böhm, who… had… become Secretary of State for Defence under Mihályi Károlyi, then Commisar for War under Kun… Böhm had friends in the Labour Party and agreed to make contact with them… he sent a message to the appropriate quarters in the Labour Party, who received his communication affably. They appear to have suggested that they would like to discuss the situation with a leading Social Democrat, and the Hungarian authorities consented to let Peyer go to Stockholm for the purpose. This plan fell through on the Germans’ refusal to grant Peyer a transit visa, so Böhm and Gelléert were left to supply the link themselves… The Government lent its assistance by allowing Gelléert diplomatic facilities, a privilege which it then extended to the other surviving foreign representatives of the Revision League.  

G. The First Official Moves Away from the Axis Powers:

005In the summer of 1942, due to Germany’s worsening situation, the policy of ‘distancing’ inaugurated by the Kállay regime became bolder. Feelers were put out in the direction of the neutral powers and even towards the Western Allies, while at home the tone of some newspapers and magazines became more pro-western, even anti-Nazi… Of course, for anybody trying to carry out clandestine activities, such a profile as Ullein’s made it impossible. He also employed unorthodox measures in an attempt to deflect Nazi suspicion away from him: among other ruses, he persuaded Mrs Ullein-Reviczky to deliver a speech on the radio reprimanding and rebuking British politics…

There was just one single senior official in the Hungarian hierarchy, Barcza, who had the expertise on “Anglo-Saxon” issues required at the time…

Of course, the most important person in… anti-Nazi… circles was ex-Premier Bethlen… assisted by… others with international links and views. However, during the first period of Kállay’s Premiership, neither Horthy nor Kállay were prepared to take the decision to send Bethlen on an important political mission abroad. And so it was that Barcza came to be chosen… As in consequence of the events of 1942-43, the future of Germany looked rather hopeless, Hungarian efforts to establish good and reliable connections and even cooperation with the Western Allies became more numerous and energetic. Regrettably, none of them yielded positive results…

In January 1942 Archduke Otto Habsburg became particularly active in politics and the literary field of political life… The Archduke even had conversations with W. S. Churchill and F.D. Roosevelt, yet besides informing the Hungarian Government about the attitude of the Western Allies… no decisive agreement could be reached…

While Kállay in his public speeches again and again stressed that Hungary’s loyalty to the Axis had not changed in any respect, the Press directed by Ullein did its best to convince the Western Allies that Hungary was acting under duress and she was for the victory of the Allies. Evidently, the speeches of Kállay were made for German consumption while the articles published in the Hungarian Press were directed towards the Western World…

As to the Press activities, I am quoting Macartney:

017Many of these articles and utterances were directed towards the said neutrals and neighbours, but even more of them were openly addressed to Great Britain and the USA. The speakers and writers forgot that they themselves had been agreeing, a few months earlier, that the Western Allies and Russia were indivisible, and now tried most strenuously to divide them. Unmeasured abuse of the Bolsheviks alternated with what were in effect impassioned appeals to Britain and America to understand how foolish they were being in allying themselves with such monsters and with other noxious creatures such as Benes. Grossly tasteless, stupid and arrogant as these articles usually were… they did at least make clear to their readers that the Hungarian Government, whatever it might say to the contrary, really expected the Allies to win the war and thought their favour better worth the winning than that of the Germans… The Alied war communiqués were now published as fully as those of the Axis.



001Another theme which Government speakers, led by Kállay himself, and the Press now took up very profusely was that of the socially progressive nature of the Hungarian regime. These effusions again, were pointedly directed towards Great Britain (often they took the form of comparing British and Hungarian social institutions (e.g. the essays of Sándor Fest, left) and, still more often, polemics against statements appearing in Britain) and were meaningless on any other assumption than that of an Allied victory…

Certain circles in Britain and America were at pains to dismiss both Kállay’s overtures to the West and his new indulgence towards the Left in Hungary as ‘reinsurance’… The regime, they claimed, was not even genuinely pro-Allied at all; it was only pretending to be so, while actually co-operating with the Germans. It was, indeed, not really interested in anything beyond the retention of its ill-gotten frontiers, and still more, the salvaging of its own privileged existence at home…

In the all-important Jewish question, and in the general question of the preservation of Parliamentary institutions, it was behaving in accordance with its own convictions, and that… in the face of dangers much more real and immediate than any which threatened from the West. For even if the long-term position had altered, the short-term had not. The British and American troops were still no nearer than Africa, while the Germans… stood on Hungary’s very frontiers… Yet, the great events that had occurred in North Africa, at Stalingrad and at the River Don strengthened the resolve of the Government to move closer to the Western Allies, while stressing their policy of breaking away from Germany.

Posted April 15, 2014 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

6 responses to “Magyar-British Relations in the Era of the Two World Wars: Documents and Debates, Part Four – 1942: The Kállay Regime.

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  1. Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

  2. Good afternoon, in his book, “Himmler and the SS Empire”, from Edouard Calic, Nouveau Monde éditions, 2013, Paris, the author write (P.460), that un hunarian journalist, Andrea Gellert go out from Berlin to go to Stockholm, in Sweden, to talk with the allies. Calic think that it’s Horty who sent Gellert.

    • There were certainly moves of this kind, but they were approved, rather than instigated, by Horthy. Andor Gellért (1907-1990) was a journalist, a student of former Prime Minister Pál Teleki, who committed suicide during the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941. From 1941 he was correspondent for MTI, the Hungarian News Agency, and secretary of the Hungarian Revisionist League in Berlin. From 1942 he represented the League in Stockholm. He was commissioned by PM Kállay to prepare a separate peace for Hungary with the Western Allies. This failed, partly because of German intelligence, and partly because the allies would not conclude a separate peace, without the Soviet Union. Hope this helps.

  3. The Hungarian Revisionnist League ? What was it ?

    • The ‘Magyar Reviziós Liga’ was a civil organisation formed at the initiative of István Bethlen and Pál Teleki on 17 July 1927, which sought to popularise the revision of the Treaty of Trianon. Its members included intellectuals, artists and politicians. The idea for the League emerged after Lord Rothermere’s article in ‘The Daily Mail’ on 21 June 1927. The League organised propaganda within Hungary as well as presenting a positive image of Hungary abroad. Offices were opened in major European cities, staffed mainly by young men from Teleki’s circle, of an Anglophile orientation. They worked together with official Legations and by the mid-thirties played an important role in maintaining contacts with the Western Powers, with the aim of establishing a separate peace.

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