According to the 1910 census, Jews represented around 5 per cent of the country’s population as a whole, and 21 per cent of the population of Budapest, which numbered around 1,110,000, around 30 per cent of the country’s population. The number of Jews in Budapest had doubled since 1890, and continued to increase: by 1930, 58 per cent of Jews lived in towns and cities. The proportion of converts and mixed marriages was also high. In Budapest in 1910, Jews represented 59 per cent of doctors, 61 per cent of lawyers, and 48 per cent of journalists.
The Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy was dissolved on October 23, and a Social Democratic government formed by Count Mihály Károlyi on October 31.
Károlyi’s government collapsed on March 20, and the Soviet-style Republic of Councils was established under Béla Kun on March 21. The Anti-Bolshevik Committee was formed in Szeged in June by Horthy, Pál Teleki, and Count Gyula Károlyi. Kun’s Republic of Councils lasted until August 1, and Romanian troops entered Budapest on August 3.
On November 16, Miklós Horthy arrived on horseback in Budapest to announce the establishment of a ‘Christian and national’ government.
Those who left Hungary to enter temporary or permanent exile included: art historian Arnold Hauser, film theorist Béla Balázs, avant-garde artist Lajos Kassák, film director Alexander Korda, philosopher Georg Lukács, sociologist Karl Mannheim, and painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy.
Europe’s first openly antisemitic professional body was formed, the National Association of Hungarian Physicians, whose manifesto called for “the support of racially pure Hungarian literature, art, music and folk art, and the merciless hounding of intellectual products that are contrary to true national thought.” A similar body, the National Association of Hungarian Engineers and Architects, was formed in 1921.
August 5-7. Jewish students were physically beaten and chased from the Budapest Faculty of Medicine on August 5, and from the Technical University on August 6. On August 7, armed antisemitic student groups were formed by medical students and humanities students, demanding the expulsion of “all Jews and Bolsheviks.”
March 5. 900 students marched on Parliament to hand over a petition demanding the introduction of an anti-Jewish numerus clausus, a restriction on the number of Jewish students in higher education.
June 4. The Treaty of Trianon was signed at Versailles, which reduced Hungary’s territory by two-thirds, leaving three million Hungarians outside the borders of the new state.
3,000 students took part in a rally calling for an “institutional and economic solution to the Jewish Question.” Parliament unanimously supported the introduction of a numerus clausus quota against women in universities.
June 27. Nationalists sympathetic to the League of Awakening Hungarians carried out a fatal attack against Jewish guests of the Lipótváros Club in Budapest.
July 7. Pál Teleki was appointed Prime Minister, and remained in post until April 4, 1921.
August 7. A draft bill was submitted to Parliament by László Budaváry, who would later become vice-president of the League of Awakening Hungarians: “(3) Jews shall not be granted permission to settle in Hungary and those who arrived after 1914 shall be expelled. (4) […] Jewish schools shall not operate, and Jews shall not be admitted to teacher training institutions. Cinemas are to be nationalized […]. (7) All state licenses (tobacco, stamps, matches, drinks, etc.) shall be revised and given to Christians.”
In Parliament, Minister of Agriculture István Nagyatádi Szabó announced that “we shall solve the Jewish Question institutionally.”
September 26. Parliament accepted Prime Minister Pál Teleki’s draft law XXV of 1920 on an anti-Jewish numerus clausus quota in universities. Ottokár Prohászka, a Catholic priest and the chair of the governing party, had been demanding its introduction since 1918. The law stipulated that “racial groups and national minorities” living in the country could only enter universities and law schools in direct proportion to their share of the overall national population. Entrance exams now included compulsory validation of a candidate’s “national loyalty and ethics.” Some MPs had demanded the introduction of a numerus nullus, and recommended that “every Jew be given 24 hours to leave Hungary.” Under the numerus clausus law, the number of female university students in Budapest was halved to 700.
Following the passing of the law, Horthy gave a speech at the Budapest University of Arts and Sciences: “a still latent fever is digesting the body of the homeland which therefore requires an operation, and this is why you [the students armed with lead batons] are standing here today, to ensure that the operation is thorough.”
In 1920, 33 per cent of university students were Jewish, and by 1937, this figure had dropped to between 8-11 per cent.
September 30. A plan to de-Jewify Hungary, including the banning of mixed marriages, was announced at Budapest’s Tattersaal horse racing track in front of ten thousand people.
In 1920, Prime Minister Teleki submitted to Parliament that the “untrustworthy” be organized into forced labor battalions. It was his prime ministerial decree that revoked all cinema licenses, which could only be returned to Christian applicants. The Bethlen government later introduced the redistribution of tobacco and liquor store licenses.
Teleki also set up the Economics University as a counterbalance to the Trade Academy, which was viewed as Jewish-dominated.
By 1921, only 325 (3.95 per cent) of a total of 8,211 city councilors in Budapest were Jewish.
April 4. István Bethlen was appointed as Prime Minister, and remained in post until August 24, 1931.
April 2. An attempt against the “pro-Jew” mayor of Budapest, István Bárczy, at a meeting of the Erzsébetváros Circle left forty injured and nine dead.
Former Prime Minister Pál Teleki submitted to the Chair of the Upper House of Parliament a statement from university students and teachers protesting the easing of the numerus clausus.
The modification of the numerus clausus law led to riots at the universities, protests from trade chambers, fraternal societies and professional associations. However, although the antisemitic clauses were deleted from the law, the introduction of a quota on parents’ occupations made it possible to continue to exclude Jews from higher education. Antisemitic disturbances at universities regularly took place in 1932, 1933, 1936 and 1937.
By 1930, 15 per cent of state physicians were Jewish, while the proportion of Jewish physicians in private practice was 54.4 per cent.
Between 1920 and 1930, the proportion of Jews employed in government ministries fell from 4.9 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
In 1930 in Budapest, Jews represented 20.5 per cent of the population and 25.9 per cent of real estate owners, while 41.1 per cent of apartment buildings, 41 per cent of apartments and 41.2 per cent of rooms were owned by Jews.
Minister for Culture Bálint Hóman stated in Parliament that the numerus clausus should also be extended to vocational high schools.
At the end of 1933, Interior Minister Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer proposed at a meeting of the ministerial council that the “Jewish quota” be strictly enforced once again at the universities from the following year. In 1933, the proportion of Jewish university students was 9.7 per cent, which fell to 3.9 per cent by 1938.
Zoltán Bosnyák’s work The Jewification of Budapest was published. Bosnyák would later become the director of the Institute for Research into the Jewish Question in Hungary.
Ákos Dorogi Farkas, who would later become mayor of Budapest in May 1944, joined the “Association Against Noxious Vermin,” the most prominent antisemitic propaganda organization.
At Christmas, a directory of Christian traders and craftsmen was delivered to every household.
In the 1930s in Gödöllő just outside Budapest, László Endre (who would later be one of the Interior Ministry Secretaries of State in charge of deportations) had already introduced the identification of non-Jewish businesses as “Christian,” or “Christian-Hungarian.” As deputy-lieutenant of Pest County, Endre tried to extend this practice throughout the county after 1938, but Interior Minister Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer annulled the decree, and the Trade Minister informed the relevant parties in 1939 that there was no legal means available to make the identification of Jewish shops compulsory. Despite this, the identification of Christian businesses became widespread.
From 1937 on, the Central Statistical Office treated Jewry not as a religious category but as a statistical category separate from all other religions. According to the 1937 statistics, by discriminating against 5 per cent of the population, 25 per cent of national property could be redistributed.
January 21. The Blue Cross Movement held a mass rally in the Vigadó theatre in Budapest demanding the introduction of anti-Jewish laws in front of six thousand people. In the spring of 1937, Prime Minister Kálmán Darányi made public speeches in which he stated that there was a “Jewish Question” in Hungary which needed to be solved.
In February 1937, a 15-point manifesto from MOVE (Hungarian National Defense Organization) demanded the acceleration of a political “change of guard”, and the roll-back of Jewish influence in Hungarian social, political and economic life.
January 1. 100,000 flyers were distributed in Budapest that read just: “1938 Szálasi!”
In early 1938, the governing party formed a committee to prepare the Jewish laws. The economist Mátyás Matolcsy wrote that: “The principle of sanctity and inviolability of private property must be given up so that instead of the Roman law, and therefore pagan concept of private property, we define a concept appropriate to Christian civilization.” In the spirit of the law, Jews could not sell wine, spirits or sugar, or work as prostitutes.
Concerning the Jewish laws, Calvinist bishop László Ravasz said: “it is precisely the unjust suffering that will show whether there really was a process of Jews putting roots down into the Hungarian intellectual and spiritual community, or not.” In his speech of May 1938, Ravasz spoke of “Jews in shtreimels and caftans”, in whose mouths “frothed Yiddish.”
February 16. Pál Teleki is appointed as Prime Minister for the second time, and remains in post until April 3, 1941.
May 29. The first “Jewish Law” (Law XV of 1938) entered into force. The law generally stipulated a maximum of 20 per cent in various professional bodies, but in the press chamber, the proportion of Jews was limited to 6 per cent.
October 4. At the meeting of the ministerial council, Prime Minister Béla Imrédy proposed the necessity for government by decree, but this was not passed.
November 2. The First Vienna Award was signed and Czechoslovakia partitioned. After entering southern Slovakia, Hungarian troops took part in an anti-Jewish pogrom in Želiezovce. In a number of places, soldiers withdrew the right to measure alcohol and sell tobacco from Jews, and redistributed the rights to non-Jewish traders.
November 25. The Hungarian Social Democratic Party recommended at a meeting of its secretariat that Jews be excluded from its leadership.
May 5. The second “Jewish Law” entered into force. With the restoration of Southern Slovakia (with a 6.3 per cent Jewish population) and Transcarpathia (with an 11 per cent Jewish population) to Hungary, the number and proportion of Jews grew within the country’s new, expanded borders. The second Jewish Law defined Jewishness on a racial basis, and its definition of who was Jewish was stricter than that contained in the Nazis’ 1935 Nuremberg Laws. The Law also ordered investigations into the citizenship of all those naturalized after June 1, 1914, excluded foreign Jews from applying for Hungarian citizenship, and ordered the introduction of unarmed forced labor.
May 28-29. At the 1939 general elections, the first secret ballot in Hungary, the Arrow Cross won 25 per cent of the vote.
In 1939 at a meeting of the ministerial council chaired by Prime Minister Teleki, the technical arrangements for the deportations were already being discussed.
Former Prime Minister Béla Imrédy demanded the marking of individual Jews, their total separation, the transfer of their property to Christians, and their total deportation to a “national homeland.” “The Jews have already used up their right […] to have a measured solution imposed against them.”
August 30. The Second Vienna Award, signed by Italy and Germany, returned Northern Transylvania to Hungary.
September 5. Hungarian troops entered Northern Transylvania. The new, initially military justice system enforced without delay the directions contained in the second Jewish Law. In one stroke, thousands of Hungarian native-speaker and Hungarian-speaking traders, industrialists, theater directors, public servants, teachers and journalists lost their jobs and livelihoods.
As a consequence of the Second Jewish Law, a Government Commission for the Intellectual Unemployed was formed. This department, set up to oversee the implementation of the “Economic Balance” law, received more than 14,000 denunciations of Jews in under six months.
As a consequence of the Second Jewish Law, around 40,000 vacancies were freed up for non-Jews. In Budapest, where the majority of coffee houses had been owned by Christians, a further 24 coffee houses came into Christian ownership.
At the beginning of the 1940s, half of the Budapest newspapers were closed.
November 20. Hungary joined the tripartite Germany-Italy-Japan Axis alliance.
During his visit to Hitler, Prime Minister Teleki proposed that after the peace conference, all the Jews in Europe be deported.
March. At the inauguration of the Jewish Research Institute in Frankfurt, Alajos Kovács, the director of the Hungarian Office of Statistics who was representing Prime Minister Teleki, said: “the sole successful solution can only be the full or at least partial deportation [of the Jews].”
June 20. One of the leaders of the “Association Against Noxious Vermin”, Endre Levatich, published a study entitled “Full separation! The Necessity and Advantages of the Jewish Neighborhoods.”
July 12. When the deportations on the Eastern front were already under way, an order was issued for the deportation of Jews without Hungarian citizenship (“aliens belonging to the Jewish race”). This led to the killing at Kamianets-Podilskyi of almost 20,000 people who were expelled, despite German protests, from areas of the Ukraine that had recently come under German occupation. Every indication shows that the plan had already been worked out earlier when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, and Hungary entered the war against the USSR.
August 8. The third “Jewish Law” came into force, which banned mixed marriages, and punished sexual relations between Jewish men and Christian women. This was also the first inscription of forcible relocation into law in Europe.
March. The Christian Traders’ organization the Baross Alliance (formed in 1919, and which in 1942 already had 42,000 members) published an article in its newspaper calling for the “final solution,” the forcible relation of 800,000 Jews: “in the place of these 800,000 alien, damaging types, we want to bring back the 750,000 working Hungarians scattered all over the world who, as a result of Jewish emancipation, had to emigrate with beggars’ sticks in their hands.”
In 1942, Zoltán Bosnyák wrote that one million people would soon have to be removed from Hungary: “the elimination of troublesome phenomena can only be achieved if we carry out broad data and property gathering years in advance, and on the basis of this and with the appropriate caution, we will prepare a plan to solve the problem.”
In the spring of 1942, Finance Minister Lajos Reményi-Schneller submitted a plan to Horthy for the establishment of the Budapest ghetto.
Law XV of 1942, the fourth Jewish Law, banned the acquisition of real estate by Jews, and nationalized land owned by Jews that was greater than 3 hectares. The Arrow Cross voted against this law on the grounds that it was not radical enough.
June 24. An MP proposed to Parliament that total ghettoization be introduced, based on the example of the Warsaw ghetto.
October. Former Premiership State Secretary László Vay proposed SS officer Dieter Wisliceny, one of the main organizers of the Slovak (and, one year later, the Greek) deportations, to forcibly relocate 100,000 Hungarian Jews.
The Hungarian Jewish Research Institute was formally established in Budapest’s 11th district. Zoltán Bosnyák’s study Face to Face with Judea detailed the concrete possibilities for ghettoization. In April 1944, Bosnyák took part in the wording of the decree that prescribed the wearing of the yellow star.
March 19. In order to prevent her exit from the war, German troops invaded Hungary. Hitler appointed Edmund Veesenmayer as his plenipotentiary imperial commissioner in Hungary. Returning from his visit to Hitler, Horthy informed the Privy Council that the condition for cutting short the German occupation was the radical solution of the “Jewish Question.” He appointed Döme Sztójay, Hungarian ambassador to Berlin from 1935 to 1944, to form a government.
On the same day, Adolf Eichmann arrived in Budapest. Eichmann headed the special sub-department of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (SS Reich Main Security Office) dedicated to the “final solution of the Jewish Question.” His commando had almost 120 members, including Hermann Alois Krumey, Otto Hunsche, Dieter Wisliceny, Theodor Dannecker, Franz Novak, Franz Abromeit and Siegfried Seidl.
March 21. On Eichmann's orders of the previous day, the Central Council of the Hungarian Jews was established under the leadership of Samu Stern. Its members were: Ernő Boda, Ernő Pető, Károly Wilhelm (president of the Pest Reform Community), Samu Csobádi (president of the Buda Reform Community), Samu Kahan-Frankl and Fülöp Freudinger (leader of the Orthodox Community), as well as Niszon Kahan (representing the Zionists). The Jewish Council published its announcements in the Paper of the Hungarian Jews. The Jewish Council would oversee the affairs of Budapest Jews forcibly removed from their apartments in June, and in November and December, it fell to the Jewish Council to organize the large ghetto in Pest’s 7th district.
March 25. Zoltán Bosnyák, director of the Institute for Research into the Jewish Question in Hungary, received a proposal from Colonel Gyula Máté-Török for the use of the sugar rations of 400,000 Jews, total ghettoization, the immediate introduction of the yellow star (“starting with the breastfed”), the inventorying of property, and so on.
March 29. The ministerial council passed decrees, published on March 31 in the Budapest Bulletin, which terminated Jews' membership of press, theatrical, film and legal chambers, banned Jews from holding public office, and from employing non-Jews in Jewish households. The most important decree was that which prescribed the wearing of the yellow star from April 5.
At the end of March 1944, Interior Ministry Secretary of State László Endre and Eichmann had agreed the forced ghettoization and deportation of every Jew in Hungary.
April 5. The decree on marking Jews came into force: “With the present decree coming into force every Jew older than 6 years old and regardless of sex must wear while outside their designated residence on the left breast of the upper garment a clearly visible 10 x 10 centimeter cloth, silk or velvet canary yellow six-pointed star.” Christian leaders protested that Christians of Jewish origin would also have to wear the star, and as a result, those converted Jews who lived in non-Jewish households were awarded exemption.
April 7. An Interior Ministry decree detailed the preparations for the Jews' forcible ghettoization and relocation to internment camps, followed by their deportation. “The Hungarian government will cleanse the country of the Jews within a short period of time. Cleansing is ordered by district, resulting in the transportation of Jews regardless of sex or age to internment camps. In towns and larger settlements one section of Jewry will be placed by the authorities in designated buildings or ghettos.” The general principles that guided arrangements for ghettoization were decided on by Interior Ministry Secretary of State László Endre. It was Endre who identified the locations where Jews were to be forcibly concentrated en masse: empty warehouses, abandoned or inoperative factories, brick factories, Jewish community buildings and synagogues. The plundering of the Jews and their ghettoization was, in practice, one and the same throughout the country. All faith communities instructed their leaders to prepare lists of all Jews belonging to the community. County lord and deputy lieutenants were also brought into the ghettoization process. In administrative districts and the towns, chief constables and mayors issued the instructions to carry out the ghettoization. In smaller villages it was almost exclusively the gendarmerie that rounded up Jews, while in the towns, it was the police who carried this out. There was no need to involve extremist groups such as the Arrow Cross, since the majority of Jews filed into the spaces designated for them in a disciplined fashion.
The Slovak Jews Rudolf Vrba (b. Walter Rosenberg) and Alfréd Wetzler (pen name Josef Lánik) escaped from Auschwitz. On April 26, in the Slovak town of Žilina, they described in detail the workings of the death camp. Their statement was confirmed and supplemented by a working party of the Slovak Jewish Council on April 27. The “Auschwitz Protocols”, also known as the Vrba-Wetzler report, reached Western and Hungarian Jewish political and church leaders in May and June, with the help of Zionist organizations. The Protocols played a role in the Western powers and the Pope writing a letter of protest in the second half of June to Horthy, who had also received two copies of the “Auschwitz Protocols,” probably over the course of May.
April 12. The Jewish Council was instructed to evacuate 500 apartments within 24 hours to rehouse Christian victims of the bombings, and to deposit the keys with the Metropolitan Council's housing office. Eichmann raised this figure to 1,500. The former tenants of these apartments had to move out within hours, and were forced to leave all furnishings (furniture, bedding etc.) behind for the new residents.
April 16. On the first day of Pesach (Passover), the rounding up of Jews began in Zone I—the north-eastern part of the country and Transcarpathia—where 13 large ghettos and deportation centers were set up in Mukacheve, Uzhgorod, Berehove, Vynohradiv, Khust, Tiachiv, Iza (in today's Ukraine), Košice (in today's Slovakia), Sighetu Marmației (in today's Romania), and the towns of Sátoraljaújhely, Nyírbátor, Mátészalka and Kisvárda (today still in Hungary). According to Reich plenipotentiary imperial commissioner Edmund Veesenmeyer's statement of April 27, almost 202,000 Jews were seized in this Zone.
April 23. Cardinal Jusztinián Serédi submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Döme Sztójay in which he protested the abuse of human rights. The Cardinal, who had earlier had discussions with the Prime Minister, repeatedly voiced his concerns in the interests of those Jews who had converted to Christianity.
April 25. A Prime Ministerial decree was issued on the “termination of the employment of Jews in intellectual labor.”
April 27. The Central Council of the Hungarian Jews sent a memorandum to Interior Minister Andor Jaross concerning the atrocities that occurred during the ghettoization process in Transcarpathia and north-eastern Hungary. The letter revealed the actual conditions inside the ghetto. A similar request was submitted to Eichmann on May 3.
April 30. A government decree was issued on “The Preservation of Hungarian Intellectual Life from Works by Jewish Authors.” The decree contained the following: “The supplement lists 114 Hungarian and 34 foreign Jewish authors whose works must be removed from library circulation, a statement prepared on these removals and submitted to the government commissioner for press matters, and the cost of the transportation of the volumes en masse shall be at the transporter's expense converting the price determined by the authorities for waste paper, and the transporter shall pulp the books.” The decree included the list of authors whose works were withdrawn from circulation. On June 24, a supplementary list was issued. The pulping of books commenced on June 15, and almost half a million volumes were destroyed. The execution of the decree was overseen by Secretary of State Mihály Kolozsváry-Borcsa, government commissioner for press and news affairs. The list of authors included: Tibor Déry, Milán Füst, Anna Lesznai, Frigyes Karinthy, Ferenc Molnár, Miklós Radnóti, Zoltán Solymó, Ernő Szép and Dezső Szomory.
Meanwhile, in the second half of April, the Germans were carrying out “spontaneous” deportations of thousands of Jews from Transcarpathia and Vojvodina. The swift de-Jewification of the southern borderlands was a priority, and preceded the national deportations.
May 3. At 5:00 a.m., the ghettoization process in Northern Transylvania (Zone II) began. Jews were rounded up into a total of 11 ghettos. In Oradea, Sighetu Marmației and Satu Mare, ghettos were established in the Jewish-dominated parts of town, while in Cluj-Napoca, Târgu Mureș, Reghin, Bistrița and Şimleu Silvaniei, local Jews were incarcerated in brick factories. The Jews of Dej were placed in barrack camps erected in the forest. The ghettoization of the Jews of northern Transylvania was completed by May 10. In his report of May 11, Germany's plenipotentiary commissioner Edmund Veesenmayer stated that the total number of Jews captured in Zone I and II was 325,000.
May 8. On the order of Interior Ministry secretary of state László Endre, the Jewish Council was re-formed. Its new members were Béla Berend, Sándor Török, József Nagy and János Gábor.
May 9. Friedrich Born arrived in Budapest, the temporary delegate of the International Red Cross (IRC), and leader of its Budapest office. Born placed dozens of buildings under the protection of the IRC, which included the Columbus Street refugee camp, the brick factory in Óbuda, and the Pannonhalma Archabbey, which was led by Abbot Krizosztom Kelemen. Born's action had little impact, since the IRC could not distribute certificates of protection. In the following weeks and months, other countries' representative offices in Budapest undertook the issuing of “protective letters” and passports whose owners could, as citizens in a legal relationship with a foreign state, in theory enjoy a certain degree of immunity from the prescriptions of the Hungarian authorities. Foreign representatives also established “protected houses” for the owners of such documents. Notable here were the activities of the Swiss vice-consul Carl Lutz, Spanish representatives Giorgio Perlasca and Ángel Sanz-Briz, and papal nuncio Angelo Rotta.
May 13. Hungary's Prince Primate Jusztinián Serédi requested in a letter to Prime Minister Sztójay that the “deportees should not lose their lives without the appropriate judicial judgment.” At the same time, Serédi refrained from jointly and publicly protesting together with the other Christian churches.
May 15. The deportations began of Jews from the ghettos in Zones I and II. Representatives of the Hungarian gendarmerie and the Eichmann commando had finalized the timetable and route of deportations at a conference in Vienna between May 4 and 6. The instructions had been issued at the meeting of German and Hungarian executive bodies in the town of Munkács on May 12. According to the schedule, four freight trains would leave Hungary per day. Every train would be crammed with an average of 3,000 persons. In accordance with the plans, the last transport left Zones I and II on June 7. In 24 days and using 92 trains, 289,367 persons were deported, destined for Auschwitz.
May 17. A government decree was issued on the enumeration, sequestering and safeguarding of works of art previously owned by Jews. Among the confiscated pieces were works by El Greco, Gauguin, Goya, Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo and Van Dyck. A large number of art treasures from apartments expropriated from Jews were taken out of the country by the Germans. On May 25, a government commission was appointed to obstruct this process and keep the art treasures in the country, which was headed by the painter Dénes Csánki, the director of the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest. At the end of 1944 however, during the Germans' retreat, numerous art treasures were nevertheless transported to Germany on the “gold train,” while some of the works that remained in Hungary were taken by the occupying Soviet troops.
May 19. Catholic priest Áron Márton held a sermon in the St Michael's Church in Cluj-Napoca, condemning the anti-Jewish measures. Leaders of the Christian churches occasionally considered the question of making public statements against injustices committed against the Jews, but ultimately chose not to.
June 5. At 5:00 a.m., the ghettoization of northern Hungarian Jewry in Zone III began. By June 10, 51,829 Jews were rounded up into a total of 11 internment camps at Dunajská Streda, Nové Zámky, Komárno and Levice (today in Slovakia), and Győr, Székesfehérvár, Balassagyarmat, Eger, Hatvan, Miskolc and Salgótarján. According to the schedule, deportations started on June 11 and were completed by June 16. Almost 52,000 Jews were deported on 23 trains.
June 16. The rounding up of Jews in south-eastern Hungary (Zone IV) began. By June 29, 40,505 Jews had been concentrated in the zone's seven deportation centers at Oradea (today in Romania), and Bácsalmás, Kecskemét, Szeged, Szolnok, Békéscsaba and Debrecen. (The transportation of Jews from Oradea had already taken place in May). The most important collection points and ghettos in this Zone were in Hódmezővásárhely, Kalocsa, Kecel, Kiskőrös, Makó, Nagykáta, Szarvas, Szentes, Hajdúböszörmény, Hajdúdorog, Hajdúhadház, Hajdúnánás, Hajdúszoboszló, Karcag, Téglás, Bácstopolya, Baja, and, today in Serbia, Subotica. The deportations started on June 25 and were completed by June 28. 15 trains transported almost 40,000 people.
The mayor of Budapest issued a decree on the forced relocation of the capital's Jews into “yellow-star houses”. According the 1941 census, almost 21 per cent of Budapest's population was of Jewish origin, to whom the order to wear the yellow star applied: 187,000 Jews and a further 35,000 converted Jews. Those “forced to wear the yellow star” had to leave their apartments by midnight on June 24, and move into designated houses also marked with a yellow star. According to the decree, a Jewish family was entitled to one residential room. A total of 1,944 designated yellow-star houses was finally earmarked.
June 25. Pope Pius XII asked Governor Horthy in an open telegram to spare the lives of Hungarian Jews.
June 26. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned Horthy in a message communicated via the Swiss embassy that Hungary would bear responsibility for the atrocities committed against the Jews. The King of Sweden also protested.
June 27. On the order of the director of the gendarmerie and Interior Ministry Secretary of State László Baky, significant gendarmerie forces, numbering almost 3,000 people, arrived in Budapest to carry out the deportation of the capital city's Jews. These deportations were opposed by Horthy who, fearing a putsch, instructed the gendarmes to leave the capital and its environs by July 6.
June 29. Hungary's Prince Primate Cardinal Jusztinián Serédi completed his pastoral letter to be read out in all Catholic churches, which condemned the abuses of human rights. His colleagues, Vilmos Apor, János Drahos and Gyula Czapik had, since May, been requesting the formation of a definitive statement protesting the government's liquidation policy against the Jews. Papal nuncio Angelo Rotta held discussions on a number of occasions with Serédi on the need for an unambiguous condemnation on the part of the church of the persecution of the Jews. The distribution and reading out of the pastoral letter did not happen, however, because of the agreement reached on July 6 between the Cardinal and the Minister for Religion and Education, István Antal. Among other things, Antal promised that Jews of the Christian faith would stay in the country. Prime Minister Sztójay confirmed this promise the next day in a letter.
June 20. King Gustav of Sweden called on Governor Miklós Horthy for Hungary to observe “its chivalrous traditions” regarding the Jews.
June 30. The deportations started in western Hungary, Zone V, of the Jews who had been forcibly ghettoized in May and June. Deportation centers were set up in Szombathely, Zalaegerszeg, Pápa, Sopron, Sárvár, Pécs, Kaposvár and Paks. By July 3, almost 30,000 Jews were concentrated in these centers, and the deportations took place between July 4 and 6. Ten trains transported 29,806 Jews, the majority of whom were destined for Auschwitz.
A train with 1,684 people on board left Budapest for Switzerland. The train was organized by Rezső Kasztner, vice-president of the Budapest Jewish Aid and Rescue Committee, for the transportation of Jews, prominent or otherwise. The cost of a place on this train was USD 1,000, which had to be paid to Eichmann's commando. The funds were either raised by the Aid and Rescue Committee, or the travelers themselves. The “Kasztner train” was first diverted to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, and the train's passengers were later separated into two groups and allowed to travel to Switzerland in August and December.
July 6. Governor Horthy suspended the deportations. Nevertheless, the transport of Jews continued over the next few days from ghettos in western Hungary and around the capital city (Újpest, Kispest, Pesterzsébet, and Csepel). According to the report by Lieutenant-Colonel László Ferenczy, who was liaising officer between the Hungarian Gendarmerie and the German security police, between May 15 and July 8, 147 trains deported 434,351 Hungarian Jews. According to Edmund Veesenmayer's calculations, the number was 437,402. Neither figure includes those Jews who had been deported from the southern part of the country under special measures at the end of April. The number of people deported in around six weeks during summer 1944 can be totaled at just under 450,000.
July 9. Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest with Swedish diplomatic status and on the request of the American War Refugee Board, to organize the Swedish embassy's humanitarian department, which issued “protection letters” (Schutzpass) to Jews and Social Democratic leaders, and rescued others from force labor service. Its rescue activities even continued later under the siege of Budapest. On January 13, 1945, the Soviet authorities arrested Wallenberg and transported him to Moscow's notorious Lubyanka prison, where he probably died in 1947.
July 15. Ignoring Governor Horthy's July 6 suspension of the deportations, Eichmann packed around 2,000 people onto wagons at Budapest's Keleti (Eastern) railway station; 1,500 prisoners from the Kistarcsa internment camp and 500 Jewish prisoners from the auxiliary deportation house on Rökk Szilárd Street, Budapest. The group was deported on July 19.
July 25. Around 1,500 people were deported from the Sárvár internment camp to Auschwitz.
August 7. Governor Horthy relieved Interior Minister Andor Jaross, responsible for the rural deportations, as well as Antal Kunder, Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, and minister without portfolio Béla Imrédy. Jaross was succeeded by Miklós Bonczos. Horthy also relieved Interior Ministry Secretaries of State László Baky and László Endre of their duties overseeing the deportations.
August 19. Interior Minister Miklós Bonczos informed Eichmann that “with the Governor's consent the deportation of the Jews from Budapest will start on August 25. According to the plan, the concentration of Budapest Jews into three camps will begin on August 25. The first transport of six trains will leave on August 27 with 20,000 Jews, after which three trains would leave per day taking 9,000 Jews each. The concentration will be carried out exclusively by the Hungarian gendarmerie contracted solely for this purpose.”
August 24. Interior Minister Bonczos informed Eichmann that on the “Governor's order”, the “concentration” of Budapest Jews would take place without “the transportation from these camps to Reich territory being part of the plan.” In the background to Horthy's second decision to halt the deportations was the fact that Romania's Marshall Antonescu had been removed from power on August 23, Romania had switched sides to join the Allies, and the Southern Front had collapsed.
August 29. Horthy dismissed the Sztójay government and commissioned General Géza Lakatos with forming a new government. Officially, the new Lakatos government supported the continuation of the war, but on Horthy's instructions, confidential preparations were begun for Hungary to exit the war.
October 15. Governor Horthy announced on the radio that Hungary was requesting a ceasefire. His representatives had already signed a ceasefire agreement in secret in Moscow on October 11. Against the wishes of the army officer corps, and because of the armed intervention by the Arrow Cross and their German occupying supporters, the poorly-prepared attempt to leave the war ended in failure. That afternoon, armed Arrow Cross men had occupied strategic points in the capital. Horthy, whose son had been kidnapped by the Nazis and Arrow Cross, withdrew his proclamation in another radio address that same evening, named Arrow Cross leader Ferenc Szálasi as Prime Minister, and announced he was stepping down from his post as Governor.
October 18. Arrow Cross Interior Minister Gábor Vajna agreed with Eichmann, who had returned to Budapest the day before, to provide 50,000 Jewish forced laborers to build fortifications around the capital. Jewish deportees were forced in groups of two thousand to march to the German-Hungarian border. The “death marches” set off in early November and lasted until November 21. En route, a number of the forced marchers lost their lives.
October 20. The forced conscription began of Budapest Jewish males aged between 16 and 60. On this day, most of Budapest's remaining Jewish males were marched to the south-south-eastern perimeter of the city, where they were forced to construct fortifications.
November 8. Cardinal Jusztinián Serédi wrote a letter to Szálasi protesting against the treatment of the Jews. On the basis of the protests from representatives of neutral powers and the papal nuncio, Szálasi halted the forced marches on November 21, but still had thousands of Jews, mostly forced laborers, transported from the country in wagons at the end of November and early December.
November 12. A government decree detailed the relocation of Jews holding protection documents or temporary passports from neutral states to the designated “protected houses.” On the basis of the agreement between the Hungarian government, the neutral states and the papal nuncio, almost 15,000 Jews received official permission to move into the international ghetto in Budapest's thirteenth district. Since the summer, foreign representatives and the relevant international bodies had issued over 30,000 different protection documents and passports, which were in turn forged in great number by Zionist resistance activists on Vadász Street. In the international ghetto (the area between Pozsonyi Street, Szent István Boulevard and Szent István Park), there were already 35-40,000 people living in these designated houses, in exceptionally cramped conditions. There were instances of 50-60 people sharing a two-room apartment. Jews without protection documents were moved into the large ghetto. However, the international ghetto had no legal status whatsoever, and in many cases, the “protected houses” did not offer actual protection. Arrow Cross gangs who suspected that wealthy Jews were living there made regular tours of these houses and snatched groups of people whom they then shot at the banks of the Danube. The marauding and riverbank executions took place every night from the middle of November until the end of the siege on February 13, 1945, and claimed many thousands of victims.
November 17. Ferenc Szálasi, the Arrow Cross “leader of the nation”, announced the “final plan” for the solution of the “Jewish Question.” He divided Jewry into six groups: (1) Jews with foreign passports; (2) Jews “on loan” to the German government; (3) Jews waiting to leave Hungary; (4) Jews with protection documents; (5) church figures; and (6) Jews with foreign citizenship. In Szálasi's plan, only those Jews with protection documents could stay in Hungary, although they would still have been subject to the race laws. Those in the other categories could, according to the plan, expect deportation or forced relocation.
November 29. Interior Minister Gábor Vajda published a decree on the establishment of the Budapest ghetto, into which Jews without passports or protection letters (Schutzpass, Schutzbriefe) had to move. The Jews' forced relocation started at the end of November and was officially completed on December 2. In a territory the size of 0.3 square kilometers, between 50,000 and 70,000 people were crammed together. The outer boundaries of the ghetto were the fire walls of the designated houses, and the gardens in the houses' inner courtyards functioned as interior separation walls. Where there was a break in the structure and therefore the chance to see in or out, walls were hastily erected on the outside so as to render the ghetto invisible from the street.
December 10. On Szálasi's orders, the four gates of the ghetto were closed. Arrow Cross groups locked inside the ghetto regularly ransacked and murdered. As a consequence of these Arrow Cross attacks, the cannon-fire and bombing during the siege and starvation, almost 3,000 people died. 2,281 bodies were buried in 24 mass graves in the ghetto, over 1,400 of whom could not be identified.
December 20. The Red Army's encirclement and occupation campaign of Budapest began. By December 24, the Soviets had successfully surrounded the city, and launched their offensive for the city center.
January 17. The first Soviet troops entered the northern gate of the ghetto, within which there had been no serious battles. Fighting was already over on the Pest side of the Danube by the next day, January 18. Soviet troops dragged off civilian prisoners of war from the entire city, including the ghetto. Many who survived the Budapest ghetto ended up in Soviet prisoner of war camps in nearby Gödöllő and Cegléd.