Barbarossa Campaign in 1941 Hungarian perspective

At the end of the First World War, Hungary, as a member of the k. und k. Monarchy ended up on the losing side. Her army disintegrated and her armaments were either taken over or destroyed by the victorious Allied nations. In the autumn of 1919, after the failure of a short-lived Soviet-style republic, a new Hungarian National Army was organized under French supervision. This army was led by a former k. und k. admiral, the highest-ranking native Hungarian military officer, Admiral Miklós Horthy, who was later (in 1920) to become Regent of Hungary, ruling in place of the deposed Habsburgs. Hungary never officially renounced its status as a monarchy, and effectively the nation remained a monarchy without a king until the end of the Second World War.


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After WWI, Hungary was in a very critical situation. In 1920 the Allied Powers gave the Hungarian delegation their conditions for peace. This agreement, the Treaty of Trianon, was very similar to the one already imposed on Germany at Versailles, and a French General was later to state that the only result was a twenty-year-long cease-fire, nothing more. The peace conditions for Hungary reduced the area of the country from 282,000 square kilometers to 93,000 square kilometers and the population from 18 million to 9.5 million. Thus 3,263,000 Hungarians became citizens of foreign countries under hostile administrations. The provisions of the Treaty of Trianon reduced Hungary’s 1914 industrial base by about 80%.
The Treaty of Trianon was a huge shock for the whole society. The Treaty has left a never-ending scar on the Hungarian national consciousness. Everybody was affected, at least emotionally by the harsh conditions of the Treaty. Hungary had lost its imperial status and was reduced to a small country surrounded by hostile states.
It was evident from the very beginning that the nation would not follow these dictates if they could be circumvented. Hungarian foreign policy made no secret that it aimed to regain the lost territories. Hungary signed the Treaty of Trianon on 4th June 1920 because it had no other alternative, but her goal was to invalidate the Treaty as soon as possible.
Hungarian diplomacy worked to form a close Italian, Austrian and Hungarian relationship in the late 1920s and early 1930s, to avoid isolation and to try to create a better position for Hungary among the European nations. In 1927 Hungary signed a treaty of co-operation with Italy. In the mid-1930s the international political situation changed. Germany had invalidated the Treaty of Versailles and begun to build up a modern regular army. To the Hungarians, Germany seemed to present the opportunity for a good alliance, perhaps providing the only support that Hungary could expect in its quest to recoup her losses of WWI.

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As previously stated, Hungary’s main aim was to regain her lost territories, especially those where Hungarians lived as a majority. However, the military leadership had no illusions about the real potential of the Hungarian Armed Forces. That is why Hungary first focused on a political solution and looked at a military solution as secondary. A comparison of the strengths of the Little Entente’s forces with the Hungarian Army reveals the significant differences in size and armaments.
In November of 1938, after the Munich Agreement the Hungarians, due to the Vienna Arbitrage regained Upper-Hungary from Czechoslovakia.
The Hungarians occupied Carpathian-Ukraine by force against the Slovakians in March 1939. The next step was the conflict with Romania for Transylvania. The tension between Hungary and Romania reached a peak in the summer of 1940, owing to Romania’s failure to respond to Hungarian claims to the disputed area of Transylvania. The possibility of a conflict was against the German interest, they intervened and the second Vienna Arbitrage decided that one part of Transylvania was given back to Hungary. The last step on the road to regaining the lost territory was the participation in the Balkan Campaign against Yugoslavia. In this case, Hungarians gained again former Hungarian territories by force and casualties.
In exchange for the German political and military support, Hungary had to pay dearly to the Third Reich. In November 1940 Hungary signed an alliance agreement with the Germans which gave them extra rights them. According to the Axis Alliance Pact, the Germans demanded close political, economical and military cooperation between Hungary and the Third Reich. This practically meant benefits for the Germans in return for their support during the recovery of the lost Hungarian territories. The German troops could freely transit through and station in Hungary. The Germans had the monopoly to acquire Hungarian industrial and agricultural products. The Hungarian government also follow Germany’s racial agenda against their own Jews citizens. This led to the mass deportation of the Hungarian Jews community in the summer of 1944.
However, the Germans did not plan to involve directly the Hungarians in the Barbarossa Campaign. Original the Hungarian role was to be a secure communication line, logistic, supply base behind the operational area.

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