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Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya (Vitéz Nagybányai Horthy Miklós in Hungarian) (June 18, 1868–February 9, 1957) was a Hungarian Admiral and statesman and served as the Regent of Hungary from March 1, 1920 until October 15, 1944.
Early Life and Naval Career
As a young man Horthy traveled around the world and served as a diplomat for the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Turkey and other countries. From 1908 until 1914 he was an aide-de-camp to Emperor Franz Joseph, for whom he had a great respect, according to his memoirs.
During World War I, Horthy distinguished himself as an admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. During the war he defeated the Italian Navy several times, and was wounded at the battle of the Otranto Straits. Because of his success on behalf of the Dual Monarchy, he was promoted to Commander in Chief of the Imperial Fleet in March, 1918, and held that position until he was ordered by Emperor Karl to surrender the fleet to the new State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs on October 31.
Interwar Period, 1919-1939
The end of the war made Hungary a landlocked nation, and hence they had little need for Horthy's services anymore. However, he was still regarded by his people as a war hero, and this status paid off in 1919, when the Communist Béla Kun seized power in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Horthy became head of the armed forces of the counter-revolutionary government established on April 10 in the eastern city of Szeged (occupied by French forces). On August 6 Romanian forces acting under a mandate of the Entente occupied Budapest chasing the Communists. During the Romanian occupation counter-revolutionaries and Romanian forces launched the White Terror against Leftists and Jews. After the retreat of the Romanians from Budapest on November 14, Horthy entered the city. Romanian troops finally evacuated Hungary on February 25 1920, taking with them everything they could carry.
In March, 1920, the National Assembly of Hungary re-established the Kingdom of Hungary, but elected not to recall Charles IV of Hungary from exile. Instead, they proclaimed Horthy as Regent for an indefinite period of time. The Admiral without a fleet in a country without a coastline spent the next 24 years as the Regent for a Kingdom without a King.
A staunch conservative, Horthy eventually began to sympathize with Fascism and appointed several pro-fascist officials to cabinet posts in the 1930s. Eventually, when the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler began to rise in power and put pressure on neighboring nations to return territories lost after the war, Horthy became his willing accomplice. In November 1938, the Vienna Arbitrage enabled him to annex nearly one-third of Slovakia. Five months later, when Hitler took over what remained of Czechoslovakia, the Germans allowed Hungary to seize Ruthenia, as well.
World War II
In 1940, Hungary prepared to go to war with Romania to regain another lost province, Transylvania. Again, Hitler intervened on his behalf and gave Hungary half of the disputed territory without firing a shot. In April of 1941, Hungary became a full member of the Axis, participating together with Germany and Bulgaria in the invasion of Yugoslavia (in protest against that, Prime-Minister Pál Teleki committed suicide). Before the year was over, the country was at war with the Soviet Union as a German ally. However, Horthy resisted German pressure and refused to allow the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the German extermination camps in occupied Poland as part of the Holocaust (although there were a number of Pogroms against Jews in occupied Transylvania and in the teritories taken from Yugoslavia).
By 1944, the fortunes of war had turned against Germany and its allies, and the Red Army was approaching Hungary's borders. The Germans intervened in March to appoint a puppet government in Budapest, but Horthy dismissed it in August and began negotiations with the Soviets. Again, the Germans intervened by sending commando Otto Skorzeny to Budapest. Skorzeny kidnapped Horthy's son Nicholas as he went to negotiate with the Soviets, and forced Horthy to abdicate as Regent on October 15. Horthy's loss of power was disastrous for Hungarian Jewry.
In March, the Germans began transporting Hungarian Jews to Poland for extermination, and most Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust toward the end of the war.
Horthy spent the rest of the war under house arrest in Germany, being treated remarkably well under the circumstances, and was freed by the Russians in May of 1945.
Although the new Yugoslavia demanded he be tried as a war criminal, the Allies refused to do so. This was result of the personal influence of Stalin, who acknowledged that—although he had always been strongly anti-communist—Horthy had offered armistice to the USSR in 1944. In fact, Horthy served as a prosecution witness in the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and then was released. He settled in Estoril, Portugal, and died there in 1957.
While in Portugal he wrote his memoirs, in which he narrated many personal experiences from his youth until the end of World War II, claimed to have distrusted Hitler for much of the time he knew him, claimed that he tried to perform the best actions and appoint the best officials in his country, and gave evidence for Hungary's mistreatment by many other countries since the end of World War I.
Horthy married once. He had two sons, Nicholas and Steven, who served as his political assistants. Of his four children, only Nicholas outlived him. According to footnotes in his memoirs, Horthy was very distraught about the failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In his will, Horthy asked that his body not be returned to Hungary "until the last Russian soldier has left". His heirs honored the request. In 1993, when the Russians ended 48 years of military occupation of Hungary, Horthy's body was returned and he was buried in his hometown of Kenderes .
- The memoirs of Admiral Miklós Horthy: http://historicaltextarchive.com/horthy/
- Biography of Admiral Miklós Horthy: http://www.geocities.com/veldes1/horthy.html
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