Arrow Cross Party
The Arrow Cross Party was a national socialist party led by Ferenc Szálasi
Ferenc Szálasi
Ferenc Szálasi was the leader of the National Socialist Arrow Cross Party – Hungarist Movement, the "Leader of the Nation" , being both Head of State and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary's "Government of National Unity" for the final three months of Hungary's participation in World War II...

, which led in Hungary a government known as the Government of National Unity from October 15, 1944 to 28 March 1945. During its short rule, ten to fifteen thousand people (many of whom were Jews) were murdered outright, and 80,000 people were deported from Hungary to their deaths in the Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

. After the war, Szálasi and other Arrow Cross leaders were tried as war criminals
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

 by Soviet courts.


The party was founded by Ferenc Szálasi in 1935 as the Party of National Will. It had its origins in the political philosophy of pro-German extremists such as Gyula Gömbös
Gyula Gömbös
Gyula Gömbös de Jákfa was the conservative prime minister of Hungary from 1932 to 1936.-Background:Gömbös was born in the Tolna County village of Murga, Hungary, which had a mixed Hungarian and ethnic German population. His father was the village schoolmaster. The family belonged to the ...

, who famously coined the term "national socialism" in the 1920s. The party was outlawed in 1937 but was reconstituted in 1939 as the Arrow Cross Party, and was said to be modeled fairly explicitly on the Nazi Party of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, although Szálasi often and harshly criticized the Nazi regime of Germany. The iconography of the party was clearly inspired by that of the Nazis; the Arrow Cross
Arrow Cross
A cross whose arms end in arrowheads is called a "cross barby" or "cross barbee" in the traditional terminology of heraldry. In Christian use, the ends of this cross resemble the barbs of fish hooks, or fish spears...

 emblem was an ancient symbol of the Magyar tribes who settled Hungary, thereby suggesting the racial purity of the Hungarians in much the same way that the Nazi swastika
The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing form in counter clock motion or its mirrored left-facing form in clock motion. Earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient...

 was intended to allude to the racial purity of the Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...



The party's ideology was similar to that of Nazism, though a more accurate comparison might be drawn between Austrofascism and Hungarian fascism which was called Hungarism by Ferenc Szálasi - extreme nationalism, the promotion of agriculture, anti-capitalism, anti-Communism and militant anti-Semitism. Originally the party and the leader were anti-German minded, therefore it was a long and very difficult process for Hitler to compromise with Szálasi and his party. The Arrow Cross Party conceived Jews in racial as well as religious terms, though the necessary scientific capital for a widespread and elaborate program of eugenics simply did not exist in Hungary at the time. Thus, although the Arrow Cross Party was certainly far more racist than the Judeophobic Horthyite regime, whose anti-semitism was based entirely upon Christian belief, it was still very different from the German Nazi Party. Instead, much of the Arrow Cross Party's ideals were based upon mythos, the paradox being that, although the party was pro-Catholic and its anti-semitism had its origins in Christian belief, Szalasi and his colleagues endorsed a respect for the pagan traditions of the Magyar and Avar
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

 peoples. The Arrow Cross Party was also more radical economically than other fascist movements, advocating worker rights and land reforms. In a sense the Arrow Cross Party was more like Germany's NSDAP prior to the Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives , sometimes called "Operation Hummingbird " or in Germany the "Röhm-Putsch," was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders...

 when the Socialist faction among the Nazis was murdered or subjugated.

Rise to power

The roots of Arrow Cross influence can be traced to the outburst of anti-Jewish feeling that followed the Communist putsch and brief rule in Hungary in the spring and summer of 1919. Some Communist leaders, like Tibor Szamuely
Tibor Szamuely
Tibor Szamuely was a Hungarian Communist leader.Born in Nyíregyháza, a city in the Northeast of Hungary, Szamuely was the oldest son of five children of a Jewish family. After completing his university studies, he became a journalist...

, came from Jewish families, or like Béla Kun
Béla Kun
Béla Kun , born Béla Kohn, was a Hungarian Communist politician and a Bolshevik Revolutionary who led the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919.- Early life :...

, its leader, who had a Jewish father and a Protestant Swabian mother, were considered to be Jews, and the failed and murderous policies of the Hungarian Soviet Republic
Hungarian Soviet Republic
The Hungarian Soviet Republic or Soviet Republic of Hungary was a short-lived Communist state established in Hungary in the aftermath of World War I....

 came to be associated in the minds of many Hungarians with a "Jewish-Bolshevist conspiracy
Jewish Bolshevism
Jewish Bolshevism, Judeo-Bolshevism, and known as Żydokomuna in Poland, is an antisemitic stereotype based on the claim that Jews have been the driving force behind or are disproportionately involved in the modern Communist movement, or sometimes more specifically Russian Bolshevism.The expression...


After the communist regimé was crushed in August 1919, conservatives under the leadership of Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the interwar years and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. Horthy was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" .Admiral Horthy was an officer of the...

 took control of the nation. Many Hungarian military officers took part in the counter-reprisals known as the White Terror
White Terror (Hungary)
The White Terror in Hungary was a two-year period of repressive violence by counter-revolutionary soldiers, with the intent of crushing any vestige of Hungary’s brief Communist revolution. Many of its victims were Jewish.-Background:...

 - some of that violence was directed at Jews, simply because they were Jewish. Though the White Guard was officially suppressed, many of its fiercest members went underground and formed the core membership of a spreading nationalist and anti-Jewish movement.

During the 1930s, the Arrow Cross gradually began to dominate Budapest's working class district, defeating the Social Democrats
Hungarian Social Democratic Party
The Hungarian Social Democratic Party is a political party in Hungary. Both the MSZDP and SZDP lay claim to the same heritage: the Social Democratic Party which was part of a governing coalition in Hungary between 1945 and 1948, and a short period in 1956, which itself was renamed from the...

. It should be noted, that the Social Democrats did not really contest elections effectively; they had to make a pact with the conservative Horthyite regime in order to prevent the abolition of their party.

The Arrow Cross subscribed to the Nazi ideology of "master race
Master race
Master race was a phrase and concept originating in the slave-holding Southern US. The later phrase Herrenvolk , interpreted as 'master race', was a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic peoples, one of the branches of what in the late-19th and early-20th century was called the Aryan race,...

s" which, in Szálasi's view, included the Hungarians and Germans, and it also supported the concept of an order based on the power of the strongest – what Szálasi called a "brutally realistic étatism". However, its espousal of territorial claims under the banner of a "Greater Hungary
Greater Hungary (political concept)
Greater Hungary is the informal name of the territory of Hungary before the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. After 1920, between the two World Wars, the official political goal of the Hungary was to restore those borders. After World War II, Hungary abandoned this policy, and today it only remains a...

" and Hungarian values (which Szálasi labelled "Hungarizmus" or "Hungarianism") clashed with Nazi ambitions in central Europe, delaying by several years Hitler's endorsement of that party.

The German Foreign Office instead endorsed the pro-German Hungarian National Socialist Party
Hungarian National Socialist Party
The Hungarian National Socialist Party was a political epithet adopted by a number of minor Nazi parties in Hungary before the Second World War.-Early National Socialist groups:The initial HNSP was organised in the 1920s, but did not gain any influence...

, which had support among German minorities. Before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Arrow Cross were not proponents of the racial antisemitism of the Nazis, but utilized traditional stereotypes and prejudices to gain votes among voters both in Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

 and the countryside. However, the constant bickering among these diverse fascist groups prevented the Arrow Cross Party from gaining even more support and power.
The Arrow Cross obtained most of its support from a disparate coalition of military officers, soldiers, nationalists, and agricultural workers. It was only one of a number of similar openly fascist factions in Hungary, but was by far the most prominent, having developed an effective system of recruitment. When it contested the May 1939 elections - the only ones in which it stood - the party won more than 25 % of the vote and 30 seats in the Hungarian Parliament. This was only a superficially impressive result; the majority of Hungarians were not permitted to vote. It did, however, become one of the most powerful parties in Hungary. But the Horthy leadership banned the Arrow Cross on the outbreak of World War II, forcing it to operate underground.

In 1944, the Arrow Cross Party's fortunes were abruptly reversed after Adolf Hitler lost patience with the reluctance of Horthy and his moderate prime minister, Miklos Kállay, to fully toe the Nazi line. In March 1944, the Germans invaded and officially occupied Hungary; Kállay fled and was replaced by the Nazi proxy, Döme Sztójay
Döme Sztójay
Döme Sztójay born Demeter Sztojakovich was a Hungarian soldier and diplomat of Serb origin, who served as Prime Minister of Hungary during World War II.- Biography :...

. One of Sztójay's first acts was to legalize the Arrow Cross.

During the Spring and Summer of 1944, more than 400,000 Jews were herded into centralized ghettos and then deported from the Hungarian countryside to death camps by the Nazis, with the willing help of the Hungarian Interior Ministry and its gendarmerie (the csendőrség) - both of whose members had close links to the Arrow Cross. The Jews of Budapest were concentrated into so-called Yellow Star Houses, approximately 2,000 single-building mini-ghettos identified by a yellow Star of David over the entrance. In August 1944, before deportations from Budapest began, Horthy used what influence he had to stop the deportations and force the radical anti-Semites out of the government. As the summer progressed, and the Allied and Soviet armies closed in on central Europe, the ability of the Nazis to devote attention to Hungary's "Jewish Solution" waned.

Arrow Cross Rule

In October 1944, Horthy negotiated a cease-fire with the Soviets and announced that Hungarian troops should lay down their arms. In response, Nazi Germany launched Operation Panzerfaust
Operation Panzerfaust
Operation Panzerfaust, known as Unternehmen Eisenfaust in Germany, was a military operation to keep the Kingdom of Hungary at Germany's side in the war, conducted in October 1944 by the German military...

, a covert operation which forced Horthy to resign, after which he was put into "protective custody" in Germany. With Nazi approval, the Arrow Cross Party seized Budapest. Szálasi was declared prime minister of the Kingdom's new "Government of National Unity" and "nation leader" of Hungary.

The Arrow Cross rule was short-lived and brutal. In fewer than three months, death squads killed as many as 38,000 Hungarians, 25,000 of them Jews. Arrow Cross officers helped Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Otto Eichmann was a German Nazi and SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust...

 re-activate the deportation proceedings from which the Jews of Budapest had thus far been spared, sending some 80,000 Jews out of the city on slave labor details and many more straight to death camps. Many Jewish males of conscription age were already serving as slave labor for the Hungarian Army's Forced Labor Battalions where most of them died, including many who were outrightly murdered after the fighting had finished when they were returning home. Quickly-formed battalions raided the Yellow Star Houses and combed the streets, hunting down Jews claimed to be partisans and saboteurs since Jews attacked Arrow Cross squads at least 6-8 times using gunfire. These approx. 200 Jews were taken to the bridges crossing the Danube. There the Jews were shot, and their bodies borne away by the waters of the river because many were attached to weights while they were handcuffed to each other in pairs.

Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

n forces were already fighting in Hungary even before Szálasi's takeover. Red Army troops reached the outskirts of the city in December 1944, and the siege action known as the Battle of Budapest
Battle of Budapest
The Siege of Budapest centered on the Hungarian capital city of Budapest. It was fought towards the end of World War II in Europe, during the Soviet Budapest Offensive. The siege started when Budapest, defended by Hungarian and German troops, was first encircled on 29 December 1944 by the Red Army...

 began - though frequently claimed, there is no proof that the Arrow Cross members and the Germans conspired to destroy the Budapest ghetto. Days before he fled the city, Arrow Cross Interior Minister Gabor Vájna commanded that streets and squares named for Jews be renamed.

As control of the city's institutions began to decay, the Arrow Cross trained their guns on the most helpless possible targets: patients in the beds of the city's two Jewish hospitals on Maros Street and Bethlen Square, and residents in the Jewish poorhouse on Alma Road. As order collapsed, Arrow Cross members continually sought to raid the ghettos and Jewish concentration buildings; the majority of Budapest's Jews were only saved by fearless and heroic efforts on the part of a handful of Jewish leaders and foreign diplomats, most famously Swede Raoul Wallenberg
Raoul Wallenberg
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish businessman, diplomat and humanitarian. He is widely celebrated for his successful efforts to rescue thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary from the Holocaust, during the later stages of World War II...

, Swiss Consul Carl Lutz
Carl Lutz
Carl Lutz was the Swiss Vice-Consul in Budapest, Hungary from 1942 until the end of World War II. He helped save tens of thousands of Jews from deportation to Nazi Extermination camps during the Holocaust. He is credited with saving over 62,000 Jews...

, and Giorgio Perlasca
Giorgio Perlasca
Giorgio Perlasca was an Italian who posed as the Spanish consul-general to Hungary in the winter of 1944, and saved thousands of Jews from Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.-Early life:...

. Szálasi knew that the documents used by these diplomats to save Jews were invalid according to international law, but he allowed them to use those papers.

Charles Ardai
Charles Ardai
Charles Ardai is an entrepreneur, writer, editor, and television producer. He is best known as founder and CEO of Juno, an Internet company, and founder and editor of Hard Case Crime, a line of pulp-style paperback crime novels.-Biography:...

, an American entrepreneur, novelist and book publisher, recounted in an Oct. 2008 National Public Radio interview an episode recalled by his mother, who survived the Holocaust in Hungary. Her family and other Budapest Jews were preparing to flee before the approach of Arrow Cross killers. They pleaded with two young boys who were family relatives to go with them, but the boys refused because their parents had told them to wait for them at home. As a result, the Arrow Cross men discovered the boys and killed them.

The Arrow Cross government effectively fell at the end of January, when the Soviet Army took Pest and the fascist forces retreated across the Danube to Buda. Szálasi escaped Budapest on December 11, taking with him the Hungarian royal crown; Arrow Cross members and German forces continued to fight a rear-guard action in the far west of Hungary until the end of the war in April 1945. Many Jews were murdered in these final weeks because the Nyilas would not allow them to survive.

Post-war developments

After the war, many of the Arrow Cross leaders were captured and tried for war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s. In the first months of post-war adjudication, no fewer than 6,200 indictments for murder were served against Arrow Cross men.

Some Arrow Cross officials, including Szálasi himself, were executed.
The ideology of the Arrow Cross has resurfaced to some extent in recent years, with the Neo-Fascist Hungarian Welfare Association prominent in reviving Szálasi's "Hungarizmus" through its monthly magazine, Magyartudat ("Hungarian Awareness"). However, "Hungarism" is very much a fringe element of modern Hungarian politics; the Hungarian Welfare Association has since dissolved.

In 2006 a former high ranking member of the Arrow Cross party named Lajos Polgár was found to be living in Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. Polgar was accused of war crimes, but the case was later dropped and Polgár died of natural causes in July that year.

In popular culture

The 1989 film Music Box
Music Box (film)
Music Box is a 1989 film that tells the story of a Hungarian-American immigrant who is accused of having been a war criminal. The plot revolves around his daughter, an attorney, who defends him, and her struggle to uncover the truth....

centers around the denaturalization trial of Michael J. Laszlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl
Armin Mueller-Stahl
Armin Mueller-Stahl is a German film actor, painter, writer and musician.-Early life:Mueller-Stahl was born in Tilsit, East Prussia...

), a Hungarian American
Hungarian American
Hungarian Americans Hungarian are American citizens of Hungarian descent. The constant influx of Hungarian immigrants was marked by several waves of sharp increase.-History:...

 accused of commanding a Arrow Cross death squad
Death squad
A death squad is an armed military, police, insurgent, or terrorist squad that conducts extrajudicial killings, assassinations, and forced disappearances of persons as part of a war, insurgency or terror campaign...


For further reading

  • M. Lackó, Arrow-Cross Men, National Socialists 1935-1944 (Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó 1969)

External links

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