Ferenc Szálasi
Ferenc Szálasi (6 January 1897 – 12 March 1946) was the leader of the National Socialist Arrow Cross Party
Arrow Cross Party
The Arrow Cross Party was a national socialist party led by Ferenc Szálasi, which led in Hungary a government known as the Government of National Unity from October 15, 1944 to 28 March 1945...

 – Hungarist Movement, the "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető), being both Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary's "Government of National Unity" (Nemzeti Összefogás Kormánya) for the final three months of Hungary's participation
Hungary during World War II
Hungary during World War II was a member of the Axis powers. In the 1930s, the Kingdom of Hungary relied on increased trade with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to pull itself out of the Great Depression. By 1938, Hungarian politics and foreign policy had become increasingly pro-Fascist Italian and...

 in World War II. During his brief rule, Szálasi's men murdered 10–15,000 Jews. After the war, he was executed by the Soviets for crimes against the state.

Early life

Born the son of a soldier in Kassa (now Košice
Košice is a city in eastern Slovakia. It is situated on the river Hornád at the eastern reaches of the Slovak Ore Mountains, near the border with Hungary...

 in Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

) of mixed Armenian
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 (the surname of his great-grandfather was Saloshyan), German, Hungarian (one grandparent), Slovak and Rusyn
Carpatho-Rusyns are a primarily diasporic ethnic group who speak an Eastern Slavic language, or Ukrainian dialect, known as Rusyn. Carpatho-Rusyns descend from a minority of Ruthenians who did not adopt the use of the ethnonym "Ukrainian" in the early twentieth century...


Szálasi followed in his father's footsteps and joined the army at a young age. He eventually became an officer and served in the Austro-Hungarian Army
Austro-Hungarian Army
The Austro-Hungarian Army was the ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918. It was composed of three parts: the joint army , the Austrian Landwehr , and the Hungarian Honvédség .In the wake of fighting between the...

 during World War I. Upon the dissolution and break-up of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 after the war, the Hungarian Democratic Republic
Hungarian Democratic Republic
The Hungarian People's Republic was an independent republic proclaimed after the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918...

 and then 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....

 were briefly proclaimed in 1918 and 1919 respectively. The short-lived communist government of 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 :...

 launched what was known as the "Red Terror
Red Terror (Hungary)
The Red Terror in Hungary was a series of atrocities aimed at crushing political rivals during the four-month regime of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. It was so named because of its similarity to the Red Terror in Soviet Russia in both purpose and effect...

" and ultimately involved Hungary in an ill-fated war with Romania
Hungarian-Romanian War of 1919
The seeds of the Hungarian–Romanian war of 1919 were planted when the union of Transylvania with Romania was proclaimed, on December 1, 1918. In late March 1919, the Bolsheviks came to power in Hungary, at which point its army attempted to retake Transylvania, commencing the war. By its final...

. In 1920, the country went into a period of civil conflict with Hungarian anti-communists and monarchists violently purging the nation of communists, leftist intellectuals, and others they felt threatened by, especially Jews. This period was 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:...

" and, in 1920, after the pullout of the last of the Romanian
Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania was the Romanian state based on a form of parliamentary monarchy between 13 March 1881 and 30 December 1947, specified by the first three Constitutions of Romania...

 occupation forces, it led to the restoration of the Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary (1920–1946)
The Kingdom of Hungary also known as the Regency, existed from 1920 to 1946 and was a de facto country under Regent Miklós Horthy. Horthy officially represented the abdicated Hungarian monarchy of Charles IV, Apostolic King of Hungary...

 (Magyar Királyság).

In 1925, Szálasi entered the General Staff of the restored Kingdom and, by 1933, he had attained the rank of Major. Around this time, Szálasi became fascinated with politics and often lectured on Hungary's political affairs. Szálasi was a fanatical right-wing nationalist and a strong proponent of "Hungarism," advocating the expansion of Hungary's territory back to the borders of 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...

 as it was prior to the Treaty of Trianon
Treaty of Trianon
The Treaty of Trianon was the peace agreement signed in 1920, at the end of World War I, between the Allies of World War I and Hungary . The treaty greatly redefined and reduced Hungary's borders. From its borders before World War I, it lost 72% of its territory, which was reduced from to...

, which in 1920 codified the reduction in the country's area by 72%.

First steps in politics

In 1935, Szálasi left the army in order to devote his full attention to politics, after which time he established the Party of National Will, a nationalistic group.
It was eventually outlawed by the conservative government for being too radical. Unperturbed, Szálasi established the 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...

 in 1937, which was also banned. However, Szálasi was able to attract considerable support to his cause by adopting views that appealed to industrial workers and members of Hungary's lower classes.

After Germany's "Link Up" (Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

) with Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 in 1938, Szálasi's followers became more radical in their political activities, and Szálasi was arrested and imprisoned by the Hungarian Police. However, even while in prison Szálasi managed to remain a powerful political figure, and was proclaimed leader of the National Socialist Arrow Cross Party
Arrow Cross Party
The Arrow Cross Party was a national socialist party led by Ferenc Szálasi, which led in Hungary a government known as the Government of National Unity from October 15, 1944 to 28 March 1945...

 (a coalition of several right-wing groups) when it was expanded in 1938. The party attracted a large number of followers and in the 1939 elections it gained 30 seats in the Hungarian Parliament, thus becoming one of the more powerful parties in Hungary. Freed due to a general amnesty resulting from the Second Vienna Award in 1940, Szálasi returned to politics. When World War II began, the Arrow Cross Party was officially banned by Prime Minister Pál Teleki
Pál Teleki
Pál Count Teleki de Szék was prime minister of Hungary from 19 July 1920 to 14 April 1921 and from 16 February 1939 to 3 April 1941. He was also a famous expert in geography, a university professor, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and Chief Scout of the Hungarian Scout Association...

, thus forcing Szálasi to operate in secret. During this time period, Szálasi gained the support and backing of the Germans, who had previously been opposed to Szálasi because his "Hungarist" nationalism place Hungarian territorial claims above those of Germany.

Way to power

Following the Nazi occupation of Hungary
Operation Margarethe
During World War II, the Germans planned two discrete operations using the codename Margarethe.Operation Margarethe I was the occupation of Hungary by German forces on 19 March 1944. The Hungarian government was an ally of Nazi Germany, but had been discussing an armistice with the Allies...

 in March 1944, the pro-German 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 :...

 was installed as Prime Minister of Hungary. The Arrow Cross Party was then legalized by the government, which allowed Szálasi to expand the party even further. When Sztójay was deposed in August, Szálasi once again became an enemy of the Hungarian government and Regent 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...

 ordered his arrest. Szálasi, however, was protected by the Germans, who had grown tired of dealing with Horthy and planned to make Szálasi prime minister. Having knowledge of the Regent's effort to come to a separate peace with the Soviets and thus betray the Axis alliance, the Germans kidnapped Horthy's son, Miklos, Jr.
Miklós Horthy, Jr.
Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya II was the younger son of Hungarian regent Admiral Miklós Horthy and, until the end of World War II, a politician.-Biography:...

 and threatened to kill him unless Horthy abdicated in favour of Szálasi. Although Horthy knew the Germans merely wanted to give legal sanction to an Arrow Cross coup, he signed the abdication document. He later said that he didn't regard this as legitimate, since "a signature wrung from a man at machine-gun point can have little legality." Parliament, under German pressure, then named Szálasi as Prime Minister and Head of State; immediately after, Szálasi swore in front of the Crown of Saint Stephen as the "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető).

In power

Szálasi's Government of National Unity turned the Kingdom of Hungary into a client state
Client state
Client state is one of several terms used to describe the economic, political and/or military subordination of one state to a more powerful state in international affairs...

 of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 formed on 16 October 1944 after Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 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...

 was removed from power during 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...

 (Unternehmen Eisenfaust) http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/mirror/mirror03.htm.

Under his rule as a close ally of Germany, the Germans continued the deportation of the Jews, which had been suspended by Horthy because of threats by the Allied powers, although Szálasi personally stood against it, because of the loss of manpower. He organised the so-called International Ghetto
International Ghetto
International Ghetto was a historical tetragonal region in Pest bounded by Pozsonyi út, Szent István park, Újpesti rakpart, Sziget út for diplomatically protected Jews during World War II. It was established by the government of Ferenc Szálasi, Leader of the Hungarian Nation, after his rise to...

. During that time some diplomats like 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...

 gave protective passports to some Jews, which protected them from deportation. Germans argued they weren't valid according to international law, but Szálasi's government accepted them nevertheless.http://www.nsz.prim.hu/cikk/486138/ His government promoted martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, courts-martial, executed those who were considered dangerous for the state and the continuation of the war. During Szálasi's rule, Hungarian tangible assets (cattle, machinery, wagons, industrial raw material etc.) were sent to Germany. He conscripted young and old into the remaining Hungarian Army and sent them into hopeless battles against the Red Army.

Szálasi's rule only lasted 163 days, in part because by the time he took power the Red Army was already deep inside Hungary. On 19 November 1944, Szálasi was in the Hungarian capital when Soviet 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 began encircling it. By the time the city was encircled and the 102-day Siege of Budapest began, he was gone. The "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető) fled to Szombathely
Szombathely is the 10th largest city in Hungary. It is the administrative centre of Vas county in the west of the country, located near the border with Austria...

 on 9 December. By March 1945, Szálasi was in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 just prior to the Vienna Offensive
Vienna Offensive
The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front in order to capture Vienna, Austria. The offensive lasted from 2–13 April 1945...

. Later, he fled to Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...



When the war ended, Szálasi was captured by American troops and returned to Hungary. He was tried by the People's Tribunal in Budapest in open sessions and sentenced to death for war crimes and high treason. Szálasi was hanged in 1946 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...



  • Fiala-Marschalkó: Vádló bitófák. London: Süli, 1958
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