“Praise be to the Waffen-SS! Praise be to Ferenc Szálasi!” – Zsolt Tyirityán, leader of the Betyársereg (Army of Highwaymen)
Various Hungarian extremist groups joined by Nazi sympathizers from abroad converged on the Hungarian city of Székesfehérvár on Saturday to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the attempt by German and Hungarian troops to break out of Budapest, which had been encircled by the Soviet Army. The “Remember the heroes of the breakout” event featured a torchlit procession led by young men wearing SS uniforms.
The siege of Budapest
One of the final battles of the Second World War was fought in and around Budapest, which suffered enormous damage over the course of a lengthy Red Army siege. The destruction of the city began on November 4, 1944 with the accidental blowing up of the Margaret bridge, which had been mined. Among the many hundreds of victims was three-time Olympic fencing champion Endre Kabos who, owing to his Jewish ancestry, had been impressed into a forced-labor gang. A truck carrying his work detail was crossing the bridge when it blew up.
Some believe the destruction of the bridge was revenge for Hungary’s attempt to conclude a separate armistice with the Soviet Union. However, it is more likely to have been an accident because a number of Germans were lost in the explosion and fascist Arrow Cross leader Ferenc Szálasi was sworn in as regent Miklós Horthy’s successor that night. Furthermore, the tragedy was kept secret for two days by the new Arrow Cross government.
By Christmas of that year, Budapest had been completely encircled by the Soviet army. On January 14, 1945, retreating German troops deliberately blew up the rest of the bridges in Budapest, including what was left of the Margaret bridge. Meanwhile German troops were sent to rescue units trapped outside the siege lines in an attempt to reinforce Budapest.
In the end, in defiance of Adolf Hitler’s orders to fight to the end, the Germans decided to attempt to break out of Budapest in the direction of Törökbálint. The final battle started on February 11. Out of 40,000 German and Hungarian soldiers, only 500 made it across the Soviet lines, many of them badly wounded. 20,000 soldiers died. The rest were taken captive. Few returned from captivity. By February 13 Budapest was under Soviet control.
Over the course of the siege, some 1500 of Budapest’s 40,000 buildings were completely destroyed, and another 10,000 were seriously damaged.
During the siege another “war” was taking place within Budapest, as murderous gangs of Arrow Cross thugs murdered Jews in cold blood at will. Of the 40,000 civilian deaths to occur during the siege of Budapest, nearly 15,000 were Jews even though Jews made up less than 15 percent of the population of the Hungarian capital.
“Day of honor”
Since the late 1990s February 11 has been observed as a “day of honor” by various radical right-wing groups in Hungary.
Yesterday’s memorial ceremonies in Székesfehérvár began with a holy mass held in the basilica for the Hungarian soldiers who lost their lives during the breakout. Representatives of the Catholic Church refused to explain why the mass was being held, or who requested it.
Following the removal of its Facebook page, the event was promoted by Szentkorona (Holy Crown) radio with the help of Jobbik party deputy chairman Előd Novak. Originally scheduled to speak at the event, the deputy chairman of Hungary’s radical right-wing party withdrew after learning that an SS veteran was also scheduled to speak. Instead, Novak will be speaking at a separate memorial event organized by the Budapest District 3 chapter of Jobbik on Sunday.
Although Jobbik did not attend Saturday’s memorial event, its allies turned out in spades, including the New Hungarian Guard (successor organization to the banned Magyar Gárda), as well as the openly pro-Nazi “64-county youth movement” (HVIM) and Betyársereg (Army of Highwaymen).
Before the mass, many hundreds of men and women dressed entirely in black marched from the Magyar Király hotel to the grave of the lying soldier memorial next to the basilica. Across from the hotel are a bakery, cafe and beer hall. More than a few assembled there first, speaking quietly among themselves.
The march was led by two young men, one wearing an SS stormtrooper jacket and helmet, and another wearing an SS uniform. They carried a wooden cross bearing the inscription “New growth sprouts from our blood”. The pedestrian street quickly emptied of people as hundreds of men and women dressed in black and carrying WWII-era banners marched to the beat of drums. Among the marchers were Nazi sympathizers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
Upon reaching the memorial spot, the Hungarian national anthem was played, whereupon Botond Kónyi-Kiss, the head of the Székesfehérvár chapter of HVIM, delivered a thoroughly Nazi speech to the obvious satisfaction of the crowd. Kónyi-Kiss thanked the crowd for coming despite the mayor’s “negative recommendation”. He praised convicted war criminal Bálint Hóman for his role in preparing and voting for anti-Jewish laws during WWII. He explained that, despite the current government’s large parliamentary majority, the “occupying powers who keep Hungary enslaved, forced the government to its knees” because in the end supporters were not permitted to erect a statue to the anti-semitic minister.
Kónyi-Kiss called those attending the day’s memorial event “real Hungarian patriots” and warned that the “dark and faceless forces in the background” did not approve of European nations joining together in solidarity. Referring to the refugee crisis, he said solidarity was needed because the “largest army ever is attacking Europe”. He claimed the reason people of a foreign culture, foreign race and foreign ethnicities were pouring into Europe was because “communists and liberals” were intent on destroying those values they were not able to destroy over the course of 70 years.
Betyársereg leader Zsolt Tyirityán continued where Kónyi-Kiss left off, telling the crowd that “Budapest fell 71 years ago, and for 71 years Europe and Hungary lived under a reign of darkness.” He said communism, capitalism, liberalism and globalism were “powers of destruction” called into life by people “who have neither race nor national self-awareness and who are not clear about their sexual identity.”
Tyirityán told the audience that the “garbage media” groaned upon learning that a former member of the SS-Waffen was scheduled to speak at the memorial ceremony. He said the 87-year-old Klaus Gotjahn, who was a member of the Nordland mechanized calvary formed in 1943, would speak later in the day at a memorial service in Kisbér, but that “health reasons” prevented him from speaking in Székesfehérvár.
Tyirityán said Gotjahn represented a system of values that would “once again exist” and which would “restore honor to white people”. “Praise be to the Waffen-SS,” cried the leader of the Betyársereg to the satisfaction of the crowd. He said the assumption of power by Szalási on October 15, 1944 “forms the basis for Hungarianism”, and that without it the “day of honor” would not exist because the Hungarians would have put down their weapons before the advancing Soviets, whom he called the “agents of satan”. Tyirityán concluded his speech by crying “praise be to the person of Szálasi Ferenc as well!”
Earlier the Betyársereg leader told Index that “gypsies are worth less than the Aryan Hungarians”, and any village whose police are not able to effectively stand up to “gypsy criminals” could “order” the services of a band of 50 highwayman led by him personally. He said he and his band of radical right-wing vigilantes were in Gyöngyöspata in 2011 and then later in Szúcs.
In 2009 Jobbik and Betyársereg signed a cooperation agreement to support one another and participate in each other’s events. Although Betyársereg does not get money directly from Jobbik, in 2014 the radical right-wing party’s foundation contributed around HFU 40 million (USD 185,000) to HVIM whose leader, László Toroczkai, called the Betyársereg to life and designed their logo before handing the baton to Tyirityán. Today Toroczkai is the Jobbik mayor of Ásotthalom.
Following Tritiyán’s speech, a wreath was placed on the grave of the lying soldier. Following that, to the strains of “Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles” everyone filed into the basilica to attend the holy mass in memorial of the fallen Hungarian soldiers.