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The native form of this personal name is Szálasi Ferenc. This article uses the Western name order.
Ferenc Szálasi

In office
October 16, 1944 – March 28, 1945
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Miklós Horthy
Succeeded by High National Council

In office
October 16, 1944 – March 28, 1945
Leader Himself
Preceded by Géza Lakatos
Succeeded by Béla Miklós
(Opposition, then officially)

Born January 6, 1897(1897-01-06)
Košice, Austria-Hungary
Died March 12, 1946 (aged 49)
Budapest, Hungary
Political party Arrow Cross Party
Profession Soldier, Politician

Ferenc Szálasi (Hungarian pronunciation: [saːlaʃi fɛrɛnts]) (6 January 1897 – 12 March 1946) was the leader of the National Socialist Arrow Cross Party - Hungarist Movement, the "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető), and the de facto Prime Minister of the Hungarian State (Magyar Állam) for the final three months of Hungary's participation in World War II. During his brief rule, Szálasi's men murdered 10-15,000 Jews.[1] After the war, he was executed for crimes against the state.


Early life

Born the son of a soldier in Košice (now in Slovakia) of mixed Armenian (the surname of his great-grandfather was Saloshyan)[2][3][4], German, Hungarian (one grandparent), Slovak and Rusyn heritage.

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 during World War I. Upon the dissolution and break-up of Austria-Hungary after the war, the Hungarian Democratic Republic and then the Hungarian Soviet Republic were briefly proclaimed in 1918 and 1919 respectively. The short-lived communist government of Bela Kun launched what was known as the "Red Terror" and ultimately involved Hungary in an ill-fated war with Romania. 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" and, in 1920, after the pullout of the last of the Romanian occupation forces, it led to the restoration of the Kingdom 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 as it was prior to the Treaty of Trianon, 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 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 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.[citation needed]

After Germany's "Link Up" (Anschluss) with Austria 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 (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, 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.[citation needed]

Way to power

Following the Nazi occupation of Hungary in March 1944, the pro-German Döme Sztójay 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 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 forced Horthy to resign in 1944. The Parliament then voted 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

Ferenc Szálasi in Budapest, October 1944.

Szálasi's Hungarian State (Magyar Állam) was a short-lived client state of Nazi Germany formed on 16 October 1944 after Regent Miklós Horthy was removed from power during Operation Panzerfaust (Unternehmen Eisenfaust) [1]. This state replaced the Kingdom of Hungary (Magyar Királyság) which had preceded it for almost a thousand years.

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. During that time some diplomats like Raoul Wallenberg 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.[2] His government promoted martial 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.

On 19 November 1944, Szálasi was in the Hungarian capital when Soviet and Romanian 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 on 9 December. By March 1945, Szálasi was in Vienna just prior to the Vienna Offensive. Later, he fled to Munich.[5]


Szálasi on trial before the People's Tribunal

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.

See also


  1. ^ Patai, Raphael (1996). The Jews of Hungary:History, Culture, Psychology. 590: Wayne State University Press. pp. 730. ISBN 0814325610.,M1. 
  2. ^ Terence Ball. The Cambridge history of twentieth-century political thought. Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-521-56354-2. p. 140:"Szalasi was descended from an eighteenth-century Armenian immigrant named Salossian"
  3. ^ Ferenc Szalasi
  4. ^ Martin Kitchen. Europe between the wars. Pearson Education, 2006. ISBN 0-582-89414-X. p. 456 "Major Ferenc Szalasi, whose father was Armenian and whose mother was of Slovak-Magyar origin..."
  5. ^ Thomas, The Royal Hungarian Army in World war II, p. 24


  • Fiala-Marschalkó: Vádló bitófák. London: Süli, 1958
  • Thomas, Dr. Nigel, and, Szabo, Laszlo Pal (2008). The Royal Hungarian Army in World war II. New York: Osprey Publishing. pp. 48. ISBN 978-1-84603-324-7. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Miklós Horthy
(as regent)
Leader of the Nation
Succeeded by
High National Council
Preceded by
Géza Lakatos
Prime Minister of Hungary
(de facto)
Succeeded by
Béla Miklós
Preceded by
Ferenc Rajniss
Minister of Religion and Education

Succeeded by
Géza Teleki


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