Holocaust-Era Assets

RG 84: Hungary

State Department and Foreign Affairs Records

Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State (RG 84)


Hungary allied with Nazi Germany early in the war.  From 1939 on, Germany allowed Hungary to share in some of her booty.  Hungary profited from the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia; she obtained a slice of Rumania; and she participated in the invasion and subsequent partition of Yugoslavia (1941).  On November 20, 1940, Hungary joined the Tripartite Pact and the following June Hungarian forces joined the Germans in invading Russia and began enacting some anti- Jewish laws. In December 1941 Hungary formally entered the war against Britain and the United States.

While these events were taking place Germany increased its financial and economic presence in Hungary.  The Dresdner Bank obtained direct control of 16 percent of the capital stock of the Hungarian Credit Bank of Budapest, which was by far the most important commercial bank in the country.  The Germans also made direct investments in existing firms and created new firms.  The timber industry, for example, was developed by joint Axis and Hungarian firms.  The bauxite and aluminum industry was largely German-controlled.  There were also some German interests in the oil, coal, and power industries.  I.G. Farben gained a foothold in Hungary's chemical industry. The Germans also obtained large interests in the Hungarian oil industry, the bauxite mines, the aluminum manufacturing facilities, and the aircraft works.

In March 1942 Regent Admiral Nicholas Horthy replaced Hungary's pro-German Prime Minister Laslo Bardossy with Miklos Kallay, who set about disentangling Hungary from the war.  To Hitler, the Hungarians, who were removing troops from the Russian front and not willing to deal harshly with the Jews, seemed more like a neutral than Germany's ally.  Kallay refused to deport Jews to Poland when requested to do so.  In April 1943 he summoned Horthy to his presence and severely criticized him, explaining Hungary's obligations to Germans and the need to eliminate the Jews.

Prime Minister continued his policies and in August 1943 broadcast a peace speech following Mussolini's overthrow.  In March 1944 Hitler again summoned Horthy, and his cabinet, to meet him.  Hitler informed Horthy and the other Hungarian leaders, minus Kallay who refused to attend the meeting, that Germany, not being able to trust Hungary, was going to occupy it.  Within days, on March 19, 1944 the Germans occupied Hungary, and on March 22, a new government was established under Prime Minister Dome Sztojay, formerly the Hungarian minister in Berlin.  The real power, however, resided with the SS and Reich Plenipotentiary Edmund Vessenmayer.

On March 19, 1944, Adolf Eichmann and a group of SS officers arrived in Budapest to take charge of Jewish matters and ten days later anti-Jewish legislation was enacted, calling for the expropriation of Jewish property.  Eichmann then set in motion machinery to round up and deport the Hungarian Jews to extermination camps.  Between May 14 and July 18, 1944, over 430,00 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 48 trains.  Most of them were gassed.

More Jews would have perished had not it been for the efforts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who arrived in Hungary on July 9, 1944 with the mission of saving as many Jews as possible.  By various means, including issuing special Swedish passports and bribing guards and officials, as well as setting up a program for feeding the Jews of Budapest, it is estimated that his actions saved between 30,000 and 100,000 from extermination.  In September 1944 he was forced to go into hiding to avoid the Gestapo. (Note 77)

Learning in July of the actions against the Jews, Horthy ordered the deportations to stop.  Prime Minister Lakatos asked the Germans to removed Eichmann's men and the Hungarians lifted some of the restrictions on the remaining Jews.

With the Germans suffering military setbacks, Sztojay resigned on August 30, 1944, and Horthy replaced him with Geza Lakatos.  In October 1944 Russian forces entered Hungary and it appeared to the Germans that Horthy was about to ask for an armistice.  The SS under Vessenmayer then kidnaped Horthy's son and held him under threats of dire consequences if Horthy to did not comply with the Nazi's wishes.  Horthy, was therefore forced to appoint Arrow Cross Chief Szalasi as Prime Minister.  Some 35,000 Jews were rounded up to be sent to Auschwitz, but since that camp was being liquidated, the Jews were used as slave laborers.  The remaining 160,00 Jews in Budapest suffered at the hands of the Arrow Cross, with about 20,000 perishing during the winter because of cold, hunger, disease, and Russian bombardment.

Szalasi could not gather support to stop the oncoming Russian Army, which by November 1944, controlled two-thirds of Hungary and were on the verge of taking Budapest.  A siege for Budapest lasted until February 1945 and it was not until April 4, 1945, that the Germans departed Hungary.

In all, it is estimated that 450,000 of Hungary's estimated 650,000 pre-Final Solution Jewish population were exterminated. (Note 78)

Records of the U.S. Legation and Mission, Budapest, Hungary

     General Records 1936-1941, 1945-1949, 1953, 1954, 1956-1958 (Entry 2691)

          Boxes 1-179 and 1
          1941 (Budapest Legation)
          Box# File #         File Title or Subject
          26   850.6          Insurance
               851.6          Banks, Banking
               851.6          Bank of England
               851.6          Hungarian Commercial Bank of Pest
               851.6          National Bank of Hungary
          1945 (Budapest Mission)
          Box# File #         File Title or Subject
          58   711       War Criminals (5 folders)
               711.3          Proclaimed List, British Statutory List, etc.
               711.3          Trading With Enemy
          59-61     711.9          Hungarian Property, Reparations and Restitution, etc.
          64   820.02    OSS Reports (3 folders) location: 350/60/21/07
          65   840.1          Jewish Property
          66   848       Relief
               850       Economic Matters
               850.31    Property Census
          67   851       Blocked Assets
               851       Finance, Government
               851       Miscellaneous
               851.5          Currency
               851.6          Hungarian Commercial Bank of Pest
               851.6          National bank of Hungary (2 folders)
               851.6          Banks, Banking
               851.7          Stock Exchanges
               851.51    Foreign Funds Control
               851.51    Exchange
          1946 (Budapest Legation)
          Box# File #         File Title or Subject
          95   711       War Criminals (8 folders)
               711.3          Cementia Holding Company (2 folders)
               711.3          Komjathy and Company
               711.3          Proclaimed List of Blocked Nationals
               711.3          Tokalon Products
               711.3          West Orient Company (2 folders) 
          96   711.5          Admiral Horthy (2 folders) 
          96-100 711.9        Hungarian Property, Reparations and Restitution, etc.
          103  840.1          Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry [condition of Jews]
               840.1          Jewish Matters
               840.1          Jewish Problems (2 folders)
               840.1          Jewish Property (2 folders)
               840.1          Jewish Refugee Children
               840.3          Looted Art
          104  848       Relief
          105-106 850         Economic Matters
          106  850.31    Property Census
               850.6          Insurance
               851       Financial Conditions
               851       Blocked Assets (2 folders) location: 350/60/22/06
          107  851       Financial Reports (Monthly)
               851.5          Currency
               851.5          Gold Coins
          108  851.51    Exchange Control
               851.6          Banks, Banking
          Box# File #         File Title or Subject
          125  711       War Criminals (ca. 20 folders)
               711.3          Corchos de Andalvlia S.A.

          126  711.5          Admiral Horthy
          126-131 711.9  Hungarian Property, Reparation and Restitution, etc.
          136  848       Relief Programs location: 350/60/23/04
          136-137 850         Economic Matters
          137  850.6          Insurance (3 folders)
               850       Safehaven
          138  851       Financial Conditions
               851       Blocked Assets
               851       Financial Reports (Monthly)
               851.5          Currency
               851.5          Gold Coins
          139  851.6          Banks, Banking (10 folders)
          Box# File #         File Title or Subject
          157-158 711         War Criminals
          158  711.3          Blocked Assets
               711.5          Nicholas Horthy
          158-160 711.9  Hungarian Property, Restitution and Reparations, etc.
          167  840.1          Jews
               840.3          Looted Art
          169  848       UNRRA
          170-172 850         Economic Matters
          173  851       Blocked Assets
               851.6          Banks, Banking (8 folders)

     Classified General Records 1946-1948, 1950-1952

          Boxes 1-32

          Box# File #         File Title or Subject
          4    840.1          Jewish Property
               840.3          Looted Art