The Second World War was a difficult time for the people of Hungary, especially for the country’s Jewish population of which a majority was murdered during the Holocaust. Approximately 300,000 Hungarian soldiers and more than 600,000 civilians lost their lives during the war, including among them more than 400,000 Jews and 28,000 Roma. The Second World War meant the suffering for many but also many difficult decisions that were taken in often complicated and lethal situations.
Hungary, having lost a lot of its previous territories due to its neighboring countries in the Treaty of Trianon and caught as a small nation between the great powers of Nazi-Germany, Fascist-Italy and the Soviet Union, entered the Second World War on the Axis side in order to regain its lost territories. Hungarian forces participated in the invasions of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1941. Most notably, the Hungarian Second Army, commanded by Colonel General vitéz Jány Gusztáv, which was annihilated by the Soviet Red Army after heavy fighting at the Battle of Voronezh in January 1943.
While waging war against the Soviet Union, Hungary engaged in armistice negotiations with the United States and the United Kingdom. Hitler discovered this betrayal, and in March 1944, German forces occupied Hungary. The founder of the Order, vitéz Horthy, announced that Hungary had declared an armistice with the Allies and withdrawn from the Axis. He was forced to resign, placed under arrest by the Germans and imprisoned in Bavaria by the Waffen-SS. The Regent was then deposed from power, while Hungarian fascist leader Ferenc Szálasi established a new government, with German backing.
The activities of the Order of Vitéz were suspended by the second highest ranking officer of the order, vitéz Igmándy-Hegyessy Géza, in order to demonstrate that the Order would not cooperate with the Arrow Cross Party nor the Nazis. For this decision, Igmándy-Hegyessy was deported to a concentration camp by the Gestapo.
The Order of Vitéz was not an anti-Semitic organization and although some members contributed to the Holocaust, it was not actions supported by or initiated by the order. On the contrary, many of our leading members, including our founder, Admiral Regent Horthy, opposed the Nazis and the Arrow-Cross Party and many of them died fighting against the Hungarian Nazis.
Below, we would like to honor some of the members of the Order of Vitéz who stood up to the Nazis and the Arrow-Cross Party. Some of these members would save many Jewish and Hungarian lives, thereby risking their own lives while undertaking these heroic actions.
Please find more information by clicking the names below: