One of the orders more famous members, vitéz Nagybaczoni Nagy Vilmos was honored for his actions for the Jewish peoples when he was selected as the first Hungarian Righteous Among the Nations in 1965.
Nagy was born in Parjad in May 1884, being into a family of country nobility of Székely ancestry. His ancestors received their patent of nobility in 1676 from Apafi Mihály I, a ruling prince of Transylvania, and the title of Nagybaczoni (Transl: of Nagybaczon) refers to his ancestral home in Covasna County, Transylvania. Having lost his father, a mining engineer, at an early age he decided to pursue a military career at an early age. Having attended the prestigious Ludovica Military Academy, he was selected to serve in the Royal Hungarian Army in 1905. He served as a staff officer during the First World War and as such he participated in operations against Serbia, in the battles of the Carpathian front, the breakthrough at Gorlice, and operations in Volhynia.
During the interwar period, Nagy continued to pursue his military career, rising to the rank of Major General in 1940. As such, he led the 1st Hungarian Army into Marosavasarhely in September that year and was responsible for the defense of the newly re-conquered territory as well as the food supply of the area.
In March of 1941, Nagy was retired. However, it was not the end of his career. On 21 September 1942 the Regent, Miklós Horthy, offered General Nagy the portfolio of the Minister of Defense. In this position, and true to his convictions, Nagy did everything to keep the military out of politics and struggled to modernize and preserve the remaining Hungarian military stationed at home to prevent the repeat of another debacle which followed the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.
Prior to his appointment, the government committed the 2nd Hungarian Army to the Eastern Front, where they eventually met a tragic end by their complete annihilation at Voronezh. While Nagy couldn’t bring back the troops from the front, he made every effort to preserve and safeguard the troops back home and ameliorate the conditions of the forced labour battalions. He issued numerous orders for the improvement of their conditions.
These actions met with opposition from the officers’ corps at the ministry and politicians of the extreme right. His political effectiveness diminished as he sought to curb the military’s culture of Antisemitism and the inhumane treatment of the forced labourers. He strenuously objected to the German request of sending 10,000 Jewish forced labourers to the copper mines at Bor, Serbia, and in February 1943, he opposed acquiescing to the German request of sending Hungarian troops to the Balkans.
Due to his position on these issues, he was viewed as increasingly dangerous by his enemies. He was ridiculed, accused of being a ‘Jewish lackey’, of being anti-Axis, and was under constant attack by the extreme political right. Resigning in 1943, Nagy continued to support the efforts of those who wished to achieve a separate peace with the Allies as he was well aware of the danger from both the retreating Wehrmacht and the Red Army. The extreme right was not satisfied with distancing him from a position of power and authority, and after the government’s takeover by the fascist Arrow Cross, on 16 November 1944, Nagy was arrested at his Piliscsaba home. Having been held for two days at Hotel Lomnic on Svábhegy, which served as a prison facility of the Arrow Cross, together with his brother Béla and other prisoners, he was transferred to the prison in Sopronköhida.
As the Red Army approached, the prisoners were moved to Germany where they were liberated by US forces in May 1945. Nagy returned to Hungary and pursued a life in peace and quiet. This was however not to be the case. In 1948, the Communists took over Hungary and Nagy, having been a prominent figure, was attacked and had his apartment confiscated and his pension revoked. He had to find employment as a gardener and caretaker at a tree nursery. In 1965, his actions for the Jewish people were honoured when Nagy was selected as the first Hungarian Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Institute of Jerusalem. He died in 1976 at the age of 92. After the fall of Communism, Nagy has been honoured in several ways throughout Hungary. Within the Order of Vitéz, we honour the memory of General vitéz Nagy for his courageous and moral actions. He is truly an example to us all.