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Ferenc Szalasi

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Ferenc Szalasi

The native form of this personal name is Szálasi Ferenc. This article uses the Western name order.
Ferenc Szálasi
Leader of the Nation
In office
16 October 1944 – 28 March 1945
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Miklós Horthy
Succeeded by High National Council
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary
(de facto)
In office
16 October 1944 – 28 March 1945
Leader Himself
Preceded by Géza Lakatos
Succeeded by Béla Miklós
(Opposition, then officially)
Personal details
Born (1897-01-06)6 January 1897
Kassa, Austria-Hungary
(now Košice, Slovakia)
Died 12 March 1946(1946-03-12) (aged 49)
Budapest, Hungary
Political party Arrow Cross Party
Spouse(s) Gizella Lutz
Profession Soldier, Politician
Religion Roman Catholicism

Ferenc Szálasi (Szálasi Ferenc in Hungarian, Hungarian pronunciation: [saːlaʃi fɛrɛnts]) (6 January 1897 – 12 March 1946) was the leader of the fascist Arrow Cross Party – Hungarist Movement, the "Leader of the Nation" (Nemzetvezető), being both Head of State and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary's "Government of National Unity" (Nemzeti Összefogás Kormánya) for the final three months of Hungary's participation in World War II, after Germany occupied Hungary and removed Miklós Horthy by force. During his brief rule, Szálasi's men murdered 10,000–15,000 Jews.[1] After the war, he was executed after a trial by the Hungarian court for crimes against the state committed during World War II.

Early life

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

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 Béla 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 to 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 from factory workers and Hungary's lower classes by pandering to their aggrieved sense of nationalism and their virulent antisemitism.

After Germany's "Union" (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.

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, allowing Szálasi to expand the party. When Sztójay was deposed in August, Szálasi once again became an enemy of the Hungarian government and Regent Miklós Horthy ordered his arrest. In the meantime the Germans had become concerned that Horthy (who had enough sense to recognize that the war was totally lost) would succeed in surrendering to the Allies. They had, however, waiting in the wings, a perfect ally in Szálasi. When the Germans learned of the Regent's plan to come to a separate peace with the Soviets and exit the Axis alliance, they kidnapped Horthy's son, Miklos, Jr. and threatened to kill him unless Horthy abdicated in favor of Szálasi. Horthy abdicated and under duress signed a document giving 'legal sanction' to an Arrow Cross coup. To quote Horthy's memoirs "a signature wrung from a man at machine-gun point can have little legality." .[5] The Germans then pressured Parliament to install Szálasi as Prime Minister and Head of State.

In power

Szálasi's [1].

Under his rule as a close ally of Germany, the Germans, with the assistance of the Szálasi government recommenced the deportation of the Jews, which had been suspended by Horthy. He organised the so-called 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.

Szálasi's rule only lasted 163 days, in part because by the time he took power the Red Army was already deep inside Hungary. 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.[6]


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. Some photographs of the execution are on display in the Holocaust Room of the Budapest Jewish Museum.

See also



  • Fiala-Marschalkó: Vádló bitófák. London: Süli, 1958
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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