Without doubt, with Hungary’s occupation by Nazi Germany on 19 March 1944 one the most tragic chapters of the modern history of our country commenced. The Hungarian decision not to resist the German invaders is still controversial up to this date. Military and police leaders claimed after the war that they had decided not to act to avoid massive bloodshed. Police departments around the country were instructed by the headquarters in Budapest as early as 12 p.m. on 19 March that they could only accept orders from their superiors and that their task was to maintain internal order. Later in the afternoon the police were also emphatically instructed to avoid orders from wherever they came if they went beyond the maintenance of internal order. While some soldiers readied themselves for an armed confrontation with the Germans, aside from some sporadic shootings, nothing happened.
Terrible atrocities, such as the ghettoization, the forcing of Jews to wear the yellow star and the eventual deportation of more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz followed, before Regent Miklós Horthy finally decided to act. On 15 October 1944, Horthy made an unsuccessful attempt to exit the Second World War. The operation failed due to a number of reasons: the resistance of some officers of the Royal Hungarian Army, organisational mistakes and pre-emptive actions by the Nazi secret service. Horthy was soon forced to resign.
To trace the breaking out attempt back to its inception step by step, it should be emphasized that on 28 September,
a delegation led by General Gábor Faragho travelled to Moscow and signed a preliminary armistice agreement
on 11 October. Hungary agreed to retreat within its pre-1937 borders, thereby giving up all previous territorial gains.
Not all Hungarian military leaders were told about the impeding grand change, while some of them privy to the information should not have been told, as they warned the Germans. The Germans made sure to arrest Szilárd Bakay, military commander of Budapest, well before the exit was supposed to happen. This was important as Bakay was one of the few military leaders left whom Horthy could trust.
The Red Army gave a tight ultimatum to Horthy so in spite of not being well prepared, the Regent had to go ahead with the plan as time was of the essence. The Germans, however, were quicker, and
kidnapped Horthy’s last surviving child, Miklós Jr., on 15 October, using this fact to blackmail the Regent.
The meeting of the government, presided over by the Horthy, began at 10:30 a.m. in the Buda Castle, a few minutes late due to the news of the abduction of Miklós Horthy Jr. Horthy announced that he had requested an armistice from the Soviet Union. After the announcement, Horthy asked the ministers who did not support his decision to leave the government. Some of them did resign, but in light of the later events, this did not mean much.
At the same time, the following order was proclaimed on the radio: ‘After suffering the heavy damages from the terrible fighting within our beloved land, it is imperative not to expect a better turn of events anymore. For this reason, I have asked for an armistice. As the commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army, I order all soldiers to stay loyal to their vows and follow my orders. Our future existence depends on whether all soldiers will comply in this terrible hour and remain disciplined.’ This text did not, in fact, include an order to switch sides and attack the Germans. But the actual secret message, along with the order to join the Red Army, did not reach the Hungarian soldiers at the front lines.
While Horthy was talking to the German ambassador and other diplomats, most Hungarian officers supporting his cause were arrested, and the troops were told to keep fighting. By late afternoon, at the German embassy located in the Buda Castle, the Arrow Cross dictator Ferenc Szálasi had already formed his government, which on 16 October was presented to Horthy. As his last living son was taken to the Mauthausen concentration camp, the Regent decided to appoint the new government, recognizing it as legitimate, then abdicated. Szálasi’s rule brought a new wave of horror and atrocities to the country, and culminated in the destruction of most of the capital city during the siege of Budapest.
 This article is based on the following sources: László Bernát Veszprémy, Gyilkos irodák. A magyar közigazgatás, a német megszállás és a holokauszt, Budapest, Jaffa, 2019; Ákos Bartha, Véres város. Fegyveres ellenállás Budapesten 1944-1945, Budapest, Jaffa, 2022; Károly Vigh, Ugrás a sötétbe, Budapest, Magvető, 1983; Tamás M. Tarján, A kiugrási kísérlet, Rubicon Online, https://rubicon.hu/kalendarium/1944-oktober-15-a-kiugrasi-kiserlet, accessed 25 Aug. 2023.