Hungarian soldiers in Denmark

The “Hungarian tree” in North Sjælland, north of the village of Holte, in the Frederikslund forest

February 1945. The eastern half of Hungary is already occupied by the Soviets. The several months long siege of Budapest is nearing to the end, but Hitler is still dreaming. His dream is to roll back the Soviets from Hungary by setting up four completely new Hungarian divisions. Because of the advancing front, the training of the new units was unimaginable in Hungary, so the hastily set up regiments were commanded to Germany for training. However, as fate would have it, a part of these units which left the country in February 1945 did not get either to Germany or trained. An estimated 12.000 Hungarian soldiers went as far as Denmark, to take over the places of the German soldiers redirected to the Russian and Western fronts, and virtually provided various tasks of guarding under the command of the German invaders.

Curious locals surrounding the Hungarians arriving. Nørre Nebel, West Jütland

Soldiers of the 93th Regiment on patrol along the railway track of Holte, Sjælland Island

The Germans were afraid to entrust important military tasks to the Hungarians whom they considered as unreliable allies. They guarded railways and bridges, and sometimes were simply ordered out to forced labor. Even the German officers postponed their military training, not only because they considered the Hungarians as unreliable in combat situations, but also because they themselves tried to avoid being commanded to the front as long as possible. And the Hungarians’ unreliability was based on facts. They had enough of war, and they tried to cultivate a good relationship with the Danes, and what is more, with the Danish Resistance. In one case, when a Hungarian unit stationed in Copenhagen was commanded to the front, they started an armed rebellion against the German commanders. They broke out of the barracks, and the guns rattled on the streets and among the houses of Copenhagen between the fleeing Hungarians and the Germans hunting for them.

April 22, 1945. The Hungarian soldiers accommodated in the barracks of the Royal Guard rebelled against the German command promptly sending them to the front. For long hours the guns rattled in the downtown of Copenhagen between the poorly armed Hungarians and the Germans outnumbering them. The leading Danish newspaper Politiken also reported on the event.

The Hungarians captured during the uprising under German custody, in a school yard in Copenhagen

These in the Hungarian historiography almost completely unknown events are described in detail in the book De ungarske soldater – “The Hungarian soldiers” – published in 2005 by the Danish journalist Søren Peder Sørensen. This book is in many ways an invaluable publication covering a blank spot in the history of both countries. Its value as a source of military history is unquestionable: the author researched with unparalleled thoroughness both in Danish and Hungarian archives the history of the divisions arriving to Denmark, documenting in detail the fate of the units from their leaving Hungary through their activity in Denmark to when, after the German capitulation, in terms of the agreement with the British army, the Hungarian troops had to leave Denmark by crossing the Danish-German border.

Hungarian soldiers leaving Denmark. Aabenraa, South Jütland, May 1945

The 82/III battalion celebrates the liberation in Hjørring, North Jütland

However, the story does not end here. We also learn how our compatriots came home through several German prison camps, and what was the unfortunate fate of those Hungarian units which were “liberated” by the Soviets on the island of Bornholm. Few of the latter returned to Hungary from the Soviet captivity. The military historical value of the book is completed by an appendix listing all the Hungarian army units serving in Denmark, including their service station in Hungary, the names of the officers, their Danish stations with exact dates, as well as the German units under whose command they belonged. The second part of the appendix surveys by Danish districts the Hungarian units serving and often succeeding each other there.

Hungarian soldiers commanded to forced labor on the island of Bornholm, in the forest plantation of Arnager, some days after the German capitulation. A few days after the picture was taken, they fell in Soviet captivity and were interned to Siberian labor camps.

Hungarian Mass in the prison camp, Schleswig-Holstein, 31 May 1945.

But the book is not just military history, as Søren Peder Sørensen is not primarily a military historian, but a journalist. An invaluable part of the book are the stories of lives that the author has been rolling up with a great effort until today, personally contacting the Hungarian soldiers serving at that time in Denmark as well as their relatives in Hungary. One of them was chaplain János Pohly, who shared with the author his camp diary and his rich collection of photos. The Hungarian soldiers generally tried to maintain a good relationship with the Danish population, and in some cases this relationship continued for several years after the war, in the form of correspondence and occasional visits. Søren Peder Sørensen also writes the sad chronicle of a number of such connections, reporting, on the basis of the correspondence, on the hopeless situation and daily struggles of the soldiers and their families who, after their return to Hungary, were considered as “infected by the West”.

A unit of the 6th battalion of the 93rd regiment in the Høvelte camp of North Sjælland

The book is complemented by the presentation of the Hungarian soldiers who died in Denmark and the description of their graves. Apart from the latter, some very special memories of the Hungarian past are still visible in Denmark, such as the two “Hungarian trees” in the forests near Holte in Sjælland and Vejle in Jütland, on which the Hungarian patrols carved their names together with the Hungarian coat of arms and the irredentist “creed of Trianon”. And the Nyvang museum next to Holbæk in Sjælland preserves a cart which was prepared in Szentes and on which a group of Hungarian soldiers came to Denmark.

The cart of Szentes today in the Nyvang museum

Søren Peder Sørensen maintains a bilingual – Danish and Hungarian – site on the history of the Hungarian soldiers in Denmark, which is constantly updated, mostly with the personal stories of the descendants of the Hungarian soldiers. Here we can read among others the shocking story of the adopted Danish woman who after sixty years of persistent research found in the Hungarian Miskolc his biological father, who in 1945 had a romantic relationship with a 17 year old Danish girl for a couple of months until the Soviet soldiers occupying Bornholm and deporting the Hungarian soldiers broke forever the lovers apart.

A Hungarian soldier, Zoltán Világi in front of vicarage of Lønborg. To the left, the local postman.

“I am sorry to mention that my book is only available in Danish and German. A Hungarian edition seems to have little chance, for economic and other reasons” – has been read since years on the website of Søren Peder Sørensen. Why? Is really no one interested in Hungary in this episode of Hungarian history, which influenced the fate of ten thousands of soldiers and civilians, but was never properly explored? If, on the basis of the foregoing presentation, any editor feels like publishing a Hungarian version of the book, they can contact the author either on the above site, or through the medium of the Poemas del Río Wang.

The suffering Jesus. Oak carving, work of an unknown Hungarian soldier, left in the vicarage of Lønborg, West Jütland.