On December 12, 1941, just days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Miklós Horthy’s Hungary declared war on the United States. His Prime Minister was László Bárdossy who was executed as a war criminal in 1946.
Relations between anti-American Imperial Japan and pro-Hitler Hungary were warm and friendly and the Japanese frequently praised Horthy. (See rare Japanese newsreel of Horthy.) On November 20, 1940, Horthy joined the Tripartite alliance and officially became part of the anti-American military pact. Ambassador György Ghika in Tokyo welcomed Japan as Hungary’s fascist ally. In Budapest the official propaganda downplayed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; they reported only that the US and Japan were at war but never explained the reasons. (Hungarian newsreel.)
Hungarian military relations with Japan were also close. In 1942 Horthy decorated a Japanese soldier, Sunji Sakamoto, who was assigned to the Hungarian army as a reporter on the attack on the Soviet Union.
The shameful cowardice of the Horthy family was especially appalling. Stephen Horthy, the Regent’s son and Vice-Regent, was a welcomed guest in the United States in the 1920s. He worked at Ford factories, yet never raised his voice to oppose Hungary’s declaration of war on the US.
In the United States, Hungarian Americans vigorously opposed Horthy. The Anti-Horthy League led demonstrations in the 1920s and 30s and enthusiastically supported Count Michael Károlyi, former President of the Hungarian Republic who lobbied against Horthy in the US. Thousands of Hungarian Americans served in the US Air Force, and many American and Canadian airmen died over Hungary. Some were killed by Horthy’s troops and Hungary’s Puma air-unit fighters who flew missions with the Luftwaffe against American and British planes.
Recently Hungary has restarted the cult of Horthy and installed statues and plaques everywhere in the country. I asked Fidesz mayor Péter Kovács, about a Horthy plaque in Budapest’s XVI District. Why doesn’t he remove it? It is offensive, it is disrespectful towards Hungary’s allies, the United States and Canada, and it is deeply hurtful to Hungarian Americans and Canadians.
Mayor Kovács wrote to me that the plaque is not owned by the municipality and he has no jurisdiction over it. This is how ruling Fidesz party politicians are quietly supporting the Horthy cult.
In the West the Orbán government denounces Miklós Horthy’s pro-Hitler’s regime. At home the story is different, they praise the Horthy family and support the installation of plaques. The ongoing doubletalk further isolates the Orbán regime.
The Horthy statues and plaques must be removed and I think they will be sooner or later. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.