Whatever happened to the 13-year-old boy Miklós Horthy “adopted” in 1956?

In 1956 about 200,000 Hungarian refugees fled to the West–among them 20,000 “unaccompanied minors,” mostly teenagers. These kids travelled alone; many of them came from state orphanages. A great number were apprentices who participated in the fights and also peasant and poor children from the countryside.

Lajos Kiss was 13 years old when he escaped from an orphanage at Dorog, a mining town not far from Budapest. He ended up in an Austrian camp in November 1956, and in December he was moved to Portugal with 30 orphan boys. In Portugal Kiss was housed at a children’s home at Oeiras close to the capital Lisbon.

Hungary’s pro-Hitler Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy lived just a couple of miles away, in the city of Estoril. Horthy and his family kept a low profile; he enjoyed the hospitality of António de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal authoritarian and the very Catholic ruler who kept himself in power for 36 years as Prime Minister. After World War II Horthy had been arrested by the Americans and under house arrest for years in Germany. No country wanted him, and finally in January 1949 he was able to move to Portugal. Stalin decided that he wouldn’t make a martyr from the old man, let him die in Portugal.

Miklós Horthy

Miklós Horthy

Horthy was 88 when the 1956 revolution broke out in Budapest and he heard about the refugee boys. He visited them to express “his compassionate feelings” towards the Hungarian youth who shared his fate in exile. The visit was a publicity stunt, and he even “adopted” a Hungarian refugee boy, Lajos Kiss.

Horthy's house in Estoril.

Horthy’s house in Estoril.

Kiss moved in with the Horthys, but felt the family cold and rigid for the “poor proletarian boy from Dorog.” When Horthy died two month later the family didn’t want to care for the boy anymore and Kiss was dismissed! He was homeless and later was sent back to Austria to be trained as a car mechanic.

Later in life Kiss moved to the United States and lived in Passaic, New Jersey. Horthy’s „adopted” boy would be 73 years old today. If you know about him, drop us a note.

Our readers would love to know whatever happened to the 13-year-old boy Miklós Horthy adopted in 1956.

György Lázár

N.B.: Béla Nóvé published an excellent study of Hungarian child refugees; I first read about Horthy’s “adoption” story in his work. (Read here.)



  1. A sad case of impulse buying. Like those cute little bunnies some people give to their kids as a present at Easter time, which a few weeks later end up released into the wild and cold, only to die a horrible death. Like the 460,000 rural Jews and Roma, Horthy gave as a present to his friend, Adolph Hitler. I hope, Mr Kiss survived his release into the world.

  2. Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

    After WWII Horthy had been arrested by the Americans and under house arrest for years in Germany.

    It is incorrect. Horthy was released by the Americans on 17-го декабря 1945 г. with declaration that there was no claims against him. He returned to his family, and they lived in Bavaria for 4 years, but the climate was bad for Mrs. Horthy, so they accepted the Portugal’s governement offer to move to Portugal.

  3. Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

    If you are really interested in this person, a 5-min searchon with Google could show you that a person named Lajos Kiss, age 65+, lives on 216 4th St Apt 2, Passaic, NJ 07055-7899; tel. (973) 546-5473.

    It would be interesting if you wrtie about his further fate.

  4. Avatar György Lázár says:

    Dear Eliezer,

    Horthy was in US military custody until Dec. 17, 1945 and lived with his family for three years until Dec. 28, 1948 in Weltheim, Germany, Villa Ohnesorge. During that period, they were under surveillance.

    The US made it clear that they would send Horthy back to Budapest… if requested. Also, Nicholas (Miklós) Doman from the OSS stated that (if returned) Horthy would be tried and probably executed in Hungary. Stalin saved his skin by pressuring Hungary not to request Horthy’s return from the Americans.

    Lajos Kiss is a very common name.

  5. Avatar Child of survivors says:

    And why do we care?? I personally would like to know more as to where Horthy’s family, heirs are hiding in living it up with the murdered Jew’s belongings – may his bones rattle and his ashes used for cat litter –

    • Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

      I am ashamed of this comment. Horthy saved all Budapest Jewry, 200-250 thsd. together with their descendants it, might be, a million. Nobody else saved so many. He lived penniless his last years if not a help of his former friends – 2 out if the four were Jewish.

  6. Avatar Child of survivors says:

    You don’t mean Horthy? My father was in the munka tabor building the Ferihegy airport – came home with typhus – lost all his first family – what are you in denial? I grew up hearing him curse Horthy out –

    • Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

      You are in denial of the obvious facts. From my book on the topic:

      “The following conclusions are obvious. Had Regent Horthy not remained in his position in the period from March 19 to October 15, 1944:
      1. About a quarter million of the Jews of Budapest would not have survived until October 15. There is nobody else in the Holocaust history that saved so many Jews;
      2. The actions of the diplomats and the righteous people (Wallenberg and others) during the Arrow Cross government’s time would have been useless; there would not have been any Jews left to save.

      All the leading historians agree on that. Thomas Sakmyster wrote:
      “So strong was pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic sentiment in the civil service, officer corps, and parliament that a decision by Horthy in 1942 or 1943 to accede to the German demand for deportation of the Jews would surely have meant the annihilation of the entire Hungarian Jewish community. But Horthy did not do this, for he believed that “inhumanity is alien to the Hungarian character.”… It was largely through his influence that in early 1944 Hungary was such an anomaly: an island in the heart of Hitler’s Europe where a semblance of the rule of law and a pluralistic society had been preserved in a sea of barbarism. And this was the basis of Horthy’s most important legacy to Hungarian history”.

      Laszlo Karzai:
      “Until 1944, the lives of the great majority of Hungarian Jews were not directly in danger… Until 1944, Horthy and his advisors, out of moral and humanitarian considerations, among others, would not hand over the Hungarian Jews to the Nazi mass murderers.”

      “What Horthy did,” noted George Friedman, “was the dirty work of decency.” But perhaps American prewar ambassador John Montgomery best articulates Horthy’s true place in history: “This world would be a better, more decent place, if the leaders of the English-speaking nations developed a tiny part of the courage shown at that time by Admiral Horthy.”

      In spite of this, the Jews evaluate Horthy predominantly negatively. Are they puzzled by the fact that the Jews were not saved by left-wing politicians, but those on the right? Is it hatred of the left intellectuals for a life-long anti-communist? History does not allow for “what ifs”. Nevertheless, even the leading historians of the Hungarian Holocaust love this exercise. Several of them think that Horthy needed to take Romania as an example and send more troops to the Eastern front and in this way to avoid occupation. However, after a blistering defeat of the Hungarians in Russia Horthy and Kallay saw their duty in avoiding further active participation in the war. Should we blame them for this? And Horthy did try to switch the sides, but he was plainly unlucky.”

  7. Avatar György Lázár says:

    Horthy was a vicious anti-Semite who hated Jews. In a letter dated Oct. 14, 1940 to Mr. Pál Teleki… “I was an anti-Semite in my entire life, I never had any contact with them…” Horthy participated in the systematic destruction of Hungarian Jewry by supporting numerous “Jewish laws” and he is responsible for several mass-killings. What is interesting to me, that in the last couple of years the Orbán government has started a distasteful whitewashing campaign to rehab Admiral Horthy. Even Horthy’s relatives, who live in the US, wouldn’t dare to praise the man who declared war on the US. By the way, Horthy equally hated blacks (“negroes”) and he wanted to deny the entry of Afro-American US soldiers to Hungary.

  8. Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

    From my book:
    “Was Horthy personally an anti-Semite? It seems that Horthy unequivocally answered this question in his private letter to Pal Teleki dated October 14, 1940 (emphasis mine – E.R.):

    “As regards the Jewish problem, I have been an anti-Semite throughout my life. I have never had contact with Jews. I have considered it intolerable that here in Hungary everything, every factory, bank, large fortune, business, theater, press, commerce, etc. should be in Jewish hands, and that the Jew should be the image reflected of Hungary, especially abroad. Since, however, one of the most important tasks of the government is to raise the standard of living, i.e., we have to acquire wealth, it is impossible, in a year or two, to replace the Jews, who have everything in their hands, and to replace them with incompetent, unworthy, mostly big-mouthed elements, for we should become bankrupt. This requires a generation at least. I have perhaps been the first to loudly profess anti-Semitism, yet I cannot look with indifference at inhumanity, senseless humiliation, when we still need them. In addition, I consider, for example, the Arrow Cross to be far more dangerous and worthless for my country than I do the Jew…”

    But again, the bare facts prove misleading. Horthy’s statement that he had “never had contact with Jews” is plainly laughable; he played bridge with them, invited them to his table, and encouraged them in commerce.

    But in this particular moment of history he was a leader of the nation that had chosen anti-Semitism as a way of life. In the 1939 elections “The Arrow Cross” and several other right-wing parties received a quarter of the votes. The country allied itself with Hitler’s Germany. So is it possible for the leader of such a country not to at least pay lip service to anti-Semitism in order to protect the Jews?

    Why did he sign the anti-Semitic laws? He did it because he was the head of an anti-Semitic democracy. So maybe we should re-read Horthy’s letter to Teleki from a different angle. What is this letter really about? It is about the impracticality of removing the Jews from the Hungarian economy during the life of at least a generation because the well-being of the population would suffer. It is about the notion that, if the country cannot manage without the Jews, they should be treated with dignity.

  9. E. Rabinovich
    You made the right conclusion “about the impracticality of removing the Jews from the Hungarian economy ” so quickly, ergo they should have been removed (ie. exterminated) at a pace that would preserve the well being of the rest of the population.
    And Horthy never mentioned any dignity.

    I rest my case.

  10. Avatar Child of survivors says:

    Mr Rabinovich – if that indeed is your real name – Jewish to boot – or alias of a self hating Jew, or worse : a magyar trying to stir up fire, or romancing a much detested arrow cross murderer!
    Yes, my father was taken from Koloszvar (Romania) and we curse Horthy into eternity!
    I don’t care about your sidetracked ignorant “book” – yo surely would defend the despicable Kasztner also – that’s another pile of garbage I don’t want to start up about –

  11. Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

    No comment. Pity if people, the Jews, may so little care about the truth.

  12. Eliezer Rabinovich is real and Russian. He seems to have given some talks in Hungary (no doubt invited for the obvious reasons) and he has posted on Hungarian Spectrum, mostly along the same lines. He seems to be wedded to a far-fetched theory that happens to also be convenient for Orban’s resurrection of the Horthy Cult to whip up support for his depredations. There may be some other dynamics at play in Rabinovich.

    (Child-of-survivors has clearly been traumatized; his bitterness should be allowed some slack.)

    • Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

      Professor Harnad, though you are not so cathegorical in your denial, even you are not interested in obvious facts of siving the Budapest Jewry by Horthy.

      >There may be some other dynamics at play in Rabinovich.

      You are absolutely right, there is. My and my wife’s families were destroyed in Stalin’s Russia, so we completely share Horthy’s hatred of communism, and this his hatred does not blind our judgement. Also, it is sharpen our feel and need for justice.

      I read that even now some of the Hungarian left cannot forgive Horthy suppression of bloody Bela Kun. Taking into account that most of your here are refugees from the failed 1956 revolt, I am very surprised that your left views remain alive and kicking.

  13. Avatar Eliezer Rabinovich says:

    of SAVING the Budapest Jewry by Horthy.

  14. Avatar Child of survivors says:

    Mr Harnad and to some of the commentators -I had a pretty damn good upbringing in Koloszvar having been born many years after the Holocaust that engulfed my fathers first wife, child, parents, little siblings and inlaws – attended the music Conservatorium, we reoccupied my paternal grandparents house, my parents survivors, reestablished their lives the best they could – being Jews who returned to a sad, dark town – I was cherished, adored and not traumatized – in the contrary I respected my legacy and did learn to use my dislike and hatred towards the Horthys, the Antonescus, the two-faced Hungarian neighbors who were just so jealous that the Jews some of them came back alive- we left the G-d cursed country in the early 60’s and never looked back! To visit ? Ughhhhhhh….

  15. @ Rabinovitch

    We’ve had the opportunity, on numerous occasions, to hear your defense of the indefensible. The Horthy regime from its first days, in 1920, was a regime dedicated to the manufacturing of hatred against the Jews. It did so, by enthusiastically supporting the racist theses of the catholic bishop, Ottokás Prohászka, the spiritual father of contemporary Hungarian anti-Semitism. It did so by introducing the first anti-Semitic laws of the 20th century anywhere in the world, in June, 1920. Hitler wasn’t even a blip on the anti-Semitic radar when Prohászka and Horthy began their joint venture on the so-called “Jewish-question”, planting the seeds of hatred against the Jews, that the current Hungarian government continues to cultivate by decorating such contemporary geneticists as Zsolt Bayer, or István Csurka, to name just two. Your own quotation above, shows, that Horthy’s only objection against the extermination of the Jews was, that Hungary still needed them in order to enhance its rate of GNP growth.

    Rabinovitch ! You are a despicable apologist for those who murdered 600,000 Hungarian Jews. Rabinovitch ! You are a despicable apologist for those, like Orbán and his corrupt cronies, who are engaged in whitewashing Hungary’s responsibility in the horrors committed against humanity between 1920 and 1945.

  16. Avatar Child of survivors says:

    Sir Andras Gollner! Bless you for being honest, with a backbone to defend those who were killed with the help of : non-caring, silenced American Jews, Swiss Jews and the whole world who took their voices and lives. Now the 2nd and 3rd generation of the victims MUST stand up and voice their minds!
    This pseudo guy you mentioned is just that: an ignorant, 125% trouble maker ghost, who is trying to get his 15 minutes of fame- I can always refresh my cat litter with his writing….

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