Frank Koszorus Jr’s letter to the editor: Koszorús action prevented Lászlo Baky from deporting the Jews of Budapest

Sir Karl Raimund Popper’s astute observation that “[t]rue ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it” is especially relevant to how some belittle or deny Col. Ferenc Koszorus’ action that prevented the more than 250,000 Jews living in Budapest from being sent to the German death camps in July 1944.

Ignoring the historical record (e.g., relevant documents, scholarly publications, eyewitness accounts, reports, and reminiscences), Steven Colman’s letter to the editor ( September 19, 2017) erroneously and sadly asserts that it is unwarranted to attribute the saving of the Jews of Budapest to Col. Koszorus’ military intervention. The salient facts as gleaned from credible and unassailable sources, contradict this erroneous and unfortunate conclusion and are briefly summarized as follows:

After deporting 458,000 Hungarian Jews and refugees from the provinces to Auschwitz and certain death under the most horrific conditions by July 1944, Adolf Eichmann* and Laszlo Baky** planned to deport the Jewish population of Budapest by the end of July 1944.

During the Crown Council meeting on June 26, Hungary’s Regent, Miklos Horthy, directed that the deportations stop.

Rather than obey this directive, Baky deployed 3,000 armed gendarmerie in Budapest to carry out the planned deportations. While there is some debate among historians concerning whether at this time Baky also intended to depose the Regent for halting the deportations, his willful disobedience of the Regent’s directive and armed countermeasures to send the Jews of Budapest to the death camps, however, was tantamount to seditious armed rebellion — a coup, in other words.

And most importantly, regardless of other nefarious goals Baky might have had, his planned and threatened deportations were not “incidental,” but rather were at the very center of the July events, including the Koszorus Action.

Upon learning of Baky’s refusal to obey the Regent’s directive, Col. Koszorus offered his services, asked for an order, received one from the Regent and brought the 1st armored division which had been dispersed around Budapest to the capitol to force Baky’s gendarmerie to leave the city.

In addressing his troops prior launching his operation, Col. Koszorus reminded them of their duty to defend their country against all enemies. He then specifically referenced the danger confronting the Jews of Budapest at the hands of enemies. In addition to protecting the Regent from the Nazis (whom he detested), Col. Koszorus’ action, as he often reflected, was based on his deep-seated humanitarian values, values which also manifested themselves in other ways, in other circumstances.

This humanitarianism, which as his son I can attest to, was recognized by the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), himself a victim of the Hungarian Holocaust:

“Many thousands of families are alive today as a result of the heroic actions of one man who stood up for his beliefs in a very uncertain and dangerous time. His loyalty to his country and love of humanity are an inspiration to all who struggle against oppression and the vile bigotry of racism.

Too often the efforts of those who struggle against the Nazi oppression go unrecognized. This year, the 50th anniversary of Hungarian holocaust, the world reflects on the lessons learned. I am proud to honor Colonel Koszorus, a patriot, a humanitarian, and a hero.”***

Had Col. Koszorus not acted and if his troops had not followed him in this chaotic and dangerous period, the deportations would have proceeded without a hitch and 250,000 individuals would have been taken to the death camps and murdered within a few short weeks.

Col. Koszorus and his loyal troops did act, however; Baky capitulated and his planned coup-like deportations were thwarted as a direct consequence of the Koszorus Action. Congressman Lantos paid tribute to Col. Koszorus on the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust as follows: “I rise today to recognize one of the great heroes of the Hungarian holocaust. Ferenc Koszorus, who at great personal sacrifice to his own life, saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps… [his action] permitted the famous Raoul Wallenberg, who arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1994, to coordinate his successful and effective rescue mission.”

Some on the Left belittle this historical record while the right-wing extremists smear Col. Koszorus’ memory.**** But in the final analysis the opinions of naysayers and the malicious anti-Semites count for nothing. What counts is that people are alive today because one soldier at great peril was willing to confront the Nazis.

Col. Koszorus humbly reflected on his unparalleled action by writing that “from the perspective of 17 years and upon calmly and objectively considering the memorialization of the episode, all I can say is that in similar circumstances I would do exactly what I did 17 years ago. This conviction means more to me than anything else.”

Rather than ignore or misrepresent the Koszorus Action, it should be seen as a model to follow should the hatred and violence of the 1930’s and the years thereafter threaten to raise their ugly heads again.

Frank Koszorus, Jr.


*Adolf Eichmann headed a special, murderous SS detachment, the Sondereinsatzkommando, and arrived in Budapest with the occupying German troops on March 19, 1944. He immediately turned to the deportation of Hungary’s Jews.

**László Baky was associated with various radical, pro-Nazi parties. As Under-secretary of the Interior from March to September 1944, he was, among others, responsible for the deportation of the Jews.
***Congressman Lantos did not suffer Holocaust deniers and historical revisionists. At the same time, he didn’t hesitate recognizing heroes, such as Col. Koszorus.

**** In 1960 a far right extremist publication outrageously complained that in 1944 while the “horrible hordes of the new Ogata Khan, Stalin, are at the Carpathian borders, Hungarian armored units are protecting the Jews of Budapest. If one enemy is attacking the Carpathians, let the other enemy stay in the capital … . The Jewry is still more important than the Hungarian nation.”

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