General Gusztáv Jány – World War II war criminal, butcher of his own soldiers

In January 1943 the poorly equipped 2nd Hungarian Army was destroyed by the Soviet Red Army near the Don River.  In the senseless battle tens of thousands of Hungarians froze to death.  Some say that 93,500 lives were lost in less than two weeks, while others put the number at 148,000.

The Horthy government covered up the disaster and falsified the records so that even today we don’t know the details.

A couple of days ago Mr. István Szabó, Hungarian Defense State Secretary, declared that the “Don disaster” like many other events in history, showed how Hungarian soldiers do not run away from their task.  Hungarians fought till the very end at the Don River, even when their situation seemed hopeless, he added.

In many cases higher ranking officers brutalized ordinary soldiers and Jewish labor battalion members; most of them froze to death in the bitter cold.   Today the Orbán regime is trying to minimize the responsibility of General Jány and deny the criminal actions of the Horthy government.

General Gusztáv Jány

The 2nd Army was led by Gusztáv Jány who was born in 1883 in Rajka, Hungary and became a military officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army participating in WWI.  He had a successful but unremarkable military career, teaching at Hungary’s military academy and having administrative assignments.

In 1942 Jány was just about to retire when Admiral Horthy appointed him to lead the 2nd Army at the Eastern Front.  The appointment supposed to be a “retirement gift.”

Jány knew well that the Hungarians were ill-equipped, weak and never battle tested, no match to the Soviets.  When the Hungarian lines collapsed Jány did not try to save his own troops.  Instead, he issued draconian orders among them the medieval punishment of decimation, which was introduced to “increase discipline.”  He became the butcher of his own soldiers.

Even Horthy was stunned by his cruelty and forced Jány to withdraw some of his orders.

The introverted Jány had no children and exhibited little humanity or compassion.  He was a strict Protestant, read the Bible every day and one of his proudest achievements was to establish a Protestant chapel at the military academy.

After the Don disaster he was instrumental in the cover-up.  Although many urged an investigation his conduct, he was not charged.   In April 1943 Hitler awarded him the Iron Cross, three months later on August 5, 1943 Horthy dismissed him.   Jány later escaped to Germany where he was arrested by the Americans and turned back to Budapest.

Hitler praised the Hungarian General after the disastrous defeat.

The general has never showed any remorse.  In fact the New York Times reported that in May 1943 he gave a “glowing account” of the successful retreat carried out by his forces.  Nothing was further from the truth; the chaotic retreat was a disaster.  Jány misled the public and never admitted the atrocities he ordered.  He was tried in 1947, stripped his military ranks and executed by firing squad.

Jány gave a “glowing account” of his military success as reported by the NYT.

In 1993 his verdict was reversed on legal technicalities but his military rank has never been restored.  He is buried in Budapest, Farkasrét cemetery.

György Lázár

p.s. An uncle of the author was at the Don with the 2nd Army and froze to death.

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