From murderers to heroes

(This is the first of a three-part series on Iván Héjjas the leader of the Ragged Guard)

A conference has just ended in Kecskemét called “Of the brave and heroic,” a tribute to the Ragged Guard (Rongyos Gárda), a vigilante group whose military disturbances resulted in a plebiscite that returned the city of Sopron to Hungary after the Treaty of Trianon had shrunk the country to one-third of its size.  The conference was organized by the Association of Hungarian Patriots, a group that has received an unusually high award of 150 million forints ($500,000) from two agencies of the government in the last two years.  The organization and conference are part of the on-going campaign of the Orbán regime to applaud all nationalistic efforts of right-wing groups and thus rewrite Hungarian history.

As a result, no mention is ever made of the fact that it was the Communist Republic of Councils in 1919 that fought to maintain the historical territory of Hungary in what would become Slovakia, no mention made of Horthy’s quiet acceptance of the revised boundaries dictated by the Treaty of Trianon, nor is there any acknowledgment of the White Terror that was unleashed by vigilantes once the Republic of Councils fell in August 1919.

Kecskemét was chosen for the conference because it was the home of Iván Héjjas, the founder and one of the leaders of the Ragged Guard.  He and other veterans like Pál Prónay were encouraged by Horthy to exact revenge on the remnants of the Bolshevik regime.  In the fall of 1919, with the permission of the occupying Romanian troops, Héjjas and his men began a campaign of terror, largely against Jews.  They went on a rampage of theft, torture and murder, resulting in the death of hundreds. The extreme anti-Semitism that would lead to the extermination of half a million Jews in Hungary started with Héjjas and the Ragged Guard.  It was one of their members, László Endre, who would become Eichmann’s enthusiastic collaborator, organizing the mass deportation of Jews to Auschwitz in 1944.

Of course no mention was made in the conference of the brutal murders committed by Héjjas and his men.  His biographer László Domonkos called the village of Héjjas “the nest of the Hungarian race” and Héjjas “the embodiment of the Hungarian national character.”

Why bring up the uncomfortable facts about these thieves, sadists, and murderers when the image of a heroic Hungary has to be created?  A Christian Hungary as the New Fundamental Law of 2011 proclaims.

Steven Kovacs

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