Hungarian Ethnic Germans in Waffen SS – part four

Translated by Henry A. Fischer

  Before we can present a description and chronology of the recruitment and enlistment drive for the Waffen-SS carried out by the Volksbund in Hungary it is important that we distinguish between the character and role of the SS (Schutzstaffel) and the Waffen-SS. Despite numerous investigations, scientific research and scholarly studies there is still a lot of confusion about the nature of the SS which is often presented as a monolithic military and criminal organization as perceived by the International War Crimes Tribunals which have influenced the mindset of the general public and coloured the views of many historians which allows for no exceptions or variations in understanding.

At its inception the Schutzstaffel was an Order and Fraternity in an almost a medieval sense to carry out a specific purpose.  When it was first established in 1929 they served as Adolph Hitler’s bodyguards, “schwarze Leibgarde” which in German is descriptive of the black uniform that they wore.  Heinrich Himmler was appointed to be its first Führer in command of the two hundred and fifty handpicked men that were originally part of the SA (Sturmabteilung) (Storm troopers) of Ernst Röhm, the so-called “brown shirts”.  The unit was originally intended to protect Hitler as security guards but it was always also to be a political instrument to carry out his personal policies and from the outset was associated with carrying out the racial and resettlement priorities he had in mind.  After 1933 it expanded rapidly and developed into a million-man army.  The spread of the SS all across the country was rapid.  In 1930 there were 2,000 members of the SS and by 1931 there were 10,000.  This was by intent and the goal of the Nazi leadership.

Himmler established strict demands of recruits more suitable for a monastic order with his demand for chastity (purity), integrity, and loyalty to the Führer, unquestioning obedience, honouring his comrades, rigorous with one’s self and others and a model of family life.  In short they were to emulate the best of the lifestyle of the fabled Prussian military officer as their personal ideal as the fulfillment of the historical development of the German people and as an example for the entire nation.  With the assistance of Heydrich the head of the SD (Security Division) Himmler was able to access power and prestige for the SS.  In the intervening years between 1932-1937 in which power struggles and intrigue were the order of the day among the Nazi leadership the SS developed uniformity in purpose no longer hampered by the SD apparatus and restraints and spread all across Germany.

With the elimination of Ernst Röhm and his “brown shirts”, Himmler had a free hand to now establish an SS army outside of the jurisdiction of the SD and interference from the Gestapo.  In 1936 these troops numbered 210,000 men of whom 90% were assigned for “special duty” and another 10% were in the Totenkopf (Death Heads) units.  By the end of the war their numbered 1,000,000 men of whom 30,000 were in the Death Heads units and the forces now also included foreign nationals from such diverse nations as France, Latvia, Estonia, Belgium and Ukraine.  They were divided into divisions and regiments of approximately 3,000 men and formed an army of their own alongside the Wehrmacht, the traditional German Army and had their own training facilities, greater control over their armaments and weaponry and were far better disciplined and organized than the regular army.  The Waffen-SS was Himmler’s “special forces” with a code of their own   that would lead to the conquest of Europe.  All of the Waffen-SS were under the direct command of SS Headquarters in Berlin and were charged with carrying out all of the practical aspects of Himmler’s orders.  The SS concepts of idealism, heroism and racial purity perhaps sound naive to the modern ear but it had a great impact upon the German minorities in south-eastern Europe that in many ways they were treated as second-class citizens in their “host” countries or at least they perceived themselves to be.  The massive drive to recruit the ever more unwilling as the war progressed was carried out with a great deal of cynicism under the cloak of idealism and resulted in the expansion of enslaving more and more men.

German hegemony was established across south-eastern Europe after the fall of France and the subsequent German victories up to the late fall of 1941.  It was simply a matter of collaboration or conquest.  Most chose collaboration.

The movement of German troops through Hungary and Romania to support the Italian invasion of Greece in January and February of 1941 and the subsequent German military conquest and territorial dismemberment of Yugoslavia with the help of Hungary in April of 1941, despite the suicide of Teleki in protest over it on April 3, 1941 and Hungary’s joining in the war against the USSR on June 27, 1941 all put the final seal and cemented the alliance between Germany and Hungary.  Hitler’s political ideological objectives now became part of his military goals.  Like all of the associations of the German minorities in south-eastern Europe, the Volksbund in Hungary was closely tied organizationally and ideologically to the Third Reich.  The Volksbund was in full support of the emerging “East” policies of the Third Reich and sought to carry them out in Hungary and exemplify German supremacy in their homeland.  But Hungarian policy towards the minorities stood in the way of their objectives as they always had.

The situation was different in the newly acquired territories in Yugoslavia now annexed by Hungary, the so-called Batschka.  The Swabians in the Batschka had not shared a common history with the Swabians of Hungary and it is understandable that the young men now freed from the restraints of the former and defeated Serb government eagerly volunteered to serve in the German Wehrmacht and the SS alongside the victors.  Hungarian officials there complained that when they came home on furlough in their SS uniforms they spread anti-Hungarian propaganda in their home communities.  From the archives of the German Foreign Ministry and the German embassy in Budapest there are mounds of correspondence that indicate that the families of many of these men contacted the embassy and asked for information about their sons and husbands serving in the Waffen-SS.  All of their inquiries were referred to the Volksbund by the embassy because they knew nothing about such matters.  Or at least so they informed the families.

The embassy was following Hitler’s official line not to rock the boat in terms of German and Hungarian relations.  The Hungarian General Staff was of the point of view that every member of the ethnic German minority had the right to join the German army and fight for the German war objectives according to a note from the ambassador von Jagow to the Reich Foreign Office in Berlin.  The Hungarian Foreign Office for their part refused to accept the practical implications and the view of their General Staff and instead asked for the resettlement out of Hungary of all members of the ethnic German minority in Hungary who served in the German Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS along with their family members.  In response concern was expressed on the part of the Reich that relations could become strained and badly damage their alliance with the Hungarians.  The Reich ministry saw that they were faced with an awkward situation about the recruitment from among the ethnic German minority in former Yugoslavia into the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS because so many of them had already been accepted into the German forces.  The Reich Foreign Office instructed the chief of the SS Headquarters in Berlin to take oversight and responsibility for the ethnic Germans from the Batschka who had been accepted into the Waffen-SS.  This was a tactical attempt on the part of the Foreign Office and the German embassy in Budapest to convey to the Hungarian government that they had been unaware of any such situation and indicated that the matter was really out of their hands.  The Hungarian government was only to well aware of what was taking place through the young ethnic Germans who returned home to their families on furlough.

On November 17, 1941 the German Counsel in Szeged, named Kampf, informed the German ambassador in Budapest that the local Corps Commander, Lt. Field Marshall Czeydner (Zeidner was his German name before it was Magyarized), a Transylvania Saxon, had issued warrants of arrest on November 15th to apprehend thirty military bound ethnic Germans who had left for the Reich without permission.  Zeidner had to present a list of names to Kampf for his information and disposition of the matter.  Despite their official good relations with the Third Reich, the higher government officials in the Hungarian government looked upon its citizens of ethnic German origin who had joined the Waffen-SS as deserters that should be arrested.  The fact that the Hungarian government took such a politically dangerous action shows that the Regent Horthy’s pro-British bent was still operative.

The general policy of collaboration on the part of Hungary with the National Socialist government of Germany was not operative in all issues that arose between them.  Horthy did not have much personal sympathy for Hitler and watched the German leadership closely, simply for national utilitarian reasons.  His only concern was to ensure that Hungary would benefit in the new world order of the Axis Powers after the German victory.

On the other hand, Horthy was upset and disturbed by the support the Nazis provided for the Arrow Cross Party and the increased activity of the Volksbund after 1938.  As a result he sought to stop and curtail the emigration of military-age ethnic Germans to the Reich who were being sent to Germany under various pretexts by the Volksbund.  Just how many men were involved?  Hans-Werner Schuster speaks of over four hundred men.  The military attaché and the German embassy in Budapest wrote the following on November 28, 1941 to the Army High Command:  “…from the region around Lake Balaton, some four hundred to five hundred young men from the ethnic German communities were sent across the border for a “sports’ competition.””  When representatives from the Foreign Office in Berlin questioned Basch about the matter, he assured them, “I am sure the young people find themselves in a fine place.”  Basch carried out these activities on his own according to the archives of the Foreign Office with their tacit agreement to provide plausible deniability.  In addition there were also seventy other young men from northern Transylvania who were involved.  There are no other statistics provided for other areas of the country.  Communities in Tolna County reported that five to ten young men from each village were enticed to the “sport’s competition” and according to them the figure of five hundred is far too low.  As the return of the young men did not occur, as their families had been informed when they left they began to make inquiries.  The following is a quote from a letter of complaint from parents written to Hitler himself:

“Our eighteen year old sons, Adam Keller and Joseph Jäger and seventy of their comrades from our County of Baranya who are all members of the local Bund were tricked and talked into going to Germany as well as bribed by the Bund to participate in a two to three month sport’s training programme which would produce great results for them.  They had secret medical examinations on July 9, 1941 and were taken secretly from the Deustches Haus in Budapest across the border, first to Vienna and then delivered to Brünn.  There our minor age children despite their confused consciences and against their will were assigned as volunteers and soldiers of SS units, trained and then sent to the Russian border.

We are simple Swabian farmers and are asking you for justice.  We will not accept this injustice that our minor age sons who were promised a sport’s training programme in order to coax them from their homes have instead been forced into becoming soldiers and sent to the front lines.  Our children write us pitiful letters.  They want to come home.  We and many other parents have made uncountable numbers of visits and made complaints to the Volksbund and the German Counsel about this matter and to have our children returned to us, but without any result.  We beg you, our great and righteous Führer to hear our plea and send our children back home to us.  They were in Lager Kahlberg 12 in Brünn when we last heard from them.”

Their letter was dated October 23, 1941 in Oroszko and signed by Stephen Keller and Anton Jäger.

After arriving in Vienna the boys were assigned to the Waffen-SS as physically fit to serve in the military and the vast majority of them were allocated to units of the SS-Division Das Reich.  It is probable that they were in the 6th SS-Mountain Division North.  Himmler wanted to replace losses on the Finnish front when large numbers of the SS were taken prisoner on July 2, 1941 and these five hundred men from Hungary were to be the answer to his problem.

During the Yugoslavian campaign Wehrmacht and SS officers attempted to recruit Swabians on their way through Hungary as they made their way to the front.  These matters were discussed among various Foreign Office officials in August 1941 from the viewpoint of dealing with the families of the men involved.  They attempted to get the embassy in Budapest to assume responsibility but they deferred to the Bund to respond.

In spite of attempts to get the co-operation of the German embassy in Budapest, the Hungarian government was well aware of what was taking place.  While on the other hand the embassy had to deal with the SS who asked for their assistance to pay support money to the families of the SS volunteers which the embassy refused to do officially in August 1941.  As a result the money by-passed the embassy and went to the Volksbund greatly antagonizing the Hungarians.  The village of Kula is a good example.  In 1941, eighty-six young men were ordered to report to the Hungarian recruitment officials for their physical examination but only one “bootlicker” as the Bund referred to him appeared for all of the others were serving in German formations.  This also created other problems for the Swabian communities.  With the emigration of young men to Germany the Swabian communities found they faced economic difficulties so that many families were unable to provide for themselves, which caused great unrest, and families reported their dilemma to Hungarian government officials.

According to what we know of the situation in October 1, 1941 there were around 2,000 young men serving the Waffen-SS from the Batschka; 1,500 in the German Wehrmacht and 2,000 served as sentries and guards at work and labour installations and by the end of 1941 there were twenty youth who had been killed in action.

The Volksbund in Hungary had to operate cautiously in recruiting young men from among the ethnic German minority to serve in the Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht until the end of 1941 in order to cover their backsides because they knew that the Hungarian Constitution   called for revoking the citizenship of anyone who joined the army of another state and treated them as a traitor.  In spite of warnings from the Hungarian government and military and the arrest of individuals found serving in German units the Hungarians continued to hold back from exercising their full prerogative.  Both the Volksbund and the Hungarian government acted cautiously avoiding sharp confrontations.  This holding back on the part of the Hungarians was due above all to Nazi Germany.  While on Germany’s part there was a reluctance to cause a confrontation due to Hitler’s adventurous militarily ambitions in Eastern Europe which were obviously the reasons that lay behind the need for recruiting and strengthening his troops.

The leading ethnic German clergy and government officials of ethnic German origin unleashed a hostile attack directed against the Volksbund and their attempts to win the ethnic German youth in Hungary for the German armed forces.  The Hungarian government supported their efforts and worked to hinder the emigration of military age youth to Germany, which in effect was actually a moderate step on their part in light of the Hungarian Constitution.

The reasons behind the majority support of the ethnic German minorities in south-eastern Europe for Hitler’s policy of conquest had its basis in the non-acceptance of the rights of the minorities that had been guaranteed by the Treaty of Trianon and the lack of the implementation of any as well as the treatment of the German minority in various ways by the various national governments from German language schools to economic hindrances and restrictions imposed upon them.  In a sense it is no wonder that idealistic youth were prepared to cross the frontier and voluntarily join the Waffen-SS or the Wehrmacht.  They became pawns in a world of politics far beyond their understanding and the possible consequences.  It was only a matter of time before the Nazis made clear to the Hungarian government that the ethnic German minority in Hungary must provide far greater numbers for the Waffen-SS to carry out Hitler’s ambitions.

During a visit to Hungary on January 6-9, 1942 von Ribbentrop spoke of the problems involved in the recruitment of 20,000 men from among the ethnic German minority.

Bárdossy agreed to Ribbentrop’s request in principle because he believed it was a way he could get rid of the activist younger Bund members.  Concrete discussions only began after the Nazi government accepted three conditions put forth by the Hungarian government:

1)      Only ethnic Germans who volunteer will be enlisted into the Waffen-SS.

2)      In all cases the parents of all volunteers must approve in writing.

3)      All those who are enlisted must be given German citizenship immediately and consequently surrender their Hungarian citizenship.

The second point would be reworked and parental consent was not required after the age of twenty-four years.  Those who were opposed to the recruitment campaign would find the Volksbund a formidable opponent.  They would face ridicule and be ostracized from the “brotherhood”.  This would prove especially true in northern Transylvania.

Even though the Hungarian Minister of Defence disagreed at first to support the Prime Minister in the matter, in short order he changed his mind and agreed to the German request but recognized that it was a demand.

On January 30, 1942 officials representing Himmler arrived in Budapest to discuss the recruitment campaign with the German ambassador.  Earlier on January 20, 1942 von Jagow had been instructed by the Foreign Office to personally express the thanks of the Reich government for the approval by the Hungarian government for the recruitment of 20,000 men from the ethnic German minority in Hungary for the Waffen-SS to the Prime Minister Bárbossy who also served as his own Foreign Minister.  Shortly after, Viktor Nageler, an SS commander, from Waffen-SS headquarters in Bratislava was ordered to Budapest and assigned to the German embassy.  His task was to carry out the technical details in consultation with von Jagow.  Even though the recruitment campaign was to be carried out under the leadership of the Volksbund all political responsibilities were to be left in the hands of the ambassador.

With their acceptance of the recruitment of the ethnic German minority for the Waffen-SS, Hungary could no longer avoid its participation in the war against the Soviet Union.  The government and the Defence Ministry used the opportunity to try to restrain the Volksbund leadership through talks with the German military.  These talks on January 21, 1942 between the Hungarian Chief of Staff, Ferenc Szombathelyi and Field Marshall Keitel of Germany were centred around the major concern of the Hungarian government.  The Hungarian commander pointed out that one did not go to war against the Soviet Union without a great deal of thought because all signs pointed to the fact that the Volksbund leadership would attack Hungary from behind and from within.  In such circumstances it was hard to keep up the morale of the Hungarian troops.  Szombathelyi brought up many examples, especially the hostile and incendiary articles in the Volksbund press.  There were orators who in speaking at assemblies of their members had said, “When the German Reich is victorious then the Hungarians here will be finished.”  A few days later he again raised the same issues with the German military attaché, Pappenheim, who forwarded the information to the Wehrmacht Command, the Reichsführer SS Himmler and the VOMI.

Berlin was aware of the fractured relationship between the Hungarian government and the Volksbund leadership.  The VOMI told Basch not to antagonize the Hungarians unnecessarily and not to speak of the “national folk” struggle at Bund gatherings.  Himmler reprimanded Basch through SS Commander Behrends and on February 26th declared, “The work of the Bund in Hungary in the near future must become a completely national Hungarian matter.”  The Volksbund leadership could only speak of a common struggle in which both Hungary and Germany were engaged and Himmler called for an end to raising other issues and concerns of the ethnic German minority, which to a degree Basch would now respect.

On February 20, 1942 the terms of the agreement between Hungary and Germany in regard to the recruitment campaign among the ethnic German minority came into effect.  The press, by arrangement with the Defence Department, scolded the treaty and the task of convincing the ethnic German minority to comply was left to the Bund and its members to carry it out.  As a result it came to fights and beatings between the volunteers and those who avoided serving in the German armed forces.  As an example, in Hodeschag in the Batschka, during the recruitment drive some seventy-one houses were damaged because the majority of the youth refused to voluntarily join the Waffen-SS.  The local Bund members who smashed windows of those did these acts of terrorism that they called pro-Hungarian.  This terrorism was attacked in the Roman Catholic press.  An editorial ran:  Is this the “new” German man we’ve been hearing about?  Threats.  Fear.  Warnings?”

On April 3, 1942 the first recruitment campaign carried out by the Volksbund reported the following statistics for all regions of Hungary:

Batschka:  12,868 volunteers registered; 3,452 rejected; 9,416 recruited; 4,173 in the SS; 5,243 in the Wehrmacht.

Buchenwald:  1,145 volunteers registered; 521 rejected; 624 recruited; 311 in the SS; 313 in the Wehrmacht.

Mitteberg:  2,312 volunteers registered; 827 rejected; 1,485 recruited; 439 in the SS; 1,046 in the Wehrmacht.

Szatmar:  1,414 volunteers registered; 475 rejected; 939 recruited; 406 in the SS; 533 in the Wehrmacht.

Transylvania:  2,386 volunteers registered; 674 rejected; 1,712 recruited; 508 in the SS; 1,204 in the Wehrmacht.

Swabian Turkey:  3,540 volunteers registered; 977 rejected; 2,563 recruited; 1,475 in the SS; 1,088 in the Wehrmacht.

Western Hungary:  2,044 volunteers registered; 923 rejected; 1,121 recruited; 254 in the SS; 867 in the Wehrmacht.

Totals:  25,709 volunteers registered; 7,849 rejected; 17,860 recruited; 7,566 in the SS; 10,294 in the Wehrmacht.

On the basis of population density in the various regions of Hungary the largest numbers of volunteers came from the Batschka and northern Transylvania.  This may be due to the fact that paramilitary organizations existed in these regions after 1933 and were outside of the jurisdiction of the Hungarian government that forbade such organizations on its own territories.  The sanctions against the volunteers were put into effect by the various levels of the Hungarian government.  Many of them lost their jobs and in some individual cases they were declared to be traitors.  During the parading of recruits through the streets of Sopron, high school students carried out a counter demonstration and in St. Gotthard they were spit upon and cursed by Hungarian students.  Most importantly the ethnic German minority as a whole was just not united in its approach to the question of joining the Waffen-SS.

In a letter from the Ministry of Defence to the German ambassador in Budapest von Jagow was informed that the Volksbund were taking charge of the contingents of young ethnic Germans being called up to serve in the Hungarian military.  The Minister of Defence indicated he could not let this happen.  In March of 1942 Basch was supposed to have ordered that all of the wounded, whether serving in the Waffen-SS or the Hungarian Army would be taken over by the Volksbund following their convalescence.  This was also to include those who had served bravely in battle.  These actions once again greatly provoked the Hungarian government and led to a court case held on June 27th in which the Minister of the Interior charged Basch and his deputy Goldschmidt with espionage.  The same charges were also levelled at Dr. Stephen Weber the Führer of the Buchenwald region on July 6th and he was put on trial.  These actions on the part of the Hungarians created great indignation at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.  Von Jagow was instructed by Luther of the Foreign Office to raise a rumpus with the Hungarian government over the issue.

In Szatmar and Western Hungary as well as other regions of the land there was a noticeable decline in the number of volunteers and a refusal to participate in the campaign for recruitment into the Waffen-SS along with a growing opposition as a result of counter propaganda efforts.  In the Batschka, Adam Berenz boasted of the Waffen-SS recruitment campaign openly but there had been few results.  This slow down of recruitment allowed the Hungarian police to get in on the act, and they used the slightest provocation to abuse the volunteers even though they were supposed to provide support in the recruitment drive.  All of this led to escalation of fear and a quick dispatching of recruits at a time when rail transport was at a premium.

In Bistritz in northern Transylvania for example, the so-called SS volunteers, were assembled on the athletic field behind the ethnic German junior college on April 17, 1942 in a roped off area and then marched to the train station not allowing them to make contact with any of their family members nor were they allowed to see them leave.  They boarded cattle cars 2 kilometres outside of town.  After the cars were loaded the regional Führer and his cohorts appeared.  The Nazi officials called the family members to speak to them and explained that it did not sit well with the Hungarian officials that the recruits were being taken into the German military but they had been forced to act in this way.  The train left with its cargo of SS recruits for Klausenberg, Budapest and Vienna.  In Budapest the train was welcomed by the German Red Cross and an honour guard, cheered by the population and given food.  There was an armed German soldier in each car to make certain no one left the train.  They disembarked from the train by night in the SS barracks of 12th District, Rasenhügelstrasse.  The next day they were divided into various SS units in Hammelberg, Warthegau and Prague.

The departure of the volunteer SS recruits from Hungary was completed by May 3rd.   In a radio address on May 5th Goldschmidt said, “The fact that the Hungarian nation marches shoulder to shoulder with the Hero Adolph Hitler to battle for a free Europe will never be forgotten by us.  With the unhesitating entry of Hungary into the war our life struggle in our homeland will become more difficult but we ethnic Germans living in Hungary will bear it willingly and proudly.”

The Hungarian government’s reluctance and hostility with regard to the carrying out of the recruitment drive for SS volunteers was now focussed on the families of the recruits who on the basis of Hungarian law had also lost their citizenship and were now going to experience the result of that.  The chicanery and machinations of the Hungarian police were set into motion right after the departure of the recruits and now directed against their family members.  The wives of SS volunteers experienced great difficulties in particular.  Their husbands who were now citizens of the Reich were no longer owners of Hungarian property according to the law.  The Volksbund was caught with its pants down as the Hungarian authorities began a massive mustering of the Swabians into the Hungarian National Army shortly after the Waffen-SS recruitment drive.  Even the prominent Volksbund leaders in their regional offices were called up to serve in the Hungarian Army.  As all of this went on the families of the SS volunteers spread their annoyance and anger abroad.  Alongside them, however, there was also a large portion of the ethnic German minority that was still pro-Hungarian even in 1942 when the German army was victorious.  This caused the Bund to take stock of their situation, especially in the Batschka where Bund members attacked homes and smashed the windows of any Swabians they felt were pro-Hungarian and charged that their actions were examples of the kind of repression that was being suffered by the ethnic German minority in Hungary in the communiqués that they sent to the Reich.  Activities like these on the part of the Bund would have their consequences.

Both the Hungarian government and Volksbund were on a collision course.  The Hungarians feared the growing influence and the importance of the Bund to the Reich, while the Bund sought to extend its power base to call into existence a completely independent and autonomous organization.  Between these two contending powers the broad spectrum of the masses were caught like a football between them in their struggle for power.

The struggle for power changed drastically during the first year after Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union to the disadvantage of the German Army.  The Russian campaign began with 1,280 aircraft, 3,330 tanks and 600,000 trucks.  In the year 1942-1943 the US supplied Russia with 3,052 aircraft, 4,084 tanks and 520,000 trucks.  Added to this was the severe winter weather that caused countless deaths in the German units.  This precarious situation would have a lasting effect on the German troops and their ability to counter-attack was sharply reduced.  In order to stabilize the front and raise the low morale of the army and regain lost territory new German troops were needed on the Eastern Front.  Above all the Reich had the desire to have a further SS recruitment drive   begin in Hungary.

From a note written by Luther, the Under Secretary of State of the Reich, we learn that the new Hungarian Prime Minister Kállay gave the green light for a second SS recruitment and enlistment campaign to the Reich Foreign Minister.  This verbal agreement for 10,000 additional volunteers was conveyed to the German ambassador in Budapest and instructed him to confirm it with the Hungarian government.  From von Jagow’s reply to the Foreign Ministry we learn that the Volksbund carried out the first recruitment drive from February 24th to April 3rd in 1942 and suggested that the same methods be employed the second time around to achieve the desired results.  In addition he indicated that it was important not to publicize the fact that there had been Swabian deserters from the Waffen-SS who had publicly opted to serve in the Hungarian Army.  In such cases the Bund was to see to it that these men were to be shipped off to the Reich.  The Bund leadership did so because they were afraid of repercussions that could lead to counter-propaganda against the recruitment on the part of some Hungarian officials.  This could have been a powerful propaganda weapon against volunteering in the SS since there was not a single case of a Swabian deserter from the Hungarian Army.  Despite the efforts of the Bund the second recruitment campaign was held up for various reasons throughout all of 1942.  The big issue that stood in the way of carrying it out was compensation and support for the families of such volunteers.  This was also the major problem they had run into during the first recruitment while the two governments haggled over the costs and how they would be shared.

The following are some letters written by the families of such volunteers:

The wife of Johann Dobler who was serving in the SS wrote:  “For two months now we have not received the financial support we were promised and we have heard that no more would be forthcoming and if that is true then you should lay down your weapons and stop fighting.”

Katharina Herold of Szentfülöp wrote to Anton Herold in the SS:  “I am upset about our Regional Führer and not for the first time.  I have still not received any financial support.  Whenever we question him, he answers that we have not submitted the proper paper work.  I had always hoped that things would work themselves out even if it would take some time.  But all of us became sick as I had written to you and the doctor told me that the families of all men in the Waffen-SS were entitled to free services from their doctor and pharmacist if I brought a note from the Regional Führer.  When I asked him for one, he told me I had no right to it.”

According to Basch some of the chief and most vocal anti-recruitment propagandists were the wives of SS volunteers who complained about the lack of financial support they had had to live with.  Many of the families were unable to provide for themselves or participate in the local economy especially those with family farms.  Many of the deserters left because of the conditions they experienced in the ethnic German units.  They were discriminated against and ridiculed by the Reich Germans and treated as inferiors.

The unrest over these issues in the Swabian enclaves was compounded by the Reich proposal for the total resettlement of the ethnic German minority in Hungary which made the task of the Volksbund even more difficult.  A resettlement would have resulted in a mass walk out from the Bund and the complete disintegration of the Folk Group.  The same would happen if the families of the volunteers in the SS were resettled.  Consideration was given for the resettlement of the landless as another option which the Bund believed would gain some support.  Hardly less problematic was the question of citizenship.

Although volunteers in the SS were promised immediate Reich citizenship it was not actually forthcoming.  Himmler substantiates this in a letter of January 21, 1943 in writing to SS Commanders Berger and Lorenz in which he repudiates the idea and says that volunteers who are not found to be physically fit are to be returned immediately to Hungary because they had not yet lost their Hungarian citizenship nor received citizenship in the Reich.  That of course was his interpretation of the matter and not that of the Hungarian government and its constitution.  This ambivalence about the matter of citizenship certainly dampened the enthusiasm of potential volunteers.  What Himmler had in mind was to restock the Waffen-SS through a new recruitment campaign with 30,000 to 50,000 Swabians including those who were already serving in the Hungarian Army and brought this matter to the attention of the German ambassador in Budapest.

On April 14, 1943 von Jagow reported to Himmler by telegram that there were 112,000 able bodied Swabians of military age, who were militarily trained consisting of 1,343 officers and 75,390 reservists.  He estimated that they represented 3.2% of the Hungarian military.  In October of 1942 the number of ethnic Germans actively serving had been assessed at 6,000 men by the Hungarian government while the Bund estimate was in the neighbourhood of 70,000 men serving in the Hungarian National Army.

Himmler’s objective could only be met if the men from the ethnic German minority serving in the Hungarian National Army were allowed to be recruited into the SS.  The Hungarian government’s refusal to allow for recruitment from among its armed forces would disappoint Himmler while on the other hand if the Bund proceeded with a recruitment drive among the men not under arms in the Hungarian forces they would effectively bankrupt the manpower resources of the German minority.  At that time the Hungarians were out to mobilize three new divisions themselves and would leave little room for an SS enlistment as well.  Most of the technical units in the Hungarian Army were Swabian troops and it was in Hungary’s best interests to keep them in order for their army to function effectively.

But it was not only the Hungarian government that showed a desire to halt another SS enlistment, so did the ethnic German minority itself.  From complaints raised and letters from the front we discover that the Hungarian authorities not only treated the volunteers in the SS as foreigners but also their families and dependents.  All of the rights and the protection of the law were denied them.  These sanctions against the families of the volunteers in the SS were strengthened and made more severe through efforts promoted by the County authorities and the police.  From Germany’s point of view, Point 3 of the German Hungarian Accord of February 24, 1942 was in effect and the volunteers in the SS from Hungary would retain their Hungarian citizenship and Hungary was obligated to make sure the families of the volunteers would suffer no disadvantages.  But the ethnic German minority also saw itself beset by difficulties in terms of the Reich.

They charged that those in the Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht were dealt with in an unworthy manner and the Reich Germans called them, “Volksdeutsche Schweine” (ethnic German pigs).  In one instance, during the time of their training, recruits from Lechnitz in Transylvania, the Saxons were ridiculed as “men who would make the war last longer and it would have been far better to shoot them before they ever enlisted.”

The irregular payment of support to families and the refusal to acknowledge the Reich citizenship of the SS volunteers continued.  This simply solidified the impression the ethnic German minority in Hungary as well as those in Romania and Croatia that their fathers and sons were being used as canon fodder, while the Volksbund trumpeted these times as their finest hour.

The constant squabble involving the Reich Foreign Ministry, the German ambassador in Budapest and the Hungarian National Army over a second SS recruitment got nowhere until talks were undertaken by Hitler, Horthy and Ribbentrop.  The Regent of Hungary agreed to the release of Swabians, Saxons and other ethnic Germans serving in the Hungarian National Army while on the German side the Reich provided assurances that all of the families of the volunteers in the German armed forces would be resettled.  This latter point was not well received by the Bund leadership because they knew only too well that a recruitment campaign for the SS tied to a resettlement of their families had absolutely no chance of success.  This led to a meeting of von Jagow, Basch and German diplomat, Bergmann, on March 17, 1943.  Their final conclusion was that the resettlement was completely out of the question.  The Volksbund leader tried to convince them the recruitment would fall flat on its face if there was even the slightest indication of leaving Hungary permanently was a factor to be considered.  The Reich government despite the Bund’s reluctance to agree wanted to take the risk regardless of their counsel and in a note of April 20th from von Jagow to the Hungarian government on behalf of the Reich Foreign Ministry did not even mention the resettlement.  On April 28th, von Jagow informed the Reich Foreign Office that his offer of April 20th had been accepted.  But that the Hungarians proposed a change in Point 6.  All volunteers who report for mustering and are not found physically fit for enlistment or are rejected for any other reason will not have to face any political or economic reprisals from the sate.  The same would apply to the families of all volunteers found fit and volunteer to serve in the German armed forces.  All of this would go into effect on May 22, 1943.

That this second SS recruitment campaign in Hungary would experience major difficulties became obvious during discussions between Hitler and Admiral Horthy at Klessheim on April 17, 1943.  Hitler was able to coerce consent to recruit any of the ethnic German minority serving in the Hungarian National Army but in their talks he also indicated that there needed to be a change in the relationship between the Regent’s government and the Volksbund.  What finally satisfied Horthy was a personal promise on the part of Hitler that after the war he would resettle the entire ethnic Germany minority somewhere outside of Hungary.  Horthy admitted that the ethnic German minority on the whole were industrious and had good relations with their neighbours in the past and that it was only with emergence of Basch and the Volksbund under his leadership that they had sown such wild hatred between the ethnic German minority and the Hungarians that it was obvious that the only solution was their resettlement and transfer elsewhere.  He also indicated that he welcomed the opportunity to provide living space for expatriate Hungarians who would be returning to Hungary at war’s end.

Before the campaign got underway the Hungarian government added a condition to the process in that all volunteers had to express their intentions to join the Waffen-SS in writing and present these letters to the regional Hungarian officials for their approval.  In cases of volunteers under the age of twenty-four years his parents would have to submit their letter of approval as well.  This of course set Basch off on a tangent claiming that the regional officials were fiercely anti-German and would oppose the recruitment in every way they could.  The Volksbund feared the negative influence that the Hungarian authorities might have on the would-be volunteers.  His cohort, Dr. Goldschmidt (he was a veterinarian like Basch), predicted all kinds of “special actions” the Hungarian police would unleash that would be much worse than during the first recruitment drive.  The Bund leaders knew only too well that the vast majority of the ethnic German minority were totally opposed to any kind of resettlement or giving up their Hungarian citizenship and homeland.  Basch knew that the second recruitment of volunteers would be troublesome and test the mettle of the Volksbund.  But he along with the other agitators and spokesmen of the Bund went out to the far flung ethnic German communities across Hungary and echoed the same theme as their press releases which called for volunteers to serve in the SS in the battle against Bolshevism.

In reporting to his superiors in Berlin Basch announced that 10,000 ethnic Germans serving in the Hungarian National Army on the Eastern Front were being released.  While making an inspection tour in Swabian Turkey to welcome them home Basch was forced to report back to the VOMI that the troops were battle weary and were telling the local population of the brutality and atrocities of the German troops in Russia who had even shot Hungarian soldiers who protested their actions against the civilian population.  These terrible experiences they had witnessed on the Russian front as members of the Hungarian National Army; the lack of financial support to the families of SS volunteers; the speeches of the Prime Minister Kállay calling for a Hungarian withdrawal from the war in Russia were just some of the factors that worked against the success of a second recruitment drive.  In Basch’s report to Germany he indicated that the only alternative was to order a forced enlistment like the one that had already been carried out in Romania.  It was the only possibility for a successful campaign.

The Volksbund leadership immediately got to work and through intimidation and other pressures despite the Hungarian government’s ban against force of any kind were able to “recruit” some 20,000 men by February 8, 1944 for the Waffen-SS and send them off to assembly areas.  The majority of these “coerced” recruits were assigned to the 11th SS Volunteer Panzer Division “Nordland” and the rest to the 16th Panzer Division “Reichsführer-SS”.

This second enlistment of “volunteers” for the SS was an increase in numbers over the first in terms of the men who were accepted and mollified Basch’s original fears.  The reason for the increase was due to the fact that all of the ethnic German minority were exposed to it and not just the members of the Volksbund which had been the case in the first and also including the men serving in the Hungarian National Army who were born in the years 1908-1925 who were now free to register with the Waffen-SS.  All army commanders had to release their men, eight to nine days before the mustering to enable them to get the necessary papers and documents.  On the basis of the signed agreement of May 22nd the Volksbund was given the task to provide the list of names of the men from the ethnic German minority serving in the Hungarian National Army who had been born between 1908-1925 but many names were missing or the information was incorrect and most of the men who were affected simply ignored it and remained in the Hungarian National Army.

It was no wonder the Reich pressed for all of the ethnic Germans in question to join the ranks of the SS formations in light of the critical situation on the crumbling Eastern Front.

For that reason the Bund used its own pressure tactics on the men called up to enlist and ordered the exclusion of any who refused from membership in the Bund and the ethnic German Youth Organization and indicated reprisals would be taken in the future.  There were huge demonstrations and celebrations of the recruits leaving for training with the SS in September and October 1943 in the various regions of the country and Basch and Reich officials along with Hungarian government representatives were present for their send off, but all of the Bund Führers and functionaries in the specified age groups including Basch were exempted.  That was the case in most of the communities in terms of their Bund leaders as well who were left behind to be in charge of the home front.

As the war situation changed at the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944 to the detriment of the German armies on the Eastern Front, the attitude of the Hungarians towards their German allies was expressed in two ways.  The members of the Hungarian government sought to give the impression of standing by their ally publicly while privately seeking other alternatives by approaching the Polish government in exile in London in the hopes of coming to some kind of understanding with the Anglo-American Alliance.  They also began to assert themselves to test the measure of their independence from Germany and ordered that Reich German deserters would no longer be handed over to the German authorities and be placed in punishment details.

After the execution of Ciano, Mussolini’s Foreign Minister and son-in-law, the Hungarian parliament was outraged and in standing vote taken on January 18, 1944 they officially protested the action taken by the Nazis.  Only the two Bund members in the parliament remained seated for the standing vote and ovation that followed.  In further defiance of Nazi policies the Ministry of Education declared that all Jewish youth were allowed to participate in all sports associations.  This action created another uproar in right wing circles and hysteria in certain quarters in the Reich.

Anton König a former reporter working on the Neuen Sontagsblatt (New Sunday Newspaper) who had been called to serve as the Prime Minister’s press secretary gave expression to the official attitude of the Hungarian government to the “German Folk Group” of Basch’s invention.  König was a fierce opponent of the Volksbund and now acted as a censor of their press organs.

During the first two SS recruitment drives the clergy and churches had been violently opposed to them and used all of their power of persuasion against them.  By the end of 1943 it was obvious to anyone who could read the signs that Germany would lose the war and Roman Catholic and Lutheran clergy attacked the ideology of Hitler and the Bund.  This was especially true in Swabian Turkey, the central and western regions of Hungary.  They issued pamphlets ridiculing Nazism and the Bund, persuaded young people to join Hungarian educational societies, provided support for Reich German refugees who had fled to Hungary to avoid the bombings, and counselled families with members in the SS home from the front on furlough not to return to their German units.  In Harta the Arrow Cross Party spread the rumour that the Volksbund was going to dissolve as an organization and all of its members would join the Arrow Cross.  By now even this right way radical pro-Nazi party was opposed to the Volksbund.

During the second recruitment effort to enlist the German minority in the Waffen-SS the leadership of the Arrow Cross Party had sent out circular letters to all of its Fürhrers in each of the Counties in which they were ordered to prevent the reporting of any Arrow Cross Party members to the Waffen-SS commissions.  They indicated that by serving in the SS units they would be shedding their blood in a way that would not really serve the interests of the Hungarian nation.

For a better understanding of the third Waffen-SS recruitment drive in Hungary there are ramifications of what occurred in Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Slovakia that would affect the Hungarian situation.

In Romania the Bund leaders were intensely concerned about the security of their Folk Group.  In January 1944, their Führer, Andreas Schmidt indicated the situation was precarious as the Russians were on the threshold of an invasion of Romania and the Romanian government was looking for a way out with some kind of accommodation with the Western allies.  Feelings were running high following Ciano’s execution who had been a signatory of the Vienna Accords and his death marked a repudiation of the Accords that had been forced on Romania and even the conservative circles took some joy in it.  A catastrophic social upheaval was taking placing in the industrial region around Reschitz as a result of Communist propaganda that had led to the formation of two large Partisan units that were already campaigning against units of both the Romanian and German armies.

Two British secret agents had been parachuted into Romania and were arrested by the Romanian police.  One of them was the head of the Secret Service for South Eastern Europe but the Romanians refused to hand them over to the Reich despite threats issued by the German ambassador in Bucharest.  This was one of the many different ways the Romanians sought to distance themselves from Germany, which would have a totally negative effect on the outcome of the war for the Nazis.  Later in the summer they not only capitulated to the Russians but also joined them in their war effort against Germany.

In Croatia the very life and existence of the ethnic German minority was in jeopardy and its Folk Group leadership saw that they were being threatened with annihilation by the anti-German forces of Tito’s Partisan units.  Things were getting worse each day.  Measures had to be taken and the only possible solution was flight and evacuation to Germany.

In Serbia the local Serbian population met in private houses and made up lists of names of ethnic Germans who would be liquidated when the eventual fall of the Nazis took place.  It was only a matter of time before they faced defeat.

While in Slovakia the political situation had not changed for the ethnic German Folk Group.

This was the situation that led to the Reich’s request to carry out a third Waffen-SS recruitment drive in Hungary.

In March 1944 the SS Headquarters, Section D in Berlin completed the outline and first draft of an agreement between the Reich government and the government of Hungary for a third Waffen-SS recruitment drive, which was then forwarded to the Reich Foreign Ministry.  On April 3rd, the legation official Reichel of the Foreign Office sent a telegram to the German ambassador in Budapest which outlined the design and plan for the new Waffen-SS enlistment with the request that he be fully up front with the Hungarian officials in this matter.  It is also important to note that SS Commander von Keppler claimed that he briefed the Hungarian National Army Minister of Defence, Lajos Csatay, on March 25, 1944 and he offered no objections for the third Waffen-SS recruitment drive.  In a telegram dated April 6th, 1944 it can be ascertained that an agreement had been worked out for the planned Waffen-SS action by the Hungarian government along with SS Commander Winkelmann and Keppler according to the German ambassador in Budapest, von Jagow.  One matter, however, remained outstanding: the definition of what it meant to be of ethnic German nationality.  The German version of the agreement read:  belonging to the ethnic German nationality were those who had a least three ethnic German grandparents or who claimed to be ethnic Germans.  The Hungarian version read:  German nationality belongs to all of those who freely declare themselves as such.  This became a very contentious issue for the Hungarians who insisted theirs was the correct interpretation of the Vienna Accord of August 30, 1904 which actually stated:  “The members of the ethnic German “Folk Group” are those who acknowledge that they are ethnic German and recognized as such by the leadership of the Volksbund.”  The Hungarian point of view eventually held sway in the discussions and by the end of the negotiations personal acknowledgement of “being ethnic German” was the key to solving the issue.

Parallel to the planning for the third Waffen-SS recruitment campaign in Hungary, the Reich youth leader, Axmann along with the state secretary of the SS, von Steengracht made a recommendation to activate the military training programme of the ethnic German youth under the influence and ideology of the Reich Hitler Youth organization.  Basch and the new German ambassador in Budapest, Veesenmeyer, warmly welcomed this recommendation.  Even despite that both of them feared that carrying out this recommendation would create a great deal of mistrust on the part of the Hungarian government.  They agreed to carry out a discussion of the matter with the Hungarian government officials only after the third Waffen-SS recruitment drive was completed.

The leadership of the Levente acquiesced to the demands of the Volksbund and allowed the ethnic German youth in Hungary to withdraw from its jurisdiction and programme.  Prager, the former regional Führer of the Sudetenland was placed in charge and Schuhmacher, the former holder of the position was ordered to serve in the Wehrmacht.

The Accord with the Hungarian government for the third Waffen-SS recruitment made it possible for the Volksbund leadership to carry it out as a compulsory enlistment even though officially it was publicized as being voluntary.

Through a decree promulgated by Himmler on February 27, 1944 he eliminated any differences or distinctions between the Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) and Reich Germans and thereby could lay claim to all of those of military age among the ethnic German minority of Hungary for the Waffen-SS and this time no one would be able to avoid reporting to the enlistment commission even if the individual claimed to be Hungarian.  It was the Volksbund that would decide who would be considered to be ethnic German.  This entire matter would be of great importance during the enlistment and for the future policies of the Hungarian government in terms of the ethnic German minority because now the criteria being used was racial and was no longer consistent with the Vienna Accord of 1940.  The stipulation that all men from the ethnic German minority that joined the SS would lose their Hungarian citizenship had been annulled by Himmler’s decree.

An additional codicil was added to the Accord with regard to the SS recruitment campaign on the urgent request of the SS in the Reich on May 30th that allowed for the recruitment of ethnic German women in Hungary between the ages of 17 to 30 to serve in the SS Women’s Corps of the Waffen-SS.  They were to be given assignments in health services and communications in keeping with the mandate of the Corps.

The official announcement of the forthcoming third Waffen-SS recruitment drive was made at the national assembly of the Volksbund in Bonyhád on April 23rd and was received with an outpouring of pandemonium on the part of the crowd.  In his speech, under the theme:  “All ethnic Germans of Hungary must now take up arms as soldiers of the Führer,” Basch stated:  “As the Volksbund representing our ethnic German people we will use all of our efforts in this war to achieve victory and fulfill our highest calling and nothing can stand in our way.  Whoever is an ethnic German must step forward and obey the command of our Führer and do his duty.  There is only one German people and only one Homeland and we have only one worldview that unites us.  If there is someone who has the notion to hinder us or hem us in from carrying out this war at the very moment he attempts to do so I can assure you he will be branded as the archfiend of the ethnic German people and our Hungarian Fatherland.  And this talk and confusion about there being two kinds of Germans in Hungary will now come to an end.”

The fanaticism of Basch requires no commentary.  But his speech does show how much political power the Volksbund had won during the last year and the impotency of the Hungarian government.

On May 5th, 1944 Basch called for all ethnic Germans to voluntarily report to the Waffen-SS in an article in the Deutsche Volksbote (The German Peoples’ News).  He informed his readers that those who were not prepared to put on a German uniform in the past would now be forced to do so.  He had made agreements with the Ministry of Defence (April 27th) and the Minister of the Interior that empowered the Volksbund leaders to call upon the Hungarian police to force those who refused to join the Waffen-SS.  This was a complete reversal of Hungarian government policy in the past and caught everyone totally off guard.  The enlistments began on May 15th in Pélmonoster in Swabian Turkey and ended on September 8th in Szatmar.

The recruitment of women occurred from August 10-17th and was voluntary.  The regional Bund leaders were in charge of the registration of the women volunteers.  Their local Bund Führerin accompanied the recruits to training schools in the Reich.  How many were involved?  It is estimated that there were 600 to 700 ‘volunteers’.

The ethnic German minority that had opted to join the Loyalty movement in opposition to the Bund and its policies and ideology and were regarded by the Bund as pro-Hungarian were called up to register with the Waffen-SS and many of them refused to do so voluntarily.  In villages and towns across the country hundreds of Swabians demonstrated against the Waffen-SS conscription and presented petitions to the County officials and other government authorities.  Many of them attempted to register with the Hungarian National Army at nearby army barracks because they would rather serve with them than the Waffen-SS.  The clergy and numerous village notaries formed solidarity groups to assist and support “draft resisters.”  But most of the Hungarian officers, attached as observers to the SS enlistment commissions, and representing the Hungarian National Army simply washed their hands of any men who resisted and sought their help.  They indicated to them that the matter was entirely out of their hands.

This policy had been seriously challenged within the Hungarian government during talks on June 1st but the Prime Minister Sztojay held firm because he knew Himmler was totally intransigent on this issue because he expected nothing less than forming at least two divisions as a result of the enlistments going on in Hungary.  Horthy was not satisfied with his Prime Minister’s position and called for the Minister of Defence, Csatay to present a proposal to the cabinet on June 21st to the effect that all those Swabians who claimed Hungarian nationality would not be forced into the Waffen-SS against their will.  The German ambassador Veesenmeyer then accused Csatay of attempting to sabotage the agreement.  The domestic uproar the enlistment was causing required the special attention of SS Headquarters in Berlin and an SS Commander named Berger was quickly dispatched to Budapest.  On arriving he immediately pointed out to the ambassador that the enlistment was making slow headway because the Hungarian officials were dragging their feet.  Veensenmeyer called upon Csatay to provide a written response to the current status of the Waffen-SS enlistment drive.

In his reply on August 29th the Defence Minister said he had corrected the list of names submitted to him by the Volksbund, which had contained 202,000 names and had released 131,000 of them for the SS recruitment.  The fact that the enlistment commission had only recruited 42,000 men was no fault of his.  From this report of Csatay it is obvious that this third time around for the Waffen-SS recruitment it was providing much better results than the first two.  From 42,000 recruits reported on August 25th the number rose to 60,000 by the end of the September.  By the end of the war, after another new understanding between the governments of Hungary and Germany reached on October 24, 1944 another 20,000 Swabians were added to the ranks of the Waffen-SS.  The 25th and 26th Waffen-SS divisions were set up from these recruits.

From the documents that are available we are unable to determine either the number of   volunteers or those who were forced to serve in the Waffen-SS.  Nor can we identify the regions from which they came.  It is safe to say there were 60,000 from Hungary in terms of the borders established by the Treaty of Trianon after the First World War and an additional 60,000 from the acquired territories i.e. northern Transylvania and the Batschka.

As a result of the third recruitment the following units were established:

18th SS Panzer Grenadier Division:  Horst Wessel;

22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division:  Maria Theresia;

31st SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division:  Böhmen-Mähren.

In the forthcoming battles in Hungary and in and around Budapest these divisions suffered great losses along with the SS-Division Das Reich and Reichsführer SS that were also manned by men from the ethnic German minority in Hungary.

In the months of May and June non-Germans were also recruited into the German Wehrmacht, i.e. 11,000 Romanians from northern Transylvania.  With the establishment of the new Szalasi Arrow Cross government on October 15, 1944 the Volksbund leaders believed there would now be a national purification of Jewish elements including the Hungarian National Army.  But the Army overthrew the government in November.  Basch was of the conviction that the command of the Hungarian National Army should be in the hands of the Reich.

The Volksbund leadership placed all of their energies and efforts in establishing the SS-Panzer Grenadier Division “Hunjady” for the age groups from 1902-1921 from among the remaining men of the ethnic German minority as well as others for what they called Home Defence forces.  These were all pipe dreams as the catastrophes on the front finally caught up with them.  But to the very end Basch inveighed against his followers to enlist more men to throw at the advancing Red Army with the absurd task of saving Europe from the Bolshevik menace.  The ethnic German minority in Hungary suffered staggering losses serving in the Waffen-SS. At a minimum 20,000 lost their lives while the Bund leadership led the escape to safety in what would become West Germany where many of them still work hard to this day to plead not guilty to any suggestion of any impropriety on their part and continue to have the support of officials of the government in Bonn because they are numbered as the fiercest of anti-Communists.

The lack of conscience on the part of these escaped Nazis is mind numbing as they continue to prattle about the justice of their cause as spokespersons for the ethnic German minority in Hungary that they were simply out to preserve and protect.  The ethnic German minority, which lost their homes and property; were taken to slave labour in the Soviet Union; were expelled and deported from their Hungarian Homeland just as Adolph Hitler had promised.  It was probably the only promise he ever kept.