Operation Margarethe was the occupation of Hungary by Nazi German forces during World War II, as it was ordered by Hitler on 12 March 1944. A plan for the occupation of Romania was devised under the name Operation Margarethe II but was never carried out, so the Romanian Government switched sides the first chance it had.
Course of events
The Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Kállay, with the knowledge and approval of Regent Miklós Horthy, had been discussing an armistice with the Allies. German dictator Adolf Hitler found out about these discussions and, feeling betrayed by the Hungarians, ordered German troops to implement Operation Margarethe to capture critical Hungarian facilities, on 12 March 1944.
Hitler invited Horthy to the palace of Klessheim, outside of Salzburg, Austria on March 15. While they conducted their negotiations, German forces quietly moved into Hungary. The meeting was merely a ruse to keep Horthy out of the country and leave the army without orders. Negotiations between Horthy and Hitler lasted until the 18th, when Horthy boarded a train to return home.
When he arrived in Budapest, it was German soldiers who greeted him. Horthy was told that Hungary could only remain sovereign if he removed Kállay in favour of a government that would cooperate fully with the Germans. Otherwise, Hungary would be subject to undisguised occupation. Knowing the latter meant a gauleiter who would treat Hungary no differently than an occupied enemy country, Horthy appointed Döme Sztójay as Prime Minister to appease German concerns. The occupation was a complete surprise and resulted in it being quick and bloodless. The initial plan was to immobilise the Hungarian army, but with Soviet forces advancing from the north and east, and with the prospect of British and American forces invading the Balkans, they decided to retain the forces, sending a portion to defend the passes through the Carpathians.
As a consequence of the Nazi occupation 550,000 Jews from wartime Hungary (with reannexed territories from Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia) were transported to the Nazi death camps by Adolf Eichmann, with the collaboration of Hungarian authorities.
Operation Margarethe II
Operation Margarethe II was the name for a planned Nazi German invasion of Romania by German forces in conjunction with those of Hungary should the Romanian government decide to surrender to the Soviets and the Romanian Government switched sides the first chance it had. Romania did in fact surrender in August 1944 (after King Michael's Coup), but this operation was never implemented.
- Andreas Hillgruber, Helmuth Greinert, Percy Ernst Schramm, Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (Wehrmachtführungsstab) 1940-1945, Band IV: 1. Januar 1944 – 22. Mai 1945 (Bernard & Graefe, 1961)
- Carlile Aylmer Macartney, October Fifteenth: A History of Modern Hungary, 1929–1945, 2 vols. (Edinburgh University Press, 1956–57), II, 226.
- Earl F. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968
- Cesarani, David (2005). Eichmann: His Life and Crimes. London: Vintage. pp. 159–195. ISBN 978-0-099-44844-0.
- (see note 1)
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