Monday, April 13, 2009
Sent to the War with no Weapons
With age one learns that things are not simple. The Hungarian nation is erecting a memorial to WW2 Forced Labour Battalions's dead. Prof. Szita, a historian, explains the history of these bizarre military formations, which caused the death of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews, but also - to a certain point - protected them against Nazi demands to deport them to Auschwitz. My father survived the war within this para-military unit.
The Munkaszolgalat was set up in 1939 under the Horthy regime as framework as auxiliary military units for ethnic Hungarians unfit for full armed service. They were attached to fighting battalions and carried their number. In 1941 Jewish men were drafted to these units, and sent to the Eastern front. From the beginning, these were not pure racial units, but included also certain proportion of non Jewish but politically suspicious elements, such as labor union members. Consequently, similar units were set up for minorities such as serbs, wends, romanians, rusins and rutenians. The Hungarian Army's defeat at the Don River caused severe casualties also to these units. In March 19, 1944 the Germans occupied Hungary and the labor units changed their status to "prisioners of war" (a munkaszolgálatosokat „hadifogolyszerű őrizetben” kellett tartani.) After the fall of the Communist regime, memorials were erected to the Hungarian soldiers fallen in the Eastern Front, including those of the labor battalions, and their pension rights were fully recognized.
I should dislike Hungarians, who delivered Hungarian Jews to Eichmann. But as said, things were not so simple.