Battle of Budapest

Battle of Budapest

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{{For|earlier battles there|Battle of Buda (disambiguation)}} {{morefootnotes|date=October 2008}} The '''Siege of Budapest''' centered on the Hungarian [[capital (political)|capital]] city of [[Budapest]]. It was fought towards the end of [[World War II]] in Europe, during the [[Soviet Union|Soviet]] [[Budapest Offensive]]. The siege started when Budapest, defended by [[Military of Hungary|Hungarian]] and [[Germany|German]] troops, was first encircled on 29 December 1944 by the [[Red Army]] and the [[Romanian Army]]. The siege ended when the city unconditionally surrendered on 13 February 1945. The besieging Soviet forces were part of [[Rodion Malinovsky]]'s [[2nd Ukrainian Front]]. Formations that actually took part in the fighting appear to have included the [[53rd Army (Soviet Union)|53rd Army]], [[7th Guards Army]], portions of the [[3rd Ukrainian Front]], including the [[46th Army (Soviet Union)|46th Army]], and the Romanian [[First Army (Romania)|7th Army Corps]]. Arrayed against the Soviets was a collection of [[Nazi Germany|German]] Army (''[[Heer]]''), ''[[Waffen-SS]]'', and Hungarian Army (''[[Honvédség]]'') forces. The Siege of Budapest was one of the bloodiest campaigns of [[World War II]]. ==General situation== By 1944, Hungary remained very much an unwilling satellite of Germany. In March 1944, Hungary was attempting to quit the war, and was seen by [[Nazi Germany]] as reluctant to take sufficient measures against the [[History of the Jews in Hungary|Jews]]. Germany needed Hungarian [[oil well]]s located around [[Lake Balaton]]. On 19 March, the Germans launched [[Operation Margarethe]] and their armed forces (''[[Wehrmacht]]'') entered Hungary. The Hungarian [[Regent]], [[Admiral]] [[Miklós Horthy]], put Hungary's attempts to quit the war on hold. In October 1944, Horthy was caught negotiating peace with the [[Allies of World War II|Allies]]. The Germans launched [[Operation Panzerfaust]] (initiated to keep Hungary at Germany's side), on 16 October and forced Horthy to abdicate. Horthy and his government were replaced by "Hungarist" [[Ferenc Szálasi]], from the [[Arrow Cross Party]]. ===Encirclement of Budapest=== On 29 October 1944, the Red Army started its offensive against the city. More than 1,000,000 men, split into two operating [[maneuver warfare|maneuver groups]], advanced. The plan was to cut Budapest off from the rest of the German and Hungarian forces. On 7 November 1944, [[Soviet]] and [[Romanian people|Romanian]] troops entered the eastern suburbs, 20 kilometers from the old town. The Red Army, after a much-needed pause in hostilities, resumed its offensive on 19 December. On 26 December, a road linking Budapest to [[Vienna]] was seized by Soviet troops, thereby completing the encirclement. The "Leader of the Nation" (''Nemzetvezető''), Ferenc Szálasi, had already fled on 9 December. As a result of the Soviet link-up, nearly 33,000 German and 37,000 Hungarian soldiers, as well as over 800,000 civilians, became trapped within the city. Refusing to authorize a withdrawal, German dictator [[Adolf Hitler]] had declared Budapest a fortress city (''[[Festung]] Budapest''), which had to be defended to the last man. ''Waffen SS'' General [[Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch]], the commander of the [[IX Waffen Mountain Corps of the SS (Croatian)|IX Waffen SS Alpine Corps]], was put in charge of the city's defences. Budapest was a major target for [[Joseph Stalin]]. The [[Yalta Conference]] was approaching and Stalin wanted to display his full strength to [[Winston Churchill|Churchill]] and [[Franklin D. Roosevelt|Roosevelt]]. He therefore ordered General [[Rodion Malinovsky]] to seize the city without delay. On 29 December 1944, Malinovsky sent two [[emissaries]] to negotiate the city's [[Capitulation (surrender)|capitulation]]. They never returned. This particular point is widely disputed by the Soviet Union, with some German and Hungarian historians arguing that the emissaries were deliberately shot by the Soviets. Others believe that they were in fact shot by mistake on their way back to the Soviet lines. In any case, Soviet commanders considered this act a refusal and ordered the attack. ===The start of the siege and the first German offensive=== The Soviet offensive began in the eastern suburbs, advancing through [[Pest, Hungary|Pest]], making good use of the large central avenues to speed-up their progress. The German and Hungarian defenders, overwhelmed, tried to trade space for time to slow down the Soviet advance. They ultimately withdrew to shorten their lines, hoping to take advantage of the hilly nature of [[Buda (city)|Buda]]. In January 1945, the Germans launched a three part counter-offensive codenamed [[Operation Konrad]]. Operation Konrad was a joint German-Hungarian effort to relieve the encircled garrison of Budapest. '''Operation Konrad I''' was launched on 1 January. The German [[IV SS Panzer Corps]] attacked from [[Tata, Hungary|Tata]] through hilly terrain north of Budapest in an effort to break the siege. Simultaneously, ''Waffen-SS'' forces struck from the west of Budapest in an effort to gain a tactical advantage. On 3 January, the Soviet command sent four more divisions to meet the threat. This Soviet action stopped the offensive near [[Bicske]], less than 20 kilometers west of Budapest. The Germans were forced to withdraw on 12 January. They then launched '''Operation Konrad II''' on 7 January. The IV SS Panzer Corps attacked from [[Esztergom]] towards Budapest Airport. They tried to capture it in order to improve supplying the city by air. This offensive was halted near the airport. On 17 January, '''Operation Konrad III''' was launched. The IV SS Panzer Corps and the [[III Corps (Germany)|III Panzer Corps]] attacked from the south of Budapest and attempted to encircle ten Soviet divisions. This encirclement attempt failed. {{command structure | name = Besieging Force, Pest Sector | date = Jan 1945 | parent = | subordinate = '''30th Rifle Corps:''' *25th Gds rifle division *151st rifle division *155th rifle division *16th artillery division *18th Gds howitzer artillery brigade *49th Gds cannon artillery brigade *115 Gds anti-tank artillery regiment '''18th Gds Rifle Corps:''' *66th Gds rifle division *68th Gds rifle division *297th rifle division *317th rifle division *17th cannon artillery brigade *152nd cannon artillery brigade *95th howitzer artillery brigade *27th mortar brigade *48th "Katyusha" regiment *14th assault engineer brigade '''VII Romanian Army Corps:''' *2nd Infantry Division *19th Infantry Division *9th Cavalry Division '''Tank units''' ''Used during storm of Pest:'' *Two battalions from 23rd Tank Corps *3rd tank brigade *A company from 39th tank brigade (Totaling 22 tanks) ''Used during the storming of Buda:'' *A company from 23rd Tank Corps *A company from 5th Gds Tank Corps (Totaling 19 tanks) '''Artillery on 1 January''' *203-mm howitzer - 48 *152-mm gun/howitzer - 172 *122-mm gun/howitzer - 294 *76-mm divisional gun - 191 *76-mm regimental gun - 174 *45-mm/57-mm AT gun - 158 }} ===Combat intensification=== Meanwhile, [[urban warfare]] in Budapest increased in intensity. Re-supply became a decisive factor because of the loss of the [[Ferihegy]] airport just before the start of the siege, on 27 December 1944. Until 9 January 1945, German troops were able to use some of the main avenues as well as the park next to [[Buda Castle]] as landing zones for [[Airplane|plane]]s and [[military glider|glider]]s, although they were under constant artillery fire from the Soviets. Before the [[Danube]] froze, some supplies could be sent on [[barge]]s, under the cover of [[darkness]] and [[fog]]. Nevertheless, food shortages were more and more common and soldiers had to rely on finding their own sources of sustenance, some even resorting to eating their own horses. The extreme temperatures also affected German and Hungarian troops. Soviet troops quickly found themselves in the same situation as the Germans had in [[Stalingrad]]. Their men were nonetheless able to take advantage of the urban terrain by relying heavily on snipers and sappers to advance. Fighting broke out in the [[sanitary sewer|sewer]]s, as both sides used them for troop movements. Six Soviet [[Marine (military)|marine]]s even managed to get to Castle Hill and capture a German officer before returning to their own lines - still underground. But such feats were rare because of ambushes in the sewers set up by the [[Axis powers of World War II|Axis]] troops using local inhabitants as guides. In mid-January, [[Csepel Island]] was taken, along with its military factories, which were still producing [[Panzerfaust]]s and [[shell (projectile)|shell]]s, even under Soviet fire. Meanwhile in Pest, the situation for the Axis forces deteriorated, with the [[garrison]] facing the risk of being cut in half by the advancing Soviet troops. On 17 January 1945, Hitler agreed to withdraw the remaining troops from Pest to try to defend Buda. All five bridges spanning the [[Danube]] were clogged with traffic, evacuating troops and civilians. German troops destroyed the bridges on 18 January, despite protests from Hungarian officers. ===The second German offensive=== On 20 January 1945, German troops launched their second major offensive, this time south of the city, blasting a 20 km hole in the Soviet lines and advancing to the [[Danube]], threatening Soviet supply lines. Stalin ordered his troops to hold their ground at all costs, and two [[Army Corps]] that were dispatched to assault Budapest were hastily moved to the south of the city to counter the German offensive. Nevertheless, German troops who got to less than 20 kilometres from the city were unable to maintain their impetus due to fatigue and supply problems. Budapest's defenders asked permission to leave the city and escape the encirclement. Hitler refused. On 28 January 1945, German troops could no longer hold their ground and were forced to withdraw. The fate of the defenders of Budapest was sealed. {{command structure | name = Budapest assault group | date = January 21, 1945 | parent = | subordinate = '''75th Gds Rifle Corps''' *113th rifle division *180th rifle division *Two regiments from 109th rifle division Total 14,179 men. '''37th Gds Rifle Corps''' *108th rifle division *316th rifle division *320th rifle division Total 16,645 men. '''18th Gds Rifle Corps''' *66th Gds rifle division *68th Gds rifle division *297th rifle division *317th rifle division Total 13,140 men. *5th artillery division *7th artillery division *16th artillery division *462nd mortar regiment *48th "Katyusha" regiment *12th assault engineer brigade *14th assault engineer brigade *Tank company (9 [[T-34]]) '''Artillery on 1 February''' *203-mm howitzer - 69 *152-mm gun/howitzer - 116 *122-mm gun/howitzer - 160 *76-mm divisional gun - 245 *76-mm regimental gun - 60 *57-mm AT gun - 20 *45-mm AT gun - 114 *82-mm mortar - 307 *120-mm mortar - 213 *"Katyusha" - 24 '''Additional units''' *83rd naval infantry brigade }} ===The Battle for Buda=== Unlike [[Pest (city)|Pest]], which is built on flat terrain, [[Buda]] is built on hills. This allowed the defenders to site artillery and fortifications above the attackers, greatly slowing the Soviet advance. The main citadel, (Gellért Hill), was defended by elite ''Waffen-SS'' troops that successfully repelled several Soviet assaults. Nearby, Soviet and German forces were fighting for the city cemetery amongst shell-opened tombs, it would last for several days. The fighting on [[Margaret Island]], in the middle of the Danube, was particularly merciless. The island was still attached to the rest of the city by the remaining half of the Margaret Bridge and was used as a parachute drop zone as well as for covering improvised airstrips set up in the city center. The 25th Guards Rifle Division operated from the Soviet side in combat on the island (for losses see below). On 11 February 1945, Gellért Hill finally fell after a heavy Soviet attack launched from three points of the compass simultaneously-after six weeks of fighting. Soviet artillery was able to dominate the entire city and to shell the remaining Axis defenders, who were concentrated in less than two square kilometres and suffering from malnutrition and disease. The experiences of Joseph Szentkiralyi illustrates the privations experienced by many. Szentkiralyi had worked in the United States prior to World War II and had been deported back to Hungary. During the siege, he and his family endured constant artillery bombardment and street-by-street tank and infantry battles between the Germans, the remnants of the Royal Hungarian Army and the attacking Ukrainian and Russian forces. Szentkiralyi, along with others, risked their lives by leaving the shelters to butcher frozen horse carcasses in the streets to prevent starvation and help keep their families alive. At the end, daily rations consisted of melted snow, horse meat, and 150 grams of bread. Szentkiralyi narrowly avoided arrest and likely execution by the Soviets after the war's end, escaping to Switzerland. Despite the lack of supplies, the Axis troops refused to surrender and defended every street and house. By this time, some captured Hungarian soldiers defected and fought on the Soviet side. They were known collectively as the "[[Volunteer Regiment of Buda]]." After capturing the [[Budapest Déli railway station|southern railway station]] during a two-day bloodbath, Soviet troops advanced to Castle hill. On 10 February, after a violent assault, Soviet marines established a bridgehead on Castle hill, while almost cutting the remaining garrison in half. ===The third German offensive, breakout, and surrender=== Hitler still forbade the German commander, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, to abandon Budapest or to attempt a breakout. But the glider flights ([[DFS 230]]) bringing in supplies had ended a few days earlier and parachute drops had also been discontinued. In desperation, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch decided to lead the remnants of his troops out of Budapest. The German commander did not typically consult the Hungarian commander of the city. However, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch now uncharacteristically included General [[Iván Hindy]], in this last desperate breakout attempt. On the night of 11 February, twenty-eight thousand German and Hungarian troops began to stream away from Castle Hill. They moved in three waves. Thousands of civilians were with each wave. Entire families, pushing prams, trudged through the snow and ice. Unfortunately for the would-be escapees, the Soviets awaited them in prepared positions around the Szél Kálmán tér (today's Moscow Square) area. Troops, along with the civilians, used fog to their advantage. The first wave managed to surprise the waiting Soviet soldiers and artillery, their sheer numbers allowed many to escape. The second and third waves were less fortunate. Soviet artillery and rocket batteries bracketed the escape area, with deadly results. Despite heavy losses, five to ten thousand people managed to reach the wooded hills northwest of Budapest and escape towards Vienna. 600-700 German soldiers reached the main German lines from Budapest. Roughly a third of these soldiers belonged to the ''"Feldhernhalle" Panzergrenadier Division'', and 170 to the ''Waffen-SS''. The number of Hungarian escapees was around 80 (44 civilians, 25 Arrow Cross Party militias and 11 men in military uniform (including three students and one policeman). The majority of the escapees were killed, wounded, or captured by the Soviet troops. Pfeffer-Wildenbruch and Hindy were captured by waiting Soviet troops as they emerged from a underground tunnel running from the Castle District. The remaining defenders finally surrendered on 13 February 1945. Budapest lay in ruins, with more than 80 percent of its buildings destroyed or damaged, with historical buildings like the [[Hungarian Parliament Building]] and the Castle among them. All five bridges spanning the [[Danube]] were destroyed. ==Aftermath== German and Hungarian military losses were high with entire divisions wiped out. The Germans lost all or most of the [[German 13th Panzer Division|13th Panzer Division]], [[German Panzer Division Feldherrnhalle 1|60th Panzergrenadier Division ''Feldherrnhalle'']], [[8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer|8th SS Cavalry Division ''Florian Geyer'']] and the [[22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division Maria Theresia|22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division ''Maria Theresa'']]. The Hungarian I Corps was virtually annihilated. Hungarian formations destroyed included the 10th and 12th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Armored Division. In January 1945, [[Germans of Hungary#Expulsion|32,000 ethnic Germans from within Hungary were arrested and transported to the Soviet Union as forced laborers]]. In some villages, the entire adult population were taken to labor camps in the [[Donets Basin]].{{rp|21}} Many died there as a result of hardship and ill-treatment. Overall, more than 500,000 Hungarians were transported to the Soviet Union (including between 100,000 and 170,000 [[Germans of Hungary|Hungarian ethnic Germans]]) .{{rp|38}} ===Civilian deaths and mass rape=== According to Krisztian Ungvary, some 38,000 [[civilian]]s were killed during the siege, thereof about 13,000 from military action and 25,000 from starvation, disease and other causes. Included in the latter figure are about 15,000 Jews, largely victims of executions by Hungarian [[Arrow Cross Party]] militia. When the Soviets finally claimed victory, they initiated an orgy of violence, including the wholesale theft of anything they could lay their hands on, random executions and mass rape. An estimated 50,000 women and girls were raped,{{rp|348-350}} although estimates vary from 5,000 to 200,000.{{rp|129}} Hungarian girls were kidnapped and taken to Red Army quarters, where they were imprisoned, repeatedly raped and sometimes murdered.{{rp|70-71}} Even embassy staff from neutral countries were captured and raped, as documented when Soviet soldiers attacked the Swedish legation in Germany. (See for example: [[Raoul Wallenberg]].) ===Casualties of the Soviet and Romanian forces=== '''VII Romanian Army Corps:''' (for all of January, it has been deduced from the structure of attacking forces): *Corps staff - seven killed, 19 wounded, three missing, three sick. *2nd Infantry Division - 147 killed, 654 wounded, 29 missing, 149 sick. *19th Infantry Division - 181 killed, 936 wounded, 12 missing, 42 sick. *9th Cavalry Division - 79 killed, 272 wounded, six sick. [[File:Budapest medal.jpg|thumb|100px|The [[Orders, decorations, and medals of the Soviet Union|''Budapest Medal'']] was awarded to all [[Soviet Union|Soviet]] service personnel who took part in the battle]] '''18th Soviet Rifle Corps''' (66th Guards, 68th Guards, 297th, 317th rifle divisions, 1–10 January) - 791 killed, 2,588 wounded, 50 missing, 72 sick. '''25th Guards rifle division''' (20–31 January) - in all 452 men, including 29 killed. '''All besieging forces''' (1–10 February) - 1,044 killed, 3,411 wounded, 52 missing, 276 sick. With the exception of [[Operation Frühlingserwachen|Operation Spring Awakening]] (''Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen''), which was launched in March 1945, the siege of Budapest was the last major operation on the southern front for the Germans. The siege further depleted the ''Wehrmacht'' and especially the ''Waffen-SS''. For the Soviet troops, the Siege of Budapest was a final rehearsal before the [[Battle of Berlin]]. It also allowed the Soviets to launch the [[Vienna Offensive]]. On 13 April 1945, exactly two months after the Budapest surrender, Vienna would fall. ==Memoirs and diaries== The events in the [[Naphegy]] and [[Krisztinaváros]] neighborhoods of Budapest are told in a few surviving diaries and memoirs. László Deseő, a 15 year old boy in 1944, lived at 32 Mészáros Street with his family. This area was heavily attacked because of its proximity to the [[Southern Railway Station (Budapest)|Southern Railway Station]] (Déli pályaudvar) and the strategic importance of the hill. Deseő kept a diary throughout the siege. The memoirs of András Németh also describe the siege and the bombing of the empty school buildings which he and his fellow soldiers used as an observation post. The memoirs of Heinz Landau, ''Goodbye Transylvania'', present a German soldier's view of the battle. A richly detailed account of a 20-year-old Hungarian and his family living through the siege was published in 2010. It chronicled the clever strategies employed for survival and outlined the boredom and terror of a family that was trapped, but would not capitulate. Titled ''Pinball Games: Arts of Survival in Nazi and Communist Eras'', the memoir was written by George F. Eber and published posthumously. Eber, who had become an internationally-known architect, included sketches with the memoir. One of them depicts a Russian soldier silhouetted against a Budapest wall on the first night the Germans were driven out of his neighborhood. The memoir also includes an account of World War II and the post-war transition of the country into Soviet-style Communism. The memoirs of the 14 year-old dispatch runner of the Vannay Volunteer Battalion, Ervin Galantay, give an amazing insight into the battle and urban combat. The diary of the young runner describes day to day life and survival of both civilians and soldiers. It was published in English by the Militaria press in Budapest in 2005, under the title "Boy Soldier". ==See also== * [[Budapest Offensive]] * [[Soviet occupation of Hungary]] * [[Forced labor of Hungarians in the Soviet Union]] ==Additional reading== *John F. Montgomery, ''Hungary: The Unwilling Satellite''. Devin-Adair Company, New York, 1947. Reprint: Simon Publications, 2002. Available online at [http://historicaltextarchive.com/books.php?op=viewbook&bookid=7&pre=1 Historical Text Archive] and at the [http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/montgo/ Corvinus Library of Hungarian History]. *Gosztony, Peter: ''Der Kampf um Budapest, 1944/45, München'' : Schnell & Steiner, 1964. *Nikolai Shefov, ''Russian fights'', Lib. Military History, M. 2002. *James Mark. ''Remembering Rape: Divided Social Memory and the Red Army in Hungary 1944–1945.'' Past and Present 2005: 188: 133-161 (Oxford University Press). *[[Krisztián Ungváry]], ''The Siege of Budapest: One Hundred Days in World War II'' (trans. Ladislaus Löb), Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-300-10468-5 *Source about Soviet casualties, estimated at 80,000, not 160,000: http://www.victory.mil.ru/war/oper/15.html *Ervin V. Galantay. ''Boy Soldier - Budapest 1944-45'', Militaria press, Budapest 2005. 319p. With photos, sketches and footnotes. ==External links== * [http://www.historynet.com/magazines/mhq/3033336.html World War II: Siege of Budapest] {{World War II}} {{coord missing|Hungary}} {{DEFAULTSORT:Budapest, Battle Of}}