Operation Margarethe


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.

 

Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Kállay (in office from 1942), with the knowledge and approval of Regent Miklós Horthy, secretly sought to negotiate a separate peace with the Allies in early 1944. German dictator Adolf Hitler wanted to prevent the Hungarians from turning against Germany, as Hungary's oil was desperately needed for the war effort. On 12 March 1944, German troops were ordered by Hitler to capture critical Hungarian facilities.

Hitler invited Horthy to the Palace of Klessheim, outside of Salzburg, Austria, on 15 March. As the two heads of state conducted their negotiations, German forces quietly marched from German-occupied Austria into Hungary. The meeting served merely as a German ruse to keep Horthy out of the country and to leave the Hungarian Army without orders. Negotiations between Horthy and Hitler lasted until the 18th, when Horthy boarded a train to return home.

When Horthy arrived in Budapest, German soldiers were waiting for him at the station. Horthy was told that Hungary could only remain sovereign if he removed Kállay in favor of a government that would cooperate fully with the Germans. Otherwise, Hungary would be subject to undisguised occupation. As such, Horthy appointed Döme Sztójay as prime minister to appease German concerns. The occupation, being a complete surprise, resulted in it being quick and bloodless. The initial plan was to immobilize 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, the German military decided to retain Hungarian forces in the field, sending a portion to defend the passes through the Carpathian Mountains against possible invasion.