Sunday, November 16, 2014

ADSS 10.356 Secretariat of State to the UK Legation - violence of the Red Army in Hungary

Reference: AES Hungary 124, minute

Location and date: Vatican, 16.10.1944

Summary statement: Request intervention with the Soviet government regarding occupied parts of Hungary.

Language: Italian


The Secretary of State has the honour to bring to the attention of the Legation of Great Britain to the Holy See the following:

From news sent directly to the Holy See from Budapest (1) we are informed that those parts of Hungarian territory occupied by the Russians and Romanians have not occurred without episodes of serious violence against the civilian population, episodes that have nothing to do with the conduct of the war.

To cite some examples, the cities of Nagyszalonta, Jöddeàk, Kesermy, Biharugra etc, were scenes of looting, plundering and burning, because of the ill-disciplined behaviour of the soldiers.

More painful than the damage to property has been the violence of the soldiers which has been so great, excessive and frequent that the people are in a state of panic and near despair because of the rash acts occurring here and there.  Not even the sanctity of the cloister has been respected (and some innocent and helpless Sisters have been subject to the most painful violence) (2)

The Secretary of State can not refrain from expressing to the Legation feelings of horror and painful concern that the above facts give rise to, while strongly urging you to appeal as much as you can to the various offices of His Britannic Majesty’s Government to ensure that the aforementioned troops are called back to a sense of discipline and humanity regarding the civilian population and above all to women and children. (3)

Note from the Office: 

I talked with the Secretary of Mr Taylor. (4)

(1) The news was passed to the Vatican via the Royal Hungarian Legation in a communiqué - dated 12.10.1944.
(2) As the Red Army moved deeper into Hungary a pattern quickly emerged.  Hungary was not being “liberated” in the way Poland or Czechoslovakia.  Hungary was a defeated enemy and “to the victor the spoils”.  Treatment of the civilian population by the Red Army varied but was, in general, exploitative and brutal.  Thousands of civilians were killed, tens of thousands of Hungarian women – irrespective of age, religion or Jewishness – were raped, and hundreds of thousands of Hungarians were deported to the Soviet Union where they died in the labour camps of the Gulag.  It was estimated that about 25,000 Jewish men who had been conscripted into the Hungarian army as labourers, were deported to the Soviet Union, along with about 10,000 Jewish women. See Zoltan Vagi et al, the Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide, p 334.  The total number of Hungarian women raped in the last months of the war will most likely never be known, but some contemporary (ie November 2013) research suggests the figure could be as high as 800,000.  Bishop Apor of  Gyor was killed by Soviet soldiers as he attempted to prevent local women from rape.
(3) Two telegrams were addressed to Berne on 27.10.1944 (telegram 718, AES 8272/44) and Washington (telegram 1941, AES 8271/44):  “News of Russian troop behaviour in occupied villages; treatment of some Hungarians is disastrous.  Sacking, burning, killing, numerous violations of religious women: religious practice is practically impossible”. (See ADSS 11).
(4) Franklin C. Gowen (1895-1981), employee of the State Department, was appointed Myron Taylor’s assistant, replacing Harold Tittmann in December 1941.

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