The Police

The Hungarian government, collaborating with the occupying German Nazis, put its complete law enforcement and administrative apparatus at the disposal of the "dejewification" process. The gendarmerie and the police carried out the anti-Jewish orders with zeal, enthusiasm and efficiency that surprised even the Germans. Although we can draw a significantly more nuanced picture of the behaviour of the police than of the gendarmerie, dark elements are not missing from here either. During the summer deportations in the countryside the police were thrown into action with the gendarmerie and its members also showed brutality, however in fewer cases. Although the rescue activity of the police  became more prevalent, many of them still treated Jews cruelly.

The State Security Surveillance

We must talk separately about the police's political division, led by Péter Hain

Péter Hain, commander of the Hungarian Gestapo

. Hain was the leader of the sub-division supervising the personal security of Regent Miklós Horthy and the state leadership; he was also an active Gestapo agent. The Germans granted him the task of reorganizing the division.[1] The unit was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the head of the national police force, and was placed directly under State Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior László Baky, where it was named the State Security Surveillance. The newly created political police certainly earned its name as the "Hungarian Gestapo" through its activities.[2] Hain's organization became synonymous with spoliation, financial corruption and brutality. The operation and character of Hain's force provoked profound antipathy even among government circles and in summer 1944, Baky sacked Hain before dissolving the State Security Surveillance. However, it was reformed once more under Hain's leadership after the Arrow Cross seized power.

The Hungarian Gestapo was staffed by policemen, but their deeds can in no way be regarded as typical of the Hungarian police, since the State Security Surveillance was small in number (though great in influence), and was comprised essentially of hardcore pro-Nazi sympathizers and antisemites. The cruelty of those employed by the State Security Surveillance is also documented by the DEGOB protocols.[3]          

Spring and summer months

Several survivors reported negatively on the behaviour of the police witnessed during the deportations. The ghettos of

Policeman on guard duty at the gate of a ghetto, summer 1944

the first deportation zone were among the worst from this perspective. The police of Munkács were conspicuous for their brutalities.[4] "One morning we awoke to hear the street filled with a terrible commotion, the policemen were beating everybody so much that everything was full of blood, wherever we looked." - recalled seamstress M. É.[5] about the ghettoisation of Munkács. J. K. spoke a year later about the inhumanity of the Munkács police: "... they invented such refined methods of torture that they seem utterly impossible to believe ..."[6] Policemen beat many people to death.[7] I. M. was driven with her elderly parents from the city ghetto to the brick factory: "When my elderly father fell and could walk no longer,, a policeman yelled at me not to hang around: ‘The old man can die on his own.'  They whipped my 85-year-old mother all the way to the brick factory."[8] We should add that one survivor did express a positive opinion of the Munkács police chief, László Csetényi.[9] 

The protocols show that the police also took part in brutalities at other notorious ghettos in the zone.[10] Kassa was mentioned by many as a city where the police behaved inhumanely to the Jews. Police officer and commander of the ghetto László Csatáry played a major role in this. "In the ghetto, outrageous beatings were a daily occurrence, which led to a number of deaths. Sadly I don't remember their names." - said M. V. later, who was one of approximately 450 survivors from Kassa.[11] This is how L. F. recalled Csatáry: "Dr Csatári [sic], the police commissioner, was continuously beating people with a dog whip. When he felt like it, he went into a block and beat whomever he found there with the whip."[12] L. Ö. also had bad memories of the ghetto commander: "Commander Csatáry one day gave the order for us to dig trenches by hand... It seems that it was the intervention of Germans that led to this measure being rescinded within a few days."[13]

We encounter brutal policemen in the recollections of Jews deported from other regions as well. For example, between the Duna and Tisza rivers: "at Kecskemét we received a terrible reception. When the police examined our belongings, the police cursed us and beat us up with rubber batons."[14] In West Hungary: "[At Sárbogárd] before we were to set off to the guildhall [a collection site] detectives interrogated us for three days straight using rubber batons, to make us produce hidden valuables. But they found nothing because the gendarmerie had got there first." In the area of Budapest: in Rákoskeresztur the police, during the "entrainment also treated us inhumanely. A police officer beat me on the head because I asked to travel with my wife."[15]

Budapest, winter of 1944-1945

Although after the Arrow Cross takeover more and more policemen tried to help the Jews, many of

Jews in the Kistarcsa internment camp

them still treated the persecutees in an inhumane way.

The police also participated in the deportations at the Józsefváros railway station alongside the gendarmerie. "The policemen treated us the most brutally." - recalls Mrs Gábor Gerő.[16]

The authorities began using the Rumbach Sebestyén Street synagogue as an internment center. Mrs Károly Fuchs said she found the detectives there "highly brutal."[17]

A similar internment camp functioned in the building of the Rabbinical Seminary in Rökk Szilárd Street. Etel Lind was declared to have "alien nationality", which is why she was interned here. "Here the police took all our valuables and treated us with great brutality."[18]

Budapest lawyer Dr E. A. was arrested on March 21st as a "politically unreliable" element. He was transferred from Rökk Szilárd Street to the Kistarcsa internment camp, from where he was eventually released at the end of September. Two days later, he was arrested again and accompanied to the prison in Margit Boulevard. "On the way I tried to escape. I did not succeed and the policemen beat me up."[19]

Some of the police guarding the Tsuk factory in Csepel "took advantage of the unprotected women and used force". At the Mauthner factory "on one occasion, a policeman stationed there tore the sheet from a neurasthenic patient there and tried to rape her..."[20] - said G. F, who was a Budapest medical student.

The Nagybátony-Újlak Brick Factory at Bécsi Road 136 was one of the starting points for the November death marches. The police provided the guard along with the Arrow Cross. Aranka Reich spent 24 hours in the brick factory. "The police were decent but their commanders and, one officer in particular, were crude and evil. This officer attacked the women with a whip and whatever evil thing he could do, he did to them."[21] 

M. F. and his companions were taken into the ghetto on December 3rd 1944. In a single room in Teleki Square "numerous people were crammed together. The Arrow Cross beat people, we were suffocating from the bad air and we were very hungry. Some policemen were willing to bring some small things to eat for a large sum of money."[22] The policemen had no will to help any further than that. F. M. was deported to Bergen-Belsen; he was liberated in Theresienstadt.



[1] Braham 1997, p. 414.

[2] This name is fitting for a number of reasons. Besides its inhuman methods, the State Security Surveillance emulated the structural organization of the Gestapo as well. Division no. 4 of the Hain police obtained the task of "implementing legal measures against people considered to be Jewish." (Cited by Braham 1997, p. 414.) This division was named IV/4, the same as Eichmann's department within RSHA (RSHA IV/b/4). The division led by László Koltay had its headquarters in the Majestic Hotel on Sváb Hill, one storey above Eichmann's office.

[3] See for example, protocols 2052; 3133; 1814; 3035.

[4] According to Protocol 1969, the brutalities at Munkács were perpetrated by novice policemen imported to Munkács from Budapest. No other protocol supports this assertion.

[5] Protocol 3092.

[6] Protocol 3307.

[7] Protocol 99.

[8] Protocol 2342.

[9] Protocol 2043.

[10] Again some random examples: Ungvár: "The border to the Ungvár ghetto was demarcated with red flags. Two people who overstepped the flags were beaten up by Hungarian policemen." (Protocol 489) Nagyszőllős: "Gendarmes and policemen guarded the ghetto. They both beat the Jews frequently. Some were so wild that they would beat up any Jew they encountered wherever they went.) (Protocol 1127) Huszt: "In Huszt...the gendarmes and policemen were crude and bad." (Protocol 1860)

[11] Protocol 418.

[12] Protocol 86.

[13] Protocol 627. About Csatáry, see also Braham 1997, p. 572 and Karsai - Molnár 1994, p. 287.

[14] Protocol 3192.

[15] Protocol 2946.

[16] Protocol 2944.

[17] Protocol 3040 .

[18] Protocol 3030.

[19] Protocol 1834.

[20] Protocol 3620.

[21] Protocol 1930.

[22] Protocol 1128.


Braham 1997

Randolph L. Braham: A népirtás politikája - a Holocaust Magyarországon. (The Politics of Genocide. The Holocaust in Hungary.)  Vols. 1-2. Budapest, 1997, Belvárosi Könyvkiadó.

Karsai L. - Molnár 1994

László Karsai- Judit Molnár (eds.): Az Endre-Baky-Jaross per. (The Endre-Baky-Jaross Trial.) Budapest, 1994, Cserépfalvi.

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