The looting, ghettoisation, entrainment and deportation of the Hungarian Jews was decided upon by the Hungarian government, occupying German authorities and high-ranking Nazis of Berlin. The implementation was the task of the Hungarian gendarmerie, police and the public administration.  The members of all three bodies carried out the orders with great zeal, often going beyond the severity of the given orders. There were only a few who helped or even saved the Jews doomed to die. Still there were some - also among the police.

Accounts of the police behaving humanely and actively resisting primarily derive from Budapest following the Arrow Cross putsch. However, there were other acts of decency during the time of the summer deportations as well. Besides Police Commander of Munkács László Csetényi, his counterpart in Békéscsaba, Pál Lukáts, was also remembered in positive terms. "The police chief called Lukács was definitely pro-Jewish, which is why he was soon moved elsewhere." [1]

The rabbi of Újpest was taken from his synagogue to the ghetto on June 28th. "Among the policemen, there were two good natured ones as well.  For example, one policeman went to the local post office for the letters the next day and allowed us to see them, even though this was forbidden."[2]

The Jews of Kótaj were first concentrated in the Nyíregyháza ghetto and then transported to one of the collection points. K. W. did not retain particularly negative memories of the ghetto: "In that place, the police looked over us, and treated us very properly and supplied us with food."[3]

Policeman guarding a ghetto entrance in the countryside

Several people had positive memories of the Beregszász police as well. "...the police began emptying Beregszász street by street. Generally they behaved quite well with these unfortunates."[4] Certain members of the Beregszász police force went further, and actually actively worked to save lives. "We heard many instances when people escaped, indeed the Beregszász police helped them."[5]

By the time the Arrow Cross seized power, with the exception of the forced labour battalions, all the remaining Hungarian Jews were living in Budapest. In the ensuing months, the lives of 150,000 to 200,000 people were permanently in danger. Besides the renewed deportations, the Arrow Cross terror also claimed many victims. There were two peaks in the serial killing: in the few weeks following October 15th, and the period between the Arrow Cross commanders' retreat westwards (December 21st) and the Soviet liberation. In this period, a significant proportion of the Budapest police made efforts to rescue Jews.[6] It cannot be stated that policemen did not participate in anti-Jewish actions (for example, the crushing of a revolt by labour servicemen around Népszínház Street and Teleki Square on October 15-16th), or that the police as an organization competed with the various active diplomatic corps (Swedish, papal, etc.) to save lives. But there is no doubt that on more than one occasion, they prevented Arrow Cross gangs bent on murder by taking up arms against them.[7]

We must make separate mention of the protection the police granted to the building in 29 Vadász Street, the so-called Glass House.

Masses of Jews waiting to obtain a safe conduct pass in front of the Glass House

That Swiss embassy building became one of the centres of the diplomatic rescue mission, and also the headquarters for young Zionists forging documents and finding shelter for those seeking refuge. In all, more than 2000 people were hidden there. The police presence offered effective protection from the Arrow Cross gangs. On December 28th, the determined action of two police officers, Lieutenant Pál Fábry and Captain Attila Horváth, saved the lives of some 800 Jews, who the Arrow Cross had driven out of the house into the street under pretext of "re-housing."[8]

We should not forget either that the Budapest police often provided protection to foreign diplomatic staff who were going to great lengths to save Budapest Jews. By this time, their claims of diplomatic immunity fell on increasingly deaf Arrow Cross ears.[9] In some cases, the police actively helped the diplomats save lives. The best known example is the collaboration between Raoul Wallenberg and Police Commander of Budapest's Fifth District, Zoltán Tarpataky.[10]   

Finally, mention deserves to be made of the protection, which the police gave the "large" ghetto of Pest. Certainly it was generally neither efficient nor satisfactory, since the Arrow Cross and SS troops entered the ghetto time and again during the whole period of its existence (December 2nd 1944 to January 18th 1945) to commit murders there. But there were still numerous instances when Police Commander of the Seventh District János Molnár and his men prevented further atrocities.[11] (Pál Szalai, the police liaison officer of the Arrow Cross Party, also did much for police protection of the ghetto.)

It was no coincidence that from mid November, the Arrow Cross demanded with increasing urgency that the police, with its "non-Arrow Cross spirit" have its personnel reformed.[12] This actually happened in late November or early December.

The rescue activity of the police in the capital was recorded in the DEGOB protocols too. Ernő Hartmann and some of his fellow forced labour conscripts were suddenly taken to the Józsefváros railway station. "a police Captain named Dr Ágoston wanted to help us [Jószef Ágoston was not a captain but one of the supervisors of the 7th district police force] but he did not have the means because we were surrounded by the SS."[13]

In December 1944, Dr László Benedek, one of the leading doctors of the Wesselényi Street Emergency Hospital was informed by a "good natured police officer" that he could choose patients from the Jews held in Teleki Square, and then transfer them to the ghetto hospital. This important information led to the rescue of some 460 young, generally healthy Jewish men and women.[14]

The capital's Jewish organizations endeavoured to establish good relations with the local police organisations. In autumn 1944, 2000 Jews awaiting emigration were crammed together in Columbus Street in the Zugló district.[15] These people lived in permanent fear of attack from the Arrow Cross but they trusted that the guards at the gate would be able to repulse them. "Additionally the policemen of the station on the corner of Columbus and Mexikó Streets promised help, and they behaved very correctly with us."[16]

As it was already mentioned, the local police maintained order around the Glass House - although it has to be conceded that they would sometimes use rubber batons when mass hysteria broke out among people lining up for forged documents. "Our relationship with the Vadász Street constabulary was very good" is how a Zionist working there described the situation.[17]

An Arrow Cross member arrested J. L., a Jewish forced labourer who was on the run and was using fake Christian documents.

Dead body on the bank of the Danube

He was then accompanied to the 7th district police station. He was very surprised when an police officer, István Cseh, warned him to destroy his documents in the toilet because he would potentially face a court martial for possessing forged military documents. "He gave me a box of cigarettes and wrote on his charge sheet that he would only be taking action for forging documents." Then he was taken to the central police station where Detective Huba was entrusted with his case. "[Huba] interrogated me in good humour, giving me bread and cigarettes and he said that he was not interested in my crime because he knew I was innocent just like the others, and that everyone tries to save their life as best they can." The empathetic detective did not send J. L. to the ghetto because "you would be deported from there", but to the safer jail.[18]

Gy. G., a university student, gained minutes - and with it, his life - when on the occasion of a mass execution on the banks of the Danube, an Arrow Cross member he knew kept pushing him back in the line. "The executions were carried out with two murderers dragging out a victim each, shoving them into the Danube and then six would shoot at them." The majority of nearly seventy Jews had been killed when a police officer stopped the execution. "He angrily asked the murderers what was going on here, to which the Arrow Cross men replied that they had shot a Jew who wanted to escape. The police officer did not believe this because - as he said - he had heard at least 400-500 shots." This brave intervention, although it came late, still saved a dozen lives.[19]

Rezső Fraknói was beaten with a whip during a march where he was the only adult male. The pretext was that the women and

Friedrich Born, delegate of the Red Cross in Budapest

children were being accompanied to another Arrow Cross house in Buda - it is more likely that they were being led to the Danube banks. "A car caught up with us and they simply turned us back." The police intervened. "A policeman whispered that we turn back." Among the Arrow Cross was the sadistic lapsed Minorite monk András Kun - the notorious Father Kun - who was later hung as a war criminal, "a priest who went around with a revolver in his belt and suspected us of concealing a bomb."[20] There is no doubt what would have been the fate of these several dozen Jews: the police rescued them from certain death.

I. K. worked in Department "A" of the International Red Cross, which was involved with rescuing children. (The department was headed by the Zionist leader Ottó Komoly who was murdered on January 1st 1945.) "The International Red Cross had a so-called "T" (transport) division. We would enter the ghetto with this transport and smuggle people from there to pre-prepared locations. We managed to save about 20 people with the collusion of the ghetto police. The behaviour of the police made it possible for us to come and go into the ghetto and take out children to the homes"[21], recalled I. K. about the willingness of the police to cooperate.




[1] Protocol 3216.

[2] Protocol 3488.

[3] Protocol 2940.

[4] Protocol 18.

[5] Protocol 52.2

[6] Szita 1994, pp. 86-87.

[7] For example in early November, on Horthy Miklós Bridge. Braham 1997, p. 918 and Lévai 1948a, p. 318.

[8] Braham 1997, p. 955. For more about the "Glass House" see protocols 3615; 3619; 3598; Cohen 2002; Benedek - Vámos 1990; Salamon; Benshalom 2001.

[9] Langlet 1988, p. 114; Braham 1997, p. 1195.

[10] Lévai 1948b, pp. 150-155.

[11]Szekeres 1997, p. 94 and p. 98.

[12]Szekeres 1997, p. 53.

[13] Protocol 604.

[14] Protocol 3608.

[15] The creation of the Columbus street camps was the result of the so-called Kasztner-action. As for the action see Braham 1997, pp. 1023-1066 and Bauer 1994, pp. 145-251.

[16] Protocol 3625.

[17] Protocol 3619.

[18] Unnumbered protocol "36".

[19] Protocol 3646.

[20] Protocol 1576.

[21] Protocol 3622


Bauer 1994

Yehuda Bauer: Jews for Sale? Nazi-Jewish Negotiations, 1933-1945. New Haven and London, 1994, Yale University Press.

Benedek-Vámos 1990

István Gábor Benedek - György Vámos: Tépd le a sárga csillagot. (Tear off the Yellow Star.)  Budapest, 1990, Pallas Lap - és Könyvkiadó.

Benshalom 2001

Rafi Benshalom: We Struggled for Life. The Hungarian Zionist Youth Resistance During the Nazi Era. Jerusalem - New York, 2001, Gefen.

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.

Cohen 2002

Asher Cohen: A haluc ellenállás Magyarországon 1942-1944. (He-halutz Resistance in Hungary 1942-1944.)  Budapest, 2002, Balassi.

Langlet 1988

Nina Langlet: A svéd mentőakció 1944. (The Swedish Rescue Action.) Budapest, 1988, Kossuth.

Lévai 1948a

Jenő Lévai: Zsidósors Magyarországon. (Jewish Fate in Hungary.) Budapest, 1948, Magyar Téka.

Lévai 1948b

Jenő Lévai: Raoul Wallenberg regényes élete, hősi küzdelmei, rejtélyes eltűnésének titka. (Wallenberg's Novelistic Live, Heroic Struggles and the Secret of his Mysterious Disappearance.) Budapest, 1948, Magyar Téka.


Mihály Salamon: "Keresztény" voltam Európában. (I was "Christian" in Europe.) Tel Aviv, Népünk Kiadó.

Szekeres 1997

József Szekeres: A pesti gettók 1945. januári megmentése. (The Saving of the Budapest Ghettoes in January, 1945. ) Budapest, 1997, Budapest Főváros Levéltára.

Szita 1994

Szabolcs Szita: Az 1944 -1945. évi polgári, diplomáciai és katonai embermentés történetéhez. (To the History of the Civic, Diplomatic and Military Rescue Activity in 1944-1945.)  In Szabolcs Szita (ed.):Magyarország 1944; Üldöztetés - embermentés. (Hungary 1944. Persecution - Rescue.) Budapest, 1994, Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó - Pro Homine - 1944 Emlékbizottság,


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