EHRI Document Blog: “It is Folly not to do Anything, Even if one can not do Everything”
On August 19, 1944, a quite extraordinary thing happened in Hungary, which had been under German occupation for five months already. Dr János Benedek, the leading civil servant of the Kiskőrös district, ordered the internment of István Velich, the agricultural officer of the district and local functionary of the Eastern Frontline Companions’ Association. This fascist, paramilitary organization – comprising of 200 members –, which had been founded in 1942 by veterans who had served at the Russian front, was infamous for its extreme anti-Semitic and anti-communist conviction and the obsession with remaining loyal to the Germans until the end. Until March 19, 1944, the time of the German occupation, it operated illegally, afterwards, they stepped up openly. The members organized unexpected attacks on Jews and leftist workers, as a result of which they earned the dubious reputation of one of the most dreaded organizations.
Between 1920 and 1944, Hungary was a kingdom, whose head of state was Regent Miklós Horthy. In the late summer of 1944, the Horthy regime’s administration was still functioning, but Hungarian far-rightist movements were already preparing for seizing the power with German support. So how and why did a simple district leader confront such a dangerous company, even though he was well aware that he was taking up an important position in Hungarian public administration at a time when there was a double power structure in the country?
Image: János Benedek as a civil servant in the 1930s