Nagy de Nagybaczon, Vilmos

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Nagy de Nagybaczon, Vilmos, born 30-05-1884, into a family of country nobility of Székely ancestry. His ancestors received their patent of nobility in 1676 from Apafi Mihály I, a ruling prince of Transylvania, and the title of Nagybaczoni  refers to his ancestral home in Covasna county, Transylvania. He lost his father, Sigmund Nagy, a mining engineer of little means at an early age, and his widowed mother could not provide for the children’s education. Thus, with no other options, together with his brother Béla he decided to pursue a military career. In 1902, he graduated with honours from the Kun Kollégium high school in Szászváros, and his exemplary record gained him tuition free admittance, with continuing financial support, to the prestigious Ludovica Military Academy . After his graduation in 1905, he elected to serve with the Royal Hungarian Army rather than joining the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Army. This was considered to be a career limiting choice, since there were fewer possibilities for advancement. His outstanding service surpassed that of his fellow officers and four years after receiving his first commission, he completed the Imperial War College in Vienna (1909–1912). Thus, in his thirtieth year, he was appointed to the Imperial General Staff with the rank of major. As a young Staff officer in World War I, he participated in operations against Serbia, in the battles of the Carpathian front, the breakthrough at Gorlice, and operations in Volhynia. In 1919, after the end of the war and collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire , his extensive military experience and expertise was utilized by the Hungarian Red Army  of the Hungarian Soviet Republic and he was again assigned to the General Staff with the rank of major. The career of Major Vilmos Nagy continued its uninterrupted rise following the collapse of the short lived Socialist Republic, as he was re-assigned to the general staff of the newly formed Royal Hungarian Army. Between 1927 and 1931, he served as the commanding officer of the 1st Mounted Infantry. This was followed by his appointment as chief adjutant to the Commander in Chief of the military forces. On 01-05-1934, he was promoted to Colonel, and assigned command of the Quartermaster Corps . Then, on 01-05-1937 he was promoted to Brigadier General, and in the following year, was assigned the command of the 1stMounted Infantry Corps. Following the First Vienna Award concerning Slovakia, he commanded the forces occupying the city of Košic.. Within a short while and on a temporary basis, he was assigned to be the Inspector General of the Infantry. Within a year, in March 1940, he was appointed as the commanding officer of the 1st  Hungarian Army, and two months later, he was promoted to the rank of Major General. Following the Second Vienna Award, on September 1940, he led the 1st Hungarian Army into the city of Marosvásárhely. His responsibilities included strengthening the borders of the re-conquered territory, and overseeing the distribution of food supplies to the population at large. In a completely unexpected move on 31-03-1941, the High Command retired him with the rank of Lieutenant General, and at this point it seemed that the military career of Vilmos Nagy of Nagybaczon has ended. On 21-09-1942, the Regent Miklos Horthy, offered General Nagy the portfolio of the Minister of Defense. In this position, and true to his convictions, Nagy did everything to keep the military out of politics, and struggled to modernize and preserve the remaining Hungarian military stationed at home to prevent the repeat of another debacle which followed the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Prior to his appointment, the government committed the 2nd Hungarian Army to the eastern front, where they eventually met a tragic end by their complete annihilation at Voronezh. While Nagy couldn’t bring back the troops from the front, he made every effort to preserve and safeguard the troops back home and ameliorate the conditions of the forced labor battalions. He issued numerous orders for the improvement of their conditions. These actions have met with opposition from the officers’ corps at the ministry and politicians of the extreme right. His political effectiveness diminished as he sought to curb the military’s culture of Anti-Semitism and the inhumane treatment of the forced laborers. He strenuously objected to the German request of sending 10,000 Jewish forced laborers to the copper mines at Bor, Serbia, and in February 1943, he opposed acquiescing to the German request of sending Hungarian troops to the Balkans. Due to his position on these issues, he was viewed as increasingly dangerous by his enemies. He was ridiculed, accused of being a ‘Jewish lackey’, of being anti-Axis, and was under constant attack by the extreme political right. Seeing that neither Regent Horthy, nor the Prime Minister Miklos Kállay, he died age 79, on 17-11-1967, in New York, were able or willing to defend him, on 08-06-1943, he submitted his resignation. He was succeeded by Colonel-In-Chief Lajos Csatay , and the daily press praised the person of the departing minister. Lajos Csatay was captured by the Gestapo; as a result he committed suicide along with his wife, age 58, on 16-10-1944 in Budapest. On 16 June, the social democratic daily Népszava, Voice of the People, published an exceptionally warm appraisal. Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky ,  an influential Hungarian politician, in his memoirs on government related matters, he wrote that in his 10 June submission to the Regent, he praised the service of the departing minister. Bajcsy-Zsilnsky was arrested and incarcerated in the Sopronköhida prison, where he was executed by hanging on 23-12-1944, age 58. The city of Marosvásárhely named him an honorary citizen but, due to 19 March 1944 occupation of Hungary by the Germans, the ceremony was cancelled. From behind the scenes, Vilmos Nagy continued to support the efforts of those who wished to achieve a separate peace with the Allies. Hungary lay in the direct path of the Nazi armies retreating from the onslaught of the Red Army, and based on past experience, he foresaw the utter destruction to be visited upon the land and the people as the fighting moved ever closer to the borders of Hungary. The extreme right was not satisfied with distancing him from a position of power and authority, and after the government’s takeover by the fascist Arrow Cross  , on 16-11-1944, the gendarmerie arrested him at his Piliscsaba home. After being held for two days at Hotel Lomnic on Svábhegy, which served as a prison facility of the Arrow Cross, together with his brother Béla and other prisoners, he was transferred to the prison in Sopronköhida. As the Red Army approached, the prisoners, under the command of lieutenant colonel Árpád Barcsay of the gendarmes, were transported to Passau Bavaria, then to Pfarrkirchen, and finally force marched to Gschaid. The Ministry of Defense discovered the constantly moving prisoners in Simbach, and their intervention forced the prisoners’ transport to the ministry compound in Tann where they were released. From Tann, on Sunday 28-04-1945, together with his brother, he moved to Zimmern where he found accommodations on a Bavarian farm until the US forces reached them on 1 May. He managed to return to Hungary in 1946, and in the initial period of the governing coalition of the various political factions, he participated as a committee member for the assessment of military pensions. After the Communist takeover of 1948, together with many of his peers, he was unjustly attacked, his apartment confiscated, and his pension revoked. He found employment as a gardener and caretaker at the tree nursery of Pilisi Parkerdő gazdaság, where he tended to the planting and care of seedlings, and later, he found employment as a metalsmith. At the beginning of 1950’s, a singularly unexpected event transpired. He received an invitation to the fiftieth graduation reunion of his high school. The invitation came from his former classmate and fellow graduate, Dr. Petru Groza , who at the time was the President of Romania. Groza died age 73, on 07-01-1958, in Bucharest. Nagy replied that he cannot participate due to his lack of funds and a passport. The President then used his influence with the Hungarian government, and the Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, Mátyás Rákosi, was obliged to provide the means to attend the reunion. Further intervention by the President saw the general’s pension reinstated. He gained a measure of comfort and fulfillment when he was selected in 1965 as the first Hungarian Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Institute of Jerusalem. The aging General remained mentally active until his death by spending his time writing, editing, and reading. In 1964, he re-edited his work, “Fateful Years”, which was originally published in 1947.

Death and burial ground of Nagy de Nagybaczon, Vilmos.

  The long lived soldier died in Piliscsaba on 21-06-1976, shortly after his 92nd birthday. Nagy is buried on the local cemetery of Piliscsaba and with a military guard of honour present, his burial place was declared a part of the National Cemetery of Hungary.

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