European War: Part 4
War Among Fascists: The Hungary-Romania Fiasco
September 5, 1940 – November 4, 1940
One of the least remembered episodes of World War Two was the brief war fought in Eastern Europe shortly after the fall of France. After his triumphant appearance at Compiegne, dictating peace to the French, Adolf Hitler was at the height of his power. With an empire extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Vistula, from a puppet government in the south of France to the edge of the Arctic Circle in northern Norway Hitler was all-powerful. His non-aggression pact with Russia was holding and his main enemy, Great Britain was under air attack and cowering on their little island.
At the height of his power Hitler was called on as mediator of border disputes in the New Europe. The first case to come before Der Fuehrer was brought by Hungary, junior member of the Axis, along with Italy and the puppet-state Slovakia. Gyula Gombos, head of the Hungarian Fascist Party and de-facto ruler of Hungary claimed that Hungary had an ancient historic claim to Transylvania. In addition the minority Hungarian population of Transylvania was being systematically oppressed by the Romanian government.
On September 5, 1940 Hitler issued a decree, which became known as the Vienna Diktat. In it Hitler recognized Hungary’s right to political control of Transylvania. Horia Sima, head of the Romanian Iron Circle Party and de-facto ruler of Romania, had been flirting with Hitler for months over Romania’s joining the Axis. Sima resisted, preferring not to be a junior partner to Hitler, who Sima personally despised. Sima saw Hitler’s decree as a personal slap and decided it was time to teach the upstart Germans a lesson.
Romania declared war on Hungary and General Antonescu captured the Hungarian city of Debrecen without firing a shot. The Hungarian Army was poorly trained and quite badly equipped. Romania had a solid corps of senior officers and well-equipped troops, but a fairly small army. Sima envisioned a blitzkrieg that would capture Budapest and then present Hitler with a fait accompli, reversing the Vienna Diktat.
Hitler had other plans. Hungary did not have an army capable of defending itself from an aggressive foe, but they did have a strong alliance. German forces, fresh from fighting in France poured into Hungary and Sima’s blitzkrieg was reversed. German troops soon captured Bucharest and Sima was shot by a firing squad. A new decree, the Budapest Diktat, issued November 4, 1940 gave Hungary control over all formerly Romanian territory.
Patton's view from Iceland November, 1940.