Treu Zur Heimat:  The Swabian Loyalty Movement in Hungary


   The following is a summary of some of the information on this subject from a lecture given by István Fehér in Budapest in 1988 at the International Historical Conference held there on March 5-6 in 1987.



  The Loyalty Movement was founded in Bonyhád in Tolna County in January of 1942.  Its beginnings can be traced back to 1930 as an anti-Volksbund movement in the Tolna.  Three hundred of the German Hungarians (Translator’s Note:  their preferred designation) living in Bonyhád signed a declaration in which they condemned the extreme political positions of the Volksbund (Translator’s Note:  A Nazi front organization posing as a cultural and educational society).  Many of the ideas and concepts of the Loyalty Movement were borrowed from “Die Donau”, a weekly newspaper published in Apatin in the Batschka, that had a strong  Christian and Hungarian nationalist bias.  They were also joined in their opposition by those German Hungarians who were either Social Democrats and members of the Small Landholders Party in the Hungarian parliament.


  In March 1943, a call went out from the “Loyal to the Homeland Movement” to all of the German Hungarian communities in which they attacked the activities and agitation of the Volksbund and its promulgation of hatred towards Hungary and the Hungarian people.  They called upon the people to continue in brotherly relationships with both the Hungarian people and in loyalty to the Hungarian State.  They assured the people that there were Swabians in every community prepared to make sacrifices, face persecution and threats for their refusal to allow themselves to be taken in by the agitators from the Volksbund or support and join them.  Their ideology was focussed on withstanding Nazism.  Their goal was not the assimilation of the German population in Hungary but was a call for loyalty to the State of which they were citizens and not to a foreign power.


  Local branches of the movement were established throughout Swabian Turkey, the Batschka, both sides of the Tisza River and the area around Budapest.  The vast majority of the members were land owning farmers who were not taken in by the demagoguery and Nazi politics of the Volksbund.  This was their constant concern and emphasis up to the end of 1943 when the myth of the invincibility of Hitler’s armies had finally been broken.  Following the defeat at Stalingrad large numbers of Swabians began to resign from their membership in the Volksbund (most of whom had been tricked into joining in the first place.)  Such withdrawals had to be reported to the Central Volksbund offices in Budapest.  It required a degree of bravery to take this action on their part.  Johann Polster, the notary in Lack/Püspӧklak in Baranya County, had “resignation cards” printed by the thousands at his own cost for this purpose.  Anyone who resigned their membership in the Volksbund had to provide a reason for doing so.  The  notary provided them with three options:  1)  As a Christian I cannot accept the Volksbund’s anti-Christian policies.  2)  As a loyal citizen of Hungary I cannot give me allegiance to another State.  3)  The Volksbund  has led its members into political error.  They were distributed en masse and were filled out and sent to Dr. Franz Basch at the Volksbund headquarters in Budapest but they were never acknowledged.  Most of them came from Swabian Turkey.


  Obviously the members of the Treu Zur Heimat Movement did not send in these cards.  The reason for its existence was not primarily to recruit members for their movement but rather that the Volksbund membership decline in order to weaken it and discredit its ideology.  On March 20, 1943 the movement had its beginnings in Elek with a charter membership of 250.  A few weeks later the local leaders reported 400 members.  By December there were 800.  Many of them were or had been Social Democrats.  The members informed  each other of the news reports coming from the Russian Front.  At the end of 1942, there were 392 families in Meszӧbereny who joined the movement and by the Spring of 1943 an additional 196 families had followed suit.


  The members of the movement became the special target of Basch when he and the Volksbund announced the second recruitment of volunteers to serve in the SS in the Fall of 1943.  His rallying cry to the Volksbund faithful was, “Two kinds of Germans live in this land.  One who knows to whom he belongs…our camp!  While the other kind has been our enemy from the beginning.  They are blood of our blood but are not part of our movement.”  It is hardly any wonder that after the German military occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944 that the Sztojay puppet Arrow Cross government dissolved the Loyalty Movement on orders from Basch.  The organization was declared illegal and some of its leaders were arrested and were deported from Hungary to concentration camps in the Reich.  The initiators of the movement:  Bela Perczel, Stefan Lehmann and Josef Bauer fell into the hands of the Gestapo.  Johann Leitner, the Richter (mayor) of Wakan/Vokány in Baranya County was one of those who was sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in former Austria.  Ironically there were also Volksbund members who served as “commandos” at the camp.


  In Vokány and Güns and in other places as well many of the members of the Loyalty Movement went into hiding to avoid the forced conscription into the Waffen-SS and convinced others to join them.  When the forced mustering and registering of the Swabian men of Elek was ordered by the SS on September 1,1944 not a single man reported.  During the summer of 1944 all of southern Hungary was flooded with leaflets distributed by the Loyalty Movement lampooning Adolf Hitler.  Some of the members even distributed them at meetings of the local village Volksbund.


  This heroic and brave stand taken by the Loyalty Movement during the German occupation was never acknowledged by the Hungarian State in terms of the Potsdam ordered expulsion of Hungary’s German ethnic population.  One of the members of the leadership of the Loyalty Movement who survived the concentration camps and returned home to Hungary was among those who were expelled simply because he owned land.


  In July 1946 at the time of the expulsion order in Egrad/Magyaregregy, which had a mixed population, the local Communists, Social Democrats, Small Landowner’s Party and the National Farmer’s Party members registered an appealed on behalf of the Swabian population of their village who had been members of the Loyalty Movement and had battled against the Volksbund.  In their petition to the Appeals Commission they wrote:  “We do not want to condone anyone who is guilty and has betrayed our nation.  The Volksbund was unable to organize a local group here because no one supported them.  The barber who moved here as an organizer was driven out of town.  All of the men opposed the mustering into the Waffen-SS.  Not one man from this village served in the SS.  The Germans in our community have shared in our good times and in our bad times, faced the same evils and enjoyed the same good fortune.  We are prepared to live out our future struggles together with them.”  The deportation of the entire German population took place anyway.


  In total, there were 35,000 to 40,000 members in the Loyalty Movement compared to 150,000 in the Volksbund in their hey day.  A vastly inflated number by Volksbund statisticians and Magyar nationalist agitators.

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