WE DO NOT WISH TO MOVE A FINGER
When Hungary's former Regent, Miklós Horthy, was queried by an American officer about why he did not break with the Germans before he sacrificed twelve to thirteen divisions on the Russian front, Horthy replied in German: “Was konnte ich machen?” Though this response may sound banal and self-serving, it is hard to falsify even from the temporal distance of halfa-century. Hungary's course from the late 1930s encapsulated the fate of small nations caught up in Central European power politics. Hungary entered the war on the German side in part because of its own choosing and in part because of the bandwagon effect.1 The Anschluss of 1938 destroyed any possibility of a regional anti-German alliance. Mussolini's famous dictum that he who has breakfast in Vienna will have lunch in Milan was true also for Budapest.
The situation changed drastically in 1943. Hitler's defeat was no longer an unlikely prospect. Realizing Hitler's impending doom, his allies prepared to jump off the bandwagon. Hungary's conservative political elite sought salvation through surrendering to London and Washington in the hope that Anglo-American armies would occupy Hungary, thereby forestalling a German or Soviet invasion. But the question was whether such an Anglo-American occupation of Hungary was a real possibility. The answer will reveal the deeper motives of Allied policy towards Germany's minor allies and will reflect on the origins of the Soviet sphere of influence in East-Central Europe.
The first segment of this chapter will review Hungarian foreign policy, which was founded on the prospect that Hungary would be on the AngloAmerican route to Berlin. This belief was not wholly a figment of Hungarian imagination. A military strategy involving the British penetration into the Carpathian Basin was discussed on several occasions and was only finally discarded at the conference of Teheran in December 1943. The second section will discuss the equations of power politics that sealed the fate of East-Central Europe, the nations of which were not the masters of their own fate.
The United States wanted to win the war as quickly as possible even at the price of inviting the Soviets into the heart of Europe. Moscow, it seemed