Operation Margarethe was the occupation of Hungary by Nazi German forces during World War II, as it was ordered by Hitler on 12 March 1944. A plan for the occupation of Romania was devised under the name Operation Margarethe II but was never carried out.
Course of events
The Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Kállay (in office from 1942), with the knowledge and approval of Regent Miklós Horthy, had been discussing an armistice with the Allies. German dictator Adolf Hitler found out about these discussions. Hitler felt betrayed by the Hungarians, and on 12 March 1944 ordered German troops to implement Operation Margarethe to capture critical Hungarian facilities.
Hitler invited Horthy to the palace of Klessheim, outside of Salzburg in Austria, on March 15. While the two heads of state conducted their negotiations, German forces quietly moved into Hungary. The meeting served merely as a German ruse to keep Horthy out of the country and to leave the Hungarian Army without orders. Negotiations between Horthy and Hitler lasted until the 18th, when Horthy boarded a train to return home.
When he arrived in Budapest, it was German soldiers who greeted him. Horthy was told that Hungary could only remain sovereign if he removed Kállay in favour of a government that would cooperate fully with the Germans. Otherwise, Hungary would be subject to undisguised occupation. Knowing the latter situation would mean a gauleiter who would treat Hungary no differently from an occupied enemy country, Horthy appointed Döme Sztójay as prime minister to appease German concerns. The occupation was a complete surprise, which resulted in its being quick and bloodless. The initial plan was to immobilise the Hungarian army, but with Soviet forces advancing from the north and east, and with the prospect of British and American forces invading the Balkans, they decided to retain the forces in the field, sending a portion to defend the passes through the Carpathians.
As a consequence of the Nazi occupation, Adolf Eichmann arranged the transportation of 550,000 Hungarian Jews from wartime Hungary (including Jews from territories annexed from Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia) to the Nazi death camps, with the collaboration of Hungarian authorities.
Operation Margarethe II
Operation Margarethe II was the name for a planned Nazi German invasion of Romania by German forces in conjunction with those of Hungary should the Romanian government decide to surrender to the Soviet Union and switch sides. Romania did in fact surrender in August 1944 (after King Michael's Coup), but this operation was never implemented.
- Andreas Hillgruber, Helmuth Greinert, Percy Ernst Schramm, Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (Wehrmachtführungsstab) 1940-1945, Band IV: 1. Januar 1944 – 22. Mai 1945 (Bernard & Graefe, 1961)
- Carlile Aylmer Macartney, October Fifteenth: A History of Modern Hungary, 1929–1945, 2 vols. (Edinburgh University Press, 1956–57), II, 226.
- Earl F. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968. "In November  the transfer to the Eastern Front of the divisions allocated for Margarethe and intelligence reports that the Rumanians and Hungarians had secretly ironed out their difficulties and might try to desert the Axis in conjunction with an American-British invasion of the Balkans, complicated the problem."
- Cesarani, David (2005). Eichmann: His Life and Crimes. London: Vintage. pp. 159–195. ISBN 978-0-099-44844-0.
- (see note 1)
- Jean W. Sedlar (2007). The Axis Empire in Southeast Europe, 1939-1945. BookLocker.com. ISBN 978-1-60145-297-9.
- John Erickson (1999). Stalin's War with Germany: The road to Berlin. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-07813-8.