USSR Captured Budapest on Feb. 13, 1945

February 13, 2022

Budapest surrendered to the USSR on Feb. 13, 1945, after a siege that lasted 50 days. When the Soviet and Romanian forces encircled the city on Dec. 26, 1944, the Hungarian and German forces rose to defend it. Known as the “Pearl of the Danube,” Budapest, the Hungarian capital, faced destruction and ruin during this offensive.

No one knew it at the time, but this would be one of the worst urban battles of World War II. Romania had previously been an ally of the German forces but changed sides during the Soviet Jassy-Kishinev offensive. Germany and Hungary somehow cobbled together a large enough army to battle the Russians to a standstill near Debrecen, which is in eastern Hungary.

The Soviets pushed rapidly through Hungary but slowed as it approached Budapest. The city was vitally important to Hitler and the German forces, as it was an outpost and trading town, but also because it was the capital of the only ally country they had left in Europe. Hitler thought a strong counteroffensive in Germany and a solid Polish defense would throw the Soviets off balance and keep them from building up their forces against Berlin.

Hitler wasn’t the only one who believed the capital city of Hungary was important. Josef Stalin saw Budapest as a central political prize. He knew the Allied Summit at Yalta was just a few months away, and he felt as though a swift capture of Budapest and Vienna would increase his bargaining power.

On Christmas Day, word spread through Budapest that the Soviets were at the Budagyongye Train Depot. Small arms fire near Janos Hospital started the siege. When the city unconditionally surrendered on Feb. 13, 1945, the loss of lives was huge. More than 38,000 civilians had died from military action, starvation, and mass executions of Jewish people.

5 Comments

  1. Margaret Futuyma

    What “polish solid defense”?
    Are you suggesting that Poland was on the side of Germany in WW2 or Ples were occupying
    Budapest?

    Reply
  2. Sean Holden

    I am glad you did not say the Soviet Army ‘liberated’ Budapest as perhaps would be said in the past and probably still is by Russians. The Soviet victory meant the unfortunate city merely exchanged one brutal totalitarian regime for another and Budapest was not to be liberated until Communism and Russian domination fell in 1989.

    Reply
  3. Mary Hirsig Hagen

    The loss of lives in WW II remains staggering to this day. Now the puffy faced Putin is putting the world in danger again. I hope diplomacy works. I can’t imagine Russian citizens want a repeat of WW II. Thanks for the interesting article and a reminder of the suffrage caused by wars.

    Reply
  4. Paul J Wojdyla

    Excellent article I love it. Need more like this.
    Thanx

    Reply
  5. William Burak

    Good job. Like you, I have always enjoyed looking at history. Love these short factoids. I am a retired History Prof. and it was always fun to regal my students with short glimpses into the past. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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