VERITAS Research Institute and Archives

At approximately 5 PM on October 31st, 1918, Count István Tisza was murdered in his villa on Hermina Road. Although many details of the murder remain unresolved to the present day, that the Military Council, under Bolshevik influence, played a significant role in triggering the event is certain. The martyr’s death of the former prime minister perfectly symbolized the enormity of the impending catastrophe. Violence and terror became everyday occurrences as deserters returning from the front looted and armed units responsible for maintaining law and order in Hungary capitulated. More people were lynched than in the Red and White Terrors of the following year combined.    

As a result of Charles’ manifesto, myriad national councils were formed throughout the territory of the Monarchy, the majority of which had declared their intentions for independence, referring in principle to the Fourteen Points as laid out by Woodrow Wilson in January. While the home front was mired in turmoil, ominous events also transpired on the war front. On October 24th, 1918, exactly one year to the day of the breakthrough at Caporetto, Entente troops in Italy initiated their offensive. Although k.u.k forces fought valiantly in the first few days, the enemy ultimately broke through on October 28th. On the same day, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy began armistice talks with the Italians as troops on the front could no longer be switched out as a result of a disciplinary breakdown among troops arriving from the home front. In contrast to the situation in earlier years, German and Hungarian units began to rebel. The war was lost. Along with the imminent collapse of the Monarchy, the days of the military were also numbered, although troops did continue fighting into early November, even as the Dualist State had in fact ceased to exist. During the night of November 3rd, Charles handed over command of the armed forces to Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Arthur Arz von Straussenburg. By then the armistice had been signed in Padova. Due to communication difficulties, Arz commanded his troops to immediately lay down their arms at dawn on the 3rd, while the Italians understood the document as taking effect only twenty-four hours later. Putting up no resistance, 360 thousand k.u.k. soldiers were captured. Few Hungarians could be found among the POW’s, however, since on November 2nd, Secretary of War Béla Linder had already ordered Hungarian troops to vacate the front.

by Dávid Ligeti