VERITAS Research Institute and Archives

Mackensen traveled from Berlin on May 14th, 1935, in a separate train saloon to Passau, where he switched to the Hungarian steamer Zsófia and began the journey to Budapest on the Danube River. Ironically, the Paris Peace Conference had made this kind of travel possible for him, as the river was considered an international waterway as a result. Austria received the general coolly and did not even allow him to dock. The demeanor of the Austrian government was driven by the fact that less than a year had passed since the murder of Engelbert Dollfuß, who had served as Chancellor of Austria, a cause of considerable tension in German-Austrian relations. An authentic picture of what occurred on May 14th emerges from a report issued by the German Embassy in Vienna on May 18th, 1935:

Mackensen's trip to Budapest is being followed with keen interest in Austria. Although the Austrian government has not extended an official welcome to the Field Marshal, the pro-German populace has walked to the banks of the Danube to wave at him, in an expression of their allegiance to the German alliance.  Many people, especially near Linz and Wachau, have shown up, cheering “Hail to Mackensen!” Despite the fact that the ship has arrived in Vienna at night, several hundred people have appeared on the bridges spanning the Danube to greet Mackensen’s passing ship. While the Austrian press has taken little notice of these developments and the upcoming visit to Hungary, a commentary has been written in the newspaper Stunde describing the Field Marshal's trip as “a new and unfriendly step by Imperial German authorities against Austria”. There is also speculation in Austrian government circles that the Germans are demonstratively and deliberately making Mackensen’s ship travel slowly through the country.

The Field Marshal arrived in Budapest on May 15th, his ship docking at what is today called the Belgrád rakpart, which was the location of the German Embassy at the time. His son also had a seat on the welcoming committee. Upon his arrival, Mackensen was cheered by an enthusiastic crowd, so much so that he declared that he had not expected such a reception.

Mackensen's statements were published in the national press, especially comments referring to Hungary: “The only thing I can say about myself is that everything I have achieved has been thanks to the grace of God and the trust of my Emperor and King. The courage and military acumen of our splendid troops, including the sons of Hungary made available to me to handle the great tasks, were the decisive factors! The roll of the dice on May 2nd [the breakthrough at Gorlice] was successful. That was also the last day there was poetry in warfare. I recall the wonderful landscape, the flowers of spring and the majestic momentum with which our troops launched their attack. [...] On this occasion, it is with gratitude that I think of the person who has made this visit possible, Admiral Horthy, whom Hungary has chosen to be her regent. For this warm welcome, I am grateful not only to my hussars, but to all Hungarians. I express my gratitude to the Hungarian doctors who saved my son's life with their masterly art. I can honestly say that I do not blame a single Hungarian for what was done to me in 1918 by those uninvited people who presented themselves as Hungary's advocates. Nor do I blame a single Hungarian for what they wanted to do against me. It is regretful that their actions are blamed on this country.”

Mackensen also said that he had “come home not only to his son but also to his brother, the Hungarian Hussar”.

On May 16th, Horthy received the general for breakfast, while Prime Minister Gyula Gömbös hosted a gala dinner in his honor. In the middle of the day, Mackensen paid his respects to fallen German heroes in the cemetery in Rákoskeresztúr.

On May 17th, Mackensen visited Székesfehérvár, wearing the uniform of the 10th Hussar Regiment. He was accompanied by Minister of Culture Bálint Hóman and Minister of the Interior Miklós Kozma. They first drove to the monument of the 69th Infantry Regiment ("Hindenburg’s Infantrymen"), where they paid their respects. Then they continued on to Fejér County Hall, where a military honor guard and the military band of the 1st Budapest Honved Infantry Regiment marched on the square in front of the building. They were also joined by former 10th Hussars and the 3,000-strong troop of veterans making up the 69th Infantry Regiment and 17th Honved Infantry Regiment. In front of the memorial to the 10th Hussar Regiment, former regimental commander Erik Toepke greeted Mackensen, who then spoke. Miklós Kozma translated for Mackensen and then gave a speech in his capacity as the last regimental aide-de-camp of the unit. The motto for Mackensen's visit to Székesfehérvár became his statement that it was “not important to make scientists out of the youth but rather to develop their character. One must never forget to raise young people to be true Hungarians”.

 

by Dávid Ligeti

Source of photograph: derrittmeister.com