July 22-28, 1919 – Final days of the dictatorship

Torma Galina

The proletarian revolution failed on August 1, 1919 and the Republic ended. However, the last episode of Vörös Riport Film news still reported on victory and happiness.

On August 2, one day after the Republic fell, Vörös Film newspaper advertised the dictatorship's last week as follows: „This week's Vörös Riport-Film offers colorful episodes on the proletarian children bathing at Balaton. Many lovely details of the everyday holiday life of younglings who fell ill from the distress they suffered in the capital come to life in Vörös Riport Film's brand new issue, which includes several other news, such as footages from the battlefield.

Tiszántúl offensive

The new commander-in-chief Jenő Landler, Vilmos Böhm's successor arrived to the Red Army's Gödöllő HQ on July 18. By then, everyone was waiting for command to start the attack on the 20th. Although the idea of a Tiszántúl campaign against the Romanians came from the military, Governing Council members also hoped that a successful military operation would solve their home affairs. Commissars always trusted Aurél Stromfeld's decisions, therefore they believed his most successful subaltern Ferenc Julier (who was Chief-of-Staff since July 3), that the army could win against the Romanians and take back the Tiszántúl territories. Although the Red Army had the same amount of soldiers in the beginning of the Eastern campaign as in the Northern, in reality the situation was much worse, but no reports were written about that. Most experienced officers left their positions by then, the exhausted soldiers were basically useless, the general mood and discipline was in decay and they were low on ammunition, while the Romanian army was much more powerful then the Czechs. Also, the Romanians probably knew about the plan and were familiar with the Red Army, so it was almost impossible to beat them.

Even so, on July 20 they started the attack. The Hungarian troops crossed river Tisza at three areas: Tokaj, Szolnok and south of Csongrád. The first days' success was due to the fact that the Romanian defense was positioned much further, so they did not have to face the overpowering enemy in the first couple days. They continued pushing forward on the 21st, the day of the world strike, and took back Törökszentmiklós, Szentes and Szegvár. Next day the international brigade also managed to cross the Tisza at Tiszafüred, and the largest troops crossing at Szolnok reached the Fegyvernek – Pusztapó line. Although the red soldiers managed to win some fights, on July 23 they lost their first one at Hódmezővásárhely. On July 24 the Romanians launched a counterstrike to corner the 1st corps and annihilate them. Being ridiculously outnumbered, they were forced to retreat. The day's most tragic moment was when the international brigade was destroyed. Although they managed to somehow hold up the enemy, with no ammunition left, their retreat on the Tisza became disastrous. By the 25th it was clear that the Republic was losing, but most Red Army troops kept fighting. Julier sent a memo to Landler that day in which he blamed their misfortune on the soldiers, who he described as „undisciplined, easily engaged but quick to lose interest”. Hungarian troops were ordered to retreat from their positions on the 26th and the Tiszántúl was once again in the Romanians' hands. Everyone reported on a heart-broken army: „Retreating to the Western shore of Tisza destroyed the troops' morale and combat-capability. The defeat made them feel like there's no point in fighting anymore.” On July 27 the Romanian Transylvanian army headquarters were ordered to cross the Tisza and attack Budapest, but they needed time to prepare, and the Red Army was trying to use that time to strengthen the Tisza line. Meanwhile, the distance was growing between political leaders. Social Democrats only cared about their position after the Republic, and were openly advertising the benefits of a new government, while Communists were threatening with a counter-revolutionary terror after the proletarian regime. In the uncertain circumstances, military leaders were standing by. On the morning of July 30, two Romanian divisions crossed Tisza at Tiszasüly, and by night, three divisions lined up 15-20 km from Szolnok. That is when the news came in that the Czech army is also getting ready for an attack, disregarding the armistice. The next day more Romanian troops crossed Tisza at Kiskör, where the reds had to retreat after tirelessly trying to fight them off. Although it was obvious that we will be defeated, leaders decided to keep up the fight at a July 31 meeting in Cegléd. By the morning of August 1 the enemy took Szolnok. Aurél Stromfeld visited Gödöllő early that day to help the hopelessly fighting army. They somehow managed to push out the Romanians from Szolnok, but that did not have any impact on the war's outcome or the dictatorship's future. Surrendering to political pressure, the Governing Council finally resigned at the Workers'- and Military Council of Budapest's 15:00 meeting.

The Governing Council's youth holiday program

According to the June 6 issue of Budapesti Közlöny the public education-, labor- and welfare commissariats launched the National Youth Holiday Office to organize holidays for healthy and ill students. Healthy pupils were sent to nationalized establishments in Balatonboglár, Balatonföldvár, Balatonszemes, Balatonlelle, Fonyód and Bélatelep, while children with lung diseases were sent to fully equipped sanatoriums in Balatonalmádi and Fokszabadi. Medical examinations were held in schools all around Budapest to decide which camp would be suitable for the children. The office was ready to send 10.000 children on holiday that summer. Because of the lengthy selection process, the first groups only left to Balaton on the 22nd of July - 600 children altogether. In exchange for their catering, parents had to leave one food-, bread- and meat ticket at the office's finance department. Another train left with 700 kids with a reporter from Népszava on Saturday, July 26 at 09:00. They started gathering at 05:00 in the Dob utca 85 elementary school for a last check up, then left to Keleti Train Station in groups of 25 with teachers and supervisors.

Each kid had a sack with a mess tin, all things necessary and food for one day. Each group was joined by a medical student to look after their health and take care of the ill. The train had only third class wagons and a supply wagon was connected to the engine carrying pillows, sheets and wool blankets, which were collected from the Váci út disinfection institute. When the train reached Kelenföld, children received jam toasts for breakfast, and fresh cottage cheese sandwiches for brunch after leaving Székesfehérvár. The first station in Balaton was Földvár where some kids left the train. Then came Szemes, Lelle, Boglár, Fonyód, Bélatelep and Keszthely. Népszava's reporter got off at Bélatelep with the children. Some of them were put up in Hotel Sirály, while others were in House Lajos and some were sleeping in freshly nationalized villas. They were served Szekely goulash and cabbage cubes for lunch. Children were sleeping on haystacks, 4-5 of them in one room. Tibor Szamuely visited the resort the next day to check out the facilities. The commissar was somewhat backseated recently and was tasked with overseeing the youth holiday program. He came to the conclusion that two times more children could be housed here if they were to provide more villas, which was never realized, as a couple days later the dictatorship of the proletariat officially came to an end.