Order of Vitéz

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Order of Vitéz
Badge of the Order
Awarded by Regent Miklós Horthy
TypeState Order (formerly)
House Order (currently)
Established20 August 1920 – 23 February 1945 (National Order)
Awarded forCivil and Military Merit
Captain GeneralJózsef Károly von Habsburg
First induction1920
Last induction1944 (officially)

The Order of Vitéz (Hungarian: Vitézi Rend; frequently spelled in English as 'Vitez') is a Hungarian order of merit which was founded in 1920.[1][dead link] It was awarded as a state honour from 1920 to 1944, and continues as a semi-independent order of chivalry under Captain General vitéz József Károly von Habsburg, head of the Palatinal branch of the House of Habsburg.

During World War II, many members of the Hungarian government and military were members of the Order; as such, members were involved in both contributing to the Holocaust as well as leading efforts against it. The United States Department of State lists the Order of Vitéz as having been "under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany", like the French Police at the time.[2][3]

The Order of Vitéz has several successors; one, the Order of Vitéz under Captain General vitéz József Károly von Habsburg, is recognised by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry as an "Institution of Chivalric Character";[4] and so has become, de facto, comparable to a house order of the Palatinal branch of the House of Habsburg (Palatine of Hungary).


The Hungarian word Vitéz is of medieval Slavic origin and means "valiant", "gallant soldier" or "knight".

The Vitézi Rend (Order of the Valiant) should not be confused with the 17th-century Vitézlő Rend (Fighting Estate), which refers to a rebellion of former peasants and craftsmen whose homes had been destroyed by the Ottoman Empire. These men took up arms and formed an estate within society that received charters, rights and privileges over the centuries, mainly from the princes of Transylvania,[5] but which were eventually recognised by the Habsburg kings of the Kingdom of Hungary.

Establishment of the Order[edit]

Following the peace Treaty of Trianon,[6] which banished the ruling House of Habsburg from Hungary, a constitutional assembly decided to return to the monarchical form of government and replace the incumbent Habsburg regent, Archduke Joseph August of Austria, with Vice-Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya. It was mainly his idea to help re-build the shattered country by giving land to soldiers who had proven themselves on the battlefield. This way, the poverty brought on by World War I could begin to be alleviated and soldiers could be rewarded.

The Vitéz Order was created by Prime Ministerial Decree number 6650 of 1920 (6650/1920 M.E. in Hungarian usage) and was included as paragraph no. 77 in the Land Reform Act (Law XXXVI of 1920).[7] Membership replaced the titles of nobility; since Horthy was only the regent of the Hungarian Kingdom, he had no rights to make people knights or noblemen.

The title of "Vitéz" was to serve as an award.[8] The "Vitéz" title was official. The legislation gave those qualifying as members of the Order in need a grant of land and/or a house. According to Viktor Karady, "its members served as a strictly Christian gentry".[9]

Admittance into the Order was exclusively on military merit by the number of medals won. It worked on a system depending on rank, where privates or junior NCOs had to prove lesser awards of bravery, while officers and generals had to prove more in World War I.

Members received a badge and were entitled to use the designation Vitéz as a prefix to their names. Admission into the Order also carried with it a land grant of 40 cadastral holds to an officer, eight cadastral holds to other ranks based on need[10] (1 cadastral hold = c. 1.43 acres). The Order of Vitéz become hereditary, and the grants (title, badge and land grant) were to be passed on by the recipient to his eldest son.[8] Horthy was the first to be admitted into the Order and was also its Captain General (Főkapitány). In 1920, Archduke Joseph August of Austria became the first knight of the Order of Vitéz.

World War II[edit]

In October 1944, the Government of National Unity was established as a Nazi puppet state. According to the Hungarian historian George Deák, the Order of Vitéz was a "'tainted' but ambiguous symbol" during the war years: antisemitism was a shared sentiment among the order membership, though the Order itself was not explicitly antisemitic.[11] For example, Hungarian Interior Minister László Endre, a noted anti-semite, member of various incarnations of the Hungarian National Socialist Party, and Nazi collaborator during the war,[12] eagerly helped Adolf Eichmann collect and deport more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews between May and July 1944,[13] and was a "proud members of the order" according to Deák.[11] László Ferenczy, a Lieutenant colonel in the Hungarian Gendarme who worked under Endre to first establish the ghettos and later the deportation of the Jews of Hungary in 1944, gathered thousands of Jews at the Obuda brick factory and sent them on a death march towards Hegyeshalom near the Western border to build a line of defense, and indicated in reports that he was aware of what was taking place at Auschwitz.[14] Like Endre, Ferenczy was a "proud member of the order" according to Deák.[11] The majority of the real estate owned by Jews that were deported after the German occupation of Hungary went to organizations supportive of the collaborationist regime, including the Order of Vitéz and some of its members.[15][16][17]

However, Hungarian historian Róbert Kerepeszki stresses that there were ruptures in the organization of the Order of Vitéz on the question of Nazism during the war, and many of them died fighting against Hungarian Nazis.[18] The most famous of them[citation needed] was Vilmos Nagy de Nagybaczon, who was awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations for saving Jews.[19] Vitéz[citation needed] Colonel Ferenc Koszorus deployed his troops to stop Jewish deportations, allowing the escape of perhaps as many as 250,000 Jews concentrated in Budapest.[20] Miklós Horthy Jr. was also an anti-fascist "Vitéz"[21][22] who conducted negotiations with the Allies, and was deported to a concentration camp. Colonel-General Vitéz Gábor Faragho[23][24] and Colonel-General Vitéz Béla Miklós of Dálnok joined the Soviet forces after the failed attempt of Horthy to make an armistice with the Allies. Lieutenant colonel Vitéz Oszkár Variházy fought against the Nazis during the Siege of Budapest.[25][26] Lieutenant-General Vitéz Szilárd Bakay was deported to a Nazi concentration camp for his activity during Horthy's armistice attempt on 16 October.[21][27] Vitéz Lajos Keresztes-Fischer and his brother Vitéz Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer were also deported to concentration camps by the Szálasi-regime, due to their Anglo-Saxon orientation and anti-fascist stance.[28]

After the Nazi coup d'état, the second highest-ranking officer of the Order of Vitéz next to Miklós Horthy, Vitéz Igmándy-Hegyessy Géza suspended the activity of the Order of Vitéz, to demonstrate that the Order would not cooperate with the Arrow Cross Party – he was also deported to a concentration camp.[29]

In fact "a small number of wealthy Jews allied themselves with the Order as well" – though without being members of the Order themselves,[11] as Jews had been officially excluded from being able to join the Order by the 1938 racial laws.[9]

Under the Armistice signed between the Allies and the Provisional National Government of Hungary (hu:Ideiglenes Nemzeti Kormány), which was set up in the liberated part of Hungary from the fall of the Nazis until 1945, the Government undertook "to dissolve immediately all pro-Hitler or other fascist political, military, para-military and other organizations on Hungarian territory conducting propaganda hostile to the United Nations and not to tolerate the existence of such organizations in future."[30] The Order's governing National Council of Vitéz was listed as such an organization by Prime Ministerial Edict no. 1945/529.[31]

Paragraph 1, §(1) of the Statute IV of 1947 regarding the abolition of certain titles and ranks declares annulment of the Hungarian aristocratic and noble ranks, and paragraph 3 §(1) specifically forbids the use of the "Vitéz" title.

The United States Department of State included this Order of Vitéz as an institution "under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany," along with the ruling Arrow Cross Party and other contemporaneous organizations, such as the French Police, showing the broad category of groups included at that time.[2][3]

Private associations and House Order in the postwar era, the continuity of Vitézi Rend[edit]

After World War II, veterans' groups, including members of the Vitéz Order appointed by Horthy, began working to re-establish the Order in exile. Today, there are several groups that claim the title of Vitéz, and the usage of the original badge (Vitézi Rend, Történelmi Vitézi Rend, Kárpát-medencei Vitézi Rend, 1956-os Vitézi Lovagrend Világszövetsége, etc.). All are private associations.

The most notable of these is the Vitézi Rend (Order of Vitéz). This was reestablished in 1953, by General vitéz Hugó Sónyi as an order of chivalry according to traditional statutes. In 1977 the Archduke József Árpád (grandson of Archduke József Ágost), became Captain General of the Order until his death in 2017. With his election the Order decided to transmit the dignity of the leadership to his oldest son and that the Captain General must be a member of the Hungarian branch of the House of Habsburg, so the succession of the most important role in the Order was codified and the Order was linked to the Habsburgs. Today the Captain General is Archduke Josef Karl of Habsburg-Lorraine, who, by being Head of the said Vitézi Rend, guarantees the seriousness of the Order. In this way the Order has become, de facto, comparable to a house order of the Palatinal branch of the House of Habsburg (De jure it remains a semi-independent order). Since 1983, this Vitéz Order has been awarded to individuals who have defended Hungarian national interests and culture.[citation needed] The Captains General of this order have been:

Captains General since 1920
1 Vitéz Miklós Horthy
de Nagybánya


1920 1956 Vice Admiral
Regent of Hungary (1920–1944)
Vitéz Hugó Sónyi
1956 1958 Commander-in-Chief of the Hungarian Army (1936 -1940)
3 Vitéz Archduke Joseph August


1959 1962 Homo regius (1918, 1919)
President of the Academy of Sciences (1936–1944)
4 Vitéz Ferenc Farkas
de Kisbarnak


1962 1977 Chief Scout of Hungary (1941–1945)
5 Vitéz Archduke Joseph Árpád


1977 2017 Grandson of Joseph August

Vitéz Archduke Joseph Károly von Habsburg

(1960– )

2017 Son of Joseph Árpád


  1. ^ Rend, Vitezi. "SHORT HISTORY". Vitézi Rend. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  2. ^ a b Bayer, Lili; Cohler-Esses, Larry (March 16, 2017). "EXCLUSIVE: Nazi-Allied Group Claims Top Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka As Sworn Member". The Forward. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Ineligibility based on Human rights violations. "9 FAM 302.7-4(B)(7) (U) Organizations Under the Direction of the Nazi Government of Germany". United States Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual and Handbook. United States Department of State. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  4. ^ Chivalry, International Commission on. "Other Institutions of Chivalric Character". Register of ICOC. ICOC. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  5. ^ Index, Oxford. "The Principality of Transylvania". Oxford Publishers. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  6. ^ "Treaty of Trianon". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  7. ^ Törvények, Magyar. "1920 évi XXXVI tc". 1000 év törvényei (Laws through 1000 years). Complex Kiadó. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  8. ^ a b Naberhuis, Erik (2005). "The Hungarian Vitéz Order". Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848–1918. Glenn Jewison & Jörg C. Steiner. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  9. ^ a b The Holocaust in Hungary: Seventy Years Later By Randolph L. Braham, googlebooks
  10. ^ Macartney, C.A. October Fifteenth, a history of modern Hungary, Edinburgh University Press, (1956) vol.1, pp. 30–31
  11. ^ a b c d Szigeti, Tom (17 February 2017). "HUNGARIAN TRUMP AIDE SEBASTIAN GORKA AND THE ORDER OF VITÉZ 'CONTROVERSY'". Hungary Today. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  12. ^ Philip Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, Simon & Schuster, 1990 p. 114
  13. ^ Braham, Randolph, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, Wayne State University Press, p. 257.
  14. ^ "During the Holocaust: The Liquidation of the Jewish Community—László Ferenczy". The Story of Munkács, a Jewish Community in the Carpathian Mountains. Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  15. ^ Clifton, Eli (12 February 2017). "Why Is Trump Adviser Wearing Medal of Nazi Collaborators?". LobeLog. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  16. ^ Ságvári, Ágnes (1998). "2. The impact of the introduction of Hungarian Administration". The Holocaust in Carpatho-Ruthenia. Budapest: Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Retrieved 17 February 2017. The confidential directives stated: "Only Hungarian nationals can receive immovable, and only those Hungarian nationals who, during the occupation, manifested an impeccable behaviour." That is, members of the "Vitéz" order, old landlords and persons whose estate was confiscated by the Czechoslovak authorities for one reason to the other.
  17. ^ Vági Z, Csősz L, Kádár G (2013). The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide. AltaMira Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-7591-2200-0. 'State social and health institutions, churches, and organizations loyal to the government, such as the Order of Vitéz, received some of the land and property in exchange for a very small sum.' Citing László Csősz, 'Land Reforms and Race Protection: The Implementation of the Fourth Jewish Law,' in The Holocaust in Hungary Sixty Years Later in European Perspective (2005)
  18. ^ "How NOT to libel someone fascist". Heti Válasz (in Hungarian). 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
  19. ^ "The Righteous Among The Nations: Nagybaczoni Vilmos (1884–1976 )". Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  20. ^ "AHF Honors Gen. Ferenc Koszorus, Holocaust Hero". American Hungarian Federation. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Hungarian historians discuss Horthy's breakout attempt 70 years ago". The Budapest Beacon. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Miklós Horthy Jr. in the registry of the Order of Vitéz". Order of Vitéz. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  23. ^ Hungary in World War Two,p324. Fordham University Press. 3 January 2011. ISBN 9780823237739. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  24. ^ "Gábor Faragho in the registry of the Order of Vitéz". Order of Vitéz. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  25. ^ "Oszkár Variházy in the registry of the Order of Vitéz". Order of Vitéz. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  26. ^ "Ungvary. K. Battle for Budapest, Chapter VI – "The Siege and the Population,24.p"" (PDF). Masaryk University. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  27. ^ "Szilárd Bakay in the registry of the Order of Vitéz". Order of Vitéz. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  28. ^ "The "vitéz" title of the Keresztes-Fischer brothers". Hungarian Catholic Lexicon. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  29. ^ "vitéz Igmándy-Hegyessy Géza". Order of Vitéz database. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  30. ^ "Agreement Concerning An Armistice Between The Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics, The United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America on One Hand and Hungary on the Other". The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library. 20 January 1945. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  31. ^ van Bergen Quast, R.A.U. Juchter (15 January 2017). "Legal Opinion: To what extend can the Hungarian title of "vitéz" be seen as a designation of nobility?". R.A.U. Juchter van Bergen Quast, LLM Adelsrecht – Nobiliary Law. Retrieved 5 March 2017.

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