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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 16:52 GMT
Hungary honours 'war crimes' generals
Hungarian priests celebrating a mass for the fallen
A special service was held in memory of fallen soldiers
A memorial to two Hungarian generals executed after World War II on war crimes charges has been unveiled in the capital, Budapest.

Justice Minister Ibolya David laid a wreath at the memorial for Gusztav Jany and Ferenc Szombathelyi in the grounds of the Military History Museum.

Jany was the commander of the Second Hungarian Army Corps, which fought on the German side on the Russian front.

Detail from a memorial plaque
A memorial plaque remembers the executed generals
After 1945, the Budapest People's Court sentenced Jany to death as a war criminal and he was executed on 26 November 1947.

Jany was rehabilitated after the fall of communism, when in October 1993 the Hungarian Supreme Court annulled the earlier ruling.

The second general, Ferenc Szombathelyi, was the Hungarian chief of general staff between 1941 and 1944.

After the war he was sentenced to life imprisonment, extradited to Yugoslavia and executed there as a war criminal on 5 November 1946.

Szombathelyi has also been rehabilitated in Hungary since the end of the communist era.

The Second Army Corps commanded by Jany suffered huge casualties on the Russian front.

Hungarian Justice Minister Ibolya David
Hungary's justice minister laid a wreath
"Two-thirds of the army was lost," Jozsef Szalai, a former corporal in the corps, told Hungarian TV.

Speaking after a special mass in memory of the fallen at Budapest's Matthias Church, Szalai said the strength of the Second Army Corps was put at 200,000, meaning that as many as 142,000 had died.

Hungarian military historian Sandor Szakaly said that what happened to the military commanders after 1945 may have followed the letter of the law - but it failed to serve the cause of justice, with former army officers falling victim to a new dictatorship.

'Heroic' fighting

Several survivors of the disastrous Battle of the Don attended the memorial service, at which the congregation was told that the Second Army Corps had fought heroically against all the odds.

Another of Hungary's wartime generals, Antal Vattay, was officially rehabilitated by the Hungarian Supreme Court last June.

A close aide of Admiral Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary between 1920 and 1944, Vattay was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Soviet-era tribunal in 1951.

And last January a right-wing Hungarian party applied to the Chief Prosecutor's Office for the rehabilitation of Laszlo Bardossy, prime minister between April 1941 and March 1942.

Sentenced to death in November 1945, Bardossy led the government which declared war on the Soviet Union and the USA, approved an anti-Jewish law - and sent the second Hungarian Army Corps to the Russian front.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, Mazsihisz, protested against the application for Bardossy's rehabilitation.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

19 Jul 98 | Europe
New synagogue opens in Hungary
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Timeline: Hungary
18 Apr 01 | Europe
Hungary marks first Holocaust Day
04 Jun 01 | Media reports
Hungary revives painful past, former glory
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