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The Siege of Budapest ended exactly 75 years ago as the Soviet Red Army ousted the Nazi troops, while resulting in the almost complete demolition of the Hungarian capital and in the death of about 38,000 civilians. However, the end of German occupation did not mean the liberation of Budapest and Hungary, as another occupation followed and the Soviet Union’s army stayed here until 1991.

Having suffered serious damages and casualties in bsttle and with the front lines approaching, Hungary was keen to exit World War II by early 1944. As politicians pushed for an end to the fighting, in order to force Hungary to continue on the war, Nazi Germany launched ‘Operation Margarethe’ on March 19, 1944, entering and occupying the country.

Image by Fortepan/Red Army

The Red Army and the Romanian Army managed to encroach on Budapest by the 26th of December 1944. As a result, nearly 100,000 German and Hungarian soldiers, as well as over 800,000 civilians were trapped in the city. By that time, Nazi-backed Arrow Cross Party leader Ferenc Szálasi and his government already fled Budapest.

Image by Fortepan/Red Army

On January 17th, Hungarian and German forces withdrew from the Pest side and the Germans destroyed the bridges over the Danube the next day. By the beginning of February, it became obvious that Buda would also fall sooner or later.

Image by Fortepan/Red Army

As a consequence, on the night of February 11th, contradicting the command of Adolf Hitler, some 28,000 German and Hungarian troops, together with thousands of civilians decided to attempt a breakout. Only a few hundred managed to eventually succeed. Their commemoration has long been a matter of debate in Hungary.

Image by Fortepan/Archiv Für Zeitgeschichte Eth Zürich /Agnes Hirschi/Carl Lutz

During the siege, around 38,000 civilians died through starvation or military action, in addition to the tens of thousands of rapes committed by the Soviet troops, while 80% of the capital’s buildings were destroyed or damaged.

Image by Fortepan/Red Army

The city eventually surrendered on February 13, 1945. Hungary’s Soviet occupation lasted 47 years, with the last Soviet troop leaving Hungary on June 16, 1991.

featured image via Fortepan/Red Army