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Lakatos, Geza (1890–1967)

by Attila Urmenyhazi

Geza Lakatos, n.d.

Geza Lakatos, n.d.

photo supplied by family

Géza (Geza) Lakatos (1890-1967), General in the Hungarian Army and Prime Minister of Hungary, graduated as a second-lieutenant officer from Ludovika Academy, the Military College of Hungary in Budapest, in 1910. He served as army infantry officer of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in various posts until 1914 when he was accepted as a student at the War Academy in Vienna. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of WWI and he was sent to the Russian front. From December 1915 to November 1916 he served as staff officer to a Brigadier, a division commander. Between 1917 and 1918 he saw active service on the Italian front.

In May 1919, whilst the Hungarian army was largely disarmed, a Soviet-style Bolshevik-Communist insurrection and revolutionary putsch saw Hungarian Communists take control of the national government for 133 days. At the time Geza was in charge of military headquarters in Gödöllö. He later joined the Nationalists under the elected leader, Admiral Horthy.

After graduating from the War Academy in Budapest in 1921 Geza became a lecturer at the academy. From 1923 he was in charge of communications and intelligence. In 1925 he received the title of "Vitéz" (hero of the nation) and in 1928 was military attaché to Prague. He was promoted to Chief of Personnel in the Hungarian Army in 1935 and became a "3 star" General (Altábornagy) in 1939. Two years later he was appointed an Army Corps Commander and in 1943 was promoted to the ultimate echelon in the military: that of a "4 star" General (Colonel-General), Chief of the Defence Staff operating out of Kiev, Ukraine.

Two months after the Nazi invasion-occupation of Hungary, Geza resigned from the military and had an audience with the tolerated and neutral Head of State, Admiral Horthy, who told him that: "— after your well earned leave in the country, I will invite you back to Budapest to serve the nation, appointing you Prime Minister". Lakatos reluctantly accepted the Prime Ministership but took up the challenge and tried to assemble a government formed by a majority of anti-Nazi ministers.

Whilst in power his military government stopped the deportation of the Hungarian Jews and, with Interior Minister Béla Horváth, ordered Hungarian gendarmes to use deadly force against any deportation effort. A man of honour, he also reopened peace talks with the Allies in a last ditch effort to save his nation. His attempts failed and he was arrested and kept captive by the Germans from 2 January 1945.

After the war he was subjected to harsh investigations by Soviet forces and endless People’s Tribunal hearings where his account as witness was sought. He was finally released from detention in January 1946. In 1949 the communist Hungarian government withdrew his military pension and seized his property forcing him to return to Budapest where he made a living illustrating books and handpainting silk scarves.

In 1965 the Hungarian government permitted Lakatos to join his daughter in Adelaide as a sponsored migrant. She had been living in the country since 1957.  Afterwards he wrote his memoirs, detailing in particular his earnest diplomatic-political attempts during his Prime Ministership to ensure Hungary's neutrality, sovereignty and independence and also to steer clear the country out of a collision course between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. His book As I Saw It: The Tragedy of Hungary was published in 1981 and released in West Germany and the United States of America. In 1992, following the universal collapse of communism, the book was published in Hungary.

Geza Lakatos was the last constitutional Prime Minister of the Royal Kingdom of Hungary; serving from 29 August 1944 to 15 October 1944. The final years of this national hero, were spent among his loving family and fellow countrymen until his quiet and peaceful passing away in Adelaide on 24 May 1967.

Original publication

  • unpublished, 2011

Additional Resources

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Attila Urmenyhazi, 'Lakatos, Geza (1890–1967)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/lakatos-geza-14137/text25148, accessed 24 November 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2017

Geza Lakatos, n.d.

Geza Lakatos, n.d.

photo supplied by family

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Lakatos, Géza
Birth

30 April 1890
Budapest, Hungary

Death

24 May 1967
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage