Reviewing the literature for the best English-language books about Hungary during World War II finds relatively little quantity and uneven quality. The German occupation, the devastating siege of Budapest, the subsequent Soviet occupation, and the ensuing decades of officially denying and distorting the circumstances of Hungary's participation in World War II have made it difficult to bring together a fully documented and unbiased explanation of Hungary's war. Many of the leading figures perished at the hands of the Nazis or the Soviets, and the first-hand accounts by those leaders who survived tend to emphasize the righteousness of Hungary's quest to reverse the losses suffered by the Treaty of Trianon, and to measure all events according to how they advanced or set back that cause. With that caveat, here are some of the most important books about Hungary during 1939-1945.
Bethlen, Count Istvan. Hungarian Politics during World War II. Munich: Ungarisches Institut Munchen, 1985
This slender volume contains, first, a brief summary of Bethlen's life at the tail-end of WWII (he was a pro-Western pre-war prime minister) by someone who knew him at that time, and, second, Bethlen's analysis of the manner in which Hungary was led into ruin, itself written in the late stages of the war. This mostly takes the approach, as do so many accounts by those of his generation, that the Hungarians were a noble people who deserved above else to regain their lost territory, only to be betrayed by Hitler who promised much but only used Hungary for German gain. As the book is merely 99 pages and the text appears in English and then in Magyar, the actual useful content is only about 35 pages.
Dreisziger, Nandor (editor). Hungary in the Age of Total War, 1939-1948. New York: East European Monographs, 1998
More than twenty contributions from a variety of historians comprise this collection which touches on almost every aspect of Hungary at war. Dreisziger himself offers a general introduction to the subject, followed by essays on the impact of Trianon, Hungary's entry into the war, secret wartime surrender negotiations, the siege of Budapest, the trial of former Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy, the initial stages of Soviet domination of post-war Hungary, etc. Some obscure topics ("Economic Platforms of the Various Political Parties in the Elections of 1945") but mostly quite useful, although somewhat disconnected as these kinds of collections tend to be.
Dreisziger, Nandor A. F. Hungary's Way to World War II. Toronto: Hungarian Helicon Society, 1968
Where Veress examines Hungary's efforts to exit the war, Dreisziger looks at what led the nation into war in the first place. Most of the book covers the inter-war period, beginning with 1918 and reviewing Hungarian foreign policy in regard to overall revanchism, the Anschluss, the Bled Agreement, Munich, the First Vienna Award, etc. The last fifty or sixty pages cover the opening stages of the war and Hungary's irreversible slide into the conflagration via the Second Vienna Award, accession to the Tripartite Pact, Teleki's suicide, the invasion of Yugoslavia, Barbarossa, and the Kassa incident.
Eby, Cecil D. Hungary at War: Civilians and Soldiers in World War II. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998
Although one of the newer books about Hungary, written by an academic with post-communist access to the country, Eby's volume focuses on the tales of individual Hungarians and offers less in the way of hard, archival information about the nation as a whole. The stories were gathered mostly during the author's travels in Hungary, and he provides a wide assortment of accounts of different people in different situations at different times during the war. These he stitches together with some background information, including a useful introduction, chronology, and brief biographical sketches of the principal Hungarian leaders.
Fenyo, Mario D. Hitler, Horthy, and Hungary: German-Hungarian Relations, 1941-1944. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972
A serious, detailed, fully documented examination of the topic. In addition to political/diplomatic material, it includes a chapter on economic relations and some information on Hungarian military operations in the Soviet Union. Slightly limited in scope in that it only covers the years 1941 through 1944 and it focuses on Hungary's relations with Germany, this is nevertheless one of the best, most thoroughly documented, and most scholarly books on Hungary during the war.
Horthy, Miklos. Memoirs. New York: Speller, 1957
Admiral Horthy led a long and eventful life including stints as an aide to the old Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary, head of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, commander-in-chief of the forces that overthrew Bela Kun's Bolshevik regime in post-WWI Hungary, and finally as regent of Hungary during the inter-war years and WWII. In his memoirs, WWII takes up about seventy pages, andas with so many other Hungarian memoirsthe overriding goal of regaining lost territory and population blinds the author to Hungary's own transgressions and leaves Horthy to heap upon Hitler blame for all his nation's shortcomings and woes. An important primary document, but one which must be read carefully for its one-sided views and as much for what is excluded as for what is included.
Kallay, Nicholas. Hungarian Premier: A Personal Account of a Nation's Struggle in the Second World War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1954
Kallay was the third (after Teleki and Bardossy) of several Hungarian prime ministers during the war, and he served for two years until the first German occupation. The early record of his administration was relatively accommodating to the Germans, but Kallay claims to have been moving steadily behind the scenes to extract Hungary from the war. In any event, by the time he was replaced he clearly intended to distance his nation from the Axis, and he was eventually arrested and imprisoned by the Germans. This is mostly a detailed explanation of his actions during his years as premier, an interesting story told through the inevitable, distorting lens of Hungarian nationalism and territorial aspirations. Also a moving account of his arrest and imprisonment, the death of his wife, and his release at the end of the war.
Kertesz, Stephen D. Diplomacy in a Whirlpool: Hungary between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1953
In its 273 pages this volume covers more yearsend of the First World War through the immediate post-war periodthan most of the other volumes here, which means that it largely skims over the Second World War. In fact, only about fifty pages are devoted to 1939-1945, so important eventssuch as the decision to participate in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in the wake of Teleki's suicidereceive scant attention. It's also a bit disconcerting when what begins as an impersonal, third-person narrative changes direction after the author enters the story as a low-ranking government official.
Macartney, C.A. October Fifteenth: A History of Modern Hungary, 1929-1945. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1961. Two volumes
Not the newest source (it was originally published in the UK in 1957, and in the US as A History of Hungary, 1929-1945), but still the most thorough, most scholarly, and all-around best account of Hungary during the war years. (And also, it has been said, the most sympathetic.) Macartney carefully elucidates every aspect of the story beginning with the end of World War I and Trianon, but especially focuses on Hungarian political and diplomatic maneuvering during Germany's rise to ascendancy and during the period from Teleki's suicide in 1941 through the end of the war. Long out of print, secondhand copies of these two volumes are difficult to locate and dreadfully expensive.
Veress, Laura-Louise. (Edited by Dalma Takacs) Clear the Line: Hungary's Struggle to Leave the Axis during the Second World War. Cleveland: Prospero Publications, 1995
Written by the wife of a Hungarian diplomat who was involved in secret negotiations with the Western Allies, this is an uneven combination of personal recollections and larger political/diplomatic issues. Some rigorous historical accounting, but also some frivolous first-hand memories (wining and dining, Christmas gifts) and some undocumented speculation (such as a peace initiative by Himmler). Nevertheless, the most detailed study of the exact nature of contacts with the West from the Hungarian perspective.
In addition to the political and diplomatic perspective, there are a few books which can be recommended for covering the Hungarian armed forces and military operations in Hungary. Chief among them are The Royal Hungarian Army, 1920-1945 by Leo Niehorster, Hungary 1944-1945: The Forgotten Tragedy by Perry Pierik, and Hungarian Eagles: The Hungarian Air Forces, 1920-1945 by Sarhidai, Punka, and Kozlik.