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Preface by Horthy

Introduction || 1: Out Into the World

Preface by Horthy

Twice, and each time without my having striven after it, I have been appointed to a position of leadership. Towards the end of the First World War, His Majesty the Emperor Charles appointed me Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. A few years later the Hungarian people elected me Regent of Hungary, an appointment that made me the virtual head of the Hungarian State. Many honours have come my way unbidden. In this attempt at authorship, I am not seeking fame; circumstances have compelled me to lay down the sword and take up the pen.

When I began jotting down experiences and incidents from my long life during the forced inactivity, first of my imprisonment during the years 1944 and 1945, later of my sojourn in hospitable Portugal, I did so with no other purpose than that of leaving notes as a memento for my family. That these pages are now being offered to the public is the outcome of the insistence of many friends who have overcome my reluctance with the words of Goethe: "The question whether a man should write his own biography is a vexed one. I am of the opinion that to do so is the greatest possible act of courtesy."

This duty of courtesy towards history and my contemporaries is not one I wish to shirk, especially as I am now the only surviving witness of a number of events which have involved other people as well as myself. I am at the same time activated by the wish to speak a word of encouragement to my beloved Hungarian countrymen, who, after the crash of 1919, have now been plunged into the yet deeper abyss of Communist terror and foreign domination. The misfortunes of 1945 cannot and must not be the finale of Hungarian history. I profess my adherence to the words of our great Hungarian poet, Imre Madách, who in his The Tragedy of Man sings, "Man, have faith, and in that faith, fight on!"

In this fight, the experience of my life may be of use both to my contemporaries and to posterity. The place destiny has given the Magyars, set between the Slav and German races, is unlikely to suffer change; from it are bound to arise, time and time again, the same problems that presented themselves during my occupation of the office of Regent.

It is the task of the biographer, and this applies even more to the writer of autobiography, to give a picture of events as they appeared at the time, uninfluenced by the impact of subsequent developments. Any fool can be wise after the event. My efforts to perform the task of chronicler have been hampered by two factors: as one's years increase, the capacity of one's memory to hold and retain decreases. Others who have written down their recollections at an advanced age have been able to make good this handicap by referring to diaries and archives. I have never kept a diary, and those official or private documents which were locked away in my safe at the moment of my imprisonment in October, 1944, were either destroyed or left behind in the Royal Palace in Budapest. I was, however, able partly to fill certain gaps with the help of former collaborators on whose assistance I called. To them I owe a debt of gratitude.

Invaluable also was the help given me by my wife and by my daughter-in-law, who have spared no effort in completing and correcting these memoirs. A few documents were to be found in accounts of my life written by the Baroness Lily Doblhoff, Owen Rutter and Edgar von Schmidt-Pauli. I am sure that these writers would not mind the use I have made of such documents, as well as of what they themselves wrote about me, to refresh my memory. The same applies to a number of books written about Hungary since the war.

It has often been painful, yet sometimes cheering, to find how differently the same event has been dealt with by different authors. But that experience is a common one and any public figure soon discovers that it is impossible to please everybody. In such cases, history must be left to pronounce its verdict. And one who, throughout his life, has striven to do his duty to the best of his ability and conscience, need not fear that verdict. That is the spirit in which I place these memoirs before the public and the historians of the future.

Estoril, Portugal, August 20, 1952 Horthy