During this great blood-letting in Warsaw the order went out to the German occupation authorities to comb the country relentlessly. This was done so thoroughly that after a while there was no more Jewish question in Poland at all.
Elsewhere, even inside the Reich itself, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising had its effect in stringent measures against those Jews still engaged in forced factory labor. It was not in vain that Himmler put his entire weight behind this severity. Previously the directors of the big German factories, even Göring himself, the administrator of the Four Year Plan, had intervened on behalf of sparing Jews for the labor force. Now we in the Gestapo said simply, "Very well, you take the responsibility that things do not come to an uprising like the Warsaw Ghetto." When we said that, the urge to intervene left them.
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising had an equally strong effect with authorities in the other occupied countries. Every national leadership was anxious to remove factors of unrest. My advisers now had a perfect entree in the countries where they were assigned. We could and did use the Warsaw example like a traveling salesman who sells an article all the more easily by showing a special advertising attraction.
With Hungary we were particularly concerned. The Hungarian Jews had lived through the war relatively untouched by severe restrictions. Now Himmler made it clear that he wanted Hungary combed with a tremendous thoroughness before the Jews could really wake up to our plans and organize partisan resistance. For this reason, he chose me to lead the march into Hungary in person.
Before dawn on March 19, 1944, I was leading an SS convoy from the Mauthausen concentration camp toward Budapest, on these orders from Reichsführer Himmler to clear the Jews out of Hungary. My men were equipped with combat gear in case in case the Hungarians resisted. We had several air-raid warnings along the way. Suddenly my advance guard halted. The column came to a stop. Tipped off probably by one of my assistants, the unit commanders gathered around my personal truck and drank a toast to me with the rum they were issued for the march. It was my 38th birthday, my seventh as an SS officer.
On a Sunday morning in brilliant sunshine we crossed the border into Hungary. Instead of rifle fire or rebellious shouts we were greeted with cheers by the villagers and treated to white bread and wine. We put away our small arms then, because it was obvious there would be no resistance. That afternoon we rolled into Budapest and I immediately set up a small office in a corner of my bedroom in one of the great hotels.
I worked almost all that night putting out decrees calling the Jewish political officials to the first conferences the following day. I had already given orders to collect these Jewish officials in advance. Because I planned to work with them, I wanted to insure that they would not be harmed by any right-wing hysteria.
In Hungary my basic orders were to ship all Jews out of the country in as short a time as possible. Now, after years of working behind a desk, I had come out into the raw reality of the field. As Müller put it, they had sent me, the "master" himself, to make sure the Jews did not revolt as they had in the Warsaw Ghetto. I use the word "master" in quotation marks because people used it to describe me. I did not use it first.
Since they had sent the "master", however, I wanted to act like a master. I resolved to show how well a job could be done when the commander stands 100% behind it. By shipping the Jews off in a lightening operation, I wanted to set an example for future campaigns elsewhere.
June 12, 1998