Military Wiki
Samu Hazai
Born 26 December 1851 (1851-12-26)
Died 10 February 1942 (1942-02-11) (aged 90)
Place of birth Rimaszombat, Kingdom of Hungary
Place of death Budapest, Hungary
Allegiance Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary
Years of service 1873–1918
Rank Colonel General
Commands held Forty-sixth Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Order of the Iron Crown, Order of Leopold

Baron Samu Hazai (German language: Samuel Freiherr von Hazai, 26 December 1851 – 10 February 1942) was a Hungarian military officer and politician of Jewish origin, who served as Minister of Defence of Hungary between 1910 and 1917.

Early career

When his father converted to Christianity he also converted using the name Khon-Hazai but in 1876 he finally changed his name into Sámuel Hazai. His military career started at the Hungarian Ludovika academy in Budapest which he left as a cadet in the 51st Home Defence Infantry Battalion on 1 November 1874. On 1 May 1876 he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the active ranks of the Hungarian Honvédség. From 1879 to 1881 he attended the Kriegsschule at Vienna with "excellent success" and was promoted to Oberlietunant on 1 May 1883.

Hazai married Mária Juhász with whom he had two sons and one daughter. In the year of 1886 he received his first employment at the Ministry of Defence of Hungary. With only short interruptions at troop duty with the military, he performed the majority of his military career in this ministry. His theoretical talent was soon recognized and he became an instructor at the k.u. Ludovika academy. In 1888 he was promoted to Hauptmann 2nd class, on 1 September 1889 to Hauptmann 1st class, to Major on 1 May 1895 and on 1 November 1897 to Oberstlietunant. In March 1900 his achievements as an instructor were rewarded by the award of the bronze Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis) and he was transferred as an instructor to the school for senior officers of the Honvéd (k.u. Landwehr-Stabsoffizierskurs) shortly followed by his promotion to Oberst on 1 November 1900.

Minister of Defence

It was in the nature of a defence minister's post to be more a politician than an officer but in the circumstances of Hazai's Hungarian appointment, politics was the predominant factor. When the war started in 1914 Hazai, promoted to General der Infanterie earlier that year, especially had his problems with the Hungarian politicians. They always thought that the Hungarian part of the monarchy had to pay more money for the war and that more of their soldiers died than all others. This was objectively not true but some circles in Hungary hated the Dual monarchy so much that they were prepared to risk losing the war in order to damage the Habsburgs. Hazai's troublesome task was now, on the one hand to fulfil his duty and to send the much needed new materiel – men and equipment - to the field, and on the other hand to calm down the Hungarian opposition leaders playing with treasonable ideas. At times it seemed that only the Emperor and the Hungarian Prime Minister Tisza supported him during his "mission impossible". On 3 February 1915 he was awarded the Military Merit Cross 1st class with war decoration, followed be the award of the Merit Star of the Red Cross with war decoration. In June 1916 he received the Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold, shortly followed by the award of the war decoration to this decoration on 10 August 1916. On 25 November 1916 he was awarded the great golden Military Merit Medal (Großes Signum Laudis) and the title of Oberstinhaber of the k.u.k. infantry regiment number 46 by the emperor. His troublesome position seems clear if one noticed that General Hazai, as one of the most important Hungarian ministers, never received the Hungarian Order of Saint Stephen. The allied countries of Austria-Hungary honoured him during the war with the following awards: the Prussian Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class (1915), the Grand Cross with Swords of the Bavarian Military Merit Order (1915), the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Württemberg (1916), the Grand Cross with Golden Star and Swords of the Saxon Albrechts Order (1916) and the Ottoman Order of the Medjidie 1st class, the golden Imtiaz Medal and the "Iron Half Moon" – all three in 1917.

Later life

The problem with the supply of men and materiel grew worse, especially in Hungary, so that the new Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary Charles made the decision to appoint Hazai to be "Chef des Ersatzwesens für die gesamte bewaffnete Macht" (Chief of replacement services for the entire armed services). It was a wise decision to combine the authority regarding supply and replacement together in the hands of one man and to choose a Hungarian for this post. Not so wise was that the Emperor decided the appointment spontaneously without informing any other authorities like ministers and the high commands which had previously dealt with supply and replacement issues and consequently Hazai had more unexpected problems than planned at the outset. On 19 February 1917 Charles released him from the function of the Minister of Defence, simultaneously awarding him the great golden military merit medal (Großes Signum Laudis) a second time, to give him more time for his new post. It was due to Hazai's diplomatic talents that he had succeeded in overcoming the early problems with his new appointment. In November 1917 he was promoted to Generaloberst with seniority from 11 August 1917. Relatively soon he built a Zentralstelle for supply at Vienna and so-called Exposituren or branch office with each higher command in the field and at home. For his outstanding efforts he was honoured with the award of the military merit cross 3rd class with war decoration in brilliants on 12 August 1918.

Until the end of the war General Major Samu Hazai stayed at his important post and did his duty. After the collapse he settled down in Budapest. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic he was arrested by the communists and he was kept as a long term hostage. From 1927 he was a member of the House of Magnates until his death. He died on 10 February 1942.

Decorations and awards

  • Military Merit Medal in bronze (Austria-Hungary, March 1900) - for his services as an instructor.
  • Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd class (Austria, June 1904) - for his services in the military training
  • Knight's Cross of the Order of Leopold (Austria, 10 April 1908)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit (Spain, 1909)
  • Order of the Red Eagle, 1st class (Prussia, 1910)
  • Order of Prince Danilo I, 1st class (Montenegro, 1910)
  • Appointment to the Privy Council (December 1910)
  • Order of the Iron Crown, 1st class (12 August 1913)
  • Military Merit Cross, 1st class with war decoration (Austria-Hungary, 3 February 1915)
  • Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Red Cross (1915)
  • Iron Cross of 1914, 1st and 2nd class (Prussia, 1915)
  • Grand Cross of the Military Merit with Swords (Bavaria, 1915)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold (June 1916); war decoration added on 10 August 1916
  • Large Military Merit Medal in Gold (25 November 1916)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (Württemberg, 1916)
  • Grand Cross with swords and golden star of the Albert Order, (Saxony, 1916)
  • Order of the Medjidie, 1st class (Ottoman Empire, 1917)
  • Gallipoli Star ("Iron Crescent", Ottoman Empire, 1917)
  • Imtiyaz Medal in Gold (Ottoman Empire, 1917)
  • Military Merit Cross, 3rd class with war decoration in diamonds (Austria-Hungary, 12 August 1918)


Political offices
Preceded by
Lajos Jekelfalussy
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Sándor Szurmay

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