Another “Martyr of Arad”: Kiss Ernő

Bust of Kiss Ernő set up in church yard of Elemér in 2014 (Magyar Szó)

Another “Martyr of Arad”: Kiss Ernő

Erika Papp Faber 

Eleméri és ittebei Kiss Ernő was born in Temesvár into a wealthy Hungarian family with Armenian roots, in 1799. The family’s original name has been given as Ázád, or  Ákoncz. He studied at the Theresianum in Vienna, an exclusive educational institution preparing young men for the civil service.  He joined a lance regiment of the Austrian imperial army in 1818.  By 1845, he was the commander of a hussar regiment.  Two of the later 13 Martyrs of Arad – Nagysándor József and Vécsey Károly – served under his command. 

In the summer of 1848, Kiss offered his services to the new Hungarian government.  He took part from the beginning in the fight against the Serbian insurgency. Although only an observer at the battle of Pákozd (see the September 2019 issue of Magyar News Online), he then was a member of the delegation that arranged for the armistice with Croatian rebel leader Jellasich.  On October 12th,  he was named the first honvéd Brigadier General, taking over as commander of the Bánát section  of the Hungarian army. 

In mid-December, Kiss was named the first Lieutenant-General, but he resigned in January and handed over his command to Damjanich János (see our October 2019 issue).  In Debrecen, he was named Supreme Commander of the Hungarian national army.  Several times he substituted for the War Minister.

Following the surrender of the Hungarian army to Russian forces at Világos in August of 1849, he became a prisoner of the tsarist Russian army, which  handed him over to the Austrians.

His death sentence was ”commuted” from hanging to being shot, because he had not commanded any troops which fought against imperial forces.

The first bullet entered his shoulder, at which point – it is reported – he himself gave the order to fire.  The death sentence was then carried out at short range.

It was his orderly who secretly exhumed him, and buried his remains in a cemetery in Arad, under a false name.  After further exhumation, he was finally put to rest in the family crypt in Elemér, formerly of the Bánát section of Hungary (since Trianon, in Serbia). It was there, in October of 2016, that a memorial with the bust of Kiss Ernő was dedicated in the yard of the renovated church of St. Augustine. 

Hungary’s Ambassador to Belgrade, Pintér Attila emphasized at the dedication that the 13 generals were of Hungarian, Serb, Croatian, Armenian, Austrian and German origin, but they all fought that their homeland, or adopted homeland, might become independent. 

An interesting sidelight on the life of Lieutenant-General Kiss Ernő:  he  married a great bauty, szentgyörgyi Horvát Anna Krisztina.  She was born into a family of wealthy landowners, and her parents gave the first Anna-bál (Anna Ball) in their Balatonfüred house in 1825.  (The end of July Anna-bál became a widespread tradition around the country ever after.) It was at this ball that the two young people met.  They were married the following year, and had three daughters.  By the time of his execution, Ernő had become a widower.