|G. Baross: Hungary and Hitler|
The average foreigner does not know Hungarian history in detail and does not know the Hungarian people. To be able to understand the relationship that developed between Hungary and Hitler's Third Reich which led to the tragedy of the Hungarian nation, it is essential that one becomes cognizant of the following historical facts and bears them in mind for the duration of the study.
From the moment the Hungarians took over the heritage of their ancestors in the Carpathian basin (at the end of the tenth century A.D.) they battled constantly with the German imperialistic trends known to science as "Drang Nach Osten" [in English: Urge towards the East]. The unquenchable desire of the Germans to possess the tremendous economic treasures of the Carpathian basin and the internationally important road leading along the valley of the Danube River, manifested itself in armed aggression and political intrigue. Under the kings of the Arpad dynasty and a succession of rulers of various other royal houses of Europe, Hungary was able to defend herself with military and diplomatic successes, and she preserved her independence and her territory remained Intact.
The pressure of the Turks from the Balkans became stronger and stronger at the start of the sixteenth century and in 1526 Suleiman II, Sultan of the Turks, annihilated the Hungarian forces at Mohacs with his numerous and overpowering army. In this battle Lajos Jagello, the last of the Hungarian kings of the so-called "mixed" royal dynasties, lost his life and he left no heirs to the throne. As a consequence of this, the Hungarian crown went to Ferdinand of Hapsburg in compliance with a family agreement concluded in 1491 between Ulaszlo (Wladislav), the Hungarian king and Michael of Hapsburg, the German emperor. Following the ancient tradition to elect the kings, one part of the Hungarian nation also confirmed him to be the ruler; at the same time other parts of the nation elected Janos Zapolya, Prince of Transylvania, to be ruler and through this action expressed their mistrust of foreigners.
From this moment on Hungary was divided into three parts: the western part called "The Hungarian Kingdom," the eastern part which was the Transylvania domain, and the southern part which was occupied by the Turks. The descendants of Ferdinand I continued to rule the Hungarian Kingdom until 1918; In Transylvania the rulers were elected until 1691, at which time this territory again became part of the Hungarian Kingdom. The territories held by the Turks were returned to the Hungarian crown when the Turkish occupation forces were driven out of the country.
During the Hapsburg rule of Hungary, of almost four hundred years, one conspiracy, revolt, and fight for freedom followed another In an unbroken succession. The Hapsburgs were German
emperors, Austrian archdukes, Czech and Hungarian kings, and in their immense domain they ruled in accordance to the stipulations of three different systems of constitutional law. In the German Empire they had to contend with the particular interests and requirements of the Electors and numerous smaller or greater Duchies to maintain their central might. They ruled the Austrian domain, which they considered "family possessions," in an absolutist way. They did not take the crown of Wenceslav, and it was only after the revolt of the Czechs was put down at the Battle of the White Mountain, that Bohemia became part of the Austrian crown possessions and that the absolutist system of rule was introduced there also. In Hungary, as elected rulers and crowned in observance of ancient traditions with the crown of Saint Stephen. they would have had to rule on the basis of old constitutional laws and principles which had originated in and come from Asia; instead, they more or less openly tried to introduce a centralized form of government similar to that of the Austrian Monarchy. Their reign was characterized by numerous and almost constant international strifes which rendered them unable to chase the Turks out of Hungary.
The Hungarian nation defended her independence either with eloquent words at the seldom summoned constitutional assemblies or with the sword on the battle fields during the repeated fights for independence from the omnipotent and Germanizing policies of the Hapsburgs. This represented a tremendous loss of blood for the nation and created great poverty. Large territories became depopulated and Rumanians, Bohemians, and Moravians drifted in and settled these areas. This trend was only increased in the second half of the eighteenth century during the Hapsburg rule when Schwabs, Germans from the territories of Wurtenberg, and Serbs, from the territories of the present Yugoslavia, settled these lands which had been liberated from the Turks and left without cultivation and population. Nevertheless, at the end of the eighteenth century the Hungarians, weakened in numbers and in wealth, revealed through the conspiracy of Martinovich and Sigray that their resistance against oppression was unrelenting. In 1848 the nation began a fight for freedom which made the name Lajos Kossuth known all over the world.
This fight for freedom was put down by Francis Joseph I of Hapsburg but only with the aid of the 200.000 soldiers of Czar Nicholas I. After this, following the example of his predecessor Joseph II, he suspended the Hungarian Constitution and introduced an absolutist rule monitored from Vienna. During the twenty years of the "absolutist era." Hungary's economy reached the low point of poverty but her spiritual resistance survived under the Influence of a flourishing literature.
Francis Joseph I, losing always more and more of his power and influence on the battle fields of Italy and Prussia, finally decided to attempt a reconciliation with the Hungarian nation.
In 1866, in compliance with the ancient Hungarian constitutional traditions, he had himself crowned at Budapest King of Hungary, and In 1867 the Viennese imperial Government concluded. at Budapest the "Reconciliation of 1867" with the. constitutional Royal Hungarian Government.. This was. the. start of the era of dualism. In accordance. with the stipulations of the Reconciliation were formed a common Imperial and Royal Army, a. common.. Imperial and Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and common Austro-Hungarian Bank which had its seat in Vienna and which had control of the monetary system with exclusive rights in both the Hungarian and Austrian parts of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and the two countries became one customs unit.
This "Law of Reconciliation," from a legal standpoint, is a new Hungarian Constitution which abridges the Hungarian constitutional rights by making the Army and Foreign Affairs in common with those of Austria. The new Hungarian Constitution of 1867 was defended by the Royal Hungarian Government, backed by the majority of the "Liberal Party" of "Party of 67." This party changed its name to "Party of Labor" In 1900. Their policies were opposed by the Party of 48" which insisted upon the elimination of the "common Army," the "common Foreign Affairs," the "Note Bank," and customs systems. This situation caused many grave parliamentary crises; the Party of 1848 demanded the restitution of the unabridged Hungarian Constitution and a change of the Austro-Hungarian Real Union Into a Personal Union. It is interesting to note that thereby they recognized the right of the Hapsburg dynasty to the Hungarian throne.
In 1918, the First World War became critical for the central powers, and the revolutionary symptoms were manifested in both parts of the Austro-hungarian Monarchy. The revolutionary element removed Charles IV, Emperor of Austria, from his. exalted position and dethroned the Hapsburg family. In Hungary the so-called "Aster Revolution" did not direct its edge towards the person of the king; nevertheless, Charles IV thought it advisable to abdicate on November 16, 1918 and upon this the misled masses declared "The Hungarian Peoples Republic". For a few months the president of this republic was the Count Mihaly Karolyi of cursed memory; the cowardly and misinformed Karolyi eventually turned the country over to the mercies of the Communist Bela Kun.
This brief sketch of Hungarian history brings us to the recognition of the causes of the following two historical facts:
1. That the Hungarian nation, having led for one thousand years a defensive battle against German Imperialism, had developed a mistrust of and antipathy for the Germans. These feelings were by no means improved by the Austrian and German conceit and demanding attitudes, which may be observed even today, and the extensive area of the German Empire of the Hohenzollerns.
2. That the currents of European history and the role of the Hapsburg
German-Roman Empire, later the Hapsburg Austrian Empire, created the impression in international life as though the Hungarian nation would belong to the "spheres of interest" of the Germans. The European diplomacy did not see Hungary and her real role in the German "sphere of interest;" Europe had different problems and it neglected to evaluate the matter and forgot about it. Hungary was steered towards oblivion. The Germans, those of the Empire, and also the Austrians, saw to it that Hungary was enveloped in the veil of darkness, and they advertised the Hungarian nation as an impatient, rebellious, and uncouth mass of people. This is comprehendable because the Hungarians had caused much trouble for the Germans. On the other hand, if the European powers had recognized the value of the Hungarian nation and the value of her role in the Central European region, they could have used her as a checkmate in the back of the Germans..
What did Hungary do to change this international attitude? Almost nothing. With one or two exceptions (in the times of Louis XIV, King of France, and in those of Napoleon I) in the first part of her history because she was very occupied with her domestic affairs and with her wars against the Turks, and later on (after 1867) because of her loyalty to the dynasty.
In 1914 the Hungarians became involved in the First World War, again creating the impression that they served the German's imperialistic trends and belonged In the German "sphere of interest." Today it is known fact that our Government took a stand against the declaration of war; nevertheless, with great courage and loyalty they fought the war because the Hungarian soldier is heroic and disciplined.
The treaties of Versailles, St. Germain, and Trianon concluding the World War changed the basic geopolitical aspects of Central Europe. The shining empire of the Hohenzollern was transformed by the Weimar Constitution into the "German Reich" with a constitution for the republic and also with diminished territories. The German speaking parts of the Austrian Empire formed the "Austrian Federated Republic." The historical Hungarian Empire became the Independent Hungarian Kingdom, formed of her Hungarian speaking territories, and the Treaty of Trianon forbade the Hapsburgs to take the Hungarian Royal Throne. Czechoslovakia was formed of the Bohemian, Moravian domains of the Austrian Empire and of the territories of Hungary inhabited by Slovaks and Ruthenians. Rumania obtained the Austrian Bukovina and the Hungarian Transylvania. The Yugoslav kingdom was formed of Serbia and southern Hungarian territories, Croatia and Slavonia, the Austrian Dalmatia, Krajna, the city of Goertz, and Gradiska.
The Hungarian kingdom as shaped by the Treaty of Trianon had lost approximately sixty per cent of its territories and eighty per cent of its natural resources. The people of the mutilated Hungary, (along with the inhabitants of the territories detached
from the country) at first were greatly surprised by this fact and could not comprehend it. In the first part of the twentieth century (we could regard these years as a "romantic period"), there were several attempts to change this status. As the time passed the realization grew that it was beyond Hungary's capabilities to convince the opposing moral and material forces of her just cause and to demand of them recognition of her rights. Thus, the devices of "No, no never" and "Return everything" were born. These ruled the souls of the population of mutilated Hungary and the actions of every Government between the two world wars.
After this I shall start with the narration of the details of the German-Hungarian relationship as it developed between the two world wars, mentioning that in doing so I have used many of my personal experiences and observations.
In my study entitled "Hungary and Mussolini" I presented the development of the relationship of Hungary and Italy into an intimate friendship. Immediately after the termination of the First World War, Hungary and Germany began diplomatic relations (Hungary sent an ambassador to Berlin, and Germany sent one to Budapest), but the political atmosphere between the two countries may have been labeled as only courteous.
The socialist atmosphere of Germany and her domestic crises and bloody strifes did by no means present an attractive picture to the Hungarian Governments, who were Christian, nationalist, and anti-Marxist (rightist) and who were striving to stabilize their domestic affairs. On the other hand, the Germans were not interested in the mutilated and economically valueless Hungary which was wedged between hostile nations with undefendable frontiers.
In 1925 General Hindenburg became the president of the German Republic and one could have expected that the general conditions in the Reich were going to be stabilized. Because of this expectation, the Hungarian Government sent Kalman Kanya, an experienced professional diplomat of the Imperial and Royal Foreign Service School, as Ambassador to Berlin, with the purpose of developing the Hungarian-German political relations and of establishing economic connections by making use of his Intimate and personal friendship with the general-president and other valuable connections. But the party political clashes did not cease In Germany, and on January 8, 1933, after several government crises, Hindenburg designated Adolf Hitler to be the Chancellor of the Reich. With this the "Machtubernahme" (the "Take over of the power") was consummated, and Hitler promulgated In Nuremberg the formation of the Third Reich (August 30, 1933). Simultaneously, the "Gleichschaltung" (equalization) started; that is to say that the personnel of all offices and institutions of the Government or under Government control became subject to substitution by reliable members of the German National Socialist Party.
Already at the "take over of power" and in the grave party political fights surrounding it, Kalman Kanya, not sympathizing with the formation of the. totalitarian system, gradually lost his connections to the leading circles of Germany and his positions became more and more impossible in Berlin. Therefore, Gyula Gombos, Minister President,. called him back and entrusted him with the portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thereby replacing Endre Puky, Foreign Minister. His successor In Berlin was Gyorgy Masszirevics, also an old professional and experienced diplomat. But he could not produce any results in the surroundings of the Third Reich and soon, in 1985, he was assigned to be the Ambassador to London. He was succeeded in Berlin by Dome Sztoyai (Stojakovics), a general who held the rank of a colonel in the First World War in the Imperial and Royal Army and then in 1918 be entered the services of the Yugoslav Army and was promoted to general. Later again he thought it better to seek employment in the Hungarian Army and there he was taken in, preserving his rank of general. Soon he was sent to be the Military Attache at the Hungary Embassy In Berlin.
Dome Sztoyai was a very bad looking man, did not speak Hungarian very well, and had certain other limitations. But in Berlin he gained the trust of Ribbentropp and Goering, and several other "greats" and became a loyal interpreter of the interests of the Third Reich in Budapest. Thus it is quite clear that Hungary's foreign political representation which was Inadequate during the period immediately preceding and following the "Machtubernabme" could have resulted in rather disagreeable consequences in political and especially in economical matters.
In my study "Hungary and Mussolini," I described bow very much Hungary was concerned with Austria's attitude in the matter of the "Anschluss," and how much effort was put forth to hinder such a move. It could have been assumed that the Third Reich was going to precipitate the annexation of the Austro-German territories; on the other hand, the "easing up" policies of the Third Reich in respect to the obligations stated in the Treaty of Versailles stood in the center of the interests of the Hungarian Government who was trying to obtain a modification of the Treaty of Trianon. Also the increasing Hungarian production could not do without the tremendous potentiality of the German market. Gyula Gombos and Kalman Kanya. here also followed the customary diplomatic practice of sending a very able emissary to clarify the entangled and unclear situation. Taking into consideration the personal visit of Gyula. Gombos to Berlin, their choice fell on Vitez Andras Mecser.
Who was this gentleman? Andras Mecser came from a civil servant family and was a professional officer. He served in the: rank of captain during the First World War in the "No.13 JaszKun," Hussar regiment. He was a mediocre officer and a
mediocre horseman, but with slyness and outstanding tenacity he carried out several successful armed actions and earned exceptionally high decorations for them. In 1916 he was taken prisoner by the Russians but escaped from Siberia disguised as a Russian Jew and soon reported back to duty at his regiment. In 1917 he was detailed as the Military Attache of the then Imperial and Royal Embassy in Berlin, where with his wit and likeable character he acquired many friends in large circles of Germany.
During this time, he became an intimate friend of a German officer called Darre. This Darre became Minister of Agriculture In Adolf Hitler's Government In 1933. Mecser, after the fall of the Dual Monarchy and the disbanding of the Army, reported to duty at the counter revolutionary nationalist government formed at Szeged and participated in the reorganization of the national army. Here, he made the acquaintance of Gyula Gombos and other important personalities who later played roles in the life of the nation. In 1920 he left the military service, married and became an agronomist managing his wife's beautiful estate, breeding horses, and developing special hybrid seeds. He was especially successful in developing the corn seed known as "Gold Rain" [In German "Goldregen"] which with the help of Darre was sold later on in Germany with great success. On one of his numerous business trips, Mecser was in Munich when Hitler gave a speech at one of the mass meetings of the Party. Mecser participated at the meeting, and while under the influence of the speech, he offered the profits of his business transaction to the purpose of the National Socialist movement. Upon this he was introduced to the Fuehrer. The friendship of Darre and this monetary contribution laid the foundations for Mecser's position in Germany.
In evaluating and classifying the personality of Andras Mecser, we want to emphasize only his various travels to Germany and his connections to German leading circles which enabled him to solve the problems arising out of the realization of the alms and purposes entrusted to him in their full extent.
Hitler, avoiding the official way, invited Gyula Gombos to a private meeting. This visit took place under absolute secret circumstances on June 16, 1933. Gombos flew from Budapest to Berlin and there, at the airport, was received by a gentleman who took him to Hitler. The two men talked for more than two hours alone after which Gombos immediately flew back to Budapest. The press was not notified previously of this visit, and later all that was said was that such a meeting had transpired, that the talks had been conducted in a friendly atmosphere, and that their aim was only to establish a general orientation. There is no doubt that Kalman Kanya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, knew of this visit and obtained detailed information as to the happenings, but Gombos himself never made any statements about them, not even in his most intimate circle of friends.
One time while talking to me about something entirely different, he made the following hint: "We are looking towards very difficult times."
The well-oriented people assumed that at this meeting Gombos could not talk too much. Instead he listened and Hitler must have told him everything about his future plans, notably the division of Czechoslovakia, and the fact that he would probably not object if Hungary regained Upper Hungary, although he would not permit the Rumanian and Yugoslav territories to be touched. To this day there is tangible evidence that the conversation took such turns. There is one fact, however, to be considered that after this meeting the Hungarian-German commercial relations began to increase noticeably.
The Berlin visit of Gombos caused great surprise in Hungary and was received with very mixed feelings. Some were rather critical upon receiving the news because they considered the step taken by Gombos as superfluous, too early, and rather risky because of the attitude of the Great and little Ententes. Others were fearful that this step might bring a change in the Italian orientation of Hungarian policy held by previous Hungarian Governments and even by Gyula Gombos himself, and therefore, considered this step unwarranted and without good reason. There were, however, also those who, knowing very well certain reserved attitudes of Gyula Gombos towards the Austrian and German Reich, had confidence in his reasoning and persuasive speech. These were of the opinion that he aimed to obtain first hand information from the German Chancellor who had come into power by noteworthy methods. They were sure Hitler had wanted to clear up some questions and to gain his cooperation In the solution of the questions of the Danube Line and the Carpathian Basin.
Abroad the Berlin visit of Gombos caused great surprise and unfavorable reaction among all except Italy. It may be assumed, however, that Mussolini had been previously informed and approved of this step. Some later occurrences also indicate that another great power, namely France, was influenced by this event and drew certain conclusions from it which resulted in beneficial moves towards Hungary; for instance, the reorganization of her Army.
On July 20, 1933, only about six weeks after the secret visit of Gombos, Engelbert Dollfuss, the Austrian Chancellor, a great antagonist of the Anschluss and a trustworthy friend of the Hungarian, Italian, and Austrian alliance, was gunned down by some persons who were quite probably close to the German National Socialist Party. Gyula Gombos may have known about preparations for such an attempt because he mentioned to the writer of these lines, "They may eliminate one of these days this poor Dollfuss,". and it is sure that he notified the Chancellor about the great peril threatening his life.
In Hungary this bloody event caused great consternation
because it was considered a sign that the Third Reich was going to end Austria's independence quite soon. It was also known in Hungary that the successor of Dollfuss, Kurt Schuschnigg, was sympathetic to the German intentions; the nomination of Franz Papen as the German Ambassador to Vienna was also considered a sign of the ever increasing pressure by the Reich.
The first signs of the "difficult times" manifested themselves. In my study entitled "Hungary and Mussolini" I gave an ample description of those diplomatic moves which led to the solidification of the Hungarian and Italian friendly connections in the times following the above happenings and which aimed, by all means, to hinder the "Anschluss" (in spite of the continued Intrigues of Benes). During these years Gombos paid a visit to Ankara and Warsaw with the aim to create with the help of Turkey and Poland a line of defense against the imperialistic threatening from the West and from the East. These negotiations proved to be futile. The Turks concluded treaties with the Russians; and the Poles, on the other hand, with the French.
In September 1935, Combos, this time accompanied by Kanya, paid another visit to Berlin. This visit did not have a prearranged agenda, and the Hungarian public was told soon after that Hitler had given a full account of his future intentions and had again emphasized that he was willing to support Hungarian claims against Czechoslovakia but that he would not permit Rumania and Yugoslavia to be touched.
It is possible that during the first visit, in support of his domestic political aims, Combos concluded a pact with Goring. The existence of such a pact was probably revealed to Kalman Daranyi, the successor of Gombos after his death, but if so he kept it a secret also. Those who somehow were able to obtain information about it were of the opinion that Gombos concluded this pact to counteract National Socialist and Pan-Germanic agitations which at that time had already started to be very noticeable. In 1936 Miklos Horthy, the regent of Hungary, paid a visit to Hitler in Berchtesgaden. The purpose of this visit was deer hunting and it is probable that political questions were discussed. In the circle of his friends the Regent repeatedly recounted that he, Horthy, emphasized the purposefulness of an English alliance to Hitler.
In the meantime, on March 7, 1986, the Third Reich occupied the Rhine territory. This outstanding event, which was accepted without any action by the Entente powers, basically changed the foreign political trends of the powers located east of the Rhine River. Yugoslavia, a member of the Little Entente and friendly to the English-French Alliance hurried to declare that she would never think of attacking the Third Reich and that she sympathized with her. Yugoslavia's example was followed by Rumania, another member of the Little Entente who was especially liked and pampered by the French. The third member
of the little Entente, Czechoslovakia, confident of her treaty concluded with the USSR in 1985, increased the intrigues in Vienna to entice Austria into the sphere of interest of the little Entente. Mussolini, who at that time was strongly discouraged by the attitude of the Geneva League of Nations towards the Italian-Abyssinian conflict, reduced the pace of his diplomatic advancement towards France.
In Hungary these events created great consternation, especially since under the influence of National Socialist principle in Hungary political opposition groups had developed and a strong pan-Germanic movement had started among the German speaking inhabitants of the country. Hungary tried a rapprochement to Yugoslavia (the writer of these lines upon request of Gombos also negotiated personally with the Yugoslav Royal Ambassador at Budapest about the deveopment of friendly relations in the field of sports and allied youth activities, but got a courteous refusal).
On October 6, 1936, Gyula Gombos died in a hospital in Munich succumbing to a kidney disease of many years. On October 10, 1936, the Regent appointed Kalman Daranyi to be Minister President and immediately following this action strange and disturbing symptoms appeared.
In the internal political life, numerous opposition groups emerged, shouting National Socialist slogans, and the Hungarian Schwabs (ethnic Germans) with the support of the newspapers of the German Reich, started in our country as well as abroad, actions against and attacks on the new Government.
It soon became obvious to the foreign political field that Daranyi was not welcomed by Berlin, and there were several statements made from that source in connection with Rumania, Yugoslavia, and even that of Czechoslovakia, affecting the sensitivity of Hungary. The Hungarian Government also became cognizant of a letter written by Mussolini to Hitler, first mentioning an Italian-German Axis.
There was another source which spread the news that instead of a Budapest-Rome-Vienna block there was a Budapest-Prague-Vienna block in creation. This of course was started in Prague with the purpose of increasing the tension between Berlin and Budapest.
In Hungary Daranyi began appeasing and equalizing in an attempt to halt the movements of the opposition which were sporadically supported by the youth and the circles of the intelligentsia. Therefore, he contacted the writer of these lines (who since 1932 had been the president of the "Federation of Social Association" [abbreviated T.E.S.z.] composed of about six thousand national organizations, and entrusted me with the task of increasing the activities of the Federation which Involved activity of a non-political nature, propagating unity and zeal and loyalty and to invite the valuable elements of the turbulent youth into this outstanding patriotic work,
In diplomatic matters Daranyi carried on the attempts of the previous Hungarian Governments for a rapprochement to Yugoslavia who not only responded to the friendly policies of the Third Reich but seemed to be agreeable to rapprochement after Ciano's visit to Belgrade [Translator's remark: Count Galeazzo Ciano, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy] which represented new trends of Italian foreign political intentions (see my study entitled "Hungary and Mussolini"). In spite of the friendly gestures by Berlin to Rumania, Budapest remained facilitated by the attitudes of Bucharest. The former friendly relationship with Italy was continued. The Hungarian politics in respect to the Third Reich became very, very difficult because of the touchy problem of the Austrian question and the disagreeable attitudes of the Hitler regime manifesting themselves everywhere, and mainly perhaps because of the mistrust and antipathy for the Germans which increased day by day in Hungary.
This may be illustrated with an example characterizing this particular situation. The Federation of Social Associations created committees to increase relationships with friendly nations (we had Hungarian-Italian, Hungarian-Turkish, Hungarian-Polish, et cetera, committees). Kalman Daranyi, upon the demand of the German Ambassador at Budapest, told the writer of these lines to form a Hungarian-German committee. I was unable to provide members and a president for such a committee because my request received negative replies from all sides. This very painful predicament was ended by Daranyi who finally nominated a Hungarian-German committee, consisting of forty members, and designated as its president his good friend Andras Tasnadi-Nagy, former Minister of Justice, who spoke very poor German.
The Hossbach Conference took place on November 5, 1937, and it became obvious that Hitler wanted to annex Austria and also the Moravian and Bohemian parts of Czechoslovakia. On November 20, 1987, Kalman Daranyi and Kalman Kanya, accompanied by a few experts, traveled to Berlin. The negotiations focused on economic questions and later the Hungarian public learned that the Germans had made rather insistent demands In respect to agricultural products. The Conference also dealt with the status of the Hungarian ethnic Germans (Schwabs). This question was, however, settled in a "satisfactory" way by Balint Homan, Minister of Education, who was also present.
It was only on November 25 that political questions came to debate and even then for only about two hours, and it is quite possible that Hitler at that time informed the Hungarians of his plans for the future, namely, the division of Czechoslovakia. Kanya later made the following remark at a party In the presence of the writer of these lines: "Hitler is not a fool to seek something beyond the Carpathians." The foreign political atmosphere appeared to be less tense and I remember well one
of Kalman Daranyi's New Year's radio speeches in which he stated: "The Hungarian Government wishes to convince the foreign powers of her rightful claims in a peaceful way."
The Berlin negotiations and Daranyi's radio address had two way consequences in the Parliamentary and press circles. Some really believed that the political atmosphere was easing and imagined that it was inopportune to implement the plans of the Third Reich and that the "Anschluss" could also be dropped. This belief seemed to be supported by the idea of a Prague-Vienna-Budapest block which had been proclaimed rather boisterously by Benes; others were, however, of a contrary opinion. They were convinced that the "Anschluss" was going to be realized in the shortest possible time that the annihilation of Czechoslovakia was inevitable, and that one had to expect very grave international crises. The more informed parliamentary circles knew that the government really stood on the latter conviction and military circles urgently advised the Regent to develop the Hungarian Army. It was also known that the famous General Soos submitted to the Regent and Daranyi a memorandum in which he gave details concerning the development of the Army and certain inner political moves.
Daranyi also prepared for any critical happenings. He removed his Finance Minister Tihamer Fabinyi, who would not have been able to provide the Army with the necessary financial funds, and replaced him with Lajos Remenyi-Schneller, the outstanding financial expert. He invited Bela Imredy, the very influential president of the Hungarian National Bank, to fill the position of general economic minister. In March 1938, in an address held in the city of Gyor, he declared that he was going to appropriate one billion Pengo for development of the Army, industry and agriculture, and the funds would be provided by a special tax to be introduced. This so-called "Program of Gyor" was received with great enthusiasm everywhere in the country; the first Jewish law," promulgated a few weeks later, seemed to ease the worried tension, but great concern was expressed about the provocative activities of the Berlin "Volks Deutsche Mittelstelle" [translated: ethnic German Central Agency].
On March 11, 1938, the "Anschluss" took place. When the writer of these lines read about the fatal turn of events, he hurried to visit Daranyi at his office. The Minister President excitedly paced up and down his room and started immediately to explain the situation. He was extremely pessimistic and he asked me to communicate his opinions to my colleagues in the Lower House of Parliament. A few days later a rumor had spread throughout the country that the German Army, occupying the Austrian territories, had stopped at the historical Austro-hungarian frontier to give the Hungarian Army an opportunity to occupy to so-called "Burgenland" and that only after they realized that the Hungarian Army units were not moving from
their stations, did they continue their progress to the Trianon Hungarian border. The authenticity of this fact is questionable but some statements coming from pertinent official sources made at later occasions make it entirely plausible. According to these statements the Hungarian Government possibly felt the occupation of the Burgenland was a risky venture considering the dubious attitudes of Paris and London.
On May 13, 1938, the Regent absolved Kalman Daranyi of his post and designated Bela Imredy to be Minister President. Daranyi really tumbled down from the peak of his popularity. The Government Party, which wanted to honor and celebrate him because of his political successes, had requested the writer of these lines to discuss with him a date for a festive luncheon. I went and visited him in his office and giving him the reason for my visit; he answered with a resigned half smile: "I think the time at the present moment is rather inopportune for such a thing because the Regent absolved me of my duties just this morning." I asked him in great consternation about the reasons of this unexpected decision and also about his successor, upon which he answered: DO not ask the reasons, my successor is Bela Imredy." I retorted: "The party is going to topple him at his introductory speech." He answered: "I ask you very strong]y, talk with your friends and persuade them to refrain from such action; they should not make the situation even more difficult." I acted in compliance to his request and the introductory address of Imredy was received with icy composure at the general assembly of the party.
Imredy was not popular in political circles nor among the general public. Everybody knew his conservative, liberal-mercantilist philosophy and were afraid that these tendencies of his would affect the advancing economic and social needs of the country; it was also common knowledge that he did not have the sympathy of Rome and of Berlin. It remains a secret what the reasons for the unexpected and apparently unwarranted decision of the Regent were and wellinformed circles believed that behind all this were exclusive machinations by Imredy to gain power.
Public opinion was soothed rather satisfactorily by the fact that Imredy succeeded in getting for his cabinet Count Pal Teleki, who was of great influence and esteem, and the right wing Sandor Sztranyavszky. The first of these two men, was rumored to be an Anglophile, the latter Germanophile. Kalman Kanya, the "Old Tiger," stayed on in the Position of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Four happenings are noteworthy in the foreign political sphere after the first few months of Imredy's entrance into office.
Point One: Placing greater emphasis on the development of the days' commercial connections with England, Imredy appointed a commercial attache to the Hungarian Embassy in London.
Point Two: The Poles communicated with the
Hungarian Government that in the event of the division of Czechoslovakia they were going to insist upon rectification of their frontier by Prague.
Point Three: Yugoslavia eased her unyielding attitude towards the Hungarian minorities living in the country and expressed neutrality in the event of a German-Czechoslovakian conflict.
Point Four: In the month of July, Imredy, Kanya, and the latter's deputy Count Istvan Csaky paid a courtesy visit to Rome. According to the news surrounding the event, Mussolini advised the Hungarian Minister President to introduce "social and economic reforms."
Of greater importance than any of the events enumerated above was the launching and baptism of a ship at Kiel. In Hungary, this event is regarded as the most important political move of the time. During the Minister Presidency of Kalman Daranyi, Hitler invited Regent Horthy to the festivities accompanying the launching of a German battleship. The choice for the name to be given to the ship was between "Thegetoff" and "Prinz Eugen." The name "Thegetoff" was dropped because of the Italians (Thegetoff, Austrian Admiral, beat the Italian fleet in 1866 at Lissa), and the name "Prinz Eugen" was kept.
Horthy was reluctant to participate in the event since the Prinz Eugen of Savoy, Austrian General of French origin, had participated actively at the start of the Eighteenth century In the overthrow of the fight for liberty In Hungary under the Transylvanian Prince Ferenc Rakoczi II. To decide if the refusal would be an affront was a serious matter, and the political importance of the ship's christening had to be weighed carefully. The latter consideration decided the question, and in the last part of July, after great preparations, Regent Horthy, his wife, Bela Imredy and his wife, Kanya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and General Racz, Chief of Staff, accompanied by experts, traveled to Kiel where they were received by Hitler, Ribbentropp, and Admiral Raeder and other dignitaries.
The role of the Godmother of the battleship was filled by the wife of Miklos Horthy. After the festive occasion there was a great fleet parade which was in turn followed by a gala performance at the opera house.
In following days political negotiations were conducted between Horthy and Hitler and between Kanya and Ribbentropp respectively, which dealt with the participation of Hungary in an armed action of Germany to be introduced against Czechoslovakia. These were rigidly refused by the Hungarians due to the inadequate armor, equipment, and drill of their Army. The official communiques issued pertaining to the "Kiel days" were rather unclear and contradictory. but the news spread in the Hungarian political circles that Horthy had reminded Hitler that In the event of a war the British fleet with its tremendous striking power would threaten him; on the other hand, Kanya in talking about Hungary's standpoint and interests, some-times used pointed and aggressive tones with Ribbentropp.
|G. Baross: Hungary and Hitler|