Preface by The Rev. Christopher Hites ix

Introduction 1

Notes to the Introduction 9

Part One 11

A. Up to 1918 when the Slovak National Council, meeting in
Turocszentmarton (Turciansky Sv.Martin), declared Czechoslovak
unity, complete independence and, thus, secession from Hungary

Slovak and Hungarian Views about the Origins of the Slovak People 12

The Awakening and Growth of Slovak National Consciousness 16

Slovak Grievances Against Hungary 19

The Concept of "Czechoslovakism" and the Creation
of the Artificial Czechoslovak State

B. Up to March 1939 when the Slovaks declared their
secession from the Republic of Czechoslovakia and,
under the sponsorship of Germany, established an
independent Slovakia

In Defiance of President Wilson's Original Ideas, Masaryk and Benes
Are Busy Destroying the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Establishing
Their Brainchild, Czechoslovakia

The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Trianon 36

The Slovaks Begin Their Efforts for Autonomy 39

The Struggle of National Minorities in
Czechoslovakia Their Rights

The Western Powers Become Involved in the
Problem of Czechoslovakia's National

The Meetings at Berchslesgaden and Godesberg
as Preludes to the Munich Conference

The Munich Four Power Conference and Its Consequences 58

Hungarian-Crechoslovak Negotiations
in Komarom (Komarno)

The First Vienna Decision 65

Slovakia Declares Its Independence 68

C. Up to 1945, when Slovakia lost its independence 70

Bohemia Becomes A German Protectorate 70

Further Political Machinations of Benes 72

The "Slovak National Uprising" 74

Benes Returns under the Protection of the Soviet Army 74

D. The period since 1945 76

The Constitutions of 1948, 1960 and 1968 76

E. Lessons for the Nations of the
Danubian Basin from the Slovak Efforts for
Autonomy and Independence

Notes to Part One 81

Part Two 91

A. The origins of Count Janos Esterhazy and
the beginnings of his political career

B. From the period of 1918-1920 to March1939 97


French plans for the Danubian Basin:
economic union, followed by conferation

Some Revisionist Notions of Masaryk and Benes 102

Protection of Minority Rights and
Their Systematic Violation

The Formation of Hungarian Minority Parties
in Czechoslovakia

Janos Esterhazy, the New National Chairman of the
Hungarian Christian Socialist Party

The Sudeten German Party Comes to the Fore 120

Janos Esterhazy Meets Benes 121

The Occupation of the Rhineland 124

The Merger of the Two Hungarian Parties 127

Benes Extends Another Invitation to Janos Esterhazy 130

Janos Esterhazy's Speeches in the Budget Debate 134

Diplomatic Negotiations between Hungary
and the Little Entente

Leading Hungarian Politicians Visit Germany 140

Esterhazy's Response in Parliament to Hodza's Speech 142

Hitler Occupies Austria 145

The Sudeten German Party Sends a Delegation to Hlinka,
then to Budapest

The United Hungarian Party's Appeal
to the Hungarians of Slovakia

The Sudeten Germans' Eight Points in Karlsbad 150

The Pragai Magyar Hirlap Sums up the Hungarian Demands... 151

British-French Diplomatic Moves
Regarding the Sudeten German Question

The Secret Talks between Hungary and the Little Entente Continue 157

Large Scale Hungarian Diplomatic Activity:
Esterhazy in Warsaw

Prague Publishes the Nationalities Act
in a Piecemeal Fashion

Negotiations by Lord Runciman 167

Hungary and the Little Entente Meet in Bled,
Hungarian Statesmen Visit Kiel

The Sudeten German Party Rejects
Hodza's Plans for the National Minorities

Janos Esterhazy's Negotiations with the Authorities
about Questions Relating to the Hungarian Schools


Lord Runciman's Final Report Highlights
the Prague Government's Faulty Policies

Hitler and Chamberlain Meet
in Berchtesgaden and Godesberg

The Road to the Munich Agreement
and the Vienna Decision

The Vienna Decision and the International Law 200

The Period Following the Vienna Decision 205

C. From the Declaration of Slovakia's Independence to the
Restoration of the Republic of Czechoslovakia in 1945...

The Declaration of Slovakia's Independence 209

The Magyar Nemzet Newspaper Hails Esterhazy 212

The Return of Subearpathian Ruthenia 215

Slovak Incitements against the Hungarians 218

The Rapidly Changing International Scene 226

Hungary Loses Its Independence 230

D. The Period since 1945
The Life and Struggles of the Hungarians
in Slovakia between 1940 and 1945

Saving the Hungarian Soul 237

The Hungarians Face New Threats in Slovakia 241

The Persecution of Janos Esterhazy 243

The Kassa Program and Its Impact
on the Hungarians in Slovakia

The Paris Peace Conference 248

Janos Esterhazy Sentenced to Death 251

In Remembrance of Janos Esterhazy,
the Politician, the Hungarian, the Man

Conclusion 262

Notes to Part Two 267

Bibliography 288

Documents 288

Monographs 290


Monographs in Serials - Articles in Periodicals 296

Periodicals, Newspapers and Yearbooks 298

Abbreviations 299





Slovakian name: Hungarian name:
Banska Bystrica Besztercebanya
Bratislava Pozsony
Komarno Komarom
Kosice Kassa
Nitra Nyitra
Nove Zamky Ersekujvar
Roznava Rozsnyo
Trencin Trencsen
Zilina Zsolna



Dr. Szent-Ivany's book fills a huge gap heretofore overlooked in the historical and political literature that deals with the years from the end of the First World War until the conclusion of World War Two. The work was written about a man who did not play an important role in the politics of Europe during that period, and yet his activity in the narrow field of history presents an ideal model and moral example for leading politicians. Had those who shaped the course of events in those fateful times been guided by such ideals, tragic developments in Europe could have been avoided.

Today it is generally acknowledged that the statesmen who controlled world events during those years acted without a clear vision of the actual problems of Europe. They seem to have been guided more by hostility and selfish interests than by a sincere desire to bring true and just peace to this all-important area of the world. They cannot be excused the tragic consequences of their politics that led to mounting international tension and fear, instead of true peace. Now, as Europe slowly emerges from the adverse results of their misconceived policies, it seems to be opportune to investigate the life of a relatively minor figure of that time, who had nevertheless stood for high moral standards among the leading actors of contemporary history.

Janos Esterhazy was such a leader. He devoted his life to the ill-fated cause of one million Hungarians who had been cut off from their mother community by the dictates of the Treaty of Trianon. For one thousand years, their homeland belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary until this infamous treaty, imposed on them against their will, made them part of the newly created state of Czechoslovakia. Esterhazy was the defender of their basic human and civic rights and fought for their interests.

Following the disintegration of Benes' Czechoslovakia when the Slovaks broke away from their Czech partners, Esterhazy faithfully


continued in that role on behalf of that smaller group of Hungarians who were left behind in Tiso's Slovakia. As a member of the Slovak parliament, true to his Christian statesmanship, Esterhazy singlehandedly fought Hitler's order to deport the Jews, as well as other manifestations of the Nazi influence penetrating the small Slovak Republic which came into being under Hitler's sponsorship.

At the end of World War Two, the corrupt political course of the victors made Esterhazy a martyr for his Christian political ideals. He was exiled to the Soviet Union for three years before being handed over to his Czechoslovak political opponents. He died in their prison, faithful to the end to his people and to the ideals by which he served his people all his life.

It is rewarding to read the story of Janos Esterhazy's life, presented here so authoritatively by Dr. Gabor Szent-Ivany.

The Reverend Christopher Hites

Portola Valley, California October, 1989



I often visit the Highlands *1 in my dreams. Most of the time I go to the region where I was born, to Besztercebanya (Banska Bystrica), considered one of the most beautiful cities of the Highlands.

Human nature is wonderful. Many of the very first impressions of life, of the world itself, stay with us through our entire lives. Instead of diminishing with time, the intensity of these impressions just keeps increasing. We turn to the memory of these impressions to explain facts and events which could not be explained by the cool, somber logic of the mind.

How does a child who steps out for the first time from the warm environment of his family home become acquainted with the world, with humanity around him? First and above all, through his playmates. Whether he wants it or not, those initial experiences and impressions will stay with him through the rest of his life.

That is how I feel about the very first impressions of my own tender childhood. I couldn't count the number of times my memory has recalled one sharp image after another from that period. I can see myself and my little friends -- mostly young Slovak children -- running around accompanied by our carefree laughter, or chasing the baby ducklings to the water. We express our feelings, our childish thoughts in the Slovak language, no matter how primitive or clumsy that may be. This is not surprising at all. After all, I picked up quite a few words from my mother who spoke the Slovak language fluently for all 92 years of her life. The rest of it I learned from my young playmates.

My mother told me that in her childhood she, too, had Slovak girlfriends. Her name was Maria and the little girls gave her the nickname Marcsulka. She also recalled that the girls would often come to her gate and called out 'Maysuyka sisi Bisisi?" These three Slovak words, spoken in baby language, meant "Are you in Beszterce, Maresulka?" Because it often happened that she had to ride with her


parents to the countryside. Her father was chief physician in the hospital and also served as a public health doctor which required frequent trips out of town.

These warm, affectionate relationships accompanied my mother into her adulthood.

My own impressions from my earliest youth have also stayed with me. I can state in good conscience that those impressions have not had the slightest trace of animosity towards the Slovak people. On the contrary, I have the same affection and warm feelings toward them today as I had in my childhood. A child has a very' sensitive soul. He registers many things better than an adult would. To be absolutely candid, my first strong resentment arose not against the Slovaks -- I remember it all too well -- but against the Czechs. It occurred in 1919 and 1920 when the events forced us to leave our native land quite suddenly. When the Czech colonel didn't even wait for us to pack our belongings, he was in such a hurry to have his trunks moved into our house. When we didn't even have time to say Good-bye to our Slovak friends. It's not necessary to explain these things to a child. He senses what's wrong. But I was able to separate my resentment towards the Czechs from my friendly feelings towards the Slovaks. I knew that living in boxcars, the entire refugee existence, was not the fault of the Slovaks. The Czech politicians of that fateful period were to blame for it, just as it had been explained to us.

Only much later, in the late 1930s did I learn of the hatred of certain Slovak leaders towards Hungarians. Then, after 1945, came the ruthless persecution of the Hungarians by the Slovaks,which could be compared only to the persecution of the Jews. This was totally inexplicable, completely beyond understanding. We tried with my friends and acquaintances from various regions of the Highlands to discuss the whole issue, searching for an explanation. We agreed that none of us has experienced within his own circle any trace of hatred between Hungarians and Slovaks. We couldn't fully agree about what might have triggered the persecution of the Hungarians. Different people placed the emphasis on various possible causes.

I've always been bothered by this question. I've read a great deal, much has become clear to me, but that great turnaround remains inexplicable. Perhaps because I remain convinced to this day that there has never been any natural basis for hatred between Hungarians and Slovaks. Through centuries of living side-by-side, there developed a certain kinship in the soul of the two nations, a kinship


which has undergone a spontaneous, natural growth with the passage of time.

A number of explanations could be found for this phenomenon. Two people, the Hungarians and the Slovaks, have always stood closest to each other in this region of the Carpathian Basin. Neither has been attracted by neighboring nations to the extent as, for example, German and Rumanian minorities have been drawn to nearby Germany and Rumania. Up until the 19th century, the ancestors of today's Slovaks have been drawn to the Czechs more by cultural sympathies than by any political or other attraction. Political attraction became noticeable only in the wake of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and the failure of the negotiations for an Austro-Czech Compromise in 1871. It was also promoted by the success of Hungarian efforts for political reform in the 1840s, making Hungarian the official language, which hurt Slovak sensitivities.

Shared fate has been perhaps the most important factor in nearly 1,000 years of peaceful coexistence. The Carpathian Basin occupies a key position in Europe and its possession is a precondition to the success of any imperial aspirations from all directions. Finding themselves in this key position, the Hungarian and Slovak nations have fought and bled together against great power incursions, whether they came from the East or West. Only thus were they able to survive Invasions by the Mongols and the Ottoman Turks, followed by the Austrian oppression and the bloody freedom fights to shake it off. Common fate brought the two peoples ever closer together. We find ample evidence of this in the poetry of both nations.

Peaceful coexistence was also fostered by the natural process of gradual assimilation on both sides. Large numbers of Hungarians became Slovak and, by the same token, many Slovaks became Hungarian. This was an inevitable result of centuries of coexistence.

It is also possible that both nations have been aware in their subconscious that the defeat of Svatopluk's *2 Moravian empire by the conquering Hungarians in the late 10th century' assured the survival of the ancestors of today's Slovaks. The population of Prince Pribinas' *3 realm, which was ethnically different from Svatopluk's Moravians would not have survived, even though Pribina had been driven away by the Moravians. Today, there would be only a Czech-Moravian tongue, the Slovak language would not exist. This circumstance, too, helped create the conditions which made possible the future development of the Slovak nation.


It is not the purpose of this essay to shed scholarly light on the players who had been motivated exclusively by selfish interests in their efforts to destroy this traditionally good relationship. We might name, first of all, the Hapsburg Dynasty which had been inciting the other nationalities against the Hungarians in order to weaken the Hungarian nation. We might also name the Czechs who knew that they could not realize their imperial ambitions without the Slovaks. Those are the roots of the Czechs' answer to the Slovaks when they demanded the autonomy promised by Masaryk *4 in the Pittsburgh Agreement of 1918. The Czechs refused to carry out this pledge, claiming that autonomy would weaken the Slovaks against the Hungarians who were allegedly anticipating such an opportunity. Under the reign of Benes *5 (1918-1938) the Slovaks were unable to achieve the autonomy promised in the treaty signed by Thomas Masaryk.

The results of the Czech incitement against the Hungarians became increasingly apparent. Eventually the Slovaks, too, learned what the empty promises of Benes's policies were worth and where they were to lead ultimately. The Slovaks, too, found themselves driven onto the same road of bitter disappointments as the Hungarians did, a road which carried them into subjugation by Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union. The great powers knew how to skillfully manipulate and take advantage for their own political ends of the burning afflictions which should have been assuaged by the Benes administration -- something that both the Slovak and Hungarian peoples have been awaiting for over twenty years in vain.

Benes' policies were even more unwielding toward the Hungarians who became a national minority in the new state of Czechoslovakia created by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. He did not show the slightest inclination to negotiate seriously about the just complaints and even the most minimal demands of the Hungarians. Only much later, during his election campaign, did Benes summon Janos Esterhazy, the representative of the Hungarians, to ask for his support. The promises he made in return for that support proved to meaningless once again.

The Hungarian revisionist efforts were cited most frequently as an excuse for the refusal of any rapprochement, even though the Czechs knew very well that all rational Hungarians were looking for a peaceful settlement of their so-called revisionist demands. History might have taken a different turn if instead of refusing to negotiate, the Czech would have made at least an attempt to follow the approach taken by Milan Hodza, an envoy of the Czechoslovak government,


during his talks in Budapest in 1918. Benes immediately rejected Hodza's approach because he appeared to be willing to make certain sensible concessions.

We will show how the Hungarians have sought to assuage their grievances with a moderation and patience which repeatedly earned the respect of Western statesmen. We will offer ample documentation in support of this assertion. Unfortunately, this moderate approach failed to secure the support of the Western powers and only the forcible intervention of Germany and the Soviet Union brought about a solution for the grievances. To a certain degree, the Slovaks had a similar experience. And so did other national minorities, such as the Sudeten Germans, Poles and Ruthenians. Twenty years of fighting the political windmills had finally swept these abandoned peoples into the orbit of Nazi Germany.

Hitler had his well defined global political goals and he was not choosy in the methods employed to meet those goals. He took turns in making promises both to the Slovaks and the Hungarians, even though he knew all too well that the promised support was often contrary to the interests of those peoples. He tried to seduce them into various risky ventures, holding up as a reward the hope of helping them fulfill their national aspirations.

We shall see how Hitler kept promising the entire Slovakia to Hungarian statesmen in return for active participation in an armed attack on Czechoslovakia. From the moment the Hungarians refused to go along, the sympathies of Hitler and the entire German leadership turned against Foreign Minister Kalman Kanya and several other Hungarian politicians.

It is also well known that in his talks with the Slovak leaders, Hitler painted a grossly distorted and magnified picture of the Hungarian threat against their state. He reminded Father Joseph Tiso *6 of this alleged threat whenever he wanted to persuade to Slovak leader to do his bidding. The tension created between Hungary' and Slovakia by the first Vienna Decision of 1938, which returned parts of Slovakia to Hungary', was a tactical goal of the Germans. By playing off the two countries against each other, Hitler was better able to keep both of them off balance.

Hitler followed the same policy in his relationship with Rumania. It is well known that the second Vienna Decision of 1940, which returned parts of Transylvania to Hungary, was unsatisfactory both for Hungary and Rumania. Hitler took advantage of this situation for the furthering of his plans. He told Hungary that he would


defend its territorial growth, he even raised the possibility of further territorial gains. At the same time, he kept encouraging Rumania's hopes for the return of territories lost to the Soviet Union.

Hitler's Rumanian policy became the most obvious at the time when Rumanian Marshal Ion Antonescu was going out of his way to become Hitler's most faithful satellite. Even though that had cost Rumania immense military casualties on the Russian front, it gave Antonescu the opportunity, which he never missed, to keep reminding Hitler of Hungary's less than enthusiastic military' participation in the war effort. On March 23, 1944, Hitler informed Antonescu that he no longer considered it necessary to continue guaranteeing the Vienna Decision, in part because of Hungary's disloyal behavior and also because Italy had ended its participation in the war. It is a historical irony that even though Antonescu reassured Hitler at their last meeting on August 5, 1944, that Rumania would be the last to betray him, three weeks later Rumania, too, quit the war.

These times and events, if nothing else, should teach these peoples who are so dependent on each other of the fate they can expect if they allow themselves to become the mere toys of foreign powers. More of that when we discuss the life and work of Janos Esterhazy.

We wish to emphasize that in order to understand the accomplishments of Janos Esterhazy it is absolutely necessary to describe his political activities with total candor and faithfulness. And that makes it necessary to describe some circumstances which may offend Slovak sensitivities. But this cannot be completely avoided, unless we were to paint a distorted picture or render this work totally incomprehensible. It should be clear also that often in many cases there may be sharp differences in opinion. This cautionary note is intended to serve as a credible evidence that our goal is something other than the tearing up of old wounds or the endless repetition of old accusations.

We are firmly convinced that the desired establishment of a Central Europe based on the laws of geopolitics demands that instead of accusations and the rehashing of the undoubtedly many mistakes of the past which would be counterproductive in any event, we should seek out each other's hand and -- most importantly -- attempt a reconciliation in our souls. We must be aware of the fact -- and this can be accomplished only through a conscious educational effort --that such a reconciliation would serve not only Hungarian or only Slovak interests which would benefit one side or the other. We must understand and we must employ every means at our disposal


to bring this into public consciousness. Reconciliation is in the utmost interest of both peoples because we are dealing with the common destiny of Hungarians and Slovaks and their very survival may depend on it.

Gyula Illyes *7 said of Sandor Petofi *8 in a memorial address on December 30, 1972: "National intolerance, the greatest curse of our century, is becoming increasingly severe. Instead of seeking a common voice, the various language communities try to choke each other. The great creative personalities of the nations have a most important pacifying role in this worldwide quarrel. For their voices transcend boundaries... Sadly, peace among nations and national minorities is just as much at stake today as it was then when Petofi attached his greatest hope to this (the pacifying role of the great creative personalities). Let us have the courage to continue believing in this, to fight for this!"

We can regard Janos Esterhazy as one of those "great creative personalities." His words, valid to this day, illuminate his pacifying role among nations and national minorities across boundaries:

"Peaceful coexistence among interdependent nations and nationalities in the Danubian Basin should be established on the basis of equal rights. This is equally in the interest of Hungarians, Germans, Slovaks and Ruthenians who have been living here for centuries."

The validity of these words is eternal. It is only necessary -- to quote Gyula lllyes once again -- that "we have resolute courage to believe in it, to fight for it."

There could be no more fitting tribute to Janos Esterhazy's memory than to work for a lasting and peaceful coexistence with the same faith he possessed and determination he demonstrated.

On the following pages we will attempt to outline the aspirations and struggles of the Hungarian and Slovak peoples in search of their freedom and independence. For centuries these aspirations and struggles of the two peoples followed a parallel track. In the last 200 years, unfortunately they have often gone in opposite directions. But in the final analysis, from their own point of view both peoples had the same goal: the Slovaks wanted to remain Slovak, the Hungarians wanted to remain Hungarian.

As long as the Slovaks' ancestors felt that their aspirations remained secure within the framework of the Hungarian state, the two peoples were headed in the same direction, supporting and complementing each other's aspirations. Dr. Gyula Varsanyi. the outstanding expert in international law who recently passed away referred to


Hungary's "ethnoprotective" role in defending the various elements of the Slovak people against efforts from different directions to assimilate them.

For various reasons and due to various influences, the aspirations of the two peoples became separated in the 19th century. That has led to repeated confrontations between them.

We shall attempt in a new arrangement to describe first the aspirations and struggles of the Slovak people. In Part Two we will sum up the aspirations and struggles of the Hungarians. Both parts include events which were of great importance in the aspirations of both peoples. In general, we will describe those in one part only, with only a reference and, if need be, additional material in the other.



(1) Highland (Felvidek) is the Hungarian name of former Northern Hungary. which became Slovakia as part of the Czechoslovak Republic. established in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon.

(2) Svatopluk. 9th century Moravian prince. believed to be one of the founders of the Moravian empire.

(3) Pribina. Slav prince. According to some Crechoslovak historians. he and princes Mojmir and Rastislav founded a principality along the upper Danube river in 820.

(4) Thomas 0. Masaryk. first president of the Czechoslovak republic.

(5) Eduard Benes. one of the chief architects of Czechoslovakia.

(6) Father Joseph Tiso, president of the independent Slovak republic during world War II.

(7) Gyula Illyes. one of the most outstanding Hungarian poets and authors of the 20th century.

(8) Sandor Petofi. a great poet who was killed in 1849. at age 27, in the Hungarian war of independence against Hapsburg rule.