|COUNT JANOS ESTERHAZY|
the Treaty of Trianon
The Hungarian nation faced the Peace Conference with the worst expectations. It did not trust the great powers because it saw how impotent they were in controlling the Rumanian forces which were illegally in Hungary and how difficult it was for them to force the Rumanians to evacuate Budapest.
It was under such circumstances that the Hungarian delegation, led by Count Albert Apponyi left for Paris to receive the draft of the Peace Treaty. The delegation submitted countless notes to the Peace Conference, only to be ignored for the most part. In a major address, Apponyi proposed a plebiscite for the disputed territories so that their inhabitants might determine their own destiny. Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Yugoslavia issued a joint note to reject the Hungarian remarks.
The Hungarian political leadership was trying to gain British support to revise the borders as defined in the draft Peace Treaty before it was signed. At Horthy's request, in a report to Lord Curzon, the Foreign Secretary, Hohler pointed out the injustice of the territorial decisions. Lord Curzon was asked to intervene before signing the Peace Treaty. But the British diplomats found it was too late to carry out any revisions.
Suddenly, France became interested in the fate of Hungary. Premier Millerand and General Secretary Paleologue of the Foreign Ministry were considering a new, rather significant idea. They were thinking about establishing a Central European entity which would have centered on Hungary. The French began negotiating with representatives of the Hungarian government and these negotiations included a serious discussion of revising the borders which had been proposed in the Peace Treaty.
More of this in Part Two. Also in Part Two we will discuss the talks between Horthy and Fouchet, the French envoy, which included
-- in Fouchet's words -- "rectification of the ethnic and economic injustices of the Peace Treaty." But these attempts came too late because, on May 6, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Peace Conference declared the text of the Hungarian Peace Treaty final. Thus, the Hungarian government had no choice but to sign the Peace Treaty, no matter how grievous its conditions were.
The signing took place on June 4, 1920, in the Palais Trianon. *48 There is no question that the conditions of the Peace Treaty were imposed to the benefit of the victors and to the detriment of defeated Hungary which was not allowed to speak up in her own defense at the peace table.
There is a sharp difference between the Czechoslovak and Hungarian interpretations of the Peace Treaty. Czechoslovakia considered the Trianon borders correct and just because they represented the final triumph of its no-holds-barred propaganda campaign for that very end. Benes and his circle whose efforts resulted in the treaty resisted every attempt even for its slightest revision, except for two occasions when revision would have paid off to the benefit of Czechoslovakia. More on that later.
According to Professor Yeshayahu Jelinek, every inch the Slovaks received in Paris as a result of Benes' efforts was considered by them as "sacred patrimony of the Slovak nation, the gift of the Allmighty, land soaked in the blood and sweat of the sons of Slovakia. While the Hungarian patriots were mourning the loss of parts of their bleeding, amputated homeland, the Slovaks were singing odes of joy. No wonder because the territorial growth proved to be most profitable, particularly with the acquisition of the intensively cultivated agricultural land in the South,which provided plenty of food and employment opportunities." *49
Hungarians, regardless of gender, age, religion or social position, regarded the Treaty of Trianon a peace dictate, rather than a peace treaty and considered it totally unjust and untenable as far as the Hungarian nation was concerned. It is a historical fact that the Peace Treaty became the source of constant bickering. While Czechoslovakia regarded it inviolable and its foreign policy was aimed at maintaining the status quo, the cornerstone of the Hungarian foreign policy was to work for peaceful revision of those provisions of the Peace Treaty which were considered unjust by Hungary. Foremost among these efforts was the negotiated, peaceful return of adjacent territories overwhelmingly inhabited by Hungarians.
It became clear that the drafters of the Peace Treaty paid no attention to the thought of somehow bridging the differences between Hungary and Czechoslovakia, eliminating the mutual distrust so that a conciliatory atmosphere could be created which would prevent the future development of hostile tensions. The great powers would have been able to accomplish this. It was within their power to exert the required pressure but they applied it only against the vanquished. Unfortunately, political foresight had been pushed aside by the immediate interests of the great powers, especially of France.
All the Slovaks were able to perceive at the time that the agreements of Pittsburgh and Turocszentmarton have come to fruition. Czechoslovak national unity and self-determination have been accomplished. At the same time, Hungarians were denied the right to determine their own destiny.
It took a while for the Slovaks to realize that, in fact, they have accomplished neither. The only major result of their effort was that, thanks to the policies of Benes, after a thousand years of coexistence they seceded from the Hungarian state.
The Czech political leaders have never regarded the Slovaks as their equals. They even denied the existence of a distinct Slovak nation. As early as 1921, Masaryk declared, "There is no Slovak nation; it has been invented by Hungarian propaganda." *50
Some of the Slovaks have started to realize that the Czechs are not going to honor the agreements of Pittsburgh and Turocszentmarton. *51 This realization led to disintegration of Slovak unity. Some Slovaks approved the Czech policies of political integration. Others were demanding Slovak national autonomy within Czechoslovakia as provided in the agreements of Pittsburgh and Turocszentmarton. Andrej Hlnka, a Roman Catholic clergyman, was the foremost among those urging autonomy right from the beginning. Later on he was to demand full national independence.
A diary entry by an outsider -- Stephen Bonsal, confidant of President Wilson and Colonel House -- sheds the sharpest light on the treatment that Father Hlinka, this highly respected Slovak leader, received at the hands of Benes.
After a three-month-long difficult journey, dodging Benes' intelligence agents, Father Hlinka and his entourage reached Paris in September, 1919. Even though the Pittsburgh Agreement had promised the Slovaks that they could attend the Peace Conference alongside the Czechs, Father Hlinka and his entourage had to travel surreptitiously to Paris where they hid in a monastery. In great secrecy, they called on Stephen Bonsal, carrying a letter of introduction from General Stefanik of the Czech Legion. Stefanik requested that Father Hlinka be received either by President Wilson or his adviser, Colonel House. Bonsal briefed Colonel House who then authorized Bonsal to talk with Father Hlinka.
Bonsal assured Father Hlinka that he would listen carefully to what he had to say and relay it to Colonel House but, he said, it is doubtful that anything could be done because the terms of the Peace
Treaty had been settled already. Father Hlinka replied that this is exactly what he had been afraid would happen and this is why Benes was trying to keep him away from Paris. He came, he said, to protest Benes' misrepresentations at the Peace Conference.
Referring to the assassination of General Stefanik, Father Hlinka said that if the general had not been silenced, everybody would have paid attention to him because the general had fought in Siberia and on the Italian front not only for his own people but for the Entente powers as well. Father Hlinka noted that General Stefanik was allegedly killed in an airplane crash. But this was not true, he said, because the plane from Italy had reached its destination and landed safely. As General Stefanik emerged from the plane, he was shot to death by soldiers waiting for him. According to Father Hlinka, it was Benes' diabolic idea to send the assassins to the airport.
On a later occasion Bonsal confronted Father Hlinka with the fact that he and Stefanik had been advocating a union with Prague. A contrite Father Hlinka admitted that he had done so because the Czechs pretended to be understanding. They had fought together in war, they wanted to remain together in peace as well. He compared the sitution to a trial marriage. The Czechs had promised, he said, that if the union would fail both parties could go on their separate paths. But in three months -- in fact after three weeks -- he said, the Czechs showed their true colors. In this short time, Father Hlinka added, the Slovaks had suffered more at the hands of the aggressive Czechs than they had under a thousand years of Hungarian rule.
Father Hlinka declared that he now really understood the old Hungarian saying that "There is no life outside Hungary." He called Benes an ambitious scoundrel who wants to incorporate even Cesky Tesin. Bonsal remarked at this point that a union with the Hungarians would run counter to the then popular concept of ethnic solidarity. Father Hlinka's response was that the Slovaks cannot and would not want to mix with the Hungarians but from an economic and especially from a religious point of view, they would rather go with the Hungarians than with the irreligious and free-thinking Czechs who, as it has become clear, fear neither God nor man.
"The Slovaks," Father Hlinka continued, had lived side-by-side with the Hungarians for a thousand years and the traditional links have been reinforced by the close proximity of the two nations. All the Slovak rivers flow toward the Hungarian Great Plains and all the roads go to Budapest. On the other hand, he
added, the Carpathian mountains separate the Slovaks from Prague." *52
Father Hlinka then reminded Bonsal that in the Pittsburgh Agreement Masaryk had guaranteed Slovakia autonomy and promised that the Slovaks would be represented at the Peace Conference. He also noted that Slovakia had become a colony and the Czechs treat the Slovaks as if they were African natives.
Some time later Bonsal learned that -- apparently acting on reports from informers -- the Parisian police picked up Father Hlinka and his entourage and took them to a railroad station where they were put on a train headed for the East.
Bonsal also recorded in his memoirs that in 1938, Czechoslovak troops took Father Hlinka from his home, threw him into jail where he was cruelly mistreated. Not long afterward he died from the injuries received in captivity. (It is difficult at this point not to be reminded of the similar fate that befell Janos Esterhazy.)
Shortly before his death, Father Hlinka was given by American Slovaks the original copy of the Pittsburgh Agreement. According to Bonsal, Father Hlinka was accurate when he said that the Agreement had promised the Slovaks autonomy and a seat at the Peace Conference. Even in his final words, the dying Father Hlinka was demanding that those promises be honored. *53
The example of Father Hlinka demonstrates most clearly that it was not the ethnic affinity, nor the romanticized notion of common past and ancestry that had brought together the Czechs and Slovaks in 1918. Rather, both were driven by their separate interests as leaders of the two peoples perceived those interests.
The Czechs would not have been able to establish a significant state without the Slovaks because they were surrounded by much stronger nations. At the same time, the Slovaks, too, needed the support of the Czechs because they could not have become an independent state on their own. And it had never occured to the Slovaks who wanted full equality with the Czechs that their seeking assistance from the Czechs would stimulate in the Czechs an increased sense of superiority which would become more and more evident with the passage of time.
The Czechoslovak government began early on to assert its authority in Slovakia by establishing various state agencies. Their eagerness in the endeavor led to serious mistakes which only served to sharpen the conflict with the Slovaks. The Prague government instructed Vavro Srobar on November 4, 1919, to form the first Slovak
government. Meanwhile, however, Srobar joined the Prague government as Minister for Slovak Affairs. Srobar first bypassed then dissolved the Slovak National Council and established a new body which became fully subordinated to the Prague government. *54
There is no doubt that the moves of the Prague government were inspired by the goal of assimilating the Slovak people through the artificial concept of Czechoslovak national unity. In this respect, Joseph M. Kirschbaum quotes the British historian C.A.Macartney who wrote: "The fact remains that the (Czechoslovak) government has been obliged more often than not to rule Slovakia against the wishes of most of its inhabitants, maintaining itself only by the expediency of restricting the powers of the self-governing bodies to within the narrowest possible limits, of filling the seats designated for 'experts' with its own nominees, utilizing freely weapons of censorship and police supervision." *55
The economic and social policies of the Prague government were also in conflict with Slovak interests. About one-third of Slovak industrial enterprises were shut down. Heavy industry and the textile industry were the hardest hit. This led to a massive emigration of the unemployed.
Between 1919 and 1938, some 220,000 people out of a population of 3,300,000 emigrated. In addition, every year another 220,000 Slovak seasonal workers sought employment abroad. During the same period, 200,000 Czechs moved into Slovakia to occupy the most important and highest-paying positions. *56
In 1927, all the banks and savings associations were placed under state control. The Prague government placed its own people in charge of the financial institutions.
The taxation policies of the Czechoslovak government also had a severe impact on Slovakia. Slovakia contributed 15% of all tax revenues but its share of the national budget amounted to a mere 6%. In addition to that, many taxes that had been abolished in the Czech part of the country, remained in effect in Slovakia.
Consumer statistics show that the annual per capita ratio in Slovakia amounted to 15 kilograms of meat, 2 kilograms of lard, 14 kilograms of sugar and 89 Czech Crown's worth of tobacco. The Czech population received twice as much in consumer goods while the people in Subcarpathian Ruthenia were even worse off than the Slovaks. *57
The Czech oppressive policies were equally felt in the areas of politics and culture as well. The concept of so-called
"Czechoslovakism" served these policiesvery well. Invoking the slogan of "one nation," Czech officeholders kept squeezing the Slovaks out of government offices. The same held true in other white-collar fields. Even the armed forces did not escape discrimination. In 1930, the Czechoslovak Army had 140 Czech generals and one general of Slovak descent.
Neglect of the Slovak language was another means of maintaining Czech superiority. As author Hans Keller notes, "In the institutes of higher learning, it occurred to none of the many Czech teachers to consider the Slovak language of equal rank with the Czech, even though it is regarded by many otstanding Slav linguists as one of the most beautiful and clearest dialects. One need not be a linguist," Keller adds, "to recognize that Slovak is a much more musical language, softer and more pleasant to listen to than the hard-to-pronounce Czech with its crowding of countless consonants. *58
An article in the Slovak Communist newspaper Dav launched a sharp attack on Czech cultural imperialism for refusing to recognize the existence of an independent Slovak culture. The author condemned "Czechoslovakism" in all its manifestations, not the least its advocates who counseled Slovak authors that instead of writing in the Slovak language, they should represent Czech literature and Czech culture before world opinion. The Dav article also stated that the ideology of forced unification harms the Czechs as much as the Slovaks. *59
The growing influx of Czech workers into Slovakia made the situation increasingly worse. The Slovaks were seeking political means to remedy their grievances. A number of groups came into being because the Slovaks were unable to present a united front. A small faction was willing to accept the policy of centralization and go along with Prague. But this was rejected by the vast majority which went on to form several political parties.
The Slovak Peoples Party, under the leadership of Father Hlinka, was the largest. It embraced some 80 percent of the Slovak people. The party was first organized on December 18, 1918, at Father Hlinka's parish in Rozsahegy (Ruzomberok). Many Roman Catholic priests participated in this movement. Ultimately, the Slovak Peoples Party became the rallying point of the efforts for self-rule.
Another group met earlier, on October 18, 1918, in Eperjes (Presov) to form the Slovak National Council. Later this group met in Kassa (Kosice) to declare Slovakia's independence.
Yet another group met in Krakow, Poland, on May 26, 1921, to form a Slovak Revolutionary Government under the leadership of Francis Jehlicka. Members of this group were forced into exile and settled in Geneva. Jehlicka was anti-Czech but understood the feelings of the Hungarians. Later he went to the United States where he cooperated with Slovak organizations working for Slovak self-rule.
The Slovak Peoples Party was continuously bombarding Prague with its demands for self-rule. Representative Vojtech Tuka introduced a bill to this effect in the Czechoslovak legislature but it was defeated.
After a while, the Czechoslovak government changed its tactics in an effort to calm the sharpening conflict. It invited several Slovak and Sudeten German activists to join the government. Prague disarmed the Slovaks by granting a measure of self-government at the local level, as well as two seats in the national government. As a result, things went fairly smoothly from 1927 to 1929. But after two years, the cooperation fell apart and the Slovak Peoples Party left the central government.
This move was triggered by an article, entitled "Vacuum Juris," by Slovak Peoples Party Representative Vojtech Tuka in the newspaper Slovak, on January 1, 1928. He explained that the cooperation between Czechs and Slovaks, which was called for by the Turocszentmarton Declaration of October30, 1918, had come to nothing after ten years, therefore the Slovaks had every right to freely determine their destiny. The Prague government found the article offensive, it had Tuka's parliamentary immunity suspended, the author was tried and received a 15 year jail sentence. With Tuka's imprisonment, the Slovak independence movement was silenced for ten years.
The Prague government resorted to increasingly violent means to suppress the opposition which was becoming more vocal every day. In total defiance of the democratic principles it enacted new laws, such as the 1923 and 1933 acts for the defense of the republic, which made it impossible to give voice to the grievances of the nationalities. Censorship was introduced, opposition newspapers were banned. The Slovak, Narodny Noviny, Rude Pravo and the Hungarian-language Pragai Magyar Hirlap were among those most frequently silenced. The government obtained legislative authorization to dissolve political parties it deemed as dangerous. Even the threat of sending in the army was employed to intimidate the opposition.
The Prague government accomplished only one result with these openly antidemocratic measures. It pushed the Slovaks ever closer to the other oppressed and embittered minorities. Instead of pursuing more conciliatory policies which might have prevented the disintegration of the republic, Prague's brutal, provocative acts inevitably led to the collapse of Czechoslovakia. *60
There was at least one flagrant incident where the machinations of the Prague government backfired. On August 15,1933, a celebration at Nyitra (Nitra) marked the 1,100th anniversary of the first Christian church established by Pribina. The government was also represented at the ceremonies.
Although the celebration was intended to demonstrate Czechoslovak solidarity, Father Hlinka was not invited. However, he surreptitiously joined the crowd and received a warm ovation when recognized by the people. Hodza, who was also present, had the good political sense to demand that Father Hlinka be allowed to speak. He even reached out his arms to help the aged priest to the rostrum. At this point, the government's representatives disappeared from the scene. This gesture, however, helped Hodza regain his reputation as a Slovak patriot. *61
for Their Rights
The Sudeten Germans were the first national minority to take a stand against the Prague government. Their sheer numbers lent the Sudeten Germans sufficient weight to be heard. According to the official statistics of 1921, the so-called "united Czechoslovak nation" constituted 65.5 percent of the total population. Next came the Germans with 23.5 percent, then the Hungarians with 5.7 percent.
There were two reasons why the clout of the Germans and Hungarians exceeded that of the other nationalities. They lived in contiguous blocks and in close proximity to their mother countries. This proximity to the mother country gave an immense clout to the Sudeten Germans, especially with the rapidly growing power of Germany, accompanied by its interest in the fate of the Sudeten German people.
The Sudeten Germans fielded five parties in the 1920 parliamentary elections and emerged with great strength. Of the 281 seats in Parliament, the Sudeten Germans won 72 and they numbered 37 in the 142 member Senate. At the very first session, the German legislators declared that Czechoslovakia was created against their will and they would not relinquish their right of self-determination. The Slovak Peoples Party followed suit by a similar statement and subsequently the Hungarian opposition parties also declared that the Hungarians in Czechoslovakia were separated from Hungary against their will. *62
In 1925, the Sudeten Germans declared once again that they do not recognize the peace treaties signed in Versailles, Saint-Germain and Trianon. On April 30, 1930, 80 Sudeten German, Hungarian, Ruthenian and Polish members of the Czechoslovak Parliament signed a petition demanding the establishment of a parliamentary committee to study the problems of national minorities and make recommendations for their solution. The Czech parties opposed this measure and it was not even considered. Benes dismissed every opportunity for
a serious consideration of the problem of the minorities and for seeking a negotiated solution. He showed willingness to do so only when he felt his very existence threatened.
In 1935, Konrad Henlein united the Sudeten German parties. The new, unified party was named Sudeten German Party. The new party made an outstanding showing in the 1935 elections. Henlein was invited to London to explain his program. It demanded the granting of rights guaranteed by the Czechoslovak constitution and it condemned Pangermanism which the program called just as dangerous as Panslavism. The program stated that the Sudeten Germans want to remain loyal to a Czechoslovak state which allows them to exercise their constitutional rights.
Soon, the Czechs came to realize that the Sudeten German problem was fraught with great dangers. A local Czech organization, in Reichenberg (Liberec), passed a resolution in 1937, calling for the dissolution of the Sudeten German Party. Meanwhile, the Sudeten Germans sought to establish ever closer ties with the other oppressed nationalities, such as the Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles and Ruthenians. In September, 1938, this rapprochement resulted in the formation of a united front against the Czechs.
Earlier, on November 10, 1936, Prime Minister Milan Hodza declared that be wanted to find a solution for the problems of national minorities, as demanded by the so-called activist ministers who were representing minority groups in the government. On February 18, 1937, Hodza signed an agreement with the ministers. The Czech press hailed the agreement as a major accomplishment. The agreement dealt with cultural questions and contained various promises for the future but it did nothing to improve the condition of the Sudeten Germans, the Slovaks, or any of the other nationalities.
Henlein, in a speech delivered in Aussig (Usti), reiterated the basic demands of the Sudeten Germans:
Transformation of Czechoslovakia into a state where the rights of the national minorities are guaranteed.
Autonomy which is not in conflict with the unity of the state.
Recognition of the several nationality groups and providing for their free development within the state.
Protection of the rights of the national minorities and rectifymg the grievances suffered by the Sudeten Germans since 1918. *63
Hodza asked for a year's delay so that he might prepare a detailed response to the Sudeten German demands.
Benes, in his Christmas message of 1937, also promised to rectify the grievances but that, too, remained an empty promise. Barely had Benes delivered his Christmas message when Minister of Justice Ivan Derer, a pro-Czech Slovak member of the government, called Father Hlinka and his friends rascals. *64 In his reply to Derer, Father Hlinka voiced shock over hearing such insults from the mouth of the Minister of Justice. There were demands that the minister be hailed to court.
The Slovak demands were summed up in 33 points and submitted to Hodza who, at the end of February, 1938, invited Father Hlinka, as he had also invited German, Hungarian and Polish leaders. In keeping with his familiar tactics, Hodza gave more promises. He offered the Slovaks two more seats in the Prague goverment, those of Minister of Postal Affairs and Minister without Portfolio. Father Hlinka said in an interview that his conditions for joining the government included the demand to incorporate into the constitution the autonomy of Slovakia, as promised in the Pittsburgh Agreement. *65
The year 1938 started on a sour note for Benes. Rudolf Beran, president of the Czech Agrarian Party, created quite a stir by proposing in the New Year's Day edition of the newspaper Venkov that both the Sudeten German Party and the Slovak Peoples Party should be invited to participate in the Prague government. *66 The paper also carried on the same day an interview with Henlein who said that looking back over the last 20 years, one will find a very large number of dissatisfied German, Slovak, Hungarian and Polish people living in Czechoslovakia. It is within the power of the Czechs, Henlein said, to make serious proposals which would lead to mutual understanding.
The Prague government's response was another strong attack against the advocates of Sudeten German, Slovak and Ruthenian autonomy and against the Hungarian and Polish national minorities.
The Sudeten German Party sent a delegation to Father Hlinka at Rozsahegy (Ruzomberek) to make plans for cooperation and to designate liaisons between the two parties. *67
The delegation then traveled to Budapest to talk about cooperation with the United Hungarian Party in Slovakia. (More on that in Part Two.) The talks included plans for a joint Slovak-Hungarian-German demonstration in Pozsony (Bratislava) on the twentieth anniversary of the Pittsburgh Agreement.
On March 15, 1938, President Benes met Father Tiso, leader of the Slovak Peoples Party. Benes refused to recognize the Pittsburgh Agreement.
Janos Esterhazy was also engaged in talks with the Slovak Peoples Party. And Father Tiso, who visited Budapest in late May to attend the Eucharistic Congress, met Undersecretary Tibor Pataky in the Hungarian Prime Minister's office. Contemporary sources termed Father Tiso's behavior as "reserved." *68
The leaders of the national minorities were astonished by the Prague government's failure to take their grievances and demands seriously. The promises made to the so-called activists, which were made in response to a miniscule part of their demands, remained largely just that one year later. In February, 1938, Karol Sidor, a leading politician of the Slovak Peoples Party, held a meeting with Janos Esterhazy of the United Hungarian Party, Konrad Henlein, of the Sudeten German Party and Pjescak of the Ruthenian Autonomist Agrarian Party. On the twentieth anniversary of the Pittsburgh Agreement, the three parties were demanding autonomy for the nationalities they were representing. Esterhazy, in his statement, recalled that the Slovaks and Hungarians had been sharing the same goals and destiny for a thousand years. *69
On April 8, 1938, the official newspaper of the Hungarian opposition summed up the Hungarian demands (for a detailed account, see Part Two). Once again, the report emphasized the promise of autonomy for the Slovaks and Ruthenians. *70
Esterhazy was negotiating with Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck, also. He outlined the Hungarian government's promises for Slovak self-rule within the Hungarian state, with a Slovak governor, parliament and army. Sidor of the Slovak Peoples Party was in Warsaw when he learned of these plans and expressed the desire to negotiate with Esterhazy instead of the Hungarian government. *71
On June 17, 1938, Esterhazy, acting on behalf of the Hungarian government, once again made an offer of autonomy in the event the circumstances should be changed. This autonomy would be along the lines of the Croatian model as it existed in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, with separate parliament, army and administration. Esterhazy emphasized that under no circumstances would Hungary offer less than Czechoslovakia. *72
Meanwhile a delegation of Slovak-Americans arrived in Slovakia to meet Father Hlinka. They had brought along the original document of the Pittsburgh Agreement. The delegation also visited
Prague where it had talks with President Benes and Foreign Minister Kamill Krofta. From Prague it traveled to Pozsony (Bratislava) to attend the Congress of the Slovak Peoples Party on June 4-5, 1938.
The Congress speakers were demanding autonomy for Slovakia. *73 An estimated 100,000 people demonstrated in support of selfrule. Esterhazy sent a telegram expressing his good wishes to the Slovaks in their struggle for autonomy. Hodza was also present at the Congress and, in response to questions by the leader of the Slovak-American delegation, he threw cold water on the Slovak hopes.
of Czechoslovakia's National Minorities
The British and French governments had been watching with growing concern the increasing rigidity of Prague's attitude, despite several diplomatic attempts to urge Benes to moderate his position, as the European situation was becoming extremely delicate. The total rigidity of Benes's policies had the inevitable effect of pushing Henlein and the advocates of Slovak autonomy into the arms of Hitler's Germany. *74
The British government decided to send Lord Runciman to serve as an impartial mediator. He arrived in Prague on August 3, 1938. His chief assignment was to find a solution to the Sudeten German problem. The other nationalities, too, wanted to be heard by Lord Runciman. He was briefed by Slovak, Hungarian, Polish and Ruthenian leaders about the situation of their respective nationalities.
K.H. Frank, a Sudeten German representative in the Prague Parliament, assured one of the Hungarian political leaders that the Sudeten Germans "will only accept an agreement which automatically includes the Hungarians, Slovaks and Poles." *75
In the meantime, the Little Entente *76 met in Bled, Yugoslavia, on August 21-22. Hungary, even though not a member of the Little Entente, was also represented at the conference which agreed to full parity in armaments between Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia. The three states also agreed about the problems of their national minorities. However, the armament and nationalities disputes between Hungary and Czechoslovakia were not settled. *77
The Bled conference coincided with Admiral Horthy's state visit to Germany. The Hungarian chief of state accepted the German invitation back in April, 1938. He was accompanied by the Prime Minister and the ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs.
The Germans took umbrage at Hungary's participation in the Bled conference, which interfered with Hitler's plans to invade Czechoslovakia. The Germans tried to persuade the Hungarians to march into Slovakia at the same time the German army was to invade Czechoslovakia and to participate in the liquidation of Czechoslovakia. The Hungarians refused to go along, even though Hitler told them that they could have all the Czechoslovak territory they wanted if they would participate in the invasion. *78, 79, 80
The Hungarian leaders lost Hitler's sympathies with their reluctance to go along with his demands. Later on, this had a very noticeable effect.
The Prague government pursued delaying tactics in its negotiations with Lord Runciman. It presented one plan after another. One plan, based on the Swiss model, proposed a cantonal program to organize the Sudeten German territories into four administrative districts. The Sudeten German Party rejected the plan. Yet another plan was rejected by the advocates of Slovak autonomy. This plan would have divided Slovakia, too, into administrative districts.
On August 29, 1938, the situation further deteriorated with a Prague demonstration against Lord Runciman. *81
Hungary displayed a rather passive attitude in these troubled times. The tone of the Hungarian press was much more moderate, compared with the German Volkischer Beobachter, for example. *82
On September 8, 1938, the leaders of the German, Hungarian, Slovak and Polish minorities held a joint meeting. The Sudeten Germans raised the question of whether the other national minorities would be willing to join the struggle for the fulfillment of their, the Germans', demands. Father Tiso was the first to reply, saying that the Slovaks are even more radical because since 1920, they had been demanding the transformation of Czechoslovakia into a federated state. It is only natural, he said, that the Slovaks want to march side-by-side with the other nationalities. After comments by leaders of the Hungarian and Polish minorities, the meeting unanimously approved the demand for the reorganization of the Czechoslovak state as soon as possible. *83
Leaders of the Slovak Peoples Party requested an appointment with Lord Runciman to brief him about the Slovak problems. The appointment was not granted on the grounds that he had been requested by the Czechoslovak government and the Sudeten German Party only to help solve their disputes. Therefore, Lord Runciman
was not willing to mediate between the Czechs and Slovaks without Prague's approval.
The Slovak Peoples Party felt that if the Sudeten Germans are entitled to autonomy, the Slovaks have the same right to demand it. In a 13-page memorandum, Father Tiso called the concept of the Czechoslovak Nationt" fiction. There is no such thing, he said, just as there is no such thing as a Czech-Polish nation.
Leaders of the Ruthenian parties turned to Hodza with a similar request on September 1, also demanding autonomy for the Ruthenian people. *84
In Prague, the autonomists established a common front. The Sudeten German Party, the Slovak Peoples Party, the United Hungarian Party and the Polish Union Committe held a joint session under the chairmanship of K.H. Frank.
Benes, in a speech on September 10, called for moderation and understanding.
An article entitled "Our Patience, Too, Has Reached Its End" in the September 11 edition of Slovak, official organ of the Slovak Peoples Party, reminded Benes that in 1935, when he ran for President, he received the Party's vote. As loyal citizens, the Slovaks did everything in their power to persuade the Czechoslovak leaders to take the necessary steps for changing the Constitution. The article noted that the time has come to do so. It said that the Slovaks are demanding their rights and their freedoms, employment opportunities, in one word, their future. They no longer believed in promises. The patience that has lasted 20 years has reached the outermost limits of human endurance. *85
The Czechoslovak government declared a state of emergency in 14 counties. The Sudeten German Party was dissolved, its offices were seized by the police, its documents were confiscated. The government initiated judicial proceedings against Henlein. *86 The party was dissolved because, on September 15, Henlein demanded that the Sudeten German territories be transferred to Germany. Ninety-five percent of the Sudeten Germans were in favor of that move and Henlein was unable to persuade them to remain in Czechoslovakia. Henlein met Lord Runciman and told him that the events of the last days had removed any basis for further negotiations. Lord Runciman returned to England. *87
On September 15, 1938, before Lord Runciman's departure was announced, an article entitled 'Letter to Runciman" appeared in the Popolo d'ltalia, probably by Mussolini. The article pointed out
that in addition to the Sudeten German problem, there is also a Hungarian, Slovak and Polish problem in Czechoslovakia. The Peace Treaty of Versailles did not restore historic Bohemia. Instead, it created an artificial state which carried the seeds of its disintegration from the moment of its birth. The author of the article expressed the hope that Lord Runciman would suggest to Benes to hold a plebiscite, not only for the Sudeten Germans but for all nationalitieswhich request it. *88
At about that period, an article in the French weekly, Gringoire, stated that there is no such thing as a Czechoslovak nation and Czechoslovakia is nothing but a political artifact. *89
Mussolini made several speeches about the Czechoslovak problem in Trieste, Treviso, Padua and Verona.
as Preludes to the Munich Conference
Events began moving at a faster pace. The British Prime Minister met Hitler in Berchiesgaden. *90 There was intense diplomatic activity everywhere. The British and French governments were engaged in consultations. The British Minister in Prague told Esterhazy that the Hungarians will receive far fewer concessions than the Poles. *91 Hungarian Prime Minister Bela Imredy, in a speech at Kaposvar, spoke of the problems of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, the Czechoslovak government declared another state of emergency.
Marshal Herman Goring, the German Prime Minister, stressed before the Hungarian Minister in Berlin that "the right of self-determination for the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia should be demanded most forcefully and emphatically." He said, the Hungarians should "provoke armed incidents, strikes; should disobey military induction orders, because only incidents of this magnitude would draw the Western powers's attention to the Hungarian demands." Goring also suggested that the Hungarians should "persuade the Slovaks to act likewise and demand autonomy." The Hungarian Minister reported that "Goring has apparently detected a measure of reluctance in our attitude so far." *92
The two-faced attitude of the Germans was amply demonstrated by a report received by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry from confidential sources. According to this report, Goring who had constantly been inciting the Hungarians had told the Rumanian minister in Berlin that Germany does not wish to see Hungary become too strong, nor would it help Hungary toward that end. Germany, said Goring, is willing to give every assurance to Rumania and Yugoslavia against any and all Hungarian designs on them, but only if they remain neutral when or if Hungary attacks Czechoslovakia, their partner in the Little Entente. *93
The Hungarian Minister in Prague delivered a note to the Foreign Ministry, relaying the Hungarian government's demand that at the negotiating table the Hungarians in Czechoslovakia be treated the same way as the Sudeten Germans. The Polish Minister in London told of a similar demand by his government to the Czechoslovak government. *94
The British government promised in a note that at the appropriate time, it will duly consider the Hungarian position and noted that it is aware of the condition of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia. *95
Prior to the Hitler-Chamberlain meeting in Godesberg on September 15, Hungarian Prime Minister Imredy and Foreign Minister Kanya visited Hitler. Hitler brought up the Hungarians' indecisive attitude in the current critical times. He stressed that he will not bring up the Hungarian claims for Slovak and Ruthenian territories, unless the Hungarian government undertakes to play an active role in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia . *96
Imredy and Kanya requested 14 days to think it over. Hitler, in an aggressive manner, forced the Hungarian statesmen to follow and act only according to Hitler's timetable which served only his interests. The Hungarians, with their hesitation and their failure to send troops to the Hungarian-inhabited territories of slovakia, as the Poles had done in Teschen, forfeited their claims for Slovakia and Ruthenia as a whole and also lost Hitler's sympathy. *97
At the second Godesberg meeting, on September 23, Hitler endorsed the right of self-determination for the Hungarian and Polish minorities. Prague ordered general mobilization. The Hodza government resigned. The United Hungarian Party, in a message to the Hungarian population of Czechoslovakia, called for calm. *98 Benes did likewise in a radio address. But he added, "We shall fight if we must." *99
On September 23, Father Tiso went to Prague to meet Benes. The Slovaks had clearly two different attitudes toward the Hungarians. While Sidor was giving pro-Czech statements, Father Tiso summed up in three points the Slovak demands in the event Slovakia was to be returned to Hungary. These were: central executive authority and the official use of the Slovak language in Slovakia; separate legislative authority, and proportionate share of revenues and expenditures. Foreign Minister Kanya informed Father Tiso that the Hungarian government was willing to accede to the Slovak demands. This
had reassured him and he asked Kanya not to consider his call on Benes a sign of distrust. *100
Benes and General Syrovy, his new Prime Minister, tried to prevent the transfer of the Sudeten German territories to Germany, even at the cost of a European war. But the French and British assistance failed to materialize, as has any help from the Soviet Union and Benes' castles in the sand collapsed.
and Its Consequences
The threatening European situation led to the convening of the Four Power Conference of Munich on September 29, 1938. The four powers -- Britain, France, Germany and Italy -- were represented by their chiefs of state. As a result of the Conference, the Sudeten German territories were transferred to Germany. In the Hungarian and Polish questions, the Conference decided to convene again if the governments involved could not solve their disputes within three months. *101
After the conclusion of the Munich conference, Poland did not wait until Prague would be ready to meet its demands. It sent an ultimatum to Prague with a 14 hour deadline to transfer Teschen to Poland. The ultimatum served its purpose and the Polish troops occupied Teschen. Thus both Germany and Poland resorted to the threat of force to acquire the Sudeten German territories and Teschen, respectively.
Hungary did not follow these two examples in the hope that its claims, which it considered just, would be satisfied in a peaceful manner. Hungary asked for seff-determination and a plebiscite from the Western democracies. The West had given Hungary credit for this tolerant behavior (more on this in Part Two) but little else. Thus Hungary was being pushed more and more into the arms of the totalitarian powers.
The Hungarian government launched a feverish diplomatic activity. On October 3, it sent a sharply worded note to the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister and proposed that representatives of the two governments begin negotiations on October 6. On the eve of the negotiations, the Hungarian Minister in London sent a message to Foreign Minister Kanya. He said, among others, "It goes without saying thast Britain does not, as it can not, doubt the moral justification
of our demands, but in the course of the current direct talks between Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Britain will be, at most, a sympathetic mediator, but it will not exert any pressure." *102
On October 5, Czechoslovak Prime Minister Syrovy announced on the radio that President Benes has resigned. Three weeks later, in great secrecy, Benes fled to London by way of Rumania.
On October 6, the Slovak Peoples Party invited the other Slovak and Ruthenian parties to a conference at Zsolna (Zilina, Sillen). The conference reached an important decision: it declared Slovakia's autonomy. On November 22, in Prague, this decision was incorporated into the Czechoslovak Constitution.
in Komarom (Komarno)
Meanwhile, the Hungarian-Crechoslovak direct talks began on October 9, 1938, in Komarom (Komarno). The Hungarian delegation included Foreign Minister Kalman Kanya, Count Pal Teleki, Minister of Religious Affairs and Public Education, undersecretaries Tibor Pechy and Tibor Pataky, and Janos Wettstein, the Hungarian Minister in Prague. The Czechoslovak government was represented by Father Jozef Tiso, Prime Minister of Slovakia, Dr. Ferdinand Durcansky, Justice Minister of Slovakia, and Ambassador Dr. Ivan Krno.
Foreign Minister Kanya raised the question, whether the delegation on the other side of the table represented the Czechoslovak government in Prague or the autonomous government of Slovakia? The Hungarian delegation remarked repeatedly that the Czechoslovak side kept postponing the conference. Kanya wanted to know whether these postponements had anything to do with the report broadcast by Radio Pozsony (Bratislava) that Durcansky had flown to visit Hitler? Father Tiso replied that he was not aware of Durcansky's trip.
Father Tiso and his colleagues must have been familiar with Hitler's latest plans to turn Slovakia into a satellite state. That would explain their rigid attitude and refusal to accept more than 10 percent of the Hungarian territorial demands. *103 Therefore, four days later, on October 13, the Hungarian delegation declared the conference terminated and requested the four Munich powers to settle Hungary's territorial claims against Czechoslovakia. Hungarian diplomatic representatives in Berlin, Rome and London were immediately informed of this decision.
During the Hungarian-Czechoslovak conference, Editor Franz Karmasin of the German newspaper Grenzbote, who was also leader of the Karpatendeutsche Partei and later of the Deutsche Partei,
was present in Komarom as an observer. Some thought he was a Nazi spy. Through Seyss-Inquart, the German governor of Vienna, Karmasin arranged a meeting between Goring and Durcansky. Durcansky briefed Goring of the Slovak political goals and the Hungarian demands. Crechoslovak Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky visited Berlin on October 13. His and Durcansky's visits had undoubtedly influenced the attitude of the Czechoslovak delegation in Komarom.
On October 10, Janos Esterhazy declared that it would be a grave mistake to incorporate Slovakia into Hungary. Next day, in an interview, Esterhazy emphasized that even though the territories with an overwhelmingly Hungarian population should be immediately and unconditionally transferred to Hungary, the Hungarian nation has the warmest sympathy toward the Slovak and Carpatho-Ukrainian efforts for autonomy. *104
Several representatives of the United Hungarian Party, including Janos Esterhazy, were in Komarom during the conference to assist the Hungarian delegation. Prior to the termination of the conference, the Hungarian National Council in Slovakia sent a memorandum to Father Tiso, Kanya and the Ruthenian leaders, demanding a seat at the conference table. It was signed, among others by Dr. Bela Szilassy, member of the Czechoslovak Senate, Janos Esterhazy, and Andor Jaross, leader of the United Hungarian Party. *105
The Hungarian demands represented 14,150 square kilometers of land and an overwhelmingly Hungarian population of 1,090,000. The territory included 12 of the 13 towns and 812 of the 830villages which were given to Czechoslovakia in 1918, where 77.9 percent of the population was Hungarian. *106
After the termination of the Komarom conference, both sides began a diplomatic competition for the favors of the great powers. Following his talks with Goring, Durcansky met the Italian consul in Pozsony (Bratislava), asking him to arrange for Father Tiso and him self a meeting in Rome to outline the Slovak attitude towards Hungary. However, the Italian government did not wish to receive the two men because such a meeting would have only delayed the settlement of the Hungarian demands. *107
Hitler and his Foreign Minister Ribbentrop received Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky. Hitler urged a prompt solution for the Hungarian problem. Diplomatic observers in Berlin had the impression that the German pressure on Chvalkovsky was not very
forceful. The Czechoslovak Foreign Minister assured Berlin that his government would pay closer attention to the wishes of Germany. *108
Father Tiso sent emissaries to Warsaw and Zagreb to secure Polish and Yugoslav support for the Slovak position. *109
The Hungarian government sent former Prime Minister Kalman Daranyi to Berlin and Istvan Csaky, a high official of the Foreign Ministry, to Rome. The reason Daranyi was chosen for the Berlin mission was that following the Bled conference of the Little Entente powers which Hungary also attended, Prime Minister Imredy and Foreign Minister Kanya lost the confidence of Hitler. Daranyi announced that Hungary would hew more closely to the German line, would leave the League of Nations and would join the Anti-Comintern Pact. *110
A map Daranyi had with him showed the territories claimed by Hungary. The essence of those claims was that areas with a pure Hungarian population would be transferred to Hungary. The areas with mixed population would be grouped into districts, with each district deciding by plebiscite under British supervision about its destiny.
Daranyi reported Imredy by telephone that Ribbentrop had prepared a rough sketch, which came to be known as the Ribbentrop Line, and presented it to the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister. Daranyi also reported that he had been told to drop the idea of another Four Power Conference and resume direct talks with the Czechoslovak government.
Csaky flew to Rome to inform Mussolini and Foreign Minister Ciano of the Hungarian demands. He hinted that the Germans were favoring Czechoslovakia, therefore Hungary would like to bring the issue before the Four Power Conference. Ciano was agreeable but, out of deference to the Germans, the proposal had to be dropped. *111 Subsequently, Hungary requested Italian-German arbitration in Western Slovakia and Italian-German-Polish arbitration in Eastern Slovakia. *112
Ribbentrop telephoned Ciano to tell him that he was opposed to the Four Power Conference as requested by Daranyi. *113 A few days later, however, the Germans reversed their position and recommended a Four Power Conference. According to Ciano, Ribbentrop was reluctant to go along with the arbitration because it would have revealed his anti-Hungarian position. *114
There ensued exchanges of notes between Budapest and Prague and various proposals were made. Finally, when it became
clear that they could not reach an agreement, both governments agreed to accept German-Italian arbitration. *115
The Hungarian Foreign Minister instructed the Hungarian Minister in Rome to persuade Ciano to agree to arbitration. In the event the German or the Italian government were to refuse to agree to arbitration, the Hungarian government was prepared to turn to the four great powers. *116
The French government was reluctant to interfere in Central European affairs. When the question of German-Italian arbitration arose, nobody charged that the Western powers were intentionally excluded. *117 According to Ciano, the British Ambassador stated that "even though his government would not object to a Four Power Conference, it would much prefer arbitration by the Axis Powers." *118
Ribbentrop went to Rome ostensibly to discuss the territorial issues with Ciano. However, his main goal was to persuade Mussolini to agree to a German-Italian-Japanese tripartite military pact. Should the Duce agree to the tripartite pact. the Germans would relax their rigid attitude toward a proposed common border between Poland and Hungary in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. *119 The Germans regarded the idea of a common Polish-Hungarian border as a plot against Germany. This feeling was fueled by the French press which, to the annoyance of the Germans, promoted this notion.
Even though Ciano managed to persuade Ribbentrop to drop the so-called Ribbentrop Line and to transfer the disputed towns to Hungary, Ribbentrop's hostility towards the Hungarians was quite obvious to the Italian Foreign Minister. *120
A delegation from the United Hungarian Party, led by Janos Esterhazy, also went to Rome to brief Ciano about the problems. Esterhazy demanded cultural and religious rights for the Hungarians who were to remain in Slovakia after the arbitration. *121
Czechoslovak Minister Jan Masaryk met Foreign Office Undersecretary Lord Halifax on October 26 in London and reported subsequently that the Undersecratary did not object to the German-Italian arbitration. *122
Lacroix, the French Minister in Prague, told Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky that his government does not intend to take part in the arbitration. *123 It was largely the lack of interest displayed by the Western powers that led Chvalkovsky to steer his government toward calling for German-Italian arbitration.
On October 30, German Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Weizsacker outlined before the French and Polish ministers and the
British Charge d'Affaires the plan for German-Italian arbitration Neither the British nor the French government objected. *124
Ciano, citing the British agreement, among others, demanded most forcefully that Ribbentrop agree to arbitration. *125
The Hungarian government notified the Czechoslovak government in a note that it has requested the great powers to arbitrate, and it called upon the Czechoslovak government to do likewise within 24 hours. *126
Ribbentrop at last agreed to arbitration and the first session was scheduled for November 2, 1938, in Vienna. *127 The Slovaks, confident of Ribbentrop's support, prepared a very large volume of statistical material. As late as October 29, H. Krno submitted a report with annexes. *128 The Hungarian Minister in Rome and Janos Esterhazy supplied Ciano with documentation.
On October 31, on the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Turocszentmarton (Turciansky Sv. Martin), Durcansky declared that the Slovaks would give up the purely Hungarian territories but are not prepared to give up one square meter of Slovak land." *129 On the eve of the arbitration meeting in Vienna, a mood of passive resignation had taken over the Slovak leaders. Father Tiso himself was reluctant to go to Vienna. Finally, Chvalkovsky managed to persuade him to embark on his, as he called it, road to Canossa. *130
The German press attributed the greatest importance to the Vienna arbitration, comparing it to the Congress of Vienna and predicting that it would have a major impact on peace in Europe. *131
On November 1, Ribbentrop and Ciano held a preliminary meeting in Vienna. Ribbentrop raised new demands. *132 At one point, Ciano turned to Ribbentrop and said in a sarcastic tone, "If you continue like that, the Czechs will give you a medal. *133
On November 2, 1938, the meeting of the arbitration tribunal came to order in the Belvedere Palace in Vienna. Ribbentrop spoke of the finality of the borders which were to be drawn on the basis of ethnic principles between Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Ciano stressed the efforts to secure peace and a new order in Europe. *134
Speaking for Hungary, Foreign Minister Kalman Kanya and Count Pal Teleki, Minister of Religious Affairs and Public Education outlined the position of their government. The Czechoslovak position was presented by Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky and Minister Krno.
In a surprising move, Ribbentrop spoke in favor of the Hungarian position. One possible explanation for this is that he wanted to win over Ciano to the tripartite military pact and did not want to alienate the Italian Foreign Minister. This represented a major foreign policy success for Ciano. *135
In any event, it is a historic irony that at the conclusion of World War I, the victorious Western powers refused to admit the vanquished to the peace table, but in 1938, the dictatorial powers did grant them that right. *136
Before the decision of the arbitration tribunal was announced, Ciano informed Esterhazy of the outcome. After the decision was publicly announced, a working group was appointed to take care of the details. *137
Chvalkovsky glanced at the map accompanying the decision and complained bitterly to Ciano, "I'll have to resign tomorrow! No government can survive a loss like this." *138 The Slovak delegation waiting in the Grand Hotel, just as the people of Slovakia, took the decision with deep resignation. Father Tiso considered resigning and withdrew into seclusion. He had complained bitterly to Ribbentrop for sacrificing him as a political pawn. *139 Eventually, he was persuaded by his advisers to broadcast an address to the Slovak people. Sadly he announced: "There is nothing for us to do but bow our heads and continue our work. Nothing can prevent us from telling the world of the injustice that has befallen the Slovak people." *140 Ribbentrop tried to comfort him by saying that the Four Power Conference in Munich had prevented the total disintegration of Slovakia. Whatever the Slovaks have now, they should thank the Munich agreement for it, he said. *141
The arbitration tribunal returned 12,103 square kilometers of the terriroties lost in Trianon to Hungary, with a population of 1,030,000. This population consisted of 830,000 Hungarians, 140,000 Slovaks, 20,000 Germans and 40,000 of other nationalities, including Ruthenians, Poles, Rumanians and others. The number of Hungarians remaining in Czechoslovakia dropped to 66,000. *142
Hungarians and Germans who had been left outside Hungary and wanted to be returned to Hungary, sent a telegram to Hitler. Mecenzef (Nizny Mezder), Stosz (Stos), Pozsonypuspoki (Biskupice nad Dunajom) and other villages in the Csallokoz requested the working group to be attached to Hungary. Inhabitants of 47 villages in Subcarpathian Ruthenia sent similar requests to Ciano and Ribbentrop. *143
The Hungarian delegation was satisfied with the overall outcome. Foreign Minister Kanya thanked Esterhazy and his colleagues for their great efforts on behalf of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia. Prime Minister Imredy spoke on the radio, thanking the Axis Powers for their great contribution. He emphasized that the Vienna Decision had provided the conditions necessary for a peaceful coexistence between Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
On November 12, 1938,the Hungarian Parliament enacted the Vienna Decision into law.
In Part Two, we will take a closer look at the Hungarian views of the Vienna Decision.
In the months that followed, the tension increased between Pozsony (Bratislava) and Prague. Hitler wanted to take advantage of this situation by arranging a coup d'etat which would force the Slovaks to ask for his help, thus giving him a pretext to send the German Army to Slovakia. Weizsacker writes in his memoirs that Father Tiso knew all too well that once the Germans are invited to enter the country, they would never leave. *144
Hitler summoned Father Tiso to Berlin. While in Hitler's presence, Ribbentrop handed him a Slovak Declaration of Independence and asked Father Tiso to read it on the radio. Father Tiso declined on the ground that such a move would be in violation of his country's constitutional requirements.
Before long Father Tiso realized, however, that Slovakia was in danger of being split up and divided among its neighbors or incorporated as a protectorate into Germany. The Slovak leaders therefore decided to secede from Czechoslovakia and establish an independent Slovak state. *145 This was unanimously approved by the Slovak Parliament on March 14, 1939. *146
Berlin offered military assistance to the new Slovak state but this was declined by Pozsony (Bratislava) because the situation in the country was quiet. The Slovak leaders also felt reassured when on March 15 Hungary and Poland recognized Slovakia's independence.
A few days later, accompanied by Ribbentrop and General Keitel, Hitler went to Vienna. Father Tiso and Durcansky were also in Vienna. They were initially received by Ribbentrop and Keitel only. Father Tiso was ready to depart when Keitel started making military demands on him. Eventually, he was persuaded by Hitler to agree to a treaty of mutual defense with Germany.
After the Slovak Parliament took note of the guarantees offered by Hitler, Father Tiso signed the treaty on March 18. In a
secret protocol accompanying the treaty, Hitler managed to secure certain privileges for the German armed forces, greatly confining Slovak sovereignty. Later on, these privileges opened the way for all kinds of abuse. *147
|COUNT JANOS ESTERHAZY|