|COUNT JANOS ESTERHAZY|
of the Hungarian Christian Socialist Party
It is not at all surprising that at the Ersekujvar party conference on December 28, 1932, it was obvious that in the months since illness had forced Dr. Geza Szullo to resign the national chairmanship of the party, the party became enthusiastically united behind the person of Janos Esterhazy.
On December 14, 1932, the party conference at Otatrafured named Janos Esterhazy, by acclamation, national chairman of the Hungarian Christian Socialist Party.
It is worth to report in some detail about the meeting because it was a very important day in the life of Janos Esterhazy.
Deputy Dr. Janos jabloniczky presided over the meeting, substituting for Senator Dr. Geza Grosschmid who was ill. The delegates included Dr. Geza Szullo, the previous national chairman. The credentials committee determined that of the 180-member party leadership 169 voting members were present. In the course of the debate preceding the election, Dr. SzulIo moved that in addition to naming Janos Esterhazy to the party chairmanship, Canon Dr. Lajos Francisky of Nyitra be elected honorary chairman. His move was received with general approval. At that point, Deputy Janos Esterhazy and Dr. Lajos Francisky were named national chairman and honorary chairman, respectively, by acclamation. The conference also elected two national vice chairmen and members of the executive committee.
Janos Esterhazy thanked the party for its confidence and delivered his acceptance speech in which he also outlined his platform. He emphasized, first of all, that "we look for help in improving our lot and for the victory of our just cause to the One who gave the world our Savior." He stressed that "our opposition politics is not based on childish defiance. Rather, it is a deliberate, brave struggle for our ultimate goal, the establishment of autonomy.
"Thus far, we had fought for the equal rights of the nations which have been living on this land since ancient times, above all for the securing of the rights of the Hungarian minority, because our dearly beloved Hungarian nation has been the target of the worst attacks. We want to get rid of the humiliating adjective of a 'minority' nation. Let there be no dominant or minority nations here, let everyone have completely equal rights."
Esterhazy outlined the party's moral, economic, social and cultural platform. He called on the Hungarians to be "caring and compassionate toward all our brethren who have shared our land since ancient times and let us join forces so that each individual may pursue his happiness... Let everyone be entitled to his due as determined by their talents, knowledge, skills, education and honesty. When that happens, there will not be 10,000 chosen ones, like today, while in the shadow of the greatest waste and luxury, hundreds of thousands live unemployed, without any income, in abject misery."
The conference was concluded with a banquet where numerous toasts were offered.*181
On December 29, 1932, Dr. Gyula Fleischmann, a member of the provincial legislature, discussed in an article the election of Janos Esterhazy. The article was entitled 'What Is the Meaning of the Election of A Chairman in the Politics of the Christian Socialist Party?" He pointed out that Dr. Geza Szullo, in his capacity as chairman of the joint parliamentary club, would continue to guide the party's activities in Parliament.
Dr. Fleischmann noted that Janos Esterhazy, the new national chairman, was confronted with considerable prejudice. Some were objecting his aristocratic background. However, he overcame this objection, according to Fleischmann, with his forthright manner, his simplicity and his democratic thinking which was free of any aristocratic exclusivity.
Others, especially some of the older generations, were upset by Esterhazy's youth. But this objection was even less valid because the new times demanded new, energetic young men, not just in the ranks but in leadership positions, as well.
Fleischmann concluded by quoting Esterhazy's keynote, 'to follow the old path toward new goals.' It met a favorable response everywhere and helped forge unity within the entire Christian Socialist Party, he wrote.
Janos Esterhazy was greeted with great enthusiasm on the occasion of his election by the Hungarian population of Slovakia and
Subcarpathian Ruthenia, by various branches of his own party, as well as the Hungarian National Party *183
The new national chairman spent much of the first half of 1933 on the road, giving speeches all over the country. On January 20, he attended the funeral of Rezso Bohm, eulogizing the late senator of his party. On January 21, he was given an enthusiastic reception in Rozsnyo and in Eastern Slovakia. On January 27, he spoke in Bodrogkoz, on the 30th in Munkacs, Nagyszollos, Beregszasz and Huszt. On February 15, in Pozsony, he gave a report about his travels around the country. On February 27, Esterhazy spoke in Kassa, on March 6 in Ersekujvar and on March 18 in Ipolysag where he declared war on the new educational act which was very harmful for the Hungarians. On May 17, he spoke in Zsigard.
On June 28, Esterhazy presented his platform at the Otatrafured conference of the National Christian Socialist Party. He said:
"The party's policies had been correct and the uncompromising opposition politics continues to present the only ray of hope for improving the lot of Slovakia and its original inhabitants. The Hungarians were the hardest hit by the peace treaties because they were transferred to other countries without asking for their consent. The same treaty that provided the successor states with their territory also obligated them to respect the rights of national minorities, guarantee their cultural development and, in general, treat them in the same fashion as those belonging to the national majority are treated.
"Thanks to decades of propaganda efforts, at the end of World War One, the Slovak population of Hungary was led to believe that it would have an independent national existence. The Slavic propagandists did a good job and won many supporters among the Slovak people by promising them complete freedom and, what's more, full autonomy. I can understand that the Slovak people came to believe in those promises and put their trust in them. But the fact is that the promises of autonomy remained just that -- promises.
"For telling the truth and for demanding for everyone their due, the Christian Socialist Party is being ridiculously accused with of being irredentist. We demand our right of self-determination under existing laws, along with full autonomy for Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia, so that we may secure our national, religious and cultural development... We cannot trust anyone but ourselves because we have been left alone. We will only have what we have fought for."*184
In early July, 1933, the party's Slovak and German adherents gave Esterhazy an enthusiastic reception as he traveled through the
Nyitra valley. On July 14 he joined Hungarian leaders from Subcarpathian Ruthenia in briefing the Minister of Interior about flood damage. Next day, he launched a nationwide campaign on behalf of the flood victims of Tiszaujlak and Subcarpathian Ruthenia.*185
On September 27, 1933, Esterhazy attended party rallies in Szogyen and Kemend. In early October, he spoke at the Pozsony assembly of the Hungarian Association of the League of Nations in the Republic of Czechoslovakia, where he declared once again: "We will always remain on the path of legality but we demand that others, too, follow the same path." *186
In his Christmas article on December24, 1933, Esterhazy noted that on his visit to Slovakia, Foreign Minister Benes had thrown "morsels of recognition" to the Hungarians. "Fourteen years had to pass," Esterhazy wrote, "before a bit of recognition was accorded the Hungarians. However, whatever is given by one hand may be quickly taken away by the other.
"In Ersekujvar, Mr. Benes spoke of the nation building ability of the Hungarians which, he said, has been manifested ever since St. Stephen converted the Hungarian people to Christianity. But in the December 17 edition of the Prager Presse we read that 'The constructive, nation building ability of the Hungarians has fallen apart before history's seat of judgment."*187
In his Christmas statement to the newspaper Hirado, Esterhazy recalled the time when he was greeted by farmers in a village, who told him, "We won't hurt anyone, but nobody should hurt us, either!" "I believe," Esterhazy added," this expresses the wishes of the Hungarians." He emphasized again that "Hungarians respect the law, Hungarians pay their taxes, whether in blood or other currency. Hungarians meet their obligations to the state. But, naturally, Hungarians also demand everything that is their due from the state and the government." *188
On March 16, 1934, Esterhazy pledged in an editorial solidarity with the Hungarian and German Catholics of Pozsony in their struggle for self-government. On May 5, he and Jabloniczky participated in rallies at Bos and Balonya.*189
At the May 22 meeting of the national party leadership, Esterhazy outlined his views on every major question in domestic politics. In the same address, he referred once again to the recently heard seductive siren songs of Benes who paid tribute to Hungary's heroic role in the defense of the West. But Esterhazy added: "I'll mention just one thing to illuminate Benes' two-faced, or rather
many-faced politics. The other day, speaking in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, Benes excused the delay in granting the region its autonomy by saying that if Subearpathian Ruthenia had been given autonomy any sooner, the Hungarians and the Jews would have prevailed."
Referring to the oft-discussed role of the so-called Catholic Block in Parliament, Esterhazy declared that "whether we are Catholics or Protestants, we will never permit our religious faith and convictions to be degraded to become political tools of dubious value."*190
On June 19, 1934, Esterhazy spoke in Parkany, on June 27 in Leker, on July 10 in Benye and Nagyolved, on October 3 in Ipolysag and Szalatnya. Everywhere he was received with the greatest enthusiasm and affection.*191
On October 20, at the Ersekujvar meeting of district chairmen and secretaries, Esterhazy declared: "'Regardless of national, social, professional and any other differences, the National Christian Socialist Party wishes to secure the original inhabitants' basic conditions of existence.-*192
On October 24, 1934, Esterhazy visited the party organization in Subcarpathian Ruthenia.*193
In the December 25, 1934 Christmas edition of the newspaper Hirado, Janos Esterhazy answered a question about his views regarding the destiny of Czechoslovakia's Hungarian population in the immediate future in anticipation of various elections that were expected to take place in 1935. "Our conduct," he said, "must be guided by nothing else but the efforts to secure the existence, happiness and development of the Hungarian people in this land. All Hungarians who live here must participate in this endeavor," Esterhazy added.*194
With the coming of the new year of 1935, Janos Esterhazy continued his tireless travels around the country, informing the people and keeping their hopes alive. Thus, between February 9 and 11, he visited Gomor and Nograd counties, as well as Losonc, Bussa and Fulek; on February 26, Tardoskedd; on March 5, Galanta; on March 12, the Szepes district, the Golnic valley and Bodrogkoz. On April 3, accompanied by Dr. Geza Szullo, he went to Leva and Zseliz: on April 16, to Ipolysag and the Ipoly and Nyitra valleys, to Csallokoz and the industrial plant of Mecenzef. Everywhere Esterhazy went. he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds.195
Prior to the elections of May 19, 1935, Esterhazy delivered a major address to the April 26 party conference at Otatrafured. As he had told in an earlier interview with the Hirado newspaper, "The great virtue of the Hungarian people is that when the fateful hour
arrives, they always find themselves." Once again he stressed that "we will be able to wage a successful struggle only if all those who have the interests of the original inhabitants on their hearts will share a joint platform and work for the common goal with total sefflessness and one-hundred-percent loyalty to each other. This alone," he said, "is sufficient reason to enter a joint slate with the Hungarian National Party in the parliamentary and provincial elections.
"It is not enough just to maintain and protect what we have accomplished, we must continue to build on it. That is the only way we can assure that our role in the Opposition may turn into a constructive effort on behalf of the original inhabitants. That is how we can build the foundations and work for a better future which is our God-given right," Esterhazy said, his speech repeatedly interrupted by enthusiastic applause.*196
Janos Esterhazy had every reason to be satisfied with the outcome of the election. He analyzed it in some detail on November 30, at the Zsolna meeting of the national party leadership, which we will discuss a little later.
Esterhazy' delivered his first address to Parliament on June 25. It had a stormy impact. Members in the governing party benches kept trying to interrupt his speech, frequently forcing speaker Onderco to gavel them to order.
"As I make my first speech here today," Esterhazy began, "I will try to remain objective and speak objectively. The Hungarian people have had grievances for 16 years. The various coalition governments of the day have never remedied these grievances as they should have according to the peace treaties which have guaranteed such remedies for us Hungarians, who are living here.
"We have not been transferred without our consent to the Czechoslovak Republic just to allow the Czechoslovak governments of the day not to honor one-hundred percent our rights as a minority, our cultural, linguistic and economic rights. The economic condition and the poverty of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia can be understood only by those who live there and are familiar with the circumstances. I know that in Eastern Slovakia there is no bread, I know that in Vrchovina there is no bread and that the chief causes of the misery are the very same political parties in the coalition government, which have set aside their social concepts and voted for every law that would let them stay near the pork barrel.
"There is another question, to the greater glory of democracy: Even today, after 17 years, there are still some 30,000 citizenship
applications, sitting in various offices, waiting to be acted on, still unresolved simply because the applicants are good Hungarians.
"Tbe Prime Minister also spoke of friendship with our neighboring countries. Deputy Teplansky, who belongs to his party, said that Hungary must give up every revisionist effort. Speaking of revision, it is the Czechoslovak government above all which ought to revise its policies in the treatment of us, Hungarians.
"Speaking of myself, all I can say is that there is incredibly great misery in Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the economy and industry are on the verge of bankruptcy, the cold chimneys of the factories throughout Slovakia speak of the terribly great number of unemployed -- something that the government has not done anything to remedy up until now.
"Public works contracts are given to firms in Prague or to the Slovak branches of Czech and Moravian companies whose taxes enrich the treasuries of Bohemia and Moravia. As we can see, the condition of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Rutenia, and above all of their Hungarian population keeps deteriorating through the years. Very soon, no citizen of Slovakia or Subcarpathian Ruthenia will be able to find employment in the public sector. We demand, therefore, autonomy for Slovakia."*197
On September 28, in an urgent request to the government, Janos Esterhazy urged settlement of the question of county retirees' pensions. On November 1, speaking in the Agriculture Committee, he relayed the demands of the farmers of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia. Likewise, on November 28, in a Slovak language speech delivered before the Agriculture Committee, he spoke in great detail about conditions on the state-owned estates.
The state-owned estates, according to Esterhazy, were equally distributed between Bohemia, Slovakia and subearpathian Ruthenia. But if we were to look at the distribution of their net income in the three provinces, he said, we would find that the state-owned estates in Bohemia had an income of 30 million Crowns, those in Subcarpathian Ruthenia 8 million and those in Slovakia 21 million. At the same time, government employees working on the state-owned estates earned 41 million Crowns, while those in Slovakia made only 14 million and in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, 9 million Crowns.*198
The party's national leadership conference in Zsolna was opened by a major speech by Janos Esterhazy. on November 29. He reviewed the previous three years, describing the difficult conditions
under which the party began its activities in early 1932. "The conditions were increasingly worsening but our work did not slacken," he said.
"The elections called for the spring of 1935 did not find us unprepared," Esterhazy continued. "We can state with hindsight that we had to fight the election campaign under the most adverse circumstances, yet we can be satisfied with the outcome because we have held our own and kept all our seats. Our main weapon is our spiritual and moral strength, resting on a legal foundation. We use that weapon to fight for our due."
Esterhazy then noted that the government has a new head, a Slovak. That, however "does not affect our previous positions because Prime Minister Hodza is new only to his office but we have never heard him say or do anything which would lead us to believe that he intends to introduce new methods or new procedures in government or in dealing with the problem of the national minorities," Esterhazy said.*199
Let us take a look now at the important diplomatic developments that took place during this period and had a major impact on the policies of the Czechoslovak government.
The Sudeten Germans, under the leadership of Konrad Henlein, won an overwhelming victory in the May elections and, with their 55 parliamentary deputies, became the largest party of Czechoslovakia. This development did not go unnoticed on the international diplomatic scene. It caught the attention, first of all, of the British government. Henlein was invited by the Royal Institute for lnternational Affairs to visit London.
In his London speech, Henlein emphasized that the Sudeten Germans are demanding only their rights, otherwise they abide by the Czechoslovak constitution. Their movement came into being only because their wishes went unfulfilled. Their goal is to secure the peaceful development of the German people, Henlein said.*200
In addition to the British, Henlein sought and established contact with French circles and with diplomats of other nations, too, at the League of Nations in Geneva. Everywhere he went, he informed his contacts about the Czechoslovak goverment's repressive policies against its national minorities.
Another important event, as far as the Hungarians were concerned, occurred toward the end of the year when Benes invited Esterhazy to Prague. With the declining health of Masaryk, presidential elections were on the horizon, with Benes being Masaryk's chosen successor. This prompted Benes to begin talks with leaders of the political parties. Esterhazy was one of the first political leaders he saw and Benes admitted that many injustices have been inflicted on the Hungarians. He promised to put an end to to the injustices in return for Esterhazy's support in the presidential election.
Esterhazy suggested that Jaross be included in the talks. Not long afterwards, a Hungarian delegation went to see Benes and he made all kinds of promises. The delegation wanted to have the promises in writing but Benes was reluctant to do so. Finally, they compromised, with Benes agreeing to confirm his promises in writing in response to a written document containing the Hungarian demands. But he never kept his promise. Nor did Benes keep his campaign promises after he was elected to the presidency.*201
Returning to Janos Esterhazy's parliamentary activities, he gave the first speech following Prime Minister Hodza's long address on December 5, 1935, in the House of Deputies debate over the 1936 budget. Hodza had said that Czechoslovakia must cooperate, first of all, with its immediate neighbors, Austria and Hungary. He analyzed in some detail the country's foreign trade with Austria and Hungary. Then he outlined his conceptions of Central Europe. And he emphasized that it is a natural task for the government to settle the question of national minorities.
Janos Esterhazy was the first to speak in the debate. He started off by saying that the mistakes which had been cited so many times already, have not been rectified by the new budget. "May I be permitted therefore to address first of all the question of Hungarian schools, Hungarian culture," Esterhazy began. Quoting verbatim Paragraph 9
of the peace treaty of St.Germain, he said, "The national minorities must be assured an appropriate share of the enjoyment and use of the funds which are spent from the public treasury in the state or municipal budgets for educational, religious or weffare purposes. We look in vain in the budget for any item which would show what percentage is being allocated for Hungarian causes, Hungarian schools, Hungarian education, he said.
"Even if I were to take the 1930 census as the baseline --which I cannot accept as completely reliable," Esterhazy said, "Hungarians represent 4.8 percent of the nationwide population. That means that Hungarians should be allocated the same percentage of the budget. But this is not the case," he said and presented data in support of his argument.
The same situation prevails with the junior high schools, Esterhazy continued. "There are only 18 junior high schools in Slovakia, well below the national average. There is no mention in the budget of funds for the one and only Hungarian teacher's college, even though it was included in last year's budget. Regarding institutions of high education, the situation, as far as Hungarians are concerned, is outright catastrophic. There is not a single Hungarian chair and the authorities have no intention to establish one.
"It is often said that the Hungarians have their share of minority schools. Often, however, what is meant by minority schools is Czechoslovak schools built in areas with homogeneous Hungarian population. These are the schools that Foreign Minister Benes likes to refer to before foreign audiences as proof of loyalty toward the national minorities. Thus, for example, in the village of Vaga the official census shows a population of 93% Hungarian and only 4.3% Slovak. Despite these official figures, the Slovenska League has demanded construction of a Czechoslovak school in Vaga. The matter has been considered by several authorities and now the national government is about to decide whether the Hungarians who represent 93% of the population need to have a Czechoslovak school. Similar conditions prevail in Budahaza, Csecs, Makranc, Korosmezo, Beregszasz, Gyorke, Guta, Tiszaujlak... and so on and on. The Hungarian high school in Pozsony shares a building with the local prison. During the break, the students mingle in the corridors with gypsy women waiting for court hearings."
Regarding the Slovenska League, Esterhazy registered his objection to the fact that the organization's goal, supported by governmental subsidies, is to encroach on the rights of another national
minority. He discussed in some detail a scandalous situation in Eperjes where officially sanctioned posters were used to incite the population against the Hungarians.
"We have never demanded anything to which we are not entitled, we only want what is our just due under the terms of the peace treaty and the constitution. However, if the Hungarian population must pay taxes and those taxes are used to maintain the state without granting the Hungarians their constitutional rights, I cannot agree to this budget," Esterhazy concluded.*202
Prime Minister Hodza spoke of his conception which became known as the Hodza Plan. He wanted to persuade five Danubian nations -- Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Austria and Hungary -- to Cooperate economically which would lead to increased political Cooperation. Remembering the failure of earlier plans, Hodra sought certain Compromises with Germany. He also sought the approval of London and Paris, as well.
The British and the French looked upon the Hodza Plan favorably but failed to give it any meaningful support. This ambivalent attitude was adopted by the Danubian nations, too. Yugoslavia and Hungary did not support the Hodra Plan, while Rumania and Austria looked at it more positively. Hitler, naturally, was opposed to it because, as eventually it became apparent, he had in mind a totally different role for this region in his expansionist plans.
Some sources ascribe the failure of the plan, at least in part, to domestic politics because the foreign policy conceptions of Hodza and his supporters ran counter to Benes' French orientation and, especially, his leaning toward the Soviet Union. The elections resulted in victory for Benes and that sealed the fate of the Hodza Plan. Nevertheless, Hodza managed to secure the posts of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, allegedly as a reward for lining up support within the Agrarian Party to Benes's election to the presidency.
Following the failure of the Hodra Plan, at the end of February, 1936, Hodza resigned from his post as Foreign Minister. He was succeeded on February 29 by Dr. Kamill Krofta, a historian, who espoused the foreign policy line of Benes.
The next month saw a highly significant event whose consequences soon became apparent. On March 7, 1936, in defiance of the Treaty of Saint Germain and the Locarno Agreement, German forces occupied the Rhineland. What made this move so significant was that Hitler was able to carry it out without any opposition on the part of the Western powers. The League of Nations and the Locarno powers lodged a protest but nothing else happened beyond that.
The Western powers, particularly Great Britain were eager to end or at least reduce tensions among the the Danubian powers. Prompted by the substantial shift in the balance of power, the British were advocating normalization of the relationship between the Little Entente and Hungary. The Little Entente states themselves came to recognize by this time the illusory nature of making themselves dependent solely on the Western powers and began to seek a rapprochement with Hungary. But it came too late.
A significant improvement in relations between the two parties was not in the interest of Germany and Italy because they had based their Central European strategy on the skillful manipulation of the existing conflict. Germany wanted Hungary to make revisionist demands on Czechoslovakia and, at the same time, to try to settle its differences with Yugoslavia. Even though the Italian interests at the time were not in full accord with those of the Germans, as a result of the newly-formed Berlin-Rome Axis, Italy's interests had to be put on the backburner.
It fully became apparent by this time how many opportunities have been missed by the Little Entente powers over 17 years without ever attempting a serious rapprochement with Hungary. The efforts by Esterhazy and other leaders of the Hungarian minority to persuade the Prague government to meet their just demands were in vain. As long as Prague felt it had the support of the Western powers, it had no intention of taking the Hungarian grievances seriously.
For a thousand years, until the establishment of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland had a peaceful and secure common border. This was of vital interest for both countries. Consequently, in April 1936, Polish Prime Minister Koschialkowski led a delegation to Budapest to discuss the Czechoslovak issue, as well as the question of the common Hungarian-Polish border. The Polish delegates declared that the views of the Polish and Hungarian governments were identical in this matter. This declaration indicated a change in the Polish government's position regarding the so-called Pilsudsky Plan. This plan has called for the establishment of a federated state consisting of Poland, Galicia, the Soviet Ukraine, Bukovina and Carpatho-Ukraine (Subcarpathian Ruthenia).*204
Meanwhile, on April 3, the Austrian government arbitrarily set aside the military restrictions imposed by the Peace Treaty of Saint Germain and announced that it would re-introduce universal military service.*205 This move stirred quite an alarm among the Little Entente powers.
The leaders of the Sudeten German Party wanted to send a delegation to Budapest to explore the possibility of establishing links with the leaders of the Hungarian minority. They contacted the Hungarian government in April, seeking an appointment with the Prime Minister. However, the Hungarian government was unable to grant the request, partly on account of the Prime Minister's illness and also because of the visit by the Polish delegation.*206 The cancellation of the visit did not create a problem because, in the meantime, Benes and Hodza invited the Sudeten German leaders to negotiate.
While these diplomatic efforts were going on, the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia requested Goring to help promote better relations between Yugoslavia and Hungary. Goring received a favorable reply from Hungarian Foreign Minister Kanya.*207
On May 16, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union signed an agreement of mutual assistance. According to diplomatic reports, Czechoslovakia had lost its faith in the Western powers and, driven by its fear of Germany, was drawing closer to the Russians. Overcome by a war psychosis, the Czechoslovak leaders were talking about imminent war.*208
Turning once again to the Hungarians in Czechoslovakia, as we have already noted, overcoming all their difficulties, the two Hungarian parties emerged stronger than ever from the previous year's elections, gaining several thousand new votes. It is fitting here to pay our respects to the men who had represented the two Hungarian
parties in the Czechoslovak parliament and were in the forefront of the Hungarians' poltical struggles prior to the first Vienna Decision. The representives included Count Janos Esterhazy, Janos Holota, Andor Jaross, Endre Korlath, Andor Nietzsch (the leader of the German population of Szepes), Agoston Petrasek, Geza Porubszky, Jozsef Szent-Ivany, Geza Szullo. In the Senate: Kalman Fussy, Karoly Hokky, Mikios Pajor, Jozsef Torkoly (who was succeeded upon his death in 1937 by Bela Szilassy) and Imre Turchanyi.
We have also noted that following Masaryk's resignation from the presidency, the two Hungarian parties trusted Benes's promises and voted for his candidacy. However, Benes never fulfilled his promises, demonstrating that the Hungarians could not trust even the chief of state to honor his word.
Under the pressure of events, the two Hungarian parties decided to carry out their long-planned fusion. Initially, political necessity required to organize two separate parties. Various efforts to drive a wedge between them made it crucially important that they unite. This was clear in the National Christian Socialist Party's response, signed by Geza Szullo and Janos Esterhazy, to the Hungarian National Party's call for a merger. Accordingly, preparations got underway.*209
Meanwhile in a parliamentary debate on February 19, Esterhazy delivered a sharp criticism of the deficit of 6,000 million accumulated over a five-year period.*210
On February 28, Esterhazy delivered a major address, criticizing the Uhlir Act to regulate private schools. He noted, among others, that 12,400 Hungarian children are forced to attend non-Hungarian schools. Part of this speech was delivered in Slovak.*211
On March 25, 1936, Janos Esterhazy urged the government to restore the right to use the Hungarian language at the city hall of Kassa (Kosice). This had been requested three years earlier but no action has been taken about it.*212 On April 22, Esterhazy sharply rejected the government's proposal to dissolve the political parties. "We demand full democratic rights for our people," he said *213
At a May 4 political rally in Kassa (Kosice), Esterhazy declared, 'The security of the state depends, above all, on the satisfaction of its citizens."*214
Meanwhile, preparations were rapidly progressing for the merger of the two parties. A Congress was called for June 21, 1936, in Ersekujvar. The resolution declaring the merger of the two parties and the establishment of the "United National Christian Socialist and Hungarian National Party" gave voice to the will of the entire Hungarian population of Czechoslovakia.
The Congress was a festive occasion. Following three opening worship services, a crowd of 7,000 assembled in a decorated sports field. In addition to girls dressed in Hungarian folk costume and farmers wearing their traditional attire, some 500 Slovaks, wearing their national costume, from the Privigye and Tapolcsany region, also attended.
Dr. Geza Szullo opened the Congress. "All we need to survive is God's grace and our insistence on our rights," he began. 'The survival of our race is not due to happenstance, it is the result of Divine wisdom. Let us follow our own direction and remain loyal to the laws based on the constitution. Let us insist on the fulfillment of our constitutional guarantees and let us not relinquish any of our rights. Our Insistence on our rights makes us the protectors, rather than the destroyers of the state," said Dr. Geza Szullo.
Dr. Janos Holota greeted the Congress on behalf of the Hungarians of Ersekujvar. He read a letter from Jozsef Szent-Ivany, head of the former Hungarian National Party, whose illness prevented him from attending the Congress. Szent-Ivany expressed the desire for "an understanding among all Hungarians united in service of the national aspirations, eliminating every conflict between Hungarian and Hungarian." The Congress greeted his words with warm applause.
Next the concepts underlying the platform of the new party were outlined by Andor Jaross. "it is an evolutionary, progressive program," he said. "It is modern when so required by the tempo of the
new life; it is conservative where we have to dip into the well of ancient law and historical tradition, because we want to provide new values, as well as rescue values from the past to serve the present and, indirectly, the future as well. There is room in this program for every Hungarian and Czechoslovakia.
"We respect the religious faith and convictions of every citizen and when we place Christian morality and national goals on our flag, we do not wish to exclude from our camp Hungarians of the Jewish faith, who have been fighting on our side with unwavering energy for our common national goals. We honor them for their past efforts and we count on them in the future, as well," Jaross said.
Next, legislators of the two parties, as well as members of the Slovakian and Subcarpathian Ruthenian legislature were introduced. Then, the Congress having approved the proposed platform of the united parties, Dr. Geza Szullo declared that the platform has been adopted.
Janos Esterhazy was next, with a bilingual speech in Hungarian and Slovak. First, as required by the merger of the two parties, he announced his resignation as national chairman of his party. Then, amidst warm applause, he said: "We draw the two parties which had accomplished so much into a joint front, placing them on a common platform, so that the expanded efforts of the Hungarians may be greater and even more successful than before."
Following Esterhazy's address, Dr. Geza Szullo, chairman of the Congress, announced to great jubilation that the Congress has declared the establishment of the United National Christian Socialist and Hungarian National Party. The Congress was adjurned following closing remarks by Dr. Bela Szilassy who urged all participants to join in the common effort.
The newly chosen party leadership met in the afternoon to elect members of the presidium and executive committee for the united party. Following a motion by Dr. Geza Szullo, the following were elected:
Andor Jaross, national chairman; Janos Esterhazy, national executive chairman. Dr. Geza Szullo, as head of the party's parliamentary caucus and Deputy Jozsef Szent-Ivany were elected to the presidium. Peter Balazsy, Lipot Gregorovits, Dr. Endre Korlath, Bela Pinter, Dr. Bela Szilassy and Barna Tost were elected vice chairmen.
Following the election of the executive committee, the leadership decided to establish two legal aid offices, one in Pozsony (Bratislava),
headed by Dr. Marcell Szilard and one in Rimaszombat, headed by Dr. Jozsef Torkoly.
Andor Jaross, the new national chairman emphasized in his inaugural address that "in order to create complete spiritual harmony, we want to bring about a united spirit among the Hungarian minority. That means that every member of the Hungarian minority should take a united stand on the issues of today and tomorrow."
Jaross' inaugural address was received with great enthusiasm. Janos Esterhazy the party's new national executive chairman was the next speaker. He was greeted with warm applause as he asked for the party's confidence and promised that "Just as in the past, I will continue to perform my assigned tasks in the interest of the Hungarian people with all my strength and enthusiasm."*215
Among the other national minority parties in Czechoslovakia, the German Christian Socialist Party is worth noting. It was one of the so-called activist groups which submitted its demands in a petition to Prime Minister Hodza. The demands included participation in the country's economy, cessations of efforts to strangle the national character of minorities, elimination of illegalities in the educational system, participation in governmental administration and reform of the census system. *216
In Hungary itself, Regent Miklos Horthy's late August, 1936, meeting with Hitler in Berchtesgaden was an important news event. According to notes presented to Hitler, the negotiations probably dealt with Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Rumanian-Soviet pact and the question of Hungary's rearmament.*217
The serious political situation where the Czechs had found themselves was illuminated by the talks between Frantisek Chvalkovsky the Czechoslovak Minister to Rome and his Hungarian counterpart, Frigyes Villani. According to Villani's report, Chvalkovsky had told him, "if the Prague government is unable to settle its relationship with Italy and Germany in a satisfactory manner, it will be compelled to depend entirely on Russia because it cannot count on help from the French." Villani added that in view of the Czechs' pro-Russian sentiments, such a policy would be popular and it would be well received by Slovaks and the Subcarpathian Ruthenians also because -- as the Czech diplomat admitted -- they are dissatisfied with the present conditions.*218
A most significant event in the life of the Hungarian people in Czechoslovakia was President Benes's invitation to Janos Esterhazy for a meeting on September 11, 1936. He received Esterhazy in Kistapolcsany, asking him to treat the meeting confidentially and not to issue any public statement.
Benes began by stating that conditions have improved since his last visit to Slovakia. He emphasized that he will always respect the rights of the minorities. He gave an overview of the international situation and said that certain European states may be threatened by revolution. He hinted that Hungary might be one of them.
Benes further stated that revision, as demanded in Hungary, is out of question. But he would be willing to enter the most far-reaching negotiations with Hungary, provided the Hungarians do not raise excessive demands. Benes said he had never been offended by Count Apponyi's demands for a complete nullification of the peace treaties because he was aware that an old man could not be expected suddenly to give up something which he held sacred through a long life. By the same token, the Hungarians should not be surprised either that he, Benes, is not willing to compromise his life's work.
Next, Benes invited the Hungarians to join his government. He said he knows and feels that the Hungarians have grievances against the Czechoslovak government but these grievances could be corrected. Benes hinted that the Hlinka Party may soon enter the government and suggested that the Hungarians, too, might get a cabinet seat without portfolio, along with a certain budget allocation. Benes added that he would very much like to see Esterhazy in that post because he could not see anyone from the older generation taking it.
Finally, Benes brought up the questions the Hungarian political leaders had submitted before the presidential election. He said he is persuaded that none of the requests have been met but he has issued
instructions to take care of this matter. And then Benes asked for Esterhazy's reaction to his proposals.
Esterhazy thanked Benes for the briefing. Regarding Benes' statement on the improvement of conditions in Slovakia, he said that in his opinion, just the opposite is true. Slovakia is sinking ever deeper into poverty and the impact of the Czechoslovak societies to strangle the national character of the minorities is being increasingly felt. This, he said, does not make the Hungarians any calmer. They can endure just about everything except the efforts to deprive them of their national identity.
"The Hungarians who live here," said Esterhazy, "know all too well that the Lord did not create the Hungarian race and did not help it to develop and survive through vicissitudes of a thousand years only to allow that after 1,022 years, as the consequence of an unfortunate war, a good part of that race be transmuted into another.
"Throughout their long history, the Hungarians have been stricken by much adversity but their loyalty to their mother tongue and their insistence to use it have always helped them to overcome every calamity. If the Hungarians survived the disaster of Mohacs *219 and managed to live through the long Turkish rule, I am quite certain that the day will come when in this land, too, the Hungarians will determine their own fate and nobody will raise obstacles to the use of their language and culture.
"I deemed it necessary to preface my words with the foregoing," Esterhazy continued, "to make it clear to you, Mr. President, that even though I may not belong to the older generation which, as you said, is not inclined to cooperate, all Hungarians living in this land, no matter what their age, are Hungarians, will remain Hungarians and want to serve the Hungarian cause."
In response to the offer of a cabinet post without portfolio, Esterhazy said that in view of the fact that nothing has happened since December 18 to make the life of the Hungarians easier, it would be very difficult for him to explain to his party why he should bestow his endorsement on the regime. It is up to the Czechoslovak authorities to earn that trust, Esterhazy added.*221
On September 29, 1936, the United Hungarian Party held a rally in Leva, which turned into a celebration of Hungarian unity. Janos Esterhazy emphasized in his speech that "the nation can achieve its goals only if it works through the party for the common cause.
Previously, on September 2, the United Hungarian Party submitted a memorandum to the government. This memorandum
came to be regarded as one of the most basic documents of Hungarian minority politics. Right at the outset, it declares that at the signing of the peace treaties, the government of the Czechoslovak Republic made a solemn promise to the Allied Powers to maintain the right to their language of the national minorities transferred to the new state and would grant members of the racial, religious and linguistic minorities the same rights that are enjoyed by all citizens of the republic.
Another treaty undertaking of the Czechoslovak government is not to alter these obligations without the approval of the Allied Powers. On March 6, 1920, the constitutional assembly of the Czechoslovak republic enacted a law about the use of minority languages. This law entered force as soon as it was enacted. The Hungarians were not represented in the constitutional assembly, even though the government could have provided for such representation because delegates to the assembly were not elected. They were appointed by the government.
Contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the Treaty of St. Germain en Laye, as well as the Czechoslovak constitution itself, the language act links the exercise of minority language rights to a 20 percent ratio. The decree to implement the law, issued at the urging of the national minorities, granted only the most minimal rights and even these were not enforced by the authorities.
Te memorandum stated that before they would turn to the Council of the League of Nations, as provided by the peace treaty, "in keeping with our previous practice, we request the government first to remedy our grievances. With that, the memorandum outlined in general terms the grievances, stating that if the government so desired, complete, detailed documentation would be furnished.
The list of grievances included the following areas: language usage in the courts; establishent of judicial districts; the use of the Hungarian language in public administration (in Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia, there were more than a thousand villages and towns which were entitled by the law to use Hungarian in their official correspondence); a Hungarian version of the laws (often, laws were translated into Hungarian only after they had been repealed already); right to use the Hungarian language in parliament; extension of the language act to the Post office and the railroads; Hungarian administrators in counties populated by Hungarians; educational grievances and demands, and other demands relating to the use of language.
The memorandum stated that rule of the law is a major precondition for the peaceful development of the state and it rests on the
public's respect for the law. "We, Hungarians, are law abiding people, therefore it is our just demand that the responsible government respect and enforce all the laws. And that includes rectifying grievances," the memorandum declared. *222
In October, 1936, Prime Minister Gyula Gombos of Hungary died and was replaced by Kalman Daranyi. One of his first foreign policy moves was to try to establish a relationship with England and the other Western powers. Following the establishment of the Berlin-Rome Axis, Italy took on a diminished role -- a fact of major significance for other nations, as well. Italy's firm stand against the Anschluss between Germany and Austria had weakened. Also, Hungary's rejectionist stance against the Little Entente underwent a change because of Daranyi's intention to negotiate with the Little Entente. He made the question of national minorities the focal point of these negotiations. As a result of these efforts, the Germans came to distrust Daranyi's policies.
|COUNT JANOS ESTERHAZY|