|Stephen Sisa : The Spirit of Hungary|
The Magyar Road to Trianon
The Magyars started on the road to Trianon when they entered into the Compromise of 1867 and tied Hungary's fate to that of Habsburg Austria. Many Hungarians would have preferred to share only a common ruler, the Emperor-King, with Austria in a personal union, that would have enabled Hungary to maintain a separate army and conduct an independent foreign policy. Lacking true sovereignty, the country was isolated from Western nations and left practically at the mercy of the international propaganda spread by the Slavs and Rumanians, and in particular by Masaryk and Benes.
A Society of Contrasts
As Hungary's isolation grew deeper, the marked inequality of her social classes weakened her inner cohesion.
On the top of the social pyramid were the wealthy aristocrats. At the turn of the century, about one third of the country's arable land was owned by fewer than 2000 landlords. Many of these aristocrats possessed estates of enormous size, donated to their families by Vienna at the end of the Turkish times as a reward for their loyalty to the Habsburgs. The wealthiest among them was the Esterházy family, who owned half a million acres and whose extravagance was legendary.
Even more notorious than the Eszterházys was Count József Czobor, whose most infamous exploit was a bet with Marchese François Taroucca on which of the two would wear the more expensive costume to the next ball to be held at court. The bet was only l000 golden ducats, a mere trifle, as far as they were concerned. It was agreed that neither one could wear jewels for the occasion.
Marchese Taroucca arrived at the ball in an exquisite pink costume made by the finest tailor in Paris. Count Czobor, on the other hand, appeared in a simple garb of silk. This surprised and puzzled everyone, until he unbuttoned his jacket to reveal its lining - the mutilated canvas of a famous painting by Correggio.
Such acts of extravagance, of course, were only extreme examples recorded in earlier times. Other Hungarian aristocrats were intelligent and refined. Many, such as the Festetich family and even some of the Eszterházys, were generous patrons of the arts. The Széchenyis, Wesselényis, Andrássys, Telekis, Zichys and the Eszterházys gave their country distinguished political leaders and statesmen. However, the majority led lives that were luxurious and empty. Of these, the English writer Harold Nicholson wrote:
...The energy and activity for which their fathers were distinguished are not cultivated by the sons, who spend their nights playing cards, listening to Gypsy music, and pasting five-pound and ten-pound notes on the foreheads of their favorite musicians.
The vigor of the race will be preserved chiefly in what are called the gentry here - or what we should call the squirearchy; and though they are mostly ruined, they have the grit and determination so characteristic of the Magyar and which have pulled the country through so many difficulties.
While the Magyar magnates had much in common with their European counterparts, the lesser nobles, known collectively as the gentry, represented a typically Hungarian class often depicted in the novels of Kálmán Mikszáth, Zsigmond Móricz and especially Mór Jókai. The most famous of Jókai's novels about the gentry and magnates are the Hungarian Nabob and its sequel, Kárpáthy Zoltán. In them, Jókai portrays their earthy amusements, their robust good humor, their rustic festivals, fairs, horse races and their incomparable hospitality. It was partly due to the spell of these two novels that Queen Elizabeth "fell in love" with the Magyars.
Although the aristocrats may have painted Hungary's history in bold strokes, it was the gentry who filled the canvas. As one historian remarked: "The magnates led the nation into the promised land, but it was the gentry who made the journey possible."
This journey suffered an abrupt reversal of fortune, however, when the serfs were emancipated, after which the gentry found their land slipping away from them. Their losses were compounded by poor farming methods that could not compensate for the loss of manpower. Lacking practical knowledge of any trade and deprived of cheap labor, they tried to cope with that they had left, maintaining their "good life" as long as their resources held out. The gentry lived in comfortable kurias (country homes) where the
household was managed by the ever-busy lady of the house with the help of a servant or two. Their children were usually educated by a tutor if there was no school nearby.
In his book The Habsburg Monarchy Arthur J. May said of the gentry:
Love of the soil and love of the country, concern for the common weal, simplicity in thinking and living, stern discipline, stubbornness - these were the earmarks of the Hungarian lower nobility. From the magnates, who were tainted by association with the Court of Vienna, the patriotic gentry tended to be aloof.
But in fifty years or so, the gentry gradually lost their holdings: many thousands were compelled to turn to new means of earning a living. Rejecting trade and industry as unglamorous, the gentry crowded into the only field they considered compatible with their status: the civil service. Here they could still exercise their authority, and maintain their dominance over their fellow citizens. They conspicuously added their title before their family names so that people would still recognize their nobility.
As a class, the gentry was politically conservative, economically agrarian and blessed - or cursed - with generous spending habits. They represented a virtual caste system. As civil servants, the gentry carried out the domestic policy devised by the aristocracy. Only rarely did their interest extend beyond the frontiers of the Monarchy, and they regarded the nationalities as socially inferior.
Whereas the gentry became entrenched in administration, and to a lesser extent in the military, the economic leadership of the country was gradually taken over by the newly emerging urban bourgeoisie, containing a high percentage of Germans and Jews. With their innate agility and intelligence, the Jews quickly occupied key positions and contributed greatly to the industrial and commercial development of the country. Many Jews became rich, acquired high government rank, or even bought baronial titles. Some supported the arts generously and mixed freely with aristocrats at the highest level of society; others became involved in progressive, liberal politics and the dissemination of radical ideas. The Jews were assimilating of such a degree that a Jewish Hungarian philosopher Bernáth Alexander, expressed the view that "this blessed land of Hungary seems predestined to mold the souls of the two peoples to bring about a powerful and productive union."
But Jews occupied important positions at lower levels of Hungarian society as well, particularly in politics, where they were in the top echelon of the social democratic movement. However, the Hungarian industrial working class had but limited strength, making up, as it did, less than one-fifth of the population at the turn of the century. Hungarian
industrial workers had less power than their western European colleagues, and their working conditions were much worse. The government discouraged the growth of vigorous trade-unionism. Although in 1914 they numbered only slightly more than I00,000, they did acquire the right to strike and to form labor unions.
But even more than labor, the most neglected segment of that society was the largest and most useful one: the peasantry.
The measures that had feed the serfs from servitude had at the same time practically pushed them out of the homes or estates of their former masters, forcing them to make a living on their own. Many were ill-prepared for this; most of these people became seasonal workers or day laborers with very little chance of obtaining enough land to become self-sufficient. Thus, an agricultural proletariat arose, which lacked political consciousness and power since few of its members were qualified to vote in a very restrictive franchise system. As such, they constituted the bottom layer of the peasantry.
Further up the social scale from these newly emancipated and landless serfs were the independent small holders, who owned enough land to be self-sustaining. Landed and landless peasants rarely intermarried. Out of Hungary's population of nineteen million at the turn of the century, fourteen million were peasants. Ten million of these peasants had no land or the land they owned was not enough to support them.
Of the landed peasants' way of life, Arthur J. May says:
As a member of the dominant nationality, the Magyar peasant was likely to be prouder, less docile, and more thrifty than the Slav or Rumanian; and yet the Magyar peasant was conspicuously less chauvinistic than the upper and ruling classes.
"Fathers ruled in their households as autocrats, and great respect was shown to old folk. In dealing with superiors, the Magyars were reverential, and a distinct vein of politeness ran through their social customs. Peasants delighted in colorful costumes, decorated the walls of their cottages, carved their own furniture; cleanliness in the home distinguished the Magyar household from that of lesser nationalities, except the Germans (The Habsburg Monarchy.)
The Catholic and Protestant churches held sway over all these segments of Hungarian society, except for the aristocrats and Jews. Their influence was not only spiritual, but often political as well.
At that time, the Catholic Church in Hungary tended to be allied with the aristocrats, as it was a huge landowner itself, possessing 2,250,000 acres of land. The holdings of the Catholic Church and the magnates together represented about one-half of Hungary's agricultural land, an unhealthy situation in a country with millions of landless peasants. Furthermore, by law, the Primate of Hungary and 27 bishops were members of the House of Magnates, the Upper House. But in spite of its connections with the aristocracy, the Church was the most democratic institution in Hungary inasmuch as it offered unlimited opportunities for advancement within its hierarchy to gifted persons regardless of social rank
and nationality. In fact, two of Hungary's primates in this century were of Slovakian origin.
The Catholic and Protestant churches in Hungary differed politically as well as spiritually. The Catholic hierarchy was considered pro-Habsburg; in contrast, anti-Habsburg Calvinism came to be regarded as the "Magyar religion" as early as the 16th century. Its seat in Debrecen was dubbed the ''Calvinist Rome.'' In 1849 at Kossuth's urging, the Habsburg Dynasty was dethroned in that city. Some of the most outstanding leaders of Hungary before and after World War I were Protestant: Kossuth was Lutheran, and the two Tiszas, Kálmán and his son István, were Calvinists. Horthy and Bethlen also belonged to the Reformed Church.
The Two Tiszas
Like Father Like Son - and More
Count István Tisza was Premier when World War I broke out. Like his father, Kálmán in his time, he was the most remarkable statesman of the Monarchy. Curiously,. István inherited his title not from his father, but from his uncle, Lajos,. an unmarried and childless brother of Kálmán, who has been rewarded with this title in 1883. Unlike other Magyar aristocrats, the Tisza family lived the frugal life of puritanical Protestants on their small country estate of Geszt, concerned mainly with "horses, politics and the Bible.'' ''I am as totally and solely Hungarian." Kálmán used to say, ''as the river whose name I bear."
Kálmán Tisza was a domineering individual and at times, a ruthless politician who overshadowed not only the members of his cabinet but those of the Parliament as well. A stout defender of the Magyar nation and champion of its mission in the Carpathian Basin, he pushed Magyarization programs, while he was in office, disregarding the protests of the nationalities. To some, this was a virtue,. to others it was the opposite. As often is the case with strong men, Kálmán Tisza was "admired and respected by many,. but loved by none."
István Tisza inherited his father's toughness, Calvinist puritanism and reactionary outlook in social politics; however, he possessed something his father had lacked; a broad view of international affairs.
The noted anti-Hungarian journalist, Wickham Steed in London, dubbed Tisza "a cross between a game-keeper in his Sunday best and a fanatical monk with the quality of a statesman." Tisza's mixture of qualities made him at once ''the best loved and best hated man" in the Monarchy. One of those who admired him greatly was Emperor-King Franz Joseph, who repeatedly appointed him Prime Minister.
As mentioned before, Count István Tisza was the man at Hungary's helm at the beginning of World War I. Concerning his role and that of the Magyars in general in that war, the Czech politician Edward Benes and noted historians differ sharply in their opinion. In his book titled Bohemia's Case for Independence Benes blames the Hungarians for the outbreak of the war:
It is on them principally that the responsibility falls, of letting loose the present war... When in July, 1914, the Crown Council decided to declare war on Serbia, it was Tisza and the Magyar nobles who gave the decisive vote.
But historians, who after the war had access to the Imperial Archives of the Monarchy, including Professor Macartney, take the opposite view:
Hungary entered the war of course, as one of the Central Powers. Her Prime Minister Count Tisza, had not at first been in favor of the Monarchy's projected war against Serbia. He had even threatened to resign if the ultimatum were made impossible for Serbia to accept... Later he withdrew his opposition, stipulating only that the Monarchy should receive no acquisitions of territory...
A book that is otherwise anti-Hungarian, Slovakia and its People written by Prof. Gilbert L. Oddo and published under the auspices of the Slovak League of America in 1960 echoes the same theme:
Only in Budapest was there a strange, refreshingly different semblance of vision and understanding. There Stephen Tisza sat as Chief Minister. After repeatedly warning that aggressive, imperialistic war would be folly. Tisza agreed to make war only on the condition that at its end the Dual Monarchy would not acquire Serbian territory.
Tisza opposed the war because he was convinced that it would endanger the survival of the Monarchy. He also warned that Rumania, then a formal ally, might become a turncoat - a far-seeing prediction that came true. Back in 1910, Hungarian Premier Count Khuen-Héderváry had explained to René Miller, France's ambassador, the main reason Hungary advocated alliance with the Germans, saying:
"The German alliance is for Hungary a rampart against the Slavs whom the Hungarians believe they have to fear the most."
Whereas only the Magyar Tisza opposed the war in the Crown Council, there were no Hungarians in the Monarchy's bellicose General Staff which was led by the Hungarophobe Conrad von Hötzendorf. Throughout the war, Magyars occupied only subordinate positions in the joint army which had a traditionally incompetent leadership composed of Austrians and Czechs. The joint army was a hodgepodge of nationalities with German as the language of command. The Hungarians led only in one respect - the number of casualties.
The Changing Fortunes of War
At the beginning of the war the Monarchy's army numbered 1,400,000 men. The leadership showed its ineptness at the very first offensive against Serbia led by the Czech Potiorek and the Austrian Frank. The attack bogged down, forcing the Monarchy's army of 100,000 Magyars and Croats to withdraw after they had lost a quarter of their troops. Upon hearing news of an impending Russian attack on the Eastern front, Hötzendorf suspended the offensive against Serbia. The campaign early in the war on the Russian front was carried out so ineptly that more than 100,000 Magyars perished in Galicia during the first Russian onslaught. Certain divisions suffered as much as 70% in casualties when the Magyar hussars were sent to attack fortified Russian machine-gun nests on horse-back. (By the end of the war 37% of Hungary's enlisted men were to suffer casualties: 17% (661,000) were killed, 20% (743,000) wounded. In addition, 19% (734,000) were taken prisoner.)
The Russian "steamroller" offensive in December 1914, was finally stopped by the Magyars at Limanova, which has since become legendary in the Hungarian annals of war. This offensive could not move beyond the Carpathians, although the mountains lacked man-made fortifications. In May the following year, the armies of the Central Powers led
by General Mackensen succeeded in breaking through the Russian front at Gorlice, relieving the Hungarian frontier from Russian pressure.
In May, 1915, Italy, formally a member of the Triple Alliance, entered the war on the side of the Allied Powers, known as the Entente. This forced the transfer of Austro-Hungarian divisions from the East to the Italian front which saw heavy and prolonged fighting along the Isonzo. Alter Italy's entry into the war the Austrian Foreign Minister Count Berchtold, resigned and - at Tisza's recommendation - was replaced by the Hungarian Baron István Burián.
When Bulgaria entered the war against Serbia, the Serbians were finally subdued. Following this, the armies of the Central Powers under efficient German leadership succeeded in occupying almost the entire Balkan peninsula and establishing contact with the Turks who, in October, 1915, also declared war on the Entente.
At the time, Rumania was still sitting on the fence. She made up her mind only in 1916, when a great Russian offensive with 100 divisions led by General Brussilov succeeded temporarily in breaking through the still unfortified Carpathians. Expecting a quick Russian victory, Rumania declared war on the Monarchy and attacked defenseless Transylvania on August 27, 1916. However Rumania's "glory" was short-lived; within three months her forces were expelled from Transylvania, and, with the aid of German troops led by General Mackensen, the entire Rumanian army was crushed. On December 6, 1916. Rumania's capital city, Bucharest, fell, bringing that country's adventure to an inglorious end.
Just three weeks earlier, the Emperor-King Franz Joseph had died on November 16, 1916, at a time when the armies of the Central Powers seemed to have the upper hand on all fronts. Thus, his last days were brightened by a hoped-for victory. Nobody knew yet that these rays of glory were but the flickering twilight of the Monarchy, whose doom almost coincided with the King's death. His successor, Charles IV, presided over the liquidation of his inheritance.
But for the time being, nothing was lost. Charles IV was a man of good will, although unsure of himself and unable to provide strong leadership. Soon after his ascension to the throne, he tried to seek peace through family connections. His wife Zita was of the Bourbon-Parma family and had two brothers in the armed forces of the Entente, who were asked to act as intermediaries in the King's quest for peace.
The Peace Efforts Are Frustrated
Actually, the first feelers for peace were sent out by Baron Burián to his German counterpart, Bethmann Hollweg, on October 18, 1916, before Franz Joseph's death.
These feelers became formal in the official peace offer submitted on December 18, 1916, by the Central Powers through the still neutral United States. By this time, Hungary had no interest in continuing the war since she had beaten back all the attacks against her territory. The news of the peace initiative caused general rejoicing in the country; the church bells pealed, and it was in the expectation of peace that Charles IV was crowned King of Hungary in Budapest on December 30, 1916.
The peace offer of the Central Powers was a watershed in the history of the Great War. The Entente's rejection of it resulted in prolonged bloodshed. According to French estimates, France alone would have been spared the loss of close to one million of her soldiers. The Germans were contemplating unrestricted U-boat warfare with thousands of their torpedoes ready for action. However. the torpedo which caused the greatest carnage in the next two years was the propaganda effort launched by Benes and Masaryk, whose dreams for Czechoslovakia would have been shattered by a sudden end to the War. This propaganda effort, as we have already seen, was aimed at sabotaging any peace initiative.
Masaryk reminisced in his Making of a State:
I asked myself anxiously if the war would last as long as I had anticipated... For I feared that in case of a quick allied victory we would finish up empty-handed... We would not have obtained our independence; in one form or another Austria would have been preserved.
Benes' avowed aim was the dismemberment of both Austria and Hungary:
When the day of punishment, which will certainly come, strikes the great criminals, Europe must not forget the Magyars. Not only Austria must be dismembered, but also, and above all, Hungary, according to the principle of nationality. The Magyars and Germans must be separated and limited to the territory they inhabit and the Slavs delivered from their intolerant hegemony. (Bohemia's Case for Independence.)
This attempt at "separation" was manifested in a scheme to connect Czechoslovakia after the war with future Yugoslavia by a corridor along Hungary's western frontier. (More about this in the next chapter.)
Despite the Entente's rejection of the official peace offer, István Tisza wrote Penfield G. Frederick, the American ambassador to Vienna a few weeks later privately suggesting that negotiations to end the war be resumed. This initiative was disclosed only in 1931
when the War Documents of the United States were published. Although the offer was ignored, Tisza's suggestion to hold Austria, Bohemia and Hungary together was upheld in an American note sent to the British government on February 22, 1917.
Tisza protested against unrestricted submarine warfare at a cabinet meeting on January 22, 1917, foreseeing that it would bring the United States into the war. Three months later America did in fact join the war effort, ultimately sealing the fate of the Central Powers.
* * *
Toward the Abyss...
When America entered the war, Czech émigrés stepped up their activities selling the idea of Czechoslovakia. They came forward with a host of reasons why the creation of such a state would benefit Allied interests. One reason was that "Germany can only he defeated if we are prepared to back the Slavs.
Other arguments were that:
It is Bohemia that Allies will find to be the basis of their resistance against the Germans. In fact, Bohemia will constitute the very heart of the anti-German barrier. (Bohemia's Case for Independence)
The creation of an independent Czechoslovakia would remove some 12,000.000 Habsburg Slav subjects from German control, and would set them up as active custodians of European freedom.
To check German and Magyar plans, the Czechs demand that a barrier against German expansion towards the East be created in the shape of an independent Bohemia.
In retrospect, these statements may seem absurd since Czechoslovakia, "the barrier against German expansion," fell apart without the firing of a shot in the prelude to World War II.
The Monarchy's moral resistance was undermined by Wilson's famous Fourteen Points, which promised that self-determination would be based on plebiscites for all the peoples involved. This became the Allies' general slogan regarding Austria-Hungary. Social agitation from within and growing economic distress, coupled with catchy promises from abroad, pushed the monarchy toward the abyss...
Although Charles IV's efforts to conclude a separate peace for the Monarchy crumbled, the course of events in Russia resulted in a separate peace with that country at Brest-Litovsk in the fall of 1917. Despite promises to the Entente not to do so, Rumania also concluded a separate peace treaty with Austria-Hungary on May 8, 1918, as a result of her defeat by the Central Powers at the end of 1916.
Meanwhile, Germany, freed from fighting on the eastern front by the collapse of Russia, regrouped her forces and tried to turn the tide of war in her favor on the western front. But it was too late. On August 14, 1918, Marshal Hindenburg admitted to Charles IV and Foreign Minister Burián that the Entente had won the war thanks to the intervention of the United States, which had poured 1,5 million fresh and well equipped troops into the war effort.
On September 15, acting on Hindenburg's admission, Hungary was the first belligerent nation to ask Wilson for peace. Wilson's conditions were accepted by Burián on October 5, 1918, but subsequent developments nullified this initiative:
On October 17, Tisza, now a member of Parliament, announced, "We have lost the war.
On October 18, Emperor-King Charles IV solemnly recognized the right of the Austrian provinces to regroup themselves on a linguistic basis and to form separate entities within Austria in a pattern Similar to that of Swiss cantons. Moreover the King also recognized Hungary's full independence, thus practically ending the Dualism that had begun in 1867.
The next day Masaryk issued a counter-manifesto in Washington, whose essence was: "Destroy Austria-Hungary!" President Wilson, in a complete turn-about from his earlier view and promises, announced his support for Masaryk.
On October 26, Masaryk concluded an agreement with a representative of American Ruthenians, patterned after the Pittsburgh Pact which he had concluded with the American Slovaks in May, 1918, thus laying the foundation for a Czechoslovak state.
On October 29, the Zagreb Diet proclaimed Croatia's independence with the idea of eventually forming a Yugoslav kingdom with the Serbs and Slovenes.
On October 30, the birth of Czechoslovakia was announced and first recognized by the Slovak National Council at St. Martin (Túrócszentmárton) in Slovakia (Upper Hungary).
The same day a social revolution, dubbed the "Aster Revolt" (szirózsás forradalom), broke out in Budapest as a result of years of agitation by leftist elements. Count Mihály Károlyi was appointed premier and formed a cabinet of socialists, radicals and members of the Independence Party. Known as the "Bloodless revolution." it claimed but a single victim through assassination. This victim was none other than Count István Tisza, the only person who might have been able to lead Hungary out of the chaos to which she was about to succumb.
On November 3, 1918, the war was formally ended for Hungary by an armistice signed in Padua, Italy, between Hungary and the Allied Powers. The armistice left Hungary in full possession of her territorial integrity until such time as a peace treaty could be concluded.
The Red Star Rises over Hungary
As a result of the October revolution, the first Hungarian Republic was proclaimed on November 16, 1918 with Károlyi as president.
The French-Anglophile Károlyi, a radicalized aristocrat, was a man of paradox: one of the richest magnates of the country, he headed a social revolution that promised to introduce universal suffrage and agrarian reform by breaking up the large estates. He also supported equality and autonomy for the nationalities on the Swiss model, an idea developed by Károlyi's scholarly friend, Oszkár Jászi, an expert on federalism.
As a politician, however,. Károlyi was a dreamer with little practical sense. He turned out to be an utter failure, unable to achieve any of his grandiose plans. Perhaps his gravest mistake was to appoint Béla Linder as Minister of Defense. Linder's first act was to dissolve the still intact Hungarian army, whose units began pouring home from foreign fronts after the armistice. Linder's action, summed up in his infamous catch-phrase, "I don't want to see soldiers around here any more!" was a fatal blunder that left the Hungarian frontiers exposed to the hastily formed troops of the Rumanians, Serbs and Czech-Slovaks, who were eager to annex as much of Hungary as they could. In a matter of days, Linder's reassuring words, "Let no one fear hostile onslaughts... No one marches against us, for the times when conquests could be made by the force of arms are gone forever" would prove to be only a pipe-dream.
The Rumanians jumped the gun by marching into Hungarian territory in Transylvania in violation not only of the Padua armistice agreement, but also of their own peace treaty with Hungary signed just six months before. When Károlyi and his delegation met with General Franchet D'Esperay, the French "guardian" of the armistice, to protest the Rumanian action, the Hungarians were rudely brushed off. The General said he did not "give a damn" about the armistice, and that "Hungary would have to pay and atone!"
At this, the original terms of the armistice were repeatedly redrafted to accommodate the continuing advance of Rumanians, Czech-Slovaks and Serbo-Croats into Hungarian territory.
President Wilson's protests against such encroachments by the Allies went unheeded.
Frustrated by these developments and others, the hapless Károlyi resigned on March 20, 1919, after only 147 days in office. He thereby relinquished his power to the social democrats and communists. Béla Kun, a disciple of Lenin sent from Moscow, soon gained control over these elements, who proclaimed Hungary's new status as the Hungarian Soviet Republic under his leadership.
Béla Kun shrewdly sought to win over the people by appealing to Magyar patriotism, ordering the remnants of the Hungarian army to reconquer Upper Hungary and halt the Rumanian advance. A quickly organized ragtag strike force led by the talented General Aurél Stromfeld not only managed to slow down the Rumanians. but practically reconquered Upper Hungary (Slovakia), which was promptly declared a Slovak Soviet Republic to be joined in a federation with Hungary.
Thereupon, the Allied Armistice Commission, listening to Czech-Slovak complaints about their expulsion, ordered the Magyars to "immediately withdraw their forces from the Slovak countryside."
Instead of keeping Slovakia as a military trump card for use in future negotiations, Béla Kun bowed to the Allied ultimatum delivered by French Colonel Vyx, and ordered the withdrawal of Hungarian troops upon obtaining the Entente's promise to stop the further occupation of Hungary. This move completely demoralized the remaining Hungarian army while it permitted the Czechs and Rumanians to resume their occupation in violation of Entente promises.
In the meantime, Hungary, and especially
Budapest, became the scene of the so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat" (proletárdiktatura), which organized, typically, a "Terrorist Detachment of the Revolutionary Government Council" under the sadistic Tibor Szamuely and Otto Klein. In the words of Professor Macartney:
A red regime under Kun now followed Károlyi's pink one, but it only re-enacted its predecessor's faults, in aggravated forms, with none of its redeeming virtues. Kun turned the entire peasantry against him by announcing that the land was not to be distributed, hut nationalized. He set the urban population, including the industrial workers, against him in innumerable ways, and inaugurated a red terror under the vile Szamuely.
The Russians never produced the promised help against the Rumanians and, seeing his armies melting away, he fled with most of his associates to Vienna. Two days later the Rumanian troops entered Budapest.
The noted Hungarian historian, Professor Kosáry, writes about one disturbing aspect of Kun's red regime thus:
...During the whole period the privation of both the middle and lower classes steadily increased. Besides, 32 of the 45 "people's commissars" were Jews, with these the most sanguinary among them, like the sadist Szamuely. In other high positions. their proportion was just as great, a fact which made anti-Semitism very strong and general.
A great part of the assimilated Jewry, however, preserved its loyalty to the country, some of them falling victims to the Terror. The dictatorship of the proletariat in Hungary might more aptly be called the revolt of a mob composed of unassimilated, foreign, chiefly Galician element.
An American General as Hero of Hungary
The presence of the Rumanian army and its looting only added to the misery of the country which by now was completely defenseless and exhausted by the war, and terrified by 133 days of red dictatorship. The hero of Hungary in those terrible days was, curiously, an American: General Bandholz. As a member of the Allied Commission in Budapest, he witnessed the behavior of the Rumanian army with growing outrage. As he wrote in his book, An Undiplomatik Diary:
The Rumanians... began to loot Hungary, removing all automobiles, locomotives, cars and other rolling stock, took possession of and shipped to Rumania all the arms, ammunitions, and war material they could find, and then proceeded also to clean the country out of farm implements, cattle, horses, clothing, sugar, coal,. salt. and in fact everything of value...
This happened at a time when so-called "Hoover kitchens" from America were feeding nearly 100,000 hungry children three times a day in Budapest alone. Bandholz's protests to the Supreme Council as well as to the Rumanians - complete with his banging on desks and slamming of doors - soon became a daily routine. He even took the trouble to travel to Bucharest to see the King of Rumania who, according to Bandholz's Diary:
...said that the Rumanians had taken no foodstuffs. As it is bad form to call a king a liar, I simply informed His Majesty that he was badly mistaken; and that I could give him extra facts regarding thousands of carloads of foodstuffs that hat been taken out of Budapest alone...
General Bandholz's most famous deed, however was the way he saved the Hungarian National Museum from being plundered. Upon hearing that "the Rumanians were at the National Museum with a whole flock of trucks and proposed to take away many of the works of art," Bandholz took immediate action. Armed with only a riding whip, the General descended on the scene like an angry angel. He brushed aside the Rumanian guard and pinned a note to the Museum door which he promptly sealed:
This door sealed by Order Inter-Allied-Military Mission. H.H. Bandholz, Pres. of the day. 5 October 1919.
The Rumanians dared not remove this seal, which remained intact until November 15, the day after the Rumanian troops left and Horthy's national army arrived.
The Hungarian nation did not forget this brave American General. On August 23, 1936, eleven years after his death, a bronze statue of General Bandholz, strikingly true-to-life down to the riding whip, was unveiled on Liberty Square in Budapest in the presence of the highest dignitaries of Hungary. The inscription engraved in the pedestal reads:
HARRY HILL BANDHOLZ. In glorious memory of the heroic American General, noble champion of justice, the grateful Hungarian nation. 1919. "I simply carried out the instructions of my government as I understood them as an officer and gentleman of the United States Army."
THE LAST PLEA OF THE HUNGARIAN DELEGATION TO THE PEACE CONFERENCE IN TRIANON IN 1920
.. We cannot see any reason, based on the general interest or on international justice, for dismembering Hungary. There may perhaps be one and only one such reason, to which we would be prepared to bow, a moral force that might replace historic rights: the will of the populations living in the areas under dispute. Between Hungary which, convinced of its right, wishes to keep them, and Hungary's neighbours who would like to take them on various pretexts, let them go to whomsoever they wish to belong. Any solution bypassing their assent would be stained by arbitrariness. Having been reached by force, any such solution would be liable to be destroyed by force with the changing balance of power which the whole world would be free to watch. Only the freely expressed will of nations may create, in replacement of the old law which is so frequently called in question nowadays, an indisputable new law, having sufficient authority to command the respect even of those whose designs it may cross. If the arguments we have adduced in favour of keeping our territory do not seem conclusive to you, go and ask for the advice of those most directly concerned: do not deal with them as if they were cattle devoid of a will of their own. This is the touchstone of those oft-proclaimed great principles of international justice and liberty; it is here that the sincerity of those who proclaim them will be put to the test. Strengthened by those principles we demand that plebiscites be held in all the regions which it is intended to sever from Hungary. We ask that they be held under conditions of guaranteed liberty. And we declare to accept their decisions whatever they may be. And should our adversaries decline the only test which might safely establish the will of the populations concerned, their case will be referred to the judgment of the Court of Human Conscience, for they will have clearly revealed their resolve to submit to their yoke millions of human beings, who refuse to belong to them. The principle underlying the new arrangements would in that case be neither the ethnic principle, nor that of justice, nor even that of liberty - it would be the enslavement of the vanquished which would thus emerge as the dominant idea of the twentieth century." *
FROM PRESIDENT WILSON'S LAST PLEA...
Nothing I venture to say is more likely to disturb the peace of the world than the treatment which might in certain circumstances be meted our to minorities and, therefore, if the Great Powers are to guarantee the peace of the world in any sense, is it unjust that they should be satisfied that the proper and necessary guarantees have been given? If we agree to the additions of territory asked for in this instance (particularly by Prime Minister Bratianu of Rumania), we have the vested right to insist upon certain guarantees of peace.
,,In Transsylvania the Treaty of Trianon placed more than two millions of individuals of Western civilisation and moral standard under the rule of a people of half oriental civilisation and morals: The Roumanians. It extended the Balkanic morass of corruption to a country which hitherto was free from it. The situation is exactly the same as if the South-Western regions of the United States were allotted to Mexico and several millions of Americans compelled to live under the form of Government which developed in that latter country."
Report of the Committee sent out by
the Unitarian Church of America.
,,From the very beginning a slur clings to the policy of extension of the Roumanian Kingdom. Unless the King and his Government do not their best to wash off that slur: unevitable nemesis is sure to fall upon their Country."
Report of the Presbyterian World-Confederation.
In 1919 the peace-treaties were framed when bitterness and exhaustion were still prevailing. They were made upon the evidence of informations which were neither satisfactory nor practical and which showed Europe's situation at that time in an entirely false light to the eyes of the .Allied Powers".
.,I must admit that at the time of the peace-negotiations we have been supplied from certain quarters with false data and it was upon the basis of these false data we decided of frontiers and race."
,,The most perfect geographic and economic unit of Europe is Hungary and it is this they want now to tear to pieces! The peoples to be separated are going to be sentenced to exchange higher civilisation for that of a lower standard. Worst of all is that they intend to drive - like some sort of cattle - three and a half millions of pure Magyars and one and a half million of Hungarians of German origin from one State to another, without so much as to ask for their opinion."
Lord Newton (1920).
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