|Mark Imre Major : American Hungarian Relations 1918-1944|
THE FOURTH OF JULY AT BUDAPEST:
A lively interest has always been felt in Hungary for every manifestation of American thought. The American ideal, as seen before, found one of its first and finest interpretations in a Hungarian book by a Transylvanian Unitarian, Alexander Boloni Farkas, published under the title Travels in North America. It contains an almost religiously inspired enthusiastic account of the world of real democracy, the Land of Promise. For the writer of this book, America meant the personification of the highest degree of human happiness, a Paradise on earth. For him, Republicanism, Liberalism, Democracy, were no mere political catchwords, but religious convicitions, as is made evident by his meditations over Washington's tomb:
I have stood at the graves of kings and celebrated men, have admired the memorials of their deeds, but that feeling of reverence which suddenly thrilled through me before this tomb I had only felt in the Pantheon and in Westminster Abbey. There passed through my mind all the sufferings and struggles undergone by America for the rights of man, struggles in which the man whose dust lay at my feet had so large a share, and I felt my heart throb. Had I not been restrained by cold reason, I would willingly have prostrated myself before this tomb".(1)
Alexander Farkas' book of travels exercised a decisive influence on the course of Hungarian history by directing the interest of public men of the age towards the New World. Tocqueville's work on America was translated into Hungarian within a year of its publication, and it is known that Kossuth read it with lively interest. The example of the American War of Independence was frequently cited in the course of the Hungarian struggle for liberty. "The principles of the American Declaration of Independence", said Francis Pulszky, a leader of the Hungarian revolution in 1848, "were the guiding principles also in the Hungarian war of liberation". (2) In his American speeches Kossuth advocated four fundamental conceptions which have been the guiding ideas of the second half of the twentieth century:
1) the right of every nation to dispose of its own affairs;
2 ) the abolition of secret diplomacy;
3) America's participation in world affairs, especially in European affairs; and
4) an alliance between Great Birtain and America, which later on might be joined by other states for a concerted defense of the self-determination of the small nations.
Kossuth preached the union of the Anglo-Saxon democracies in opposition to the autocratic European powers. "England and America!" he addressed the English-speaking nations, "Do not forget in your proud security those who are oppressed... Save those millions of people, and thus become the saviours of Democracy". (3)
Another vehicle for the penetration of American thought into Hungary was the returning emigrants. Besides introducing improved methods of agriculture and industry, they awakened a certain intellectual ambition in their country and introduced a more democratic spirit. They wanted a Hungary more like America. The statue of George Washington in the City Park at Budapest is the best proof of this spirit. This statue, unveiled on September 16,
1906, was donated by popular subscription on the part of American citizens of Hungarian origin. (4)
Friendly relations were established between the two nations after World War I. During the war, the Hungarians living in the States were treated with consideration, nor was a single American insulted in Hungary. Hungary remembered with no little gratitude the manifold benefits she received at America's hands after the First World War. When, as was mentioned before, the Rumanians tried to carry away the contents of the Hungarian National Museum, it was the American General Bandholtz who prevented them from carrying out this design and thus saved these treasures for Hungary. It was also remembered that during the years of hardship experienced by Hungary in the early 1920's, a large per centage of the children of Budapest were saved through the devoted care of the American Red Cross. Captain James Pedlow, Chief of the American Red Cross Society at Budapest, and Captain George Richardson, Chief of the American Relief Administration at Budapest, organized a child feeding program at Budapest in 1920. With the help of Mrs. Clare Thompson of California, they fed 100,000 children a day in Budapest. Mrs. Thompson had lived in Budapest since the outbreak of the war, and after the war she devoted herself to the support of suffering Hungarians. She herself distributed 15,000 dresses among old ladies. Captain Pedlow also rendered Hungary a great service by furnishing medicines and bandages. From January until August, 1920, the American Relief Action for Hungary distributed 85,962 kgs of coca; 335,200 kgs of sugar; 545,377 boxes of condensed milk; 542,511 kgs of flour; 226,115 kgs of rice; 46,552 kgs of lard; 16,342 kgs of oil; 62,982 tins of fish: a total value of 148,260,475 crowns.
Furthermore it distributed 50,000 pairs of shoes and boots; 500,000 stockings; 19,700 overcoats; 17,000 boys' suits; 13,940 girls' frocks: making a grand total value of 42,716,600 crowns.(5)
In reply to this American charity work, the Fourth of July, American Independence Day, was solemnly celebrated by Budapest society in 1920. The municipal schools and the various women's clubs arranged a brilliant festival in the National Museum Gardens where a huge crowd assembled early in the morning. A religious service was held in the large hall of the Museum, richly decorated in Hungarian and American colors. The municipal guard in Hungarian national costume, the cadets of the Military Academy, school children, and the municipal corporations were grouped in the Gardens of the Museum. On the two sides of the altar, the members of the Cabinet and the American Red Cross Mission had their seats. Many prominent figures of Budapest society attended. After the celebration of the Mass by Bishop Zadravecz, hymns and the national anthems were sung. The Bishop concluded the service with a sermon, expressing all Hungary's gratitude to the representatives of American charity.(6)
From that time, it became a custom to celebrate Independence Day at Budapest. In 1921, the Hungarian-American Society was formed at Budapest for the purpose of promoting good relations between the two nations and strengthening the traditional bonds between the two peoples. One of the activities of the Hungarian-American Society was to organize the celebration of Independence Day. Usually the celebration took place at the George
Washington statue in the City Park. Over the years, several United States Senators and Representatives went from Washington to Budapest to participate in the celebration. Outstanding among the American visitors were Senator Borah, Hungary's great advocate in the United States Senate; Senator Elbert D. Thomas; Representative William E. Richardson; Representative Bryant T. Castellow, and Representative Thomas S. McMillan. Robert M. LaFollete, ex-governor of Wisconsin, took part in the celebration in 1922, making some interesting statements against the Versailles Treaties. Prominent Hungarian-born Americans frequently attended, among them George Kende, Editor of the Amerikai Magyar Nepszava, New York, and Stephen Puky, Editor of Szabadsag, Cleveland.
The Hungarian government was always officially represented at the celebration. Addresses were derivered by great Hungarian public personalities and by the American Minister at Budapest. Usually, the addresses expressed gratitude for the friendship of the two nations and pointed out that the Budapest monument of George Washington embodied two ideas: the clear recognition of the basic principle on which the greatness of the American nation rested and the feeling of permanent relationship with the American nation. As far as this relationship was concerned, the American conception of freedom was probably different from the Hungarian, but the essential feature was the common ideal in the character of both nations: their love for freedom and independence. (7) Between the two World Wars, approximately ten thousand American citizens visited Hungary each year. Probably the majority of these visitors were Hungarian-born Americans, but there were many others also. Each year a number of American students went to Hungary. Some were visitors, others studied at the Academy of Music at Budapest. Still others were professional people.
Among them were Professor H. A. Heydt of New York University and William Randolph Hearst, the well-known newspaper publisher. On the occasion of the latter's visit, the Hungarian papers recalled that Hearst had proved to be a valuable friend of Hungary. In 1927, a group of American editorial writers visited Hungary under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In the next year, sixty American physicians, many with their families, arrived in Budapest on an European tour arranged by the Interstate Post-Graduate Assembly of North America. They visited clinics and hospitals, lectured at the University of Budapest, and were greatly impressed by Hungarian achievements in medicine and surgery.(8)
The most outstanding American who visited Hungary between the two World War was General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff of the United States Army. General MacArthur visited Hungary from September 17 to 20, 1932, as guest of the Hungarian Army. During this time he met many of the leaders of Hungarian civil and military life, including the Regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Prime Minister, Cabinet members, and the chief officers of the Hungarian army, upon all of whom he made a distinctly favorable impression. As the first high American officer to pay a friendly visit to the Hungarian army since World War I, his visit was a source of paricular satisfaction to Hungarians and undoubtedly served to strengthen Hungary's friendly dispo sition towards the United States. (9)
Another merely cultural event caused some political consequences for Hungary and the United States. Major General Harry Hill Bandholtz, whose activity in Hungary was discussed previously, died peacefully in the sixty-first year of his life in 1925, in Constantine, Michigan. But his name occured again in Hungarian cultural life eleven years after his death. In 1936, the American citizens of Hungarian origin and the Hungarian Revisionist League decided to erect a monument to Bandholtz at Budapest.
It was decided to erect the mounment on the Szabadsag Ter (Freedom Square), where there were erected monuments of the Lost Provinces, and where the Flag, in mourning for these provinces, was placed. Appropriately, the Legation of the American Government was also located there. The Organization Committee decided that the dedication ceremony would take place on the Fourth of July, 1936. This was not only Independence Day of the IJnited States but also the day that the Inter-Parliamentary Union held its meeting in the Hungarian Capital. The Organization Committee wanted to give great publicity to the dedication. It was supposed that Senator Barkley, who expected to attend the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Budapest, would be invited to deliver a speech. The Committee sent invitations to John N. Garner, President of the Senate; Sam D. McReynolds, Chair man of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House; and George H. Dern, Secretary of War.
Rumania protested, pointing out that the ceremony was organized by the Revisionist League and claiming that its motive was to shame Rumania. The State Department of the United States wanted to prevent any incident unpleasant either to Hungary or Rumania. It passed a resolution that, since the dedication of the monument was apparently not an official function but a semi-private one, it would be unnecessary for an American citizen to make any remarks and it was to be wished that no high official be there. Baron Sigsmund Perenyi, one of the two Presidents of the Organization Committee, pointed out to the American Minister at Budapest that it would be sad indeed to unveil a monument of an American General and not have any American on the program. Furthermore, he promised that nothing would be said to offend Rumania; the addresses would be confined merely to lauding an American General who helped Hungary in a time of great stress.
The negotiations ended in compromise. The Hungarians agreed to hold the unveiling ceremony on the 23rd of August instead of July 4th, and the Department of State permitted the members of the Legation of the United States at Budapest to attend the
ceremony. The principal address was delivered by Baron Perenyi. He eulogized General Harry Hill Bandholtz as a great soldier, a fearless knight, and an upright man. He did not make mention of Rumania but said that Bandholtz' glory was proclaimed by the invaluable treasures of the Hungarian National Museum, which he saved from destruction; therefore, all honor was due to the American Army which had such blameless and upright officers as Bandholtz; honor was due also the American Commonwealth which breeds gentlemen like Bandholtz, who follow the sublime rules of justice and love of humanity. Finally he stated:
This statue will be companion to another statue which stands in the City Park, to the statue raised by the freedom loving Hungarian nation to the greatest American. He will be a companion to the statue of George Washington who in his famous farewell message taught his people: Be united, be Americans. Observe Justice and good faith toward all nations. (10)
The statue was accepted in the name of the City of Budapest by the mayor, Dr. Charles Szendy, who spoke as follows: ". . . I am extremely pleased to accept this monument because it not only expressed the gratitude of Hungary, but at the same time is a model of what we Hungarians should be: upright, strong and brave".(11) The Commander-in-Chief of the Hungarian Army placed a wreath before the statue in the name of the Regent. On the front of the base of the bronze statue there was carved in the stone a quotation from a letter which General Bandholtz wrote to a Hungarian-American in New York:
I simply carried out the instructions of my Government as I understood them as an officer and gentleman of the United States Army.
Harry Hill Bandholtz. (12)
Besides these social relations, mentioned above, American cultural influences were felt on all levels of Hungarian society in the twenties and thirties. They affected every age group. The writer of this account will simply try to recall his encounters with American culture as he grew up in Hungary.
Hardly any middle class boy reached his teens without reading Indian stories (Buffalo Bill) and James Fenimore Cooper's Leather Stocking. Together with the works of Karl May who, in spite of being a German who had never left Europe, could spark the imagination with descriptions of the New World, these stories helped to make America and the Wild West very real to Hungarian youngsters. They, of course, were rendered in Hungarian. This streak of substitute adventurism continued to be fed by a host of paperbacks, such as the thrillers of Nick Carter and the cowboy stories of Zane Grey. Pesti Hirlap, a prominent Budapest daily, issued a Western in translation each and every Sunday. They sold for 26 fillers (the Hungarian penny), and continued to be published until 1938 when a disapproval of American popular literature began to manifest itself with increasing vigor.
American movies and jazz music influenced the popular mind even more than American literature. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Twentieth Centruy Fox were associated with chains of theaters especially in the capital of Hungary (Royal Apollo, Forum, Capitol, Corvin, etc.) and stood in stiff competition on the novelty market with the German industry (UFA). First showing of American feature films were held in Budapest only a few months or even a few weeks later than in Hollywood. American newsreels reached Budapest with the utmost speed alowed by an age prior to transatlantic flights.
An incessant flow of American motion pictures affected Hungary in those days making very well-known the names of Irene Dunne, Deanna Durbin, Dorothy Lamour, Tyrone Power, Douglas Fairbanks, Fred Astaire, Alice Faye, Hedy Lamar, Bette Davis, and many others. The yearly series of Broadway Melodies in the second half of the Thirties, even Gone with the Wind, duly reached
Hungary, although the latter was issued when the Second World War was already a reality. Earlier, Charlie Chaplin and the Laurel and Hardy comedies had been equally well known. Indeed, so were all the American classics of the silent movie era. Then came the cartoons: Mickey Mouse, and the early Walt Disneys, such as the Three Little Pigs and Snow White. The Wizard of Oz reached Hungary just before the German occupation. I well remember King Kong, not to mention several of the Tarzan series, or, of a more serious kind, Juarez.
The marketing of records affected a smaller part of the population than paperbacks and motion pictures. Even so, practically no middle class household was without American records, especially if the household included young people. Among the classics, Gershwin; among the popular songs, Irving Berlin - these one could find all over. Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was played continuously and his Porgy and Bess received great recognition when an American company of Negro singers staged it in Budapest in l935
If Hungary ever had an influence on American cultural life, it was in the world of music. Every music student in America knows the name of Ferenc (Franz) Liszt, the greatly celebrated Hungarian pianist and composer who introduced a new composition of harmony and melody that presaged the development of modern music in the twentieth century. Between the two wars, many of Hungary's best musicians came to the United States. Among them was Bela Bartok, Hungary's great composer of the century and one of the great composers of the age, who made his first tour in the United States in 1927-28, playing with orchestras and in concerts from coast to coast. Upon his return to Hungary he continued to teach and compose in Budapest. In the fall of 1940 he came to America again, where he remained until his death. The influence of Bartok music on young composers in Hungary and in the United States was very great, and still has continued to increase since his death. Some of Bartok's music was used on the stage. Prince Bluebeard's Castle, a one-act opera, and The
Wooden Prince and The Miraculous Mandarin ballets, all had great success in New York.(13)
Imre Kalman, one of the most famous composers of Viennese music, also came to the United States preceding the outbreak of the Second World War. In the United States millions were familiar with the melodies of "Countess Maritza" and "Sari", though they might not know the name of the composer. His first success was with The Gsy Hussars, performed in New York just before World War I. Between the two wars, many of Kalman's light operas had their first performances in the United States, such as Her Soldier Boy, Golden Dawn, and Marinka, the romantic story of crown Prince Rudolph of Austria and Hungary and Baroness Marie Vetsera. (14)
Sigmund Romberg, another Hungarian, became one of the most successful composers of popular operetta music in the United States. Romberg composed over seventy operettas, including The Midnight Girl, The Blue Paradise, The Rose of Stanboul, The Student Prince, The Desert Song, My Maryland, The New Moon, Up in Central Park, and many others.(15)
Albert Szirmay has also enriched American musical life. Szirmay arranged the music of the Songs of the Rivers of America, edited by Carl Carmer, and a collection of more than a hundred songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Among the more notable compositions of his own was Mezeskalacs (Gingerbread).
Another Hungarian-born musician in the United States was Tibor Serly, composer and conductor. Serly was taken to America as a child but studied at the Royal Academy in Budapest. After graduating, he returned to the United States and played viola in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the N.B.C. Symphony Orchestra. In 1937 he settled in New
York as a music teacher. Besides being a violinist and conductor, Serly was a composer of symphonies, a ballet for orchestra, suites, chamber music, and orchestral music.(16)
It would be out of the question to enumerate all the noted singers Hungary has given to the United States, so that again selections must be made at random. One of the most promising Hungarian-born opera singers was Lajos Rozsa. He came to the United States after World War I and appeared on the Metropolitan Operate stage with success. His son, Miklos Rozsa, carried on the family's musical tradition as a successful film music composer.
One of America's recognized Wagnerian singers was also Hungarian-born, Friedrich Schorr. His operatic career began in the Austrian city of Graz. The New York Metropolitan Opera House first saw him in 1924 and he was strong in Wagnerian roles for two decades.
Among many other Hungarian singers who appeared in the United States the most famous was Alexander Sved. He made his Hungarian Royal Opera debut in ll Trovatore in 1927, sang in State operas in Vienna, Berlin, and Munich at Covent Garden, the Paris Opera Comique, the Teatro della Scala of Milan, at the Teatro Reale of Rome, in the festivals of Firenze, Salzburg and Bayreuth, at Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, at the Chicago Civic Opera, winding up at the Metropolitan of New York, with a repertory of thirty-four roles, singing in English, Italian, German, French, and Hungarian.
Another Hungarian-born singer to earn high praise in the United States was Enid Szanto. She had her musical education at the Royal Academy of Music at Budapest, her debut at the Vienna Opera in 1928, and her American debut with the New York Phil harmonic in 1936. Also she appeared at the Bayreuth Wagner Festivals, Covent Garden, the City Center, and Metropolitan Opera in New York.
1 Quoted in Stephen Gal, Hungary and the Anglo-Saxon World (Budapest: Published by the Society of the Hungarian Quarterly, 1943), p. 504.
2 Ibid., p. 507.
4 U. S., Deparlment of State, 864.43/Ol65. According to the best knowledge of the author, Washington's statue is still there and Budapest is the only capital in Eastern Europe which has a statue of George Washington.
5 For details on the work of the Amerlcan Red Cross and of the American Relief Action, see U. S., State Department, 864.461, and National Aechives, Microcopy No. 708, Roll 21.
On the Hungarian side, the American charity work in Hungary is pralsed in the Hungarian Nalion (Budapest monthly review in English), I (April, 1920), 45. "...American charity knows how to work: quietly, zealously, with an exellent organization; where misery is worst there we are sure to find our helpful American friends."
6 The Hungarian Nation, I, No. 8 (1920), 77.
7 For full details of the celebrations of Fourth of July at Budapest, see the annual reports of the American Minister at Budapest. U. S., Department of State, 864.46211/1 - 17.
8 U. S., Department of State, 864.00 P.R./9
9 Ibid., 86420111/1 - 3.
10 U. S., Department ot State, 864.413/16.
11 Ibid., 864.413/17.
12 Ibid., 864.413/18. Bandholtz' Statue was removed by the Communist authorities in 1949.
13 Nicolas Slorninsky, Baker's Bibliographical Dictionary ot Musicians (New York: G. Schirmer, 1958) p 93
14 Ibid., p. 802.
15 Ibid., p. 1364.
16 Ibid., p. 1498.
|Mark Imre Major : American Hungarian Relations 1918-1944|