|Hungary - The Unwilling Satellite|
EXPANSION OF Germany in central Europe was the main threat to the balance of power in Europe and thus to European peace. In this respect Austria's independence was the pivot: As long as it was maintained Germany could not expand in central Europe and in the Balkans; on the other hand, if Hitler were master of Vienna the road to Constantinople would be thrown open. This is the reason why the independence of Austria became the number one question for the Allied powers the minute Hitler rose to power.
The basis of the Axis pact of October 20, 1936, was, as I have said, Hitler's and Mussolini's mutual pledge not to change the status quo of and in Austria. Hitler promised to refrain from undermining and destroying Austria's independence - - which of course was a fraud on his part; but what was Italy to do or, rather, not to do? Certainly she did not want to annex Austria. There was, however, one thing that worried Hitler: that was Mussolini's apparent inclination to flirt with the possibility of a monarchist restoration in Vienna as a means of bolstering Austria's self- assurance.
The restoration of the Hapsburgs in either Budapest or Vienna was very much feared by Hitler. It is odd that we in America consider the Hapsburgs decadent and think it would make no particular difference whether Hungary or Austria had a Hapsburg king. The truth is that Franz Josefwas a much better king and emperor than we credited him with being. To Hungarians and others in central Europe, restoration would have been a magnet that would have attracted millions of other former subjects, jeopardizing Hitler's power, as well as the Little Entente. Mussolini had that in mind when he favored a monarchy for Austria, but this went by the board when he and Hitler were pushed together. There was another reason why Hitler opposed the monarchy: It was of the utmost importance for him to achieve his first and decisive territorial conquest without resort to arms. It is an open question whether a monarchy in Vienna would have succeeded better than the chancellors Dollfuss and Schuschniggin stemming the rising tide of national socialism in that German- speaking country. But Hitler must have realized that a crowned ruler was much more unlikely than Schuschniggto surrender without firing a shot - he knew that the small Austrian army would be bound by stronger ties to a monarch than to a colorless president in a country without a republican tradition. In his early days as a violent nationalist, Hitler had a deep contempt for what he and his like called the boneless, decrepit, supranational dynasty, but the undisguised violence of his aversion to Hapsburg restoration had still another and more important cause.
Leftist propaganda, largely fed and financed from the outside, has convinced many Americans that Hitlerism was the child of a conspiracy of German aristocrats who needed a modernized type of their old militarism. "Nazis and Junkers" was the slogan. In reality, Hitlerism was mobocracy, it was national socialism, or the German brand of Stalinsm. Hitler's natural enemies were the Junkers and the other aristocrats, first of all the monarchists. Among them, especially, were those whom he had cheated into believing that he was the pioneer of a monarchist restoration. They felt the whole weight of Himmler's cruelty. The monarchists, by no means the communists, were the only opposition of which Hitler was really and permanently afraid. It was, in fact, the only opposition which almost succeeded in killing him. Hitler objected to the restoration of the throne in Austria because he feared the repercussions on Germany. Finally he invaded Austria because he could not tolerate a plebiscite which would have shown that the majority of a German speaking country was anti- Nazi. In that case, too, he feared the repercussions. A successful restoration in Austria would have encouraged the opposition in Germany.
No simple formula could ever do justice to the complexity of the situation in the Danubian Basin in the Hitler period. On the surface, as we have seen, it appeared as if there were two camps, one for and one against revision of the peace- settlements of 1919. Hence Germany, Italy and Hungary stood against France and the Little Entente, though this grouping was not rigid, because Italy and Hungary felt jeopardized by Hitler. Now we have another element of division: Hitler's anti- Hapsburg attitude was very much to the liking of the Little Entente, for, Czechs, Serbsand Rumanians were afraid of the effect a restoration in Vienna and perhaps in Budapest would have on the peoples in their countries who favored restoration of Danubian unity. England's policy in maintaining a balance of power, in the face of the growing power of Germany and the Austro- Hungarian Empire, hinged, before the first World War, upon encouragement of all pan- Slavic movements. She was instrumental in dissolving the Austro- Hungarian Empire and strengthening Slavs through backing the Little Entente - - in which Mr. Benes was her obedient instrument. France had been persuaded to do likewise because of her constant fear of Germany.
Mr. Benes, during the twenty years which elapsed between the two world wars, had established a policy in central Europe aimed at the permanent disruption of Danubian unity. He had obtained power and independence for his nation by means of the slogan: destroy Austria- Hungary; he continued to pursue that policy when it was very much outmoded and even dangerous to Czechoslovakia herself.
Relying on French and British support, and later on collaboration with Soviet Russia, Benes created and obstinately maintained the Little Entente system aimed at the permanent subjection of Austria and Hungary .He was the standard bearer of the enemies of Hapsburg restoration, a symbol of Danubian unity which, in most parts of the former Austro- Hungarian Empire, might have been accepted by the majority of the people. Even after Hitler's ascension to power, Benes continued his "bad neighbor policy," and at the same time antagonized all the national minorities within Czechoslovakia, where, if the Slovaks are included, the non- Czechs amounted to one half of the population of the state.
Thus, in spite of democratic appearances, Mr. Benes' regime was resented as oppressive and hostile to the basic interest of the Danubian peoples, which is unity. He practically played into the hands of Hitler, whose menace for a long time he did not recognize. Preceding the Assembly meeting of the League of Nations, in September 1934, the semiofficial newspaper of the French Foreign Office, Le Temps, seemed to show sympathy for the restoration of Danubian unity under Hapsburg leadership in order to stop Nazi expansion. So, on their way to Geneva, the foreign ministers of the Little Entente held a meeting in Ljubljana (Yugoslavia) where they decided to protest with the French government against such a change of French policy and to warn the government of France that should they continue this trend, the Little Entente would break away from France and join hands with Hitler. On several occasions, Mr. Benes had stated publicly that he would always get along with the Germans, and his policy betrayed that he considered restoration of the Hapsburg monarchy and Danubian unity a graver danger than the annexation of Austria by the Nazis. In March 1938, when Hitler prepared to invade Austria, Mr. Benes did not move a finger to bolster up Austrian resistance. On the contrary, he had helped to undermine the internal order of Austria by rearming the Austrian social democrats and inciting them to revolt against Dollfuss and also by aiding subversive leftist tendencies against Chancellor Schuschniggwhile the latter was desperately trying to stave off Nazi aggression from the right. All this had considerably contributed to a weakening and disintegration of Austrian resistance against Hitler.
Thus, Mr. Benes paved the way for Hitler's bloodless victory at Munich, in September 1938, and for his triumphant march into Prague in March 1939.
Had the old Austro- Hungarian monarchy, which we helped to destroy, been in existence during Hitler's rise, what a different situation there might have been! The Austria and Hungary which followed World War I had no military strength, nor had they any war potential because Austria had lost her best industrial region, the Sudetenland and Hungary was chiefly agricultural. How could the appearance of a prince in Vienna or Budapest have affected the Little Entente, if all the different nationalities in these countries were as well satisfied as we were led to believe? The truth is that the Czechs had never really granted equality to Sudetenlandrs, Slovaks, Magyars, Ruthenians and Poles, and the Serbshad to resort to a dictatorship to prevent the secession of the Croats and maybe Slovenes. The Rumanians were not any too kind to their Magyar subjects and had not done too well in administering the large territory which they had received from the victors. They were afraid of what they disparaged as "the ghost of a dead past." The Serbs led by Stoyadinovitch, had an open ear to Goerings promptings. "Look," he whispered, "we Germans are not really interested in acquiring Slavic areas, but the Hapsburg tradition is very much alive among your Catholic Croats, and there is Mussolini and the Vatican." Hitler exaggerated the chances of the Hapsburgs, but it was effective. In reality, the monarchist movement in Austria was rather weak. The socialists had successfully spread the notion that monarchy was identical with political and economic reaction. The nationalists were opposed to that supranational family. They spread the legend that Empress Zita had betrayed the army to Italy during the armistice negotiations in 1918. The Catholic Party, which dominated the scene, was not inclined to share its power with the champions of the pretender, still less to cede it to him. Dollfuss' and even Schuschniggs bows to the idea of restoration were little more than empty gestures. Altogether, the strength of monarchism could not be gauged. There was an undercurrent nourished by the vague and inarticulate feeling that monarchism meant stability, because it had given stability in a better past. Prince Starhemberg, the leader of the Heimwehren, said that Austrians would not mount the barricades for Otto nor would they do it against him. Possibly if Ottohad returned, the nation might have rallied around him, if only for the reason that Dollfuss and Schuschniggwere unable to bridge the abyss that separated them from the socialists.
In Hungary the prospects for restoration were no better than in Austria, largely on account of the international situation. Hungarians liked the idea of having a monarchy but the throne had to be kept vacant to placate the Little Entente. Later, when German pressure grew, it became apparent that even greater risks were caused by the absence of a monarch. If Horthy had died, Germany would have redoubled her efforts to give him a quisling successor and it would have been very embarrassing to refuse. But there also was in Hungary a very strong anti- Hapsburg tradition. Even after centuries of Hapsburg rule, Magyar nationalists considered them a foreign dynasty. The fact that one- third of the Magyars in Hungary are Protestants has a strong political effect. The Turks, while they governed the major part of Hungary until 1698, favored Protestantism against the Catholic Hapsburgs. This established a tradition that was still noticeable when I was in Hungary. Restoration seemed to find a better ear among Catholics than among Protestants. Hungarian nationalists never forgave Franz Joseffor calling on Russians to help put down the Magyar Revolution in 1849. All through the nineteenth century, Hungarian nationalists were afraid lest the Hapsburg ruler ally himself with the national claims of Croats and Slovaks against Magyar control. The most serious opposition to a Hapsburg restoration between the two wars were the so- called Free Electors who stood for monarchy as against a republic, but did not recognize Ottos claims as legitimate. They wanted a national king, probably unconnected with Austria. While I could speculate as to what would happen in Austria if Ottohad returned, there was no doubt about Hungary's attitude. Ottowould not have been well received at that time. Official Budapest was not at all enamored with the idea of restoration in Vienna, because it thought it would increase factionalism in Hungary, and that it would expose Austria to risks without corresponding benefits. The Foreign Office always made it clear, however, that it was not Hungary's province to interfere in Austria's affairs.
This was not the attitude of the Little Entente. Titulescu the pro- Russian foreign minister of Rumania, for many years could never forego the pleasure of telling Hungary and Austria that a Hapsburg restoration would mean war with the Little Entente. As I have mentioned, Benes echoed it with Yugoslav leaders. Since this was considered an effrontery, even by anti-monarchists, it contributed greatly to keeping the Hapsburg idea alive. I was startled when on February 22, 1937, Foreign Minister de Kanyagave me the remarkable information that according to the Czech minister, Mr. Kobr, Prague had decided to favor restoration in Vienna as an antidote to Anschluss. This must have been a passing mood, perhaps a trial balloon for some unknown purpose in Czech relations with Germany. Mr. de Kanyaalso explained to me that on the other hand the Yugoslavs were most afraid of restoration in either Budapest or Vienna, since it might look like a revival of the old dual monarchy. Most probably a non- Hapsburg candidate would have met with less resistance. However, the value of a monarchy without legitimacy is questionable. Mussolini undoubtedly toyed with the idea of putting an Italian prince on the Hungarian throne. A number of times this was mentioned, but received no favor in Hungary.
In November 1937, Tibor Eckhardt created a sensation by making a speech which was interpreted as monarchistic. His explanation was that he sought to free the problem from its evil atmosphere of underground conspiracy. Monarchism, he told me, legitimate or not, had to be the object of popular discussion. As a result of his speech, there was a great deal of discussion of Dr. Eckhardt, but practically none of restoration. People seemed quite annoyed that he brought the matter up in such a way. Temporarily he lost a great deal of his popularity as a result - - especially with the pro- Nazi elements. But Dr. Eckhardt told me that in his conversations with legitimists he had advised them not to think of a coup- de- main, or any other interference with Hungary's constitutional and legal institutions.
When President Rooseveltreceived Ottoin 1940 under the auspices of Mr. Bullitt who was at that time ambassador to France, this was interpreted by many in Budapest as a symptom of a French plot aimed at forcing Ottoon the Hungarians. Count Teleki was much upset about it. This was before Hitler's attack on France, when the latter was still regarded as the decisive power in Europe. Teleki told me that Hungary wanted to stay absolutely independent and not be connected with or dominated by either Germans or the French. He said there was no movement in Hungary for restoration; and the question of whether Hungary would have a king was something that the Hungarian people were capable of deciding for themselves at the appropriate time. Little Entente spokesmen could not have been more excited than Teleki and de Kanyaon this occasion.
I met Ottoa number of times while he was in America. I found him keen-witted and alert, although somewhat too reliant on his undeniable personal charm. It must be hard for a man to face the life he is facing after having been brought up from his childhood as His Majesty. I attended a large dinner in Washington one night and sat at the same table with Otto It amused me very much to hear someone at the table address him as "Archie." I don't know what he thought of it, but he acted as though it were his name.
I am of the opinion that Ottos stay in America did not further his cause, as far as this country was concerned. Advised by an unworldly entourage, he attached too much importance to the friendly remarks of President Roosevelt Czech propaganda, of course, held him under concentrated fire which did not allow an unbiased judgment. Completely disregarding organized teamwork, he exposed himself unnecessarily and seemed to be animated by the conviction that he bore an historical mission which was more important than his personal welfare.
The Hapsburg problem in Hungary and Austria has been blamed for the failure of all attempts to form a republican Danubian confederation. Hungary and Austria, however, could not be expected to renounce their freedom of decision, and at that time the economic problems involved seemed insoluble. Though American tourists were very much interested in the subject, Hungarians seemed to have very little interest in Ottoand seldom voluntarily mentioned him. Whatever concerted movement there was toward restoration, it was negligible. No one, however, would admit that anyone but a legitimate Hapsburg heir could be crowned. I never did know whether this was due as much to loyalty for the Hapsburg family as to the fact that the Little Entente said that a Hapsburg would not be tolerated. The only person who ever mentioned a republic to me was Baron Apor, who said that he thought Hungary would some day be considered a republic, should the existing situation become stabilized, and he called my attention to the fact that it was in effect a republic on the French model at that time.
|Hungary - The Unwilling Satellite|