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Explanations for the Failure of Direct Negotiations

Immediately after the failure of the negotiations of Komarom the Hungarian Government addressed identical notes to London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, and Warsaw. The note summarized briefly events pertaining to the Czechoslovak-Hungarian problems since the signature of the Munich Agreement, and described the main features of the Conference of Komarom.

According to the Hungarian Government the Czechoslovak offers amounted only to "frontier rectifications of certain importance." They excluded the retrocession of all the important towns of Hungarian majority in the disputed territory.1

From the maps and from the comments of the Slovaks, continued the note, the Hungarian Government arrived at the conviction that the Czechoslovak negotiators were less guided by the ethnic principle that formed the basis of the Munich arrangements than by strategic and economic considerations, as well as those of railway communications.

The bringing in of considerations not applied to the solution of the German and the Polish questions constituted, in the Hungarian view, a refusal by the Czechoslovak Government to apply the principle of equal treatment.

Just prior to the last session of the conference, the note explained, the Hungarians found their suspicion confirmed. The dilatory tactics of the Czechoslovak negotiators were geared to the regrouping of their armed forces. The military expert of the Slovak delegation himself had delivered a menacing speech over the Pressburg radio, followed by an appeal to the citizens and soldiers.

Instead of extorting thereby concessions from Hungary, as was evidently the Czechoslovak goal, the above manifestations resulted in the Hungarian delegation's determination "to interrupt these absolutely useless negotiations where the conciliatory spirit of the Munich arrangements has lost all grounds."2


In addition, concluded the note, "the provocative attitude" adopted by the Czechoslovak Government had obliged the Hungarian Government to take military measure, dictated "by the necessity of the situation and by the security interests of the country. "3

The recipients of the note were asked to take the contents into consideration with a view to a speedy settlement, based on the right to equal treatment.

On their part the Czechoslovaks pointed out that, desiring to reach a "lasting, fair, and rapid settlement," they had agreed to open negotiations ten days after the Munich Conference, although the latter had contemplated a delay of three months. Furthermore, they had agreed to symbolic cession on the very first day of the negotiations.

Their proposal stipulated for the cession of 400,000 persons, including 330,000 Hungarians, and leaving approximately the same number of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia as Slovaks and Ruthenes in Hungary. Finally, "they had emphasized that even this proposal was not final and that they wished to continue discussions on basis of mutual concessions."4

The Czechoslovak spokesman accused the Hungarian delegation of submitting an extremely unfavorable, as well as unacceptable proposal; with refusing to put forward a second proposal despite the earnest request of the Czechoslovak delegation to do so; and of abruptly breaking off negotiations only a few days after their opening.

To the surprise of Ambassador Newton to whom the above explanations were made, the Czechoslovaks "did not. . . challenge the main principle of the Hungarian argument that the 1910 census should be used as basis." They merely complained that "figures which the Hungarian delegation produced were entirely different from Czech figures based on the same 1910 census."5

Immediately following the rupture of negotiations the Hungarian Government sprang into quick action.

First, the Council of Ministers decided to call up five more military classes by individual orders. It was decided not to publicize this "partial" mobilization until the attitude of Berlin and Rome had been ascertained by Hungarian emissaries. Former Prime Minister Daranyiand Count Csakywere slated for the latter missions, respectively.6

Second, to implement his parting words to the Slovak delegation, namely that he had "decided to ask for the earliest possible


solution of the question from the four Munich Powers," Prime Minister Imredy gave orders to the Foreign Ministry to apply to the Four Powers.7

The appeal was made in Paris by the Hungarian Minister in person. To London the request arrived indirectly from Rome, due to consultation between Italy and Hungary. Csakyflew to Rome not only to sound out Italian opinion on the partial mobilization, but also to ask for help in arranging a Four Power meeting.

Mussolini approved of the military measures. He was ready to make a public statement that the Hungarian action was "justified."8 At the same time Ciano launched preparations for a conference of the Foreign Ministers of the Four Powers. Through the Italian Embassies of London, Paris, and Berlin, he suggested an early meeting in Italy.9

Ciano also promised to assure Rumania and Yugoslavia that the Hungarian military steps were not against them.

German Mediation

While Csakywas in Rome, events took place in Germany in quick succession which cancelled out Ciano's plans for a conference.

Chvalkovsky already had-an audience with Hitlerand declared his intention to follow a pro-Axis policy. Similarly, pro-German declarations were coming forth from Slovakia.

In order to offset the impact of these declarations, the Hungarian emissary, Daranyi was instructed to express his Government's wishes to improve relations with Germany by way of making certain pro-German gestures in exchange for support over the present issues with Czechoslovakia.

Daranyis audience with Hitlerhad an unfavorable start. First he had to listen to Hitlers scolding of Hungary because of her previous attitude, and her lack of determination to achieve her rights by aggressive means. As for the Czech-Hungarian dispute, Hitlersaid:

When Daranyiinformed him that Hungary was ready to mobilize, Hitlerinquired whether she was ready to fight? If not, why go to the expense of mobilization? Anyway, Germany was


demobilizing and could not help Hungary. The latter must now adapt herself to what was possible. "The new Czech-Hungarian frontier must be based on the ethnic principle."11

The above statement of Hitlerreflected his final decision taken a few days before.12

Besides stressing the necessity of an ethnic settlement, Hitleralso indicated that he did not support Hungary's claims to Pressburg because the Germans never wanted to live as a minority under Hungary. The reference was to Hungary's controversial treatment of her minorities.

Hitlernow spoke to Daranyiin a similar sense. Ribbentrop was instructed to establish maximum Czech possibilities and minimum Hungarian demands. Since Daranyihad no authorization to negotiate with Chvalkovsky, whom Hitlerhad asked to stay in Munich for this eventuality, he telephoned to Budapest.14

The minimum demands of Hungary having been shortly established, Ribbentrop had a subsequent conversation with Chvalkovsky and traced a line on the latter's map as one on the basis of which the Hungarians would resume negotiations.

As it turned out later, Ribbentrop, deliberately or just by carelessness, drew a line different from that suggested by Budapest. The Hungarians were ready for concessions in Pressburg and Nyitra (Nitra) in the West, but insisted on getting Kassa (Kosice), Ungvar (Uzhorod), and Munkacs (Mukacevo) in the East. To Chvalkovsky Kassa was indicated as disputable, the other two eastern towns as remaining within Czechoslovakia.15

This so-called "Ribbentrop Line," which meant one thing for Hungary and another for Czechoslovakia, should have served as basis for new negotiations.

Chvalkovsky said that he would inform his Government of the German view. "He personally was in favor of satisfying the Hungarian demands to the fullest extent possible, especially as Czechoslovakia attached great importance to the guaranteeing of her frontiers by Germany." He thought, however, that it would be difficult to "induce the Slovaks to be accommodating, as Prague's influence over them was after all limited."16

Meanwhile Ribbentrop contacted Ciano and told him that Germany preferred to act behind the scenes. Acting on the favorable report of Daranyi and desiring not to annoy Hitler Budapest now instructed Csakyin Rome to drop the plans for the Four Power Conference. Ciano revoked the invitations, but was "not at all pleased" over this course of events.17


A few days had passed when Ribbentrop, after ascertaining that the suggested line would be accepted as basis for continued negotiations, received a delegation of Slovak Ministers.

The latter complained that the 1910 census which formed the basis of Hungary's demands, was "incorrect" and even "falsified." They asked the Reich Foreign Minister to help them in carrying through their proposals, "especially for reasons of communications and economics."18

During this conversation Prime Minister Tisostressed the importance of Pressburg for Slovakia. He admitted that in case of a plebiscite on the 1910 basis for Kosice, the Slovaks would lose the town. Ribbentrop thought that the Hungarians should give up claims to Pressburg, Nitra, Kosice, Mukacevo, and Uzhorod. He instructed von Erdmannsdorff German Minister at Budapest, to make representations to that effect. Finally, he suggested the resumption of negotiations through diplomatic channels.19

The Hungarians had already indicated their willingness to do so. On October 17 Sztojayhad presented a memorandum to the German Foreign Ministry, suggesting the above procedural change. The Czechoslovaks were to submit a new proposal which then would either be accepted or rejected by Hungary. In the latter case Hungary was to ask for German-Italian mediation or arbitration.20

Ribbentrop dismissed the Slovaks by indicating that although the Hungarians did not definitely accept the line yet, there was a good possibility for further negotiations on this new basis. If now the Czechoslovak Government would make a new proposal accordingly, he would strongly urge Budapest to accept. Thereby his resources of mediation would be exhausted.

The Renewal of Negotiations

During the following days, when Hungary was awaiting with anxiety and impatience the new Czechoslovak proposal, activities in and around Ruthenia were intensified. Poland's Beck who withdrew in the background on the news of the proposed Four Power Conference, came forth again with a plan to partition Ruthenia among Hungary, Poland, and Rumania. Because of the latter's objection, the plan did not go through. On the contrary, Rumania was ready to move her troops into Ruthenia if, in case of an uprising or outside aggression, the Czechs invited her to act.


Hungary, on her part, stepped up the propaganda campaign in Ruthenia with the purpose of getting a declaration in favor of Hungary from the new Ruthenian Government. This event would have served as a cause for annexation by Hungary. In anticipation, Poland was moving troops towards the frontier for support.22

On October 22, amidst this tense situation, Prague forwarded a new proposal to Budapest, based on the "Ribbentrop Line" as the Czechoslovaks understood it.

This third territorial offer envisaged the cession of a territory of 11,300 square kilometres, registering, according to the 1910 census, 740,000 inhabitants; according to the 1930 census, 850,000 inhabitants.

The new proposals came rather close to the original demand of the Hungarians.23

Budapest expressed its satisfaction, but countered the note on October 24 with some amendments. According to these amendments the area now offered by Czechoslovakia was to be considered as undisputed, as well as to be occupied by Hungary immediately. The area still in dispute north of the suggested line, and engulfing the important towns, was to be divided into eight zones as plebiscite areas under international supervision. Pressburg was to be set aside for special conversations, and the Ruthenes were to decide on their own future.24

If Czechoslovakia did not accept these counter-proposals, the question of the disputed areas in the West of Slovakia was to be submitted to Italo-German arbitration; for the eastern areas Hungary proposed joint arbitration by Germany, Italy, and Poland.25

Before Prague replied, a few things had occurred, frustrating definitely the Hungarian-Polish plans for common frontier in Ruthenia.

Polish and French reports, stressing the anti-German implications of the Hungarian-Polish plans, had come to the attention of Mussolini. While at first he satisfied himself by terming the attempt at the encirclement of Germany as "absolutely ridiculous," he now instructed Ciano to take up the position expressly against the common frontier.26

The Poles themselves passed up the last remaining possibility. Germany, reconsidering her earlier position, appeared now willing to see a common frontier if Poland compensated for it by giving up the Danzig corridor to East Prussia. Poland refused this German proposal.27

Finally, the Czechoslovak Government, reassured a few days before by Rumania, sprang into action. On October 20 the Ruthenes


produced another resolution insisting on the indivisibility of Ruthenia and demanding a plebiscite. This amounted almost to a declaration in favor of Hungary.

In order to forestall the latter, on October 25 the Prime Minister, Sirovy summoned the four Ruthenian Ministers to Prague to learn their attitude. Brody answered in terms of the above mentioned resolution. Thereupon he was immediately put under arrest. The "Ukrainian" Secretary of State, Volosin was appointed by telephone as head of the Ruthenian Government. He was willing to accept an ethnic frontier and rejected the idea of a plebiscite.28

Next day, Prague informed London that the Hungarian demand for plebiscites in the disputed areas on the basis of the 1910 census was unacceptable. Prague favored Axis arbitration and "wished to have the views of His Majesty's Government on their attitude."29

In reply, the Czechoslovak Government was informed that "His Majesty's Government saw no objection to the settlement of the Czech-Hungarian question by means of arbitration by Germany and Italy, if the Czechoslovak and Hungarian Governments agreed to settle their differences this way." It was added that "if the two parties to the dispute preferred to refer the matter to the four Munich Powers, His Majesty's Government would be ready to join in any discussion."30

Similar information was forwarded to the British Embassy at Rome for the benefit of Signor Mussolini.31

Request for Arbitration

Prague was now ready to answer the Hungarian counterproposals. The Czechoslovak note of October 26 passed entirely in silence over the proposed Hungarian occupation of the "undisputed" territories. There was no reference to the proposed plebiscites. The note emphatically asserted that the problem related to the Hungarian minority only and added that, since the Hungarian Government did not accept the Czechoslovak proposals as they were, "the Czechoslovak Government agreed to submit the question of the Hungarian minority to an arbitral decision by Germany and Italy, signatories of the Munich Agreement."32

Finally, the note stated that in case the two Powers accepted Hungary's proposal to include Poland, Czechoslovakia wished to include Rumania as an arbiter.

Surprised about the proposal to submit the entire question to arbitration, the Hungarian Government replied on October 27. The reply attempted once more to extend the application of the


right of self-determination by way of a plebiscite to all minorities requesting it. On the question of German-Italian arbitration the note stressed that its acceptance "implies the obligation to submit in advance to the decision of the said Powers." The note then continued:

"It is understood that the competence of the arbiters extends only to the territories in dispute and not to those on which agreement already exists between the two Governments and the occupation of which by the Hungarian troops was already asked iil the note of 24th current."33

Chvalkovsky answered on October 28 in a polite note. The question was that of the Hungarian minority only. He noted with satisfaction that Hungary agreed to resort to arbitration by Germany and Italy with the obligation to submit in advance to the decision. Czechoslovakia placed full confidence in this procedure which had been suggested, according to Chvalkovsky, by the Hungarian Government itself.34

Chvalkovsky could not share the view of the Hungarian Government that an agreement existed already on certain territories and proposed that the arbitrators pronounce also on this difference of views. He was sure that the question of occupation, referred to by the Hungarian note of October 27, would be regulated by the arbitral decision.

Finally, as a practical step Chvalkovsky suggested that the two Governments make a request within twenty-four hours to Germany and Italy to undertake the arbitration.

Thereupon Hungary, until now saying only that she was prepared to do so, lodged her formal request in Berlin and in Rome for arbitration. Czechoslovakia did the same.

Rendering the Award

While Czechoslovakia and Hungary were exchanging notes, the would-be arbitrators, Ribbentrop and Ciano, were exchanging their views.

Interestingly enough, Ribbentrop at first was against the idea of a possible Axis arbitration. On October 22 he spoke to Ciano about the matter and "ventilated the possibility of a Conference of Four, though it was he who refused to consider it a week ago."35

In Ribbentrop's view arbitration was dangerous because it would end by satisfying neither Hungary nor Czechoslovakia, and by obliging the arbitrators "to have recourse to force in order to put our decisions into effect." Ciano enlightened the Reich Foreign Minister that "arbitration implies the previous consent of the parties to accept its results."36


Next day Ribbentrop called Ciano again. During these two telephone conversations Ribbentrop revealed himself to be quite hostile to the Hungarians. Ciano recorded:

"The truth is that he intends to protect Czechoslovakia as far as he can and sacrifice the ambitions, even the legitimate ambitions, of Hungary."37

One day later:

"He does not want the arbitration, which would oblige him to show himself in his true colors to the Hungarians. He asked me if he may come to Rome at the end of the week to confer with the Duce and with me in person. I replied that he may. What is he up to?"38

Shortly after his arrival at Rome on October 27, Ribbentrop disclosed the real reason of his trip. Planning already for a world war, he came to propose a triple military alliance.

The Italians took a realistic attitude. The alliance, they said, already existed in practice in the form of the Anti-Comintern Pact. "Why open the door to rumor by a pact the only consequence of which would be to draw upon us the odium of aggression?"39 Ribbentrop, expecting perhaps an acceptance of the plan, was taken aback when the offer was rejected by Mussolini.

In discussing the Czech-Hungarian question, Ciano had repeatedly pointed out to Ribbentrop the sigmficance of an Axis arbitration; a "gigantic event" that would set the seal upon the fact that "all FrancoBritish influence has collapsed forever in the Danubian and Balkan Europe."40

Once Ribbentrop seemed convinced, Ciano set himself to the task of securing as much as he could for the Hungarians. Over the arguments of Ribbentrop, who "defended the Czech cause sword in hand," Ciano strongly urged that Hungary be given the three contested eastern towns. In return, Hungary was to give up her pretensions toward Ruthenia.

It may well have been that at this point Ribbentrop decided to oblige Ciano with a view to a future re-opening of the military pact question, a possibility not excluded during the conversations with Mussolini. At any rate, by the end of the day he had agreed upon the "advisability" of giving Kassa, Ungvar, and Munkacs to the Hungarians.41

To Ciano remained the task of informing the Hungarians that they would have to renounce Ruthenia as well as the idea of bringing in Poland as third arbiter.

After these mutual concessions, there were indeed few differences left when the arbitrators met in Vienna on November 2.

It appeared that Ribbentrop had not definitely decided yet about the three eastern towns. He thought that if Hungary received


all three, Ruthenia would be deprived of her economic centers and could not survive. In a final conversation with Ciano, however, he gave in.42

Decision in the Belvedere.

The arbitral session opened in the Belvedere Palace on the same day at noon. After the opening remarks by Ribbentrop and Ciano, the Hungarians and Czechs pleaded their cause. Kanya was "bitter and argumentative," Teleki was "calm and with more documentation." Chvalkovsky was brief and left the task of presenting the Czechoslovak case to Minister Krno. In the view of Ciano, the Czechoslovaks "defended their cause well."43

Ribbentrop at this point showed himself much less an advocate of the Slovaks than he had before. In fact, he prevented Tiso the Slovak Prime Minister, and Volosin Ruthenian Prime Minister, from stating their views officially. "The views of both Governments," Ribbentrop said, "had been expressed by their Foreign Ministers." He could not see the point in listening to the statements "of a number of additional experts on the subject . . ." The two gentlemen, he added, "would have an opportunity for unofficial talks with the two arbiters in the course of the lunch."44

This was, of course, a procedure substantially favorable to the Hungarians. The arguments presented in the course of the pleadings were not different from the ones already propounded during the previous negotiations. Hungary did not raise the question of Pressburg, nor that of the two easternmost towns, Ungvar and Munkacs. The question of Nitra and Kassa was debated at some length. The discussions seemed to prove in general the difficulty of settlement along ethnic lines, especially where historical considerations were also at play.45

The two arbiters continued their conversations with the delegates during lunch, then retired with a small staff to prepare the Award. Ciano took control of the discussions and, except for a few disputed points, was able to trace the new frontier. Ribbentrop's unpreparedness enabled Ciano "to assign to Hungary pieces of territory which might easily have given rise to much controversial discussion."46

The day was closed by the reading and afterwards the signing of the arbitral award and the accompanying protocol. By virtue of the terms thus rendered, Czechoslovakia retained in the western section of Slovakia the towns of Bratislava and Nitra. Hungary recovered the three disputed eastern towns, in addition to four others in the central section.47


The area awarded to Hungary comprised 12,103 square kilometres (approximately 4,600 square miles) with a population of 1,030,000 inhabitants. The population breakdown differs according to the relevant censuses.

Knox who thought that both censuses had a political basis, gave the Foreign Office figures which were believed to be approximately accurate.

The figures of Knoxwere:48







Ruthenes. Poles, Rumanians and others




Thus, the number of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia diminished to 66,000. At the same time the ratio of Hungary's non-Magyar population had increased from 7.2 per cent to approximately 9 per cent.

Conforming to plans worked out by a Czechoslovak-Hungarian commission of military experts, the ceded area was occupied by Hungary between the 5th and 10th of November as stipulated by the Award. On the latter date, the line of demarcation was fixed by the military commission.

The recovered "Highland Territories" were incorporated into Hungary on November 12 by act of Parliament.49

As a last step in the execution of the Award an agreement regarding the question of nationality and option was concluded by the Czechoslovak and Hungarian Governments on February 18, 1939.50


Notes to Chapter IV

1. La Documentation, p.2d .

2. La Documentation, p. 29.

3. Ibid

4. British Documents, III, 184.

5. Ibid, p. 185.

6. German Documents, IV, 67-68.

7. Macartney, p. 287.

8. German Documents, IV, 69.

9. British Documents, III, 174.

10. German Documents, IV, 74.

11. Ibid

12. The decision originated from the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht. By Order of General Keitel the Foreign Ministry was informed on October 5 that "for military reasons a common Hungarian-Polish frontier was undesirable." Likewise, "it was... military interest that Slovakia should not be separated from the Czechoslovak union but should remain with Czechoslovakia under strong German influence." German Documents, IV, 40. On October 7 the Director of the Political Department, Wormann, submitted a policy paper to Hitlerin this sense listing alternatives for Slovakia and Ruthenia. The preferred recommendations, accepted by Hitleron October 11, were autonomy for both territories. This the Slovaks already declared, and it was the "most natural solution for the present" in Ruthenia. Both solutions left "other possibilities open," namely an independent Slovakia in the future and a plebiscite in Ruthenia "when time comes." Finally, both solutions could be recognized by Germany under the slogan of "self-determination;" a good slogan not only for the outside world, but also for "rejecting the demands" of Poland and Hungary for solutions to their liking. German Documents, IV, 46-49.


13. British Documents, III, 187.

14. While waiting for the answer Daranyifinally managed to tell Hitlerthat Hungary was now willing to join the Anti-Comintern Pact and to sign an economic agreement with Germany. The atmosphere then improved. Macartney, p. 290.

15. German Documents, IV, 78. For the location of these towns see map attached in Appendix.

16. Ibid.

17. Ciano, Diary, October 14.

18. German Documents, IV, 87.

19. Ibid., p. 89.

20. Ibid, p. 80. The idea of an Axis arbitration was suggested to the Hungarians earlier by Mussolini.

21. Macartney, pp- 295, 299

22. Ibid., pp. 298-299

23. Supra, pp. 61-62.

24. La Documentation, p. 29.

25. Ibid., p. 30.

26. Ciano, Diary, October 15, October 24.

27. German Documents, IV, 83. Cf. L.B. Namier, Diplomatic Prelude 193S1939 (London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1948), Chapter II passim.

28. Macartney. p 299

29. British Documents, III, 202.

30. Ibid

31. Ibid., p. 203.

32. La Documentation, p. 30.

33. Ibid, pp. 30-31.

34. Ibid

35. Ciano, Diary, Oct. 22.

36. Ibid

37. Ibid


38. Ibid, Oct. 23

39. Ibid., Oct. 28.

40. Ciano, Diary, Oct. 28.

41. Ibid., Oct. 30.

42. Ciano, Diary, Nov. 3.

43. Ibid.

44. German Documents, IV, 124.

45. For a detailed description of the pleadings see "Documents on the Vienna Award," German Documents, IV, 118-124, reproduced in the Appendix here as Document No. 37.

46. Ciano, Diary, Nov. 3. Cf. Erich Kordt, Nicht aus den Akten. . .. (Stuttgart, Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschafft: 1950), p. 287.

47. Text of the Award and map showing the frontier established at Vienna are to be found in the Appendix.

48. British Documents, III, 238. 49Text of the Re-incorporation Bill (Law XXXIV of 1938) is reproduced in Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), pp. 361 ff.

49. La Documentation, pp. 33-35


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