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"There is not one of the peoples or provinces that constituted the Empire of the Habsburgs to whom gaining their independence has not brought the tortures which ancient poets and theologians had reserved for the damned."


The Gathering Storm


A survey of the background of the Marseille regicide, a composite of crime and heroism, leaves no doubt as to the inability of the Peace-Makers to create stable conditions in the Balkans, conducive to lasting peace. In the Balkan Peninsula, to strife inherited from the Ottoman Empire, frustration was added by disregard of the insistent demand of the small but dynamic Southern Slav nations for self-determination. The entire European order was debilitated by the reluctance of the war-time Allies to modify the ill-conceived dispositions of the Peace Treaties which prevented the consolidation of the Continent, imperiled by the exorbitant ambitions of the totalitarian dictators. Maintenance of the status quo, as opposed to a growing demand for a revision of the Peace Treaties, became almost from its beginning the leading motive of the era extending between the two World Wars.

Before entering the labryrinth of the League of Nations, I have to elucidate this conflict. For at Geneva, the assassination of King Alexander I. of Yugoslavia, served mainly as a pretext for the achievement of a political goal, the chastisement of Hungary, innocent of the said crime, but guilty of demanding justice through Treaty revision.


Since the beginning of 1918, when President Wilson proclaimed his fourteen points, there existed a basic difference between him and the European Allies in the interpretation of his peace program. It was the people of the hostile Central Powers, not the Allies, who greeted his principles as a promise of deliverance from evil. Exhausted and mortally sick with the horrors of the long war, they saw in the American proclamation the blueprint of a better world which would bring peace, forgiveness and a just order to all. High up, on the icy slopes of the Carpathian Mountains, I saw the remnants of the gallant Austro - Hungarian Army raise their eyes heavenward, thankful for what was now in sight: "peace without victory." The last point in President Wilson's programme seemed to be of specific interest. It promised "political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike" guaranteed by "a general association of nations."


The reaction of Allied Europe was vastly different. The fourteen points were regarded and used at first as a brilliant propaganda gimmick for the undermining of the Central Powers' protracted resistance. And when this goal was achieved, irrespective of Wilsonian principles, the victors sought insurance against the recurrence of a new war and tried to reap the profits of their hard-won victory. Mockingly, Clemenceau commented that "the American President has given us four points more than did the good Lord." The League of Nations, the culmination of President Wilson's dream, "could be nothing more or less than the perpetuation of the alliance which had won the victory, the eternal guarantor of that cause of right and justice which, to their mind, was their own."1

It lies outside the field of the present study to describe the often desperate efforts of President Wilson to induce the victors to agree to peace treaties which would satisfy his principles. He failed, mainly, because he adhered to the belief that the people, as contrasted with their leaders, were always generous and enlightened. He probably never realized that the masses were completely unable to comprehend the complex problems of international relations and the unlikeness of other national existences, so different from their own. During the period of the Paris peace-making, the victorious governments proved incapable of moderation because of their vengeful public opinions. Even in levelheaded England, it was public-opinion-gone-wild, which made Lloyd George accept such slogans as "Hang the Kaiser!" and make the Germans pay "their last farthing"! Wilson's influence on the Conference was diminished also by premature demobilization of the American armed forces, carried out before the President left for the Paris peace negotiations. In 1945, this blunder was repeated on a grand scale.

Political leadership is an art, much more than a science. Seemingly incompatible requirements such as freedom and order, or rights and duties, have to be satisfied by the leader at the same time. At the Paris Peace Conference, President Wilson's scientific mind had grasped correctly the inevitable dualism which fornis the knotty problem for every peacemaker: to restore the stability of disturbed international relations while providing for the possibility of peaceful change. President Wilson's brainchild, the Covenant of the League of Nations, rested on

1 Frank H. Simonds, How Europe Made Peace without America (Garden City Doubleday, 1927), p. 26.


two indispensable pillars: Article X, which undertook the defense of the status quo as defined in the Paris Peace Treaties; and Article XIX which provided the possibility of reconsidering these Treaties. In his concept, these two principles held equal weight and were to keep each other in balance. In fact, in the First Draft of the Covenant, Articles X and XIX were still united and formed Article XX, which contained, according to David Hunter Miller, "the guarantees of Article X, subject, however, to territorial changes."2 The power to revise peace treaties was reserved, by general consent, to the League of Nations.

Yet, from the very beginning of the post - war period, concern for the maintenance of the status quo became the compelling factor in the nolicy of the Allied Powers faced on the Continent with revolutions, chaos and the armed hordes of Lenin and Trotsky. In order to restore stability in Europe, they had to insist that the territorial and all other dispositions of the Peace Treaties be generally respected. To see to this, became the duty of the League of Nations. The first sentence of Article X declared: "The Members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League."

In the Paris Commission of the League of Nations, prominent delegates,

among them the British Lord Robert Cecil, "did not like" Article X.3 He wished to emphasize that the requirements of security and elasticity were of equal importance and suggested "that there should be a reference in this Article (X) to Article XIX regarding the reconsideration of Treaties."4 Despite such criticism, the rigid Article X remained unchanged, and President Wilson regretfully informed Lord Robert Cecil that this "was the one Article on which the French relied and he did not see how it could be weakened."5 The decline of the League thus started before it was born. Very soon, in the hands of the victorious powers, Article X was to become supreme, while Article XIX was dropped into the ash can. As the hope of peaceful changes waned, in the minds of those wronged by the reace Treaties the recurrence of violent methods gained ground. This inevitable reac -

2 David Hunter Miller, The Drafting of the Covenant (New York and London, 1928), Vol.1., p. 15.

3 Ibid., p.404.

4 1bid., p. 282.

5 Ibid., p. 289.


tion was to destroy within two decades the entire edifice of peace painstakingly devised by the American President.

Delegates of the English - speaking Great Powers in Paris were aware of injustices committed by the Peace Treaties. On January 19, 1919, Lord Robert Cecil, in submitting the British Draft Convention, went so far in his insistence on providing for territorial revision of the Peace Treaties as to deny the League's obligation to protect a territory from forcible aggression, if the League's recommendation for any modification of its boundaries had been rejected.6 The British Delegation further proposed, on February 11, 1919, that provisions be made for "the periodic revision of Treaties which have become obsolete and of international conditions the continuance of which may endanger the Peace of the World." This sensible recommendation might have served, if accepted, as a safety valve through which pressures caused by justified discontent might have been removed. President Wilson, in a milder wording, proposed the same day that "from time to time" the reconsideration of such Treaties be advised.7 The Canadian Delegate, Sir Robert Borden, in line with Lord Robert Cecil's views, wrote in his Memorandum of March 13, 1919, that "it is impossible to forecast the future. There may be national aspirations to which the provisions of the Peace Treaty will not do justice and which cannot be permanently repressed,"8 It had been foreseen that the world under the Covenant could not be forced into a straight jacket. The "Holy Alliance" had tried to freeze the status quo in Europe after the Napoleonic wars, provoking thereby unrest and revolutions all over the Continent. Were the Peacemakers of the 20th Century going to commit the same mistake by insistence on the immutability of the peace treaties?

The conscientious historian of the Paris Peace Conference, David Hunter Miller, remarks that "it is erroneous to suppose that Article X includes the idea that 'all existing territorial delimitations are just and expedient.' " How did President Wilson bring this uneasy knowledge into harmony with his fierce passion for justice which he regarded as the dominating factor in any democracy?

The President himself has answered this question. It is set forth

6 lbid., Vol. II, p. 107.

7 Ibid., Vol., pp. 202 - 3

8 Ibid.. p. 358.

9 lbid., p. 354.


in a statement by Dr. Isaiah Bowman.10 "As for the League of Nations, it (Wilson's statement) implied political independence and territorial integrity plus later alteration of terms and alteration of boundaries if it could be shown that injustice had been done or that conditions had changed. (Italics mine.) And such alteration would be the easier to make in time as passion subsided and matters could be viewed in the light of justice, rather than in the light of a peace conference at the close of a protracted war." In this statement, President Wilson could not see "how both elasticity and security could be obtained save under a League of Nations."11 Quasi anticipating Prague's rigid policy, the Czechoslovak Delegate, Kramar, objected that in this event the Assembly would become "the judge of all treaties." (Italics mine) To safeguard these two mainstays of lasting peace, Article XIX was added parallell to Article X in the vain hope that the former would gain in importance, gradually, as peace and forgiveness were rekindled in the hearts of the disturbed nations.

During the Peace Conference there was among the victors, and particularly in France, hardly any political or popular support for the League of Nations. Mostly, it was considered as an American hobby. But President Wilson clung to his belief that the League would develop into an international seat of reason and justice to which the people of all countries would inevitably respond. More teacher than statesman, Wilson proved unable to put his sound theories into practice. Deprived of Wilson's faith, the League became unprincipled and therefore irresolute. It had its ups and downs; it handled over forty political disputes with varying degrees of success; it was conducive to the Pact of Locarno which marked the zenith in the League's career. But it became timorous when called upon to protect the rights of minorities and failed completely in its efforts to resolve any conflict between major powers in accordance with Article XVI of the Covenant.

Yet, the League was cherished up to its demise by naive, good people, mainly in the English - speaking world. In mid - August, 1939, two weeks before the outbreak of the second World War, I tried to impress the honest Lord Robert Cecil with the imminence of that catastrophe. Desperately, he still believed in the ability of the League to order Hitler to desist from aggression. The illusion of security attainable

10 Ibid., p.42.

11 Ibid., p.42.


through the instrumentality of the existing international organization rather than by increased and concerted national efforts proved quite helpful at that time to the aggressors.

The fate of the world did not depend on the functioning of the League of Nations, for it served mainly as a thermometer between the two World Wars, registering the degrees of fever annoying our sick world. These Paris deliberations of 1919 became significant because the nations of Europe - between the two World Wars - instinctively lined up, as President Wilson had forecast, either in the defense of the status quo, (as established by the Paris Peace Treaties) or against it. The League's handling of the Marseille regicide revealed this basic rift among the Powers. The accusation against Hungary was shifted from the legal to the political level. Due to collusion between Laval and the Little Entente, Hungary was persecuted, not because of the Marseille regicide, of which she was not guilty, but because of her policy - admittedly aimed at the revision of the Trianon Treaty - which policy, according to the Covenant, she was fully entitled to pursue.


There can be no progress, not even life, unless there exists a possibility of change. Attempts to revise the Versailles Peace Treaty began almost before the ink had dried on that ill - fated document. It was not a spokesman of prostrate Germany, but an unconventional Englishman John Maynard Keynes, who launched the first effective attack against the Treaty's reparation clauses. "Non obstante", the Allied Conference held in Paris in January, 1921, established twenty-one billion dollars as the permanent total of German payments, more than four times the figure regarded as possible by Keynes. Then, in March, Allied troops marched into the Ruhr to break the passive resistance of the German people against impossible demands. Following this Allied action, the amount of German reparations, was not lowered but raised to thirty-three billion dollars.

Placed under irrestistible pressures, threatened by inflation and Communist upheavals, a "policy of fulfillment" was proclaimed by the German Government. Chancellor Wirth, a member of the Catholic Center, aided by Walter Rathenau, a Liberal industrialist, paid and paid but mainly by dumping German goods on Britain's markets. These two Germans also ruined the grandiose plan of Lloyd George for the


restoration of a European balance of power, when in the spring of 1922, at Rapallo, they turned their backs on Europe and signed a German Treaty of Alliance with the Soviets. Ruined and stigmatized in the so-called "War Guilt Clause" of the Versailles Peace Treaty (Article 231), not only extremists, but moderate Germans also began breaking away from soildarity with Europe placed under French guidance. Secretly, but methodically, the brilliant German organizer, General von Seeckt, went to work in Russia on the rearmament of Germany, which in two decades was to subject the Continent to Hitler's rule.

France consistently misinterpreted the sinister portent of German reactions. In 1923, the uncompromising Poincare' took over the government. He repeated the excursion into the Ruhr on an even larger scale. He drove the German economy into a runaway inflation. French victory and the collapse of Germany became complete. The most vital nation situated in the center of Europe, was deprived of even the hope of an amelioration of its fate by peaceful means. Psychologically, the point was reached when the exasperated German masses would turn toward anybody - to an Adolf Hitler, the product and symbol of German frustration, who promised them redemption from the depths to which they had sunk.

During a stay in Munich in the early spring of 1923, I questioned Hitler about his views concerning the occupation of the Ruhr. He was enraged against Chancellor Kuno, a mild businessman, because he would not go beyond passive resistance. "The only answer to this supreme humiliation is armed resistance against the French invaders" the morbid slogan ranted Hitler. "Nothing will end this disgrace except the rearming and general mobilization of the German youth!" "But you are unarmed and defenseless," I objected. "Tanks would mow down the German youth and your lovely towns would be destroyed from the air." There followed long harangue, but no reasonable argument - a mixture of demagoguery and moralization, as if he were addressing a primitive crowd. "The dead will be replaced, the German mothers will continue to bear children, our towns will be rebuilt from their ruins finer than they had ever been, if only the morale of our people is not broken! We cannot accept a policy of fulfillment," he continued, voicing in this respect the true opinion of the German people, "for the moment that we capitulate, new and ever more burdensome demands are being raised." And it was then that I heard for the first time


which later was often used by Nazis as an excuse for their abominable

adventures: "Rather a frightful end, than endless fright!"

It is neither decent nor expedient to demand from a people a signed confession of their own collective guilt, as did the Versailles Peace Treaty. For no people will ever believe in the moral depravity of their own race. To treat the Germans internationally as morally inferior, gave rise to Hitler's most absurd reaction: he proclaimed that the Germans were the "Herrenvolk," the master race, entitled to oppress all the non - Aryans and take their lands for "living space" of the German masters. The more miserable a German felt at that time, the louder he cheered this Nazi abnormality. He imagined in his stupor that it would compensate him for his actual disgrace.

Nothing will conciliate the masses once their emotional reactions have been roused. Hatred thereafter, will grow irrationally, often in geometrical proportions, until vengeance is completed or the nation itself destroyed. Following Poincare's abdication, the subtle genius of Aristide Briand combined with Gustav Stresemann s sanity brought about a radical improvement in official relations between France and Germany. The London Conference (1924) alleviated the burden of German reparations; the Pact of Locarno was concluded (1925) and the humiliating moral assumptions of the Versailles Peace Treaty were amended. In 1926, Germany was even admitted to the League of Nations as a Great Power, with a permanent seat in the Council. In 1922, when Briand first launched in Cannes his visionary plan of a United Europe, with inclusion of Germany on equal terms, peace in Europe might perhaps have been saved. This move came in 1926, but, alas, too late.

After the brutal trampling of Germany in 1923, in spite of later relaxation of the European tension, joint leadership of the Continent through sincere Franco - German collaboration remained an illusion. Not only had the resentment and indignation of the German people been roused violently, but also they were now being organized by the Nazis on a pattern copied from the handbook of the Communist Party. Later, Hitler explained to me that he chose "red" as the color of his Party's flag to catch the eye of the down - trodden people, most of whom were then Socialists. "But I have set in the red flag an insignificant white circle and, as a symbol, the Swastika in its middle, to indicate the difference from Communism. By now," said Hitler gloatingly, "the 'red'


has lost all its meaning, it is only the Swastika that counts." Hitler had long - range plans from the very beginning and, unfortunately, they were effective.

Another reason for the evaporation of the "Spirit of Locarno" was the well - intended agreement between Britain and France to lead the way to German recovery through the League of Nations. Yet, in the minds of the defeated nations, squeezed by the stipulations of the Paris Peace Treaties, the League, whose Covenant formed part of those hated Treaties, remained an agency of the victorious powers for the continuous oppression of the defeated. This feeling was not quite unjustified. The League, at first neglected by the Great Powers, appealed suddenly to France, after Locarno, as the best instrument for the maintenance of the status quo she ardently coveted. Allied with Poland, Belgium and the three states of the Little Entente, France had a safe lead in the League. Even if not assisted by the United Kingdom she could prevent any attempt at revision of the Peace Treaties, the main objective of French foreign policy, however negative that goal may have been.

Legal - minded France never considered the concessions made in the Pact of Locarno as a revision of the Versailles Peace Treaty, nor did the Germans regard them as such. Governments came and went in Paris, but Poincare's dictum remained unaltered: "Treaties have to be applied, not modified." In 1934, when the Marseille case came before the League, Germany, the strongest power in favor of treaty revision, was no longer a Member. So it seemed opportune at that time for France and the Little Entente to debase Hungary so low as to render hopeless her revisionist aspirations. There was no bias in France against Hungary, but France would not tolerate any clause of the sacrosanct Trianon Peace Treaty, concluded with Hungary, being abrogated. No precedent was to be created which the Germans might exploit.

Bruning, the last German Chancellor who might have halted the Nazis' ascent to power, withdrew for lack of support by the West. So Hitler came along in a fury. He broke every political, economic, military and moral stipulation of the Versailles Peace Treaty with impunity - yet always under French protest. But revision, the best way to bring about peaceful changes, remained taboo.

On August 31, 1939, the day the second World War broke out to


tear down the entire edifice based on the Versailles Peace Treaty, Count Ciano, Mussolini's Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted in his Diary12 that he proposed to France and Great Britain the holding of a conference "for the purpose of reviewing those clauses of the Treaty of Versailles which disturb European life." Ciano remarked - with tongue in cheek - that the French Ambassador, "Francois - Poncet welcomes the proposal with satisfaction but with some skepticism. Percy Lorain (the British Ambassador) welcomes it with enthusiasm. Halifax receives it favorably. . . ." Problems left unsolved by unimaginative leaders will accompany them obstinately to their graves.


The League of Nations failed in its endeavor to maintain peace, because the foundations of a lasting order, justice and adaptability, did not prevail in the making and even less in the application of the Peace Treaties which the League was called upon to defend. Curiously enough, a few years later, a simple pact devoid of all means and power to uphold peace was expected to complete the task which the international organization of the League, vested with authority and prestige, proved unable to achieve. On August 27, 1928, the "Pact of Paris" was signed by delegates of fifteen nations, among them Mr. Frank B. Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State, co - author of the Pact, and his colleague, Mr. Aristide Briand, representing France. The Pact of Paris renounced war "as an instrument of national policy," but stipulated no sanctions against offenders. Nor did it refer to any possibility of a peaceful change. In theory, it was nothing more than a moral precept against the use of force, but in practice it lent a prop to the status quo. It was equal to a formal blessing of the Paris Peace Treaties, up to then withheld by America, and was interpreted as such by the jubilant French press.

Why did the U.S. Government favor this half-baked Pact, while deeply immersed in isolationism? A few months later, on a visit to America, I found the clue to it in the Carnegie Endowment. This wealthy Institute for International Peace was sustaining a group of professional peacemakers, headed by the absent - minded, angelic and confused Professor James T. Shotwell. The Senate had failed these Liberal intellectuals when it repudiated President Wilson's League of

12 Count Ciano, Diary (Gardcn City: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1946), p. 134.


Nations, which - to some extent - they had hoped to control. Rendered politically impotent, this group turned messianic and devised a new formula for peace which implied no commitment and therefore could not be rejected by the Senate. This ambitious project, with no roots in reality, was hitched to Briand's genius. From this combine the Pact of Paris, also called the Kellogg - Briand Pact, was born.

President Wilson, though not always immune to illusions, did not believe that war could be completely outlawed. David Hunter Miller reminds us that the provisions of the Covenant "do not go so far as to inhibit war in every case. Legally speaking, war in certain circumstances is permissible under the Covenant (Article XV, paragraph 7)."13 The Pact of Paris, however, strengthened the unfounded belief that from now on violence would be eliminated in the relations among nations. The heyday for exuberant pacifists had arrived, complacency now became fashionable and armaments were badly neglected in the Western Democracies, while the Proletarian Revolution, assuming diverse forms of Leftist and Rightist totalitarian rule, was gathering momentum in anticipation of the coming showdown. In 1929, the so-called Litvinov Protocol, which regulated the relations between Soviet Russia on the one hand and Poland, Rumania, Latvia and Esthonia on the other, provided for the immediate enforcement of the Briand - Kellogg Pact. It did not save these countries from being the first ones to he attacked and overrun by the Soviets.

On the evening of that hot summer day, when the Pact was signed, I was greeted on the terrace of a Paris cafe by Croat members of the Belgrade Parliament. They felt embittered by the Pact of Paris, which would prolong the servitude of their people under Serbian domination. But then, with cruel satisfaction, one of them whipped out the minutes of a meeting held in Paris that day at the same hour the Pact was signed. Leaders of six nationalities in Yugoslavia: Albanians, Bulgars, Croats, Italians, Macedonians and Montenegrins, had agreed to and signed an explicit declaration of war against the Serbs, whose oppressive rule had deprived them of their individual freedom and national independence.

The well - intended but unrealistic Pact of Paris had precipitated in Yugoslavia a development favoring violent action. It marked the start of a bitter revolutionary movement, in which, with the exception

13 Miller, Vol. I, p. 170.


of the Germans, Hungarians and Slovenes, all the nationalities of Yugoslavia became involved. From that time on, resistance to the centralized Pan-Serbian regime of King Alexander I. became a patriotic duty of the oppressed nationalities. Their outburst was almost instantaneous. Four months later, on January 6, 1929, the King felt compelled to suspend the Constitution, dissolve Parliament and take over the executive power himself. King Alexander I thus started his tragic journey toward Marseille - under the impact of the Pact of Paris.


The ethnic principle, heralded as supreme, was enforced at the end of the first World War only partially and timidly, and in important cases it was altogether falsified. The faulty application of this basic principle added new antagonisms to the problems of pre-war origin existing among the peoples of Eastern and Central Europe. The Peacemakers themselves were aware of some imperfections in their work. "That the territorial adjustments made by the Peace Conference will not satisfy all claims, is the only thing now certain about them," wrote David Hunter Miller.14 He submitted therefore that "as the drawing of boundaries according to racial or social conditions is in many cases an impossibility, protection of the rights of minorities and acceptance of such protection by the minorities constitute the only basis of enduring peace."

In line with this reasoning, clauses concerning the protection of minorities were included in the Paris Peace Treaties concluded with Poland and the Successor States of the Austro - Hungarian Monarchy. These Treaties declared that the stipulations concerning the rights of the minorities "shall be recognized as fundamental laws," that they "constitute obligations of international concern and shall be placed under the guaranty of the League of Nations." Each member of the Council obtained the right to bring to its attention any infraction of these obligations. In 1922, the League accepted in the so-called "Tittoni Resolution" the obligation of being the guardian of the minority rights. In this matter, the League of Nations never lived up to justified expectations. The evasive handling of this pledge contributed greatly to the moral decay of the League.

The position of a government was, of course, always stronger in

14 Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 53.


the League than that of a mistreated minority, which accounts for the opportunistic handling of their complaints. For more than ten years, Hungary's efforts to assuage the grievances of the Hungarian minorities through the instrumentality of the League had been baffled. It became increasingly difficult even to keep these problems on the agenda of the League in order to alleviate the fate of the Hungarians placed against their will under foreign rule - through publicity afforded by the League and appeals to world opinion. My eminent predecessor in the League, Count Albert Apponyi, had selected as a test case of the League's efficiency the unlawful expropriation - in fact, confiscation - of the properties of Hungarian landowners in the Little Entente States. Stipulations in the Trianon Peace Treaty, concluded with Hungary, made these cases legally watertight. But politically, it was not popular to demand compensation for losses which onetime wealthy persons had suffered, however rightful their claims may have been. The well-versed Secretariat of the League, complying with the views of the interested governments and their experts, always found a loophole in the rules of procedure or a precedent in the records of the League to allow them to put off endlessly a decision on the merit of such Hungarian claims which legally could not be rejected.

In 1934, after the death of Count Apponyi, I took over his work in Geneva and found these cases hopelessly enmeshed in procedural snares. I thereupon decided to seek another approach to the protection of the hard-pressed Hungarian minorities, amounting to one-third of the entire Hungarian nation. A welcome opportunity soon presented itself at the September Assembly meeting of the League, when Count Raczynski, for Poland, submitted a resolution to convoke within six months a conference in order to arrive at a general convention concerning the international protection of the national minorities. On September 21, the first day of the debate in the Sixth Committee (Political) of the League, it became plainly visible how national policies will influence honest opinions in different ways, even a basic human problem, such as that concerning the rights of the minorities.

For the French Delegate, Mr. Massigli, the minority issue was of no importance. France had no minorities of her own to protect. Her Little Entente Allies having too many, France preferred to forget about the problem. Mr. de Valera, representing a homogenous nation still remembered the past sufferings of Catholic Ireland, so he insisted


on the prevention of religious persecution and was willing to go as far as to accept the principle of autonomy for the minorities. The Australian Delegate, speaking for a Continent where the rapid amalgamation of immigrants of various nationalities had become a governing principle, frankly told the Committee that the rights of the minorities was exclusively a European problem, which he hoped would not last forever. Mr. Eden, embarrassed by the complexity of the diverse parts of the British Empire, was uncertain whether an international convention would bring better or worse results than the existing treatment of the minorities. Anyway, he shared the Italian Delegate's view that it was the Council, not the Assembly, which was qualified to examine this problem. This dilatory approach obtained general approval at the end of the debate, and during the life-time of the League the improvement of the fate of the minorities was not broached again.

It is a melancholy fact that at the end of the second World War, with no European Power being present at the decisive conferences, the Peace Treaties dropped completely the protection of minority rights. The New World is a "melting pot," while the Old World goes on functioning as a "refrigerator," preserving minorities of all kinds, their separate beliefs, different languages and cultures. It thus adds color, tradition, and variety, but also strife, to the life of Europe.

By proper consideration, regrettable errors could have been corrected by the League in the handling of the minority problems. One error was the requirement that a petition must be submitted by the minority itself to the League; freedom from fear thus became a prerequisite for defensive action by a minority suffering oppression. From Yugoslavia, where harsh reprisals could be expected against a minority, should it dare accuse its Government, no petition had been submitted to the League, but the Hungarian Government was flooded secretly with complaints. On the other hand, Hungarian complaints were publicly expressed in Czechoslovakia, where the fate of the Hungarians was easier, than in the other two states of the Little Entente. It was a big mistake to place a minority in the role of prosecutor, bound to accuse of misdeeds the regime under which it has to live, or else to acquiesce in being wronged. Relations between the Government and the minority were thus envenomed; it became a matter of prestige, even of national honor for an accused government to have the minority petition rejected, and in every case the possibility of a compromise was


destroyed. A third mistake was to reserve the handling of the minority complaints to the Council where strict rules and intricate procedure rendered the public airing of these matters almost hopeless.

Taking advantage of the interest in the minority problems aroused by the Polish proposal, I submitted to the Political Committee on the first day of the debate (September 21, 1934) a request by the Hungarian Government, asking that the situation of the Hungarian minorities be generally examined by the League. I did not propose any measures. This would be, I told the Political Committee, within the competence of the Great Powers. I only requested that the existing stipulations concerning the protection of the minorities be rendered effective.

I then drew a parallel between religious and national conflicts and brought back to the Delegates' minds the Peace Treaty of Westphalia which ended, in 1648, the Thirty Years War by proclaiming the freedom of conscience concerning religion. I pleaded that the same freedom of conscience be at long last extended by enlightened world opinion to nationality also in order to prevent new conflicts already in the making. I pointed out the opposite tendency, which had developed in the Danube Valley disregarding and even violating the minority rights guaranteed in the Peace Treaties. "The decadence of this protection has caused an extremely grave situation," I said, "particularly in Rumania," where more than half of the Hungarian population separated from their motherland now live. I finally submitted a detailed memorandum for comparison of the discriminatory treatment of the Hungarian minority in Rumania with the stipulations of the Paris Treaty, signed by Rumania on December 9,1919. All I asked was that the moral laws governing relations between men and nations of good will be applied also to the Hungarian minorities.

Was it opportune to raise the problem of the largest Hungarian minority, the one in Rumania, while trying to bring about a general Improvement of Hungary's relations with her neighbors? The menace of Naziism was uppermost in my mind, and I had given much thought to the need for preparing an effective defense in the Danube Valley against its incorporation into Hitler's "living space." But more than three million Hungarians had been adjudged, much against their will, by the Trianon Peace Treaty (signed on June 4,1920), to neighboring countries. About half of them lived in territory contiguous to mutilated


Hungary; their laments poisoned the atmosphere on both sides of the absurd borders. An impasse had been reached in Geneva with the rights of the minorities sunk deep in the morass of League procedure. I had to pick up these problems and raise them from the legal to the political level by starting a general discussion of the minority issue. If some agreement could be reached to improve the treatment of the Hungarian minorities, only then could a constructive Danubian policy be inaugurated. With that constant irritant removed, better stability would be attainable in all the countries of the Danube Valley.

If you are reasonable, you will only fight one of your opponents at a time. I had selected Rumania for my action in the League, since the greatest number of Hungarians (1,705,000 persons) under foreign rule lived there and discrimination against them had become increasingly severe. Discrimination against Hungarians in the Rumanian school system was much resented, particularly the infractions of Article X of the Paris Treaty, whereby Rumania had agreed to provide non - Rumanian residents with adequate primary schools for the instruction of their children in their own language. I enumerated thirty communities in the memorandum where the number of Hungarians amounted to 90 per cent of the population, but all the schools were exclusively of Rumanian and none of Hungarian language. Also, in violation of Article IX of the Paris Treaty, innumerable difficulties were imposed on the Hungarian private schools maintained by Hungarians at their own expense. Furthermore, collections of the Hungarian Museum in Cluj, Hungarian funds for the maintenance of hospitals, and of Catholic and Protestant Churches, etc., had been confiscated against the law to the amount of at least fifty - three million Swiss francs.

There developed, the next day, an interesting debate in the Political Committee. In answer to my address, the Rumanian Delegate, Mr. Antoniade, tried to minimize the importance of the Hungarian complaints by pointing out how few petitions had been submitted to the League by that minority during the last ten years. Mr. Fotitch, speaking for Yugoslavia, sidestepped the merit of the issue by insisting on observance of the rules of League procedure. He brought up the argument, fully exploited later by the Delegate of France, that questions concerning minorities came exclusively under the competence of the Council of the League or of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. On the other hand, Mr. Benes of Czechoslovakia, the third


speaker for the Little Entente, became quite loquacious; he made, in fact, a real issue of the minority problem. Well prepared for the debate, as was his habit, he cited figures, statistics, and compared tables concerning the treatment of minorities in Czechoslovakia and in Hungary. He concluded that an examination by an international committee would find that the situation of the Hungarians was better in Czechoslovakia than that of the Slovaks in Hungary. He assured the Committee that in the interest of both our countries he wished to collaborate with Hungary.

Intentionally or inadvertently, Mr. Benes had become helpful with his self - exultant speech in creating an opening in the desired direction for a practical discussion of the painful problem of discrimination to the detriment of the Hungarian minorities. If tangible improvement could now be obtained through the League of Nations, Hungarian resentment of past injustices would recede, and confidence in the League would grow.

It was a shock to me, therefore, when Mr. Massigli, the Delegate of France, rose quite incensed at the end of the meeting to protest against "the abuse of discussing minority problems in a Committee of the Assembly." He requested that the Chairman silence in the future such attempts. Sitting in the chair, Mr. Madariaga, the impeccable Delegate of Spain, glossed over this interference, but the road to a rapprochement between Hungary and the other Successor States of the Austro - Hungarian Monarchy had been definitely blocked by the French Delegate. Aware of this, Mr. Benes, before leaving, came up to me apologetically: "You see," he told me, "I am a good man. but France does not want us to come to terms." To keep the Danubian States divided among themselves appeared to France at that time to be a guaranty of the Little Entente's loyalty. British policy to keep the Continent divided increased the destructive effect of French policy. Practically creating a vacuum in the heart of Europe, they paralyzed the self-defense of the Danubian States and kept the gate on the Danube wide open for Hitler.

France has never profited from this negative policy. The Little Entente countries remained subservient to France only as long as they needed her to provide them with loans and diplomatic support. But when France needed them to stand up against Hitler, they turned their backs not only on short-sighted France, but even on one another.


The Italian Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, writes, not without irony, in his Diary that he received the Rumanian Minister on March 15, 1939, the day the last remnants of disintegrated Czechoslovakia were wiped off the map. The Representative of Rumania accepted "with dignity" the Nazi occupation of Bohemia.15

At the next Committee meeting (September 24), although a good result could no longer be expected, I accepted the idea of Mr. Benes "to seek an agreement fair in every way, concerning the treatment of minorities in our countries." To demonstrate Hungary's willingness to co-operate for a good cause with her neighbors, I proposed to go beyond an expression of mutual good will and to request the Council to appoint a committee which would examine in the Little Entente States, as well as in Hungary, the situation of the minorities and then would submit its findings for further action to the League. I felt strongly that if such automatic control, as already existed regarding the mandated territories, would replace the present system of compulsory litigation, the annoying petitions and vexatious debates on minority problems would become dated and the treatment of the minorities might generally improve. Mr. Benes, aware of my sincere intention to remove an obstacle in the way of Danubian understanding, expressed his appreciation of the good will I had been demonstrating in Geneva as well as in Budapest. But then, in line with Mr. Massigli's demand, he associated himself with the view of his Little Entente colleagues who insisted that minority problems should be discussed only in the Council. He thus invalidated his own proposal of the previous day which I had accepted. One month later, when the Marseille regicide came up in the League, his subservience to French policy made him completely forget the good start we had made toward a better Danubian understanding. That opportunity has never returned.

On the third and last day of the Council debate on minorities, I replied to every Delegate who had participated in the discussion. I countered the evasive approach of the Rumanian and Yugoslav Delegates with the argument that "the systematic violation of an important treaty constitutes a grave political problem deserving of discussion in the Political Committee," as had been stated in 1932 by Lord Robert Cecil, one of the best experts on League affairs. I warmly thanked Baron Aloisi (Italy) and Mr. Eden (Great Britain) for their highly

15 Ibid., p. 43 - 44.


valued interest in a problem of great importance to the improvement of relations in Eastern Europe. "As to the comments of Mr. Massigli," I ended, "their tone absolves me from any reply." The Representative of the leading Great Power in the League was rebuked by a small, indeed a very small Power. Yet my remark did not provoke adverse criticism. Even Le Temps, the official paper of the French Foreign Office, did not treat Massigli too gently. In an editorial, he was admonished to refrain from provocative statements if he wished to spare the prestige of France.

I have outlined in some detail the protection of the minority rights and the defective handling of this problem by the League of Nations. The arbitrarily drawn frontiers in Eastern and Central Europe caused thirty million people to live as minorities in centralized "national" states. The correct observance of the minority rights had therefore become politically and morally a minimum requirement, if peace was to endure. Even from the point of view of states anxious to retain the status quo, the proper treatment of their minorities would seem to have been in their own interest, for tensions might have been lessened thereby and the loyalty of the minorities improved toward the state in which they had to live.

Although no practical result was achieved by it, Hungary's action for the improvement of the fate of the minorities was commented on with sympathy in League circles and by a considerable segment of the press. The Journal de Geneve (September 26, 1934), in an editorial, praised "Mr. Eckhardt's subtle manoeuvre" in the League and wrote:

"There is something noble in this attitude which will not abandon itself to misfortune. But it also comprises a danger . . . Hungary is not a factor contributing to stability. But, of course, she has an answer: this is so by no fault of hers." In a second editorial on the twenty-eighth, the paper reprimanded Mr. Barthou for trying to subdue Hungary with threats. Mr. Eckhardt was told in the Sixth Committee that Hungary had to submit to French policy and collaborate unconditionally. "It seems, however, that this manoeuvre did not succeed." A post - mortem on minority protection shows in a startling way the sharp decline of respect for basic human rights which continued following the defeat of Hitler. The liberal era of the nineteenth century had assured in the Treaty of' Berlin (July, 1878) the protection of the Jewish minority in Rumania, and during the Paris Peace Conference


(1919) at the request of the Jews in Poland that principle was again accepted and generally included in the Peace Treaties with the Successor States of the Austro - Hungarian Monarchy.

In the "Memoirs of Dr. Eduard Benes"16 we find a shameless account of how during the second World War he succeeded in persuadmg at first Mr. Eden and then the Soviets and President Roosevelt to drop from the future Peace Treaties the protection of minority rights "because they had not stood the test of practical experience and had been most disappointing." What was the alternative to replace that protection? "There was no other course open," writes Benes "but to try to reduce the number of minorities in foreign states by transfers of population." As an inveterate hypocrite he adds: "As far as possible, universally, decently and humanely." Genocide, a crime practiced by Hitler, was transformed into a virtue, if Benes was committing it. "Such a solution was also and especially suitable for our Hungarians" continues the democratic Mr. Benes, who then recommends that the same treatment be given to the Poles, a nation which had been bravely fighting on the Allied side. Benes notes with satisfaction in his Memoirs17 that this program was carried out in Czecho-Slovakia "in 1945 and 1946, under the leadership and full and permanent control of the United States of America." Obviously, the most important Wilsonian principal has been disgracefully reversed: the revision of boundaries was outlawed and populations were driven like cattle from their homes into foreign lands in order to maintain intact faulty frontiers.

16 Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, p. 222.

l7 Ibid., p. 223.

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