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In the final phase of the debate in the Council of the League, the Western Great Powers found themselves enmeshed in the power-political net which they themselves had laboriously woven. Basically, it was not Yugoslavia and Hungary, but Italy and France, who were opposing each other in Geneva, while at the same time seeking rapprochement with one another in Rome. There were no territorial problems dividing Italy from France, but they were the leaders of two antagonistic groupings in Central Europe: the Little Entente system allied with France, and the powers of the Pact of Rome patronized more loosely by Italy. Yugoslavia, a member of both the Little and the Balkan Ententes, had become an indispensable link in the French system of alliances. Besides helping to keep Hungarian revisionism down, she also served to thwart similar ambitions of Bulgaria concerning the revision of her frontiers. But Yugoslavia was unalterably opposed to Italy and blocked thereby rapprochement between Italy and France. Nevertheless, the French-Little Entente system remained solid during the Marseille crisis and so did the Pact of Rome. In spite of Laval's maneuvers to persuade Mussolini to drop Hungary, the Duce never wavered in his support. Also the Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg, mobilized troops on the Yugoslav border when the Chetniks threatened to invade Hungary.

Hostility between Italy and Yugoslavia was deep-rooted on both sides, for Italy was contending with Yugoslavia for domination of the Adriatic Sea. The traditional Italian aspirations concerning Dalmatia - the beautiful province on the East Coast of the Adriatic, which, for centuries, had been ruled by the merchants of Venice - were strengthened after the First World War by strategic considerations. President Roosevelt once complained1 in a light vein that as a young man, he owed his first political defeat to Admiral Horthy, later the Regent of Hungary. During the World War, Roosevelt, then Undersecretary of the Navy, was sent to Italy by President Wilson to coax the Italian Navy, much stronger than the Austro-Hungarian fleet, to greater activity. The Italian Minister of the Navy, Thaon di Revel,

1 In May, 1940, during an audience I had with him.


a distinguished gentleman with a goatee, refused however to follow suit, arguing before the Cabinet Council that this would be too dangerous. Horthy, the Commander in Chief of the hostile fleet, was conducting most unconventional warfare; he subjected the cities on the wide-open Italian East coast to raids, and under the protection of the innumerable islands covering the Dalmatian shores, he carried out hit and run assaults which practically paralyzed the Italian fleet. Of course, Yugoslavia, having inherited from Austria-Hungary that advantagious position on the Adriatic Sea, was determined to keep it and defend it. Since Serhian defense is always offensive, there was more than enough reason for the Italians to complain. In his Milano speech,2 it was Mussolini's main demand that the Belgrade press stop insulting the Italian Army before relations between the two countries could he improved.

In the Council debate, the Yugoslavs could hardly have expected a more favorable statement from Italy than that given by Ambassador Aloisi. Their real disappointment was Mr. Eden's speech. He had not uttered a single word of blame against Hungary, but had delivered a serious warning against the brutal expulsion of Hungarians from Yugoslavia. Worst of all, they did not receive British recognition of the constructive role which the Yugoslavs believed they fulfilled in the Balkans by the maintenance of their unity. True to himself, Laval had tried to persuade Mr. Eden that the need of the hour was not justice but appeasement and that means must be found to calm the Yugoslav excitement. In this event, however, the British chose pressure on the Yugoslavs and not appeasement. The British condemned in strong terms the persecution of the Hungarian minority. The New York Times reported from London:3 "Not since Adolf Hitler's Aryan outbreak has public feeling in Great Britain been so stirred as by the spectacle of the indiscriminate deportation from Yugoslavia at a moment's notice of Hungarians, young and old, feeble and strong." The London Daily Mail drew the inference that these flagrant acts of Yugoslav barbarism emphasized the necessity of urgently revising the Trianon Peace Treaty.

Emotional outbursts of British public opinion, however, would hardly have influenced Mr. Eden, nor did they determine the stand

2 Referred to in the first chapter of this writing.

3 Frederick J. Birchell's report on December 10, 1934.

4 Decembcr 10, 1934.


of the British Foreign Office. Aloofness often is only an expression of the embarrassing complexities which British foreign policy represents. Preparing for the delicate role of the rapporteur, or rather for that of an arbiter in the current conflict, Mr. Eden found a welcome opportunity to observe reticence concerning the Yugoslav abuses against the Hungarian minority and the Marseille crime, which he certainly should not prejudge. Other considerations also induced Mr. Eden to avoid the condemnation of revisionism, although Britain was firmly tied to the observance of the status quo. British foreign policy is frequently studded with subtle internal contradictions. Encouraged by non-committal Nazi enticements, the Foreign Office was deluding itself with the hope that the Germans could be brought back into the League they had left only a year ago, by dangling before their eyes treaty revision through the instrumentality of the League. The days, however, when this offer might have been accepted, were gone. The Pact of Four (Britain-France-Italy-Germany) proposed by Mussolini to the British and signed in Rome on the 7th of June, 1933, did provide for the revision of the treaties within the framework of the League, but that Pact had never been ratified. This bait did no longer attract Hitler, for there was no situation more favorable to the rearmament of Germany without any controls, than the one he had achieved by unilateral action, thanks to the complacency of Britain and France. The Foreign Office considered - in theory - the possibility of treaty revision as the key to the adaptability of the treaties, which key should be retained - even if not used-as an instrument for the maintenance of peace, in extremis. Moreover, the threat of treaty revision was a powerful means by which France could be prevented from imposing her preponderance over the European Continent. Rome had to be granted the means with which to slow down French dynamism; so the usefulness of her Hungarian Ally was not to be destroyed. The precarious European balance of power demanded the preservation of Hungarian influence. This was the logic followed by British policy in this event. The British needed the French for the stabilization of the status quo on the Continent, but the French needed the British even more, because of their widespread responsibilities overseas which depended largely on their collaboration with the British. Such subtle considerations regarding the power-political balance of the Continent


shaped the British attitude in Geneva in addition to the search for justice and truth, as heralded by the press.

Laval's policy was less complicated, yet difficult to determine accurately. Without hesitation he would have to support the Little Entente, but only up to a point. He could not allow his present associates to upset his major plans for the future; therefore he would also have to counsel moderation to his Little Entente Allies. He inherited from Barthou the project of an Oriental Pact, but he was much less sold on an alliance with the Soviets than had been his predecessor. Austria, a protege of Italy, was tottering under Nazi pressures; if at the proper time the weight of Hungary was also reduced, Mussolini might have to fall back on an alliance with France, which would open the door toward French-German understanding and more unity on the European Continent. In the long run, Laval's policy was aimed at the restoration of friendship with both of his neighbors: Italy and Germany rather than Russia. This was his master plan and he could not allow it to be endangered by his minor Allies in the Little Entente, whose exaggerations or untimely violent actions might force Mussolini to defend Hungary against destruction and cause a break between Italy and France before the intended Franco-Italian alliance could be established. An all-out attack against Hungary by the Little Entente appeared to Laval as inopportune or at least premature.

The French press now visibly mirrored Laval's desire to reach a rapid and reasonable solution. There was little vituperation against Hungary. On December 10, the Matin, the Petit Parisien, the Journal and the Petit Journal, all expressed concern over the gravity of the conflict and the fact that no formula had been worked out as yet to end it by a compromise. The French papers insisted that if this affair was ever started, a solution should also be found. The Oeuvre alone remained composed and wrote about "a political leader in Geneva" who thought that some good would result from this excessively bad affair.

Following reciprocal deprecation in the Council, an atmosphere of conciliation had been generated in Geneva. It appeared that war as a means of settling the Marseille affair was out of the question. Fortunately, the Soviets had stepped out of the picture and none of the other Great Powers wanted war or would have then condoned violent action in Europe. On December 9, the tension was greatly relieved


when the news arrived that after the return of Prince Paul from the royal wedding in London, the order to cease expelling the Hungarians was issued in Belgrade. Undoubtedly, the Yugoslav government of Uzunovitch had been prevailed upon by Great Britain and France to change its harmful attitude which would prejudice the Yugoslav case against Hungary. It was a hopeful sign that official circles in Belgrade were accusing now "the overzealousness of local officials" for the hardships which had befallen the Hungarian deportees. The Chetniks on the Yugoslav border now refrained from aggressive action. Unless General Zhifkovitch resorted to a putsch, a peaceful solution seemed to be assured.

Bargaining on the diplomatic level, however, was still lagging. The immediate task was to prevent explosive speeches at public sessions of the Council, while urgently working out some compromise under which the Council could safely adjourn the formal solution of the dispute to its January session and appoint one of its members to submit a report. Two demands of the Little Entente that Hungary would have had to reject seemed to have been dropped by this time (December 9): the Hungarian Government would not be accused directly of any guilt in connection with the Marseille crime, since no evidence in this sense had been submitted to the Council; the honor of the Hungarian nation would not be placed in doubt by identifying terrorism with Hungarian revisionism, since the latter was based on the Covenant of the League. On the first point, the Yugoslavs had toned down their accusations but insisted that the resolution to be passed place some blame on Hungary by branding Hungarian authorities chargeable of negligence. The second point was modified into the demand that the integrity and unity of Yugoslavia be recognized in the resolution as necessary to the maintenance of peace. The outlines of a compromise became discernable; the task was now to draft a text acceptable to both sides.

On this day, December 9, spurred by the good news from Belgrade, Laval was particularly active. He warned Yeftitich that should Belgrade imperil peace, France would start negotiations with Germany, for France would not be dragged by Yugoslavia into a conflict with Hitler. Laval also bargained with Aloisi who then - for the first time - asked me to come to see him. He intimated that the draft of a resolution he gave me to read, might be acceptable with minor


modifications. To my regret, I could not agree with the Ambassador, for indirect responsibility for the crime was still placed on the Hungarian Government, and Hungarian revisionism was held to be directed against Yugoslav unity. Later in the day, Aloisi met Mr. de Kanya, who also refused to accept a somewhat improved text which referred to Article X of the Covenant without mentioning Article XIX. Under the auspices of Mr. Eden, Laval was mollifying the Little Entente, while Aloisi was working on us. This was League of Nations technique: not bad when the Great Powers had reached an understanding, at least in theory, as was the case then.

This last day before the denouement, however, proved most unpleasant for us Hungarians. Nobody seemed to be interested anymore in the murder of King Alexander. The Little Entente orchestra, directed by Mr. Benes and aided by his numerous friends in the Secretariat of the League, was using threats and launching intrigues to disturb Hungarian cooperation with Italy. Hungarian revisionism, which nobody denied, had become the main target of the malevolent efforts, and word was spread, even with reference to Mr. Eden, that unless Hungary quickly gave up her resistance, she would forfeit every claim to European consideration. The threat was conveyed to us that if denied satisfaction by the Council, Yugoslavia would take recourse to Article XV of the Covenant, which would allow her to take independent measures, including armed action against Hungary. I was personally much annoyed by the utterly baseless accusation, which found its way into some newspapers also, that in trying to force Aloisi to continue to give full support to Hungary, I had threatened that I would publish incriminating evidence against Italy. Both Mr. de Kanya and I perfectly understood the role the Italian Ambassador had to fulfill in trying to achieve a solution through compromise. On December 5, a new one was added to his many burdens. Ethiopian frontier guards had clashed with Italian forces at Ualual and Aloisi had just submitted the Italian representations to the League. We were grateful to him for the time he had devoted to the support of Hungary while his country was having trouble in Africa, and for the skill and fundamental firmness he displayed at all times during the Marseille affair. This intrigue was the last act in the smear campaign conducted then against Hungary in Geneva. But it did not disturb in any way our friendly relations with the Italian delegation.


To complete this narrative on annoying propaganda, I must describe an episode which did not influence the outcome of the Marseille affair, but had some bearing on the evaluation of European events in America. At the height of the tension, I received a letter from a Hungarian who had just returned from America. He informed me that he had been present last summer (1934) at a meeting of Croat immigrants in Youngstown, Ohio, where a condemnation of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia to death was applauded. The writer also related that a collection was made there for Croat national purposes. In 1941, while I was traveling in the Middle West, Croat organizers of the Youngstown meeting called on me, quite proud of having participated in that meeting. In 1934, however, this story still appeared to me as improbable, so I passed it on for verification to the correspondent of the Associated Press. He checked on it in America the same night, found the information perfectly true, and a detailed report on it was published next morning in the European press. This news caused a sensation, for what had happened in America was worse than anything of which Hungary had been accused. Unable to refute the confirmed facts, Radoye Yankovitch, the Yugoslav Consul General in New York City, published a clumsy statement 5 to the effect that several months ago "the Croat meeting at Youngstown, Ohio, was prearranged in order to furnish Dr. Eckhardt with arguments for Hungary's defense at Geneva." It did not belp the Yugoslav cause to concoct this type of press information.

This episode, thanks to the excellent reporting and technical achievements of the American press, showed vividly and at the right time that the accusation against Hungary of having plotted the murder of King Alexander was a malicious fabrication. Unfortunately, the interpretation of European news by some American papers did not betray the same degree of perfection. In the period of isolationism, the daily paper most interested in European affairs was the New York Times. The paper had an able correspondent in Geneva, Mr. Clarence K. Streit, whose reports I have been quoting. But the foreign editors of the paper had a yardstick of their own in New York; policies which did not fit into their prefabricated patterns were branded as sinful and occasionally the European picture was made into a caricature.

Here is an example, a New York Times editorial of December 9,

5 New York Times, December 8, 1934.


which at the apex of the crisis I resented. The editorial praised the League of Nations for its efforts aimed at conciliation: so superior when compared with the "secret diplomacy" of twenty years ago. I asked myself: has "secret diplomacy" ever been used more vastly than right then and there, in Geneva? My greatest concern was to keep abreast of all the horse-trading and secret negotiations going on behind closed doors. In fact, no case against Hungary would have existed at all, if secret diplomacy, cultivated by Laval and Benes, had not concocted false accusations against her. And it was exactly these two intriguers, Laval and Benes, whom the editorial singled out to assure them of America's esteem, for they were "men of peace." One day earlier, the Times had truthfully reported that Benes - only Benes - was threatening the world with war. Not Yeftitch, sincerely mourning the death of his King, but Benes, the kibitzer, wished to crush disarmed Hungary. The next day, the New York Times, identified itself completely with Mr. Benes, and warned Hungary that she had to comply with the League's decision, for "the League had at its disposal a very real police for the occasion." I had repeatedly stated in Geneva that Hungary would abide by the decisions of the League. Thus, for no valid reason, the New York Times was rattling a sword that did not exist, since during the two decades of its existence the League had never established a police force.

On December 10, in the midst of such confusing propaganda, the expected turn for the better arrived in the early morning hours. December 9 was a Sunday, and Mr. Eden drove to the country leaving no word behind where he was going. He writes in his memoirs that he wished "to keep out of the ferment" meaning thereby mainly Mr. Benes, who kept looking for him frantically all day, eager to prevail upon Mr. Eden. But Mr. Eden wished to make up his own mind, so he only returned late in the evening when - he writes - he expected that the Delegates "would be prepared to listen to me." After ceaseless negotiations, the British Delegation announced that a compromise formula in the Yugoslav-Hungarian conflict had been worked out. At a conference ending well after midnight, Eden, Laval and Aloisi had agreed on a text to be submitted for adhesion to Hungary as well as to the Little Entente States. I noticed, somewhat shocked, that Edward Benes had pushed his way into this conference of the great powers.

5a Memoirs, p.128.


By his own choice, he had become a party to the Conflict under consideration yet, he would not observe the discretion Mr. Yeftitch and I had sustained. Benes could never resist the temptation to place himself in line with the Great Powers and thereby annoyed even Mr. Titulescu, his equally ambitious Little Entente colleague. That little man just did not know his place.

Another general precept which for his own benefit Mr. Benes might have observed was: you cannot fool all the people all the time. Falsification of data and texts which had been successfully practiced by him at the jumbled Paris Peace Conference in 1919, led this time to adverse results. In a dry tone, Mr. Eden reveals in his Memoirs6 that at their final conference (December 9) Benes, at first, was trying to scare him. Eden did not like the draft which the French and the Little Entente had worked out jointly. It contained "irrelevant references against revision of the Treaty of Trianon. Benes was unhappy when I (Eden) had to point out that the Covenant was misquoted in a sense favorable to himself." (Emphasis mine.) Eden and Laval eventually "agreed to leave out all references to revision and drew up with their experts a much better resolution for the Council."

The critical meeting of the Council could now be set for the after-noon, by which time, it was expected, the resolution would be privately approved by the interested parties and then submitted by Mr. Eden to the Council. We had to endure, however, new pressures and fruitless, weary negotiations; for the draft of the resolution still was not quite acceptable to us. The difficulty was caused by the Hungarian passports issued to the Croat refugees, a bona fide mistake used against Hungarian authorities as evidence of their involvement. Yugoslavia no longer accused the Hungarian Government of a crime, but she urged international supervision of the measures to be taken in Hungary against terrorism. Although appearing as moderate, such a decision of the Council would have placed Hungary under international tutelage, in which the Little Entente would have demanded a prominent role; thereby interfering in Hungary's internal affairs, including her policy of treaty revision. Sixteen years after the wars end, Hungary could not accept this or any new foreign control, however loosely that obligation might be worded. Yugoslavia, on the other hand, argued that she must obtain effective guarantees against the revival of

6 Ibid., p. 129.


terrorism. The conflict between Hungary and Yugoslavia had been narrowed down to this dispute, in the afternoon when I took my place at the Council table to defend the interests of Hungary with the available means of open diplomacy, while Mr. de Kanya, our Foreign Affairs Minister, continued in hotel rooms the indispensable private negotiations in old-style secret diplomacy with the Mssrs. Aloisi and Eden.

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