[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Notes] [HMK Home] István I. Mócsy:The Effects of World War I ...

On December 21, representatives of these counties met at Érsekujvár and, to the cheering of some 20,000 people, elected a Defense Committee to organize military resistance. Leading figures in the committee were György Szmrecsanyi, Ödön Beniczky, high-sheriff of Bars and Esztergom counties, Béla Perczel and János Bartos from Komárom and Bars counties. Leaders, however, were more readily available and plentiful than followers. In spite of all the patriotic appeals and grandiose designs recruitment failed: when the Czechs finally mounted a major offensive to occupy all of Slovakia, Szmrecsányi had no more than eighty men at his disposal. On January 8, 1919, Érsekujvar fell without a struggle. Deeply embittered and bewildered by the nearly total lack of mass support Szmrecsányi and his small army abandoned all hopes of saving northern Hungary and, along with his political supporters, he retired to Budapest.[30] They blamed their failure on socialist agitators, on the personal cowardice of some politicians, and, above all, on the criminal sabotage of their efforts by the pacifists in the Károlyi government.

In other parts of northern Hungary state or county officials made similar attempts at organizing the population for a national resistance, but in every town and county the result was the same. Only some of the county or state officials, members of the police or gendarmerie, and demobilized officers responded to the call to arms. In Selmecbánya, for example, a high state official, László Pethes, led the resistance. His group, consisting mostly of officers and noncommissioned officers, was too small to be effective. They could only delay the occupation of towns.[31] After all resistance became hopeless, Pethes. with some other resistants, was forced to flee to Budapest. Later, during the Hungarian Soviet regime several members of this group fled to Szeged, where they became active in organizing the National Army. A similar officer's detachment was formed in Gömör country by the deputy high-sheriff (Alispán) Gyula Fornet. It was able to retain control of the county only until the Czech troops arrived in force during January 1919. Then this small army, too, retired to Hungary. Another group of police and army officers made a desperate attempt to prevent, by force, Czech occupation at Balassagyarmat. At Losonc a few hundred insurgents abandoned the idea of a struggle when they were so ordered by the government at Budapest.[32]

In Ruthenia, Miklós Kutkafalvy, editor of a pro-Hungarian newspaper and head of Bereg county during the Károlyi regime, was the leader of resistance and commander of an extra-legal military force. His group fought several skirmishes with invading bands of Ukrainian nationalists and forced them to retire behind the Carpathians. Small clashes also took place with some advanced guards of Romanians. Kutkafalvy was equally active in the organization of the pro-Hungarian Ruthenian People's Council; it went on record as opposing the forceful separation of Ruthenia from Hungary. Just as everywhere else occupation was inevitable, and those who attempted to resist it were forced to flee to inner Hungary.[33]

Others merely sent repeated urgent messages or delegations to Budapest, protesting the absence of military protection against foreign invaders. All, regardless of their roles in the resistance, even if they were nothing but passive supporters, believed, nevertheless, that they had compromised themselves in the eyes of the occupying powers. However reluctantly they came to the conclusion that their lives, as well as those of their families were endangered, and they felt compelled to withdraw into the unoccupied interior of Hungary.

The leaders of these and similar groups remained politically active as refugees. For their activities some were rewarded in 1920 with seats in parliament or high government posts.[34]

Thousands of people from all walks of life fled before the approaching army. The mere thought of a hostile foreign army, fueled by rumors about the treatment the Hungarian population could expect, was sufficient for many to seek safety on the southern side of the demarcation line. Most Hungarian peasants remained in their villagesw except in the border areas. where, at times, nearly all young people fled; and in some instances, entire villages were suddenly depopulated. Many who remained were arrested immediately after the arrival of Czech troops; some were tortured; after their release they either voluntarily crossed the demarcation line or were forcefully expelled

The hopes of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia were raised once more during the summer of 1919; for a part of Slovakia was briefly restored to Hungary as a consequence of the highly successful invasion bv the army of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The incident was provoked by additional territorial demands by the Czechs, who discov- ered that they had failed to claim some important railroad junctions on the main east-west Hungarian railway axis. Prague also raised the question of Ruthenia, which still remained in Hungary, on grounds that its possession by the Czechoslovak Republic was necessary to assure a direct frontier between Czechoslovakia and Romania and, thus, to separate the Poles and Hungarians, both hostile to Czechoslovakia. These demands were made soon after another ultimatum was delivered to Hungary ordering the evacuation of additional territories to permit the advance of the Romanian forces. Under these pressures the Karolyi government could no longer function, and power in Hungary passed into the hands of the Communists. The Hungarian Soviet leadership was determined to end the gradual encroachment of neighboring states on Hungarian territory. Therefore, it replaced the policy of cooperation with the Allies with one of resistance. Béla Kun was convinced that an international coalition would soon attack the Hungarian Soviet Republic from three sides to exterminate Communism from East Central Europe.[35]His belief proved correct. Like many faithful Communists of his time, he believed that if the Hungarian Soviet state survived, its example would be followed in the other nations of East Central Europe and soon the world would be engulfed in a great revolution. Thus his primary objective was to prolong the life of the Communist regime until that day.

In view of this it was logical to attempt to fight Hungary,s opponents separately, and on the terms set by the Red Army. On April 16, Romania opened full-scale attack from the east. Five days later the Czech army crossed the line of demarcation, apparently without the full knowledge or approval of the Allies, and occupied Miskolc and the important coal mining district of Salgótarjan. The Soviet Republic took advantage of these violations of Hungary's demarcation lines and, after stabilizing the eastern front. went on the offensive in the north. The Hungarian Red Army launched a full-scale invasion of Czech occupied northern Hungary (May 20), 1919) and caught the Czech legions by surprise. Within a few weeks most of the eastern regions of Upper Hungary and nearly all of the Hungarian-populated areas were again in Hungarian hands. The Western Powers, however. intervened and ordered an immediate withdrawal, though promising at the same time to compel the Romanians to withdraw behind the designated demarcation line in the east. Bela Kun yielded and Slovakia was evacuated, but the Romanians remained at their advanced position on the left bank of the Tisza River.

From Kassa to Eperjes, to Losonc and Érsekújvár, the Hungarian population welcomed the Hungarian Red Army as liberators. Hundreds joined the army and thousands aided it in one form or another. Once the area returned to Czech control those individuals were doubly punished: as Hungarian nationalists and as suspected Communists. Anyone suspected of complicity with the Red Army was hunted down, beaten, imprisoned, or expelled. Thousands of others left with the retreating Red Army.

Occupation of Transylvania and Eastern Hungary

In 1918 most Hungarians of eastern Hungary viewed the future of their homeland with grave apprehension. Romanian designs on Transylvania were well known. Romanian nationalists viewed Transylvania as the birthplace of the Romanian nation and culture and pressed for the annexation of eastern Hungary into a Greater Romania. But the cultural and historical bonds between Transylvania and Hungary were even stronger. For a millenium Transylvania formed an integral part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Although for centuries Transylvania was ruled under its own laws by its own Hungarian princes, virtually independent of the Hungarian king, the constitutional subordination of the Transylvanian principality to the Hungarian crown was always recognized, at least in principle.

Already at the beginning of the World War the explosive nature of the Romanian problem was recognized by most politicians, but a sharp disagreement prevailed over the question of how to deal with it. Most people in the position of power and influence had believed that granting concessions to the Romanians would be interpreted as a sign of weakness that would lead to disintegration of the Hungarian state. During the first year of the war Prime Minister István Tisza. to keep the Kingdom of Romania neutral and under strong German and Austrian pressure, held out the possibility of concessions to the Romanian minority. But even the promise of minor concessions aroused the ire of such men as Counts Albert Apponyi, Gyula Andrássy, Jr., and of the most radical champion of Hungarian supremacy, István Bethlen.[36]

Once Romania abandoned its neutrality and invaded Transylvania, restraints were removed. The Hungarian population fled in massive numbers before the approaching Romanian army. The remaining Hungarians were subjected to violent treatment. and atrocities against them were not infrequent. When the Central Powers counterattacked. the retreating Romanian forces carried off hundreds of prominent Hungarians as hostages. Although the Romanian population generally adopted a noncommittal attitude toward the invading forces, some welcomed them; some cooperated with them. Along with the Romanian army, therefore, thousands of Romanians fearing Hungarian retaliation also fled to Romania. The restoration of Hungarian authority indeed brought repressive measures against those suspected of collaboration with the enemy.[37]

Mutual repressions only made postwar reconciliation between Romanians and Hungarians more difficult. The anti-Hungarian bias of the Romanian population was clearly understood by the Károlyi government as well as by the Székely and Hungarian population of Transylvania.[38] Although Károlyi and Jászi were more or less resigned to the loss of at least part of Transylvania, Hungarians like the Székelys still believed that resistance was possible. In northern Hungary as well as in territories ceded to Yugoslavia, organized resistance was at best sporadic, but Hungarians, including the Székelys, of eastern Hungary and Transylvania lost no time in establishing resistance organizations, both in Budapest and in Transylvania. The reason for this difference is that unlike Hungarians of northern and southern Hungary, Transylvanians always possessed their own strong separate corporate identity. To them, Transylvania with its proud history represented the best and the purest qualities of the Hungarian nation. This view was shared by many even outside Transylvania. Transylvania had retained much of its independence during the long Turkish presence in central Hungary. It was a reservoir for the struggle against Habsburg domination during the sixteeenth and seventeenth centuries. Transylvania had stood in the forefront of the fight for religious toleration, for freedom of conscience in face of the religious bigotry of the Catholic Habsburgs. The Transylvanians also liked to think of their province as an eastern replica of Switzerland, where people of various nationalities and religions could live in harmony. They pointed to the equality and peaceful coexistence among the three "nations', of Transylvania: the Hungarians, the Szekelys, and the Saxons. These claims might have been justified had the Romanians been admitted as the fourth "nation", but they were not recognized as such.

The Transylvanians also liked to point to some of the democratic traditions and practices within each of the recognized "nations", especially among the Székelys. The historic privileges of the urban Saxons and the Székelys helped them to evolve a kind of protodemocracy that was based, however, not on a modern theory of equality, but on the remnants of medieval privileges.

The Székely National Council was formed in Budapest during November 1918, under the guidance of Counts István Bethlen and Pá1 Teleki, members of illustrious Transylvanian families, and under the active leadership of Benedek Jancsó, Dénes Sebess, Gábor Ugron, and Nándor Urmanczy. The purpose of this organization was to save in Transylvania what still could be saved and to organize and supply a military force willing to defend the territorial integrity of Transylvania. The so-called Székely akcio managed to collect a considerable amount of arms, accumulate a sizable war chest, and recruit a number of Székely soldiers, mostly from the ranks of demobilized army units returning from the Italian front.[39]

Soon after the establishment of the Székely National Council a general meeting was held in Marosvásárhely, in the heart of Transylvania, to debate the fate of the province. Many at the meeting felt that the Hungarian government could not be entrusted with the defense of their homeland and proposed some kind of independent action. The idea of secession from Hungary and the establishment of an independent Transylvania, or the formation of a Székely Republic from the purely Szekely or Hungarian counties, was especially popular with the younger men and junior officers. This suggestion appeared even more tempting since it was believed that General August von Mackensen, the commander of the German army in Romania, facing an uncertain line of withdrawal to Germany, offered the military assistance of his considerable army against the Romanians if he received authorization from an independent Székely Republic.[40] The idea of an independent Székely Republic as an alternative to union of Transylvania with Romania received some support within the government itself. But Károlyi could not endorse an adventure which would have engulfed the area in a general war. Hungary was economically and emotionally exhausted, no amount of patriotic agitation could have brought the vast majority of the population to take upon its shoulders the burden of a new war. Only a revolutionary army, fighting for revolutionary ideas, could have generated sufficient energy to meet the challenge from the neighboring countries. The Károlyi revolution did not arouse such revolutionary enthusiasm. The proposal of secession was voted down by the assembly at Marosvasárhely, and the policies decreed by Budapest remained applicable to Transylvania.

In the Belgrade agreement (November 13. 1918) the Károlyi government agreed to the evacuation of its military forces from the area south of the Maros line.[41] This evacuation was accomplished very rapidly since at that time no regular Hungarian units were guarding the Romanian borders; in all of Transylvania only a few administrative military units were present. Nevertheless, the Romanian authorities could not take control of the area until much later. For, Romania at the time of the armistice was still under German and Austro-Hungarian military control, and while the Austro-Hungarian divisions were returning in great disarray, the German army began its withdrawal toward Transylvania in an orderly and leisurely fashion. Thus the occupation of Transylvania did not commence until December 1918. It had to be delayed for another reason. Romania herself was extremely weak militarily, and even months later it could commit to Transylvania only three of its eight divisions. In December the number of Romanian troops in Transylvania was still only between 8-10,000. In these early months, the Romanian authorities relied much on irregular native Transylvanian Romanian units, the Romanian National Guards, and on legions formed from Transylvanian refugees in Romania, who hurriedly returned to their homeland. The National Guards sprang to life spontaneously from the discharged or deserting Romanian soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army and from the local Romanian population who either brought their weapons home from the front or armed themselves by seizing unguarded ammunition stores.

These units operated on both sides of the demarcation line. They took it upon themselves, especially in the predominantly Romanian counties, to oust Hungarian officials and generally did much to instill terror in the hearts of the Hungarian population. In many areas these undisciplined National Guards were totally indistinguishable from the rebellious peasantry. Pent-up nationalist and class hatred was suddenly released against everything Hungarian: institutions, property, and even people.

The peasant revolt that swept every corner of Hungary the month of November was slower in spreading among the Romanian peasantry. Once it got under way it was much more difficult to extinguish. It started in the Banát and neighboring counties, from there the revolt spread to south Transylvania, and finally, though with lesser force, it hit central and northern Transylvania. The rebellious peasants together with the National Guards seized lands, looted the storehouses of the great estates, hunted in the forbidden game preserves of the magnates, and forced the effected Hungarians to flee in panic. The path of these men over the countryside was often lit by the burning castles and manor houses of the once powerful Hungarian landowners. But the greatest hatred of the peasantry, as everswhere in the country, was reserved for the notaries and gendarmes, regardless of nationality. Romanian notaries suffered as cruelly as the Hungarians. As a result. ninety percent of the notaries fled from the Romanian-populated areas; gendarmes either shed uniforms and tried to melt into the population, or fled along with the other refugees.[42]

During the last days of October. Romanian minority political organizations sprang up on both the local and national levels. The Károlyi government. wishing to open negotiations with the representatives of every national minority, supported these activities. The Central Romanian National Council was formed on October 30, in Budapest and moved to Arad on November 34. Initially its members were drawn in equal numbers from the liberal Romanian National Party and from the ranks of the Romanian Social Democrats.[43] In the local national councils leadership was in the hands of well-to-do Romanians: lawyers, teachers, intellectuals, Orthodox priests, wealthier businessmen, landowners, and prosperous peasants. These leaders were both anxious to halt peasant attacks on property and, at the same time, to harness the revolutionary energies of the peasantry behind a separatist, national movement. To some, and especially to the conservatives, the safest course was immediate union with the conservative Old Kingdom of Romania. Bypassing the Romanian National Council, some appealed directly to the Romanian government, requesting a quick military occupation of Transylvania. The Romanian government in Iasi, anxious to force an immediate decision on the fate of Transylvania, welcomed these appeals. In their responses the various Romanian politicians urged the Transylvanian leaders to act at the earliest possible date and declare Transylvania,s unconditional union with Romania. The Romanian government intended to view such a declaration as the equivalent of a plebiscite and, therefore, to demand an immediate evacuation of the Hungarian forces from Transylvania.

Most Romanian leaders in Transylvania favored secession from Hungary. But their attitude on unconditional union was ambiguous. The liberals and the socialists wished to receive guarantees of political autonomy for Transylvania before the declaration for union was made. They believed that only within an autonomous Transylvania would it be possible to carry out a radical land reform and to establish liberal democratic institutions. What they feared most was that once union was achieved without a guaranteed autonomy, Transylvania would be swal lowed up by the more backward and conservative Old Kingdom. Especially the socialists had difficulty reconciling their ideology with joining a monarchy which was dominated by reactionary boyars.[44] In the light of the region"s subsequent history, such misgivings were not entirely unjustified .

The Károlyi government hoped that its cooperation with the Romanian National Council and its promise of far-reaching reforms would discourage secession and pave the way to a negotiated settlement. On November 16, as a last minute effort to open dialogue between the Hungarian government and the Romanian minority, a delegation headed by Jászi was sent to Arad. But the mission had the opposite effect.45 The time for a peaceful accord had passed. At its meeting on November 18, the Romanian National Council, after cataloguing the Romanian population's grievances, decided to proclaim the separation of Transylvania from Hungary as soon as the military protection of the Romanian population could be secured. The National Council also sent a delegation to the city of Iasi to communicate these intentions of Transylvanian Romanians to the Romanian government.[46]

Union with Romania was declared just a few days later (December 1, 1918) at the meeting of some 700 Romanian delegates from all parts of Transylvania Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia). According to a Romanian account, these delegates in

the old capital of the principality of Transylvania . . . proclaimed unanimously, amid indescribable enthusiasm, the definitive and unconditional union of these provinces with Romania.

One hundred thousand inhabitants, from all parts of the country, gathered around the place of meeting, awaited the result of the deliberations. When the result was made known to the throng, it was received with delirious joy. The Romanian people knew such happiness as never before.[47]


On December 11, the Romanian government issued a royal proclamation which, disregarding all plans of the Western Powers to reach a settlement regarding the issue of Transylvania only at the Paris Peace Conference, declared unilaterally the unification with Romania of Transylvania, the Banát, and other eastern parts of Hungary, adjacent to Transylvania. Neither the Western Powers, nor the Hungarian government recognized the validity of this proclamation.[48] Nevertheless, Romania treated those territories already under her control as an integral part of Romania, and those territories that she claimed but still did not hold as territories under foreign occupation. From the time of the proclamation, Romania made repeated representations to the Western Powers demanding the evacuation of the Hungarian forces from those areas that she believed were rightfully hers.

The Hungarian population of Transylvania interpreted the actions of the Romanians at Gyulafehérvár as treason and open rebellion; consequently it demanded from Budapest some forceful action to repel the invaders and to secure Hungarian sovereignty in Transylvania. The Károlyi government, however, lacking the military means, was powerless to do so. The demobilization of the Hungarian army was so rapid that the government, in November. was forced to appeal to the population for volunteers, or to send out new draft notices. The response to these calls was extremely poor. To defend Transylvania and to guard the Maros demarcation line the Ministry of Defense established a new division, with headquarters at Kolozsvár and commanded by an able officer, Colonel Károly Kratochwill. This was the 38th, or as it later came to be known, the Szekely Division. Colonel Kratochwill increasingly filled the ranks of the division with volunteers from among Székely refugees.[49]

Simultaneously, in many parts of Transylvania irregular military formations were also created, mostly from junior grade and noncommissioned of ficers, local landowners, and gendarmes. In Zilah, for example, a 600-man detachment was formed calling itself the "Hungarian Liberation Army of Transylvania.,'' Many of these irregular units were soon merged into the Székely Division. The size of Kratochwill's little army had also increased by recruits sent to the east by the Székely National Council in Budapest. But aside from the most patriotic elements and the refugees, only the population most immediately affected by the advancing Romanian army offered aid to the Székely Division. The Saxons of Transylvania passively accepted the sudden turn of events and the Declaration of Gyulafehérvár and quietly awaited the arrival of Romanian troops.

Gathered on the eastern front, the Székely Division was woefully inadequate to meet the serious military challenge by the Romanian army, in the coming months. On December 2, the Romanian troops began crossing the demarcation line. The Hungarian government vainly protested the illegality of these moves in view of the recently signed Belgrade agreement. The Allies chose to give credence to the Romanian charges of atrocities in Hungarian-administered areas, and on December 16, Lieutenant Colonel Vix announced the extension of the demarcation line. Hungarians were ordered to withdraw behind a line west of Kolozsvár; the area was to be temporarily occupied by the Romanian army. Károlyi again protested~ but to avoid senseless shedding of blood he ordered the evacuation of the city. On December 24, the Romanian army occupied the city.[50] Kolozsvár was filled with refugees from all parts of Transylvania. These along with many residents of the city, in all according to one source some 17,000 families, withdrew with the retiring Hungarian army.[51]

On January 6, 1919, an agreement was worked out between István Apáthy, the representative of the Károlyi government, General Henri Berthelot of the French army, and General Neculcea representing Romania, establishing a fifteen-kilometer wide neutral zone between Hungarian and Romanian troops so that further clashes might be avoided.[52] This new line of demarcation was to run from Nagybánya to Kolozsvár and from there to Déva, and then along the course of the Maros to the Tisza River. The two allied generals gave specific assurances to the Hungarian population that the Romanian troops would not interfere in local civilian administration; this was to remain in the hands of Hungarian officials. Further guarantees were given concerning the safety of Hungarian lives and property, and, in general, to the effect that the terms of the Belgrade Convention were to be scrupulously observed. Within a few days, however, the Romanians began to demand a further withdrawal of Hungarian troops behind a new line, roughly corresponding to the western boundaries of historic Transylvania. Romanian troops began to cross the neutral zone during the second half of January and occupied several towns.[53] After some sharp clashes with the Szekely Division, the Károlyi government was once again forced to acquiesce in the loss of additional territory, and order its troops not to resist.

With each new retreat the despair of the Székely troops increased and their bitterness about government inaction was almost as great as their hatred of the Romanians.

In mid-January 1919, the commanders of the Székely Division resolved to make a stand regardless of orders from Budapest; consequently, between January and April, the front remained stationary. Both sides, in fact, limited their actions to minor probes across the latest demarcation line, but the position of the Székely Division became increasingly precarious. As the line it was forced to defend stretched to 150 kilometers, and as conditions in the hinterland became more chaotic, making resupplying and communications even more difficult, the division increasingly became divided into smaller units. Each local commander operated his sector independently, planned and executed raids into Romanian-held areas on his own authority.

Many of these raids were executed with great daring and courage, but while they caused some anxiety to the Romanian commanders, their military value was slight. Often Székely units crossed the lines on missions of mercy, responding to news or rumors of an impending Romanian atrocity or executions. They wished to protect, save, or rescue the Hungarian population and. indeed, at times, they were successful in these efforts. A case in point was an incident toward the end of January at Egeres, where a raiding party rescued from a group of Romanian soldiers a number of Hungarians who were found bound in the snow. The Romanian troop's real intent will never be known, but the terrified Hungarians were certain that they faced imminent execution.[54] In many instances these raiders sought out isolated Hungarian settlements and brought those families back to the safety of unoccupied Hungary. A large number of railroad employees and state officials were rescued in such fashion from their remote posts, where often they were the only Hungarians in the area; natural targets of attack by Romanian troops or population.

These raids had the effect of a double-edged sword for Hungarians, especially for those who originally wished to remain in Transylvania. The raid on Zilah serves as a good example. A company of soldiers, recruited mostly from that town, embittered by the news of persecution of their families, under cover of night stormed into the town and forced a hasty withdrawal of the Romanians. The Romanians soon recovered from the surprise attack and the Hungarian soldiers had to evacuate the city without achieving anything; the local Hungarian population in fear of a Romanian retaliation was forced to leave the city in large numbers. Within a few days these people reached Debrecen, adding to the already considerable number of homeless and penniless refugees.[55]

Fear of retaliation was not without foundation. In mid-April at the village of Köröstarkány, for example, eighty-one villagers and seventeen from the neighboring Négerfalu were massacred for aiding a Székely unit. Twenty-eight persons were killed in Apátfalva for similar reasons.[56]

The Hungarian population was continually bombarded with news of such events: some true, some exaggerated, and others passed on imagined fears as true. Each new atrocity, each new persecution added to fears for their own safety and to their intimidation. For many these fears served as a sufficient reason to depart from areas to be incorporated into Romania.

The results generally corresponded with the aims of the Romanian government. To be sure, massacres were not a part of official government policy. But a vocal and defiant Hungarian population could have presented a grave danger to the militarily weak Romania. As long as the state was uncertain of its ability to control all organs of state power and the population, local Romanian officials were free to elect harsh methods and intlmidation to force Hungarians to play a passive role. They used various means: taking of hostages, random and nuisance arrests for brief periods of time, public flogging, internment of the officers of the old Austro-Hungarian army, mass arrests of striking Hungarian workers; all served to create a climate in which organized resistance would be unthinkable.

Another frequently used method was expulsion of entire families, mostly those of more prosperous or prominent citizens who were likely leaders of any organized opposition or resistance. This method was regularly employed also by the other Successor States, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The head of the family would merely receive a form letter informing him that:

by virtue of decree 8272/919 of the Department of Interior . . . you are herewith invited to leave the town of . . . [name of the town] with your family by the . . . [date]. In case of refusal you will be deported by the gendarmerie, and you will not be allowed to take your movables with you. The Police supplies the permit of travel on condition that you will leave the country definitely [sic].[57]


The massive scale of expulsion and voluntary flight of the Hungarian population sharply reduced the number of Hungarians who were to remain in Romania. For this reason the Romanian government, as well as the other two Successor States, encouraged or at least did not hinder the departure of Hungarian families.

With the establishment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic the Székely Division found itself in an increasingly impossible situation. The division recognized the new government and in turn it was recognized by the regime as a semi-independent unit of the Hungarian army, but the division often found itself in conflict with two opponents, one in the front, and the other in the rear. It continued to oppose the Romanian army for patriotic reasons, but it also felt that its prime loyalty lay with the cause of counterrevolution. A recruiting campaign was successful only among the refugees from Transylvania and in the villages next to the demarcation line.[58] Soon after the declaration of the Soviet Republic hostilities between the Székely and Red troops reached the point of imminent open conflict. Confronted with this impossible situation the commander of the division, Colonel Kratochwill, through General Gondrecourt, opened negotiations with the Romanians. In exchange for their surrender the Székely Division was offered safe return to Transylvania, and there the free enjoyment of their property. On April 25, the division commander informed his troops of this offer and left the decision up to the individual soldiers. About 5000 men accepted and laid down their arms. Officers were interned in Brasso; soldiers, in Fogaras. Upon their release they all were required to agree to remain within their towns or villages, and to report regularly to the local authorities. Within a year most soldiers fled to Hungary.[59]

Many who refused the surrender terms found their way to Szeged, where they joined Admiral Horthy' s counterrevolutionary army. Yet another group remained in the field as an organized unit, as the Székely Brigade, under the nominal command of the Red Army. They participated in the June offensive against Czech-occupied northern Hungary, but were back on the Tisza line when the ill-fated Communist attack began against the Romanians in July. During August 6-7, when the Romanians marched into Budapest, some of the officers and men were captured; thirty-two officers were executed and the rest were interned at Brasso until 1920.

The majority of the brigade, some 3500 men, bypassed Budapest and crossed over to Transdanubia. There they joined the fledgling counterrevolutionary movement and helped to put down the last desperate revolt of the workers, the strike of some 40,000 miners of Tata. On August 19, Horthy took official command of the brigade, which became an integral part of the new National Army. With the addition of these refugee soldiers, over half of the counterrevolutionary army in Transdanubia--which, on August 9, consisted of only 10,700 men--was composed of refugees, mostly from Transylvania and in lesser number from Yugoslavia and Slovakia. As we shall see, as this army expanded, the unemployed, homeless, and radicalized refugees continued to be major sources of recruits. From the prisoners of war camp at Csót alone, where the returning prisoners from Italy were processed, during the fall of 1919, about 1300 Székelys joined the National Army.[60]

It is difficult to estimate the total number of refugees who were forced to leave as a direct consequence of the military operations in their native lands and as a result of the physical maltreatment of the population in the early months of occupation by troops of the Successor States. Perhaps 200,000 individuals would fall into this category. But the end to military hostilities did not mean an end to the suffering of Hungarians in the lost territories. More subtle administrative or economic changes were just as effective in ultimately forcing, perhaps, an equal number of other individuals to follow the well-worn path of earlier refugees. We shall now turn our attention to these changes and the men they affected.

 [Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Notes] [HMK Home] István I. Mócsy:The Effects of World War I ...