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DOCUMENTS - Part Two: Frontiers of Hungary - Chapter I. : Minutes of the Subcommittee on Territorial Problems

Document 2


Secret T Minutes 16

August 14, 1942


Mr. Isaiah Bowman, presiding
Mr. Hamilton Fish Armstrong
Mr. Adolf A. Berle
Mr. John V. A. MacMurray
Mrs. Anne O'Hare McCormick
Mr. Philip Mosely
Mr. Easton Etothwell

The chairman convened the meeting at 5:15 p.m., and asked if the committee wished to proceed with the discussion of the Danzig problem and the Slovak-Hungarian frontier problem as planned. (...)

There were no immediate comments upon the Danzig proposal and the chairman therefore re-stated a conversation held before the meeting between him and Mr. Armstrong on the general problem of boundary change. Briefly, they had agreed on the desirability of changing boundaries as little as possible, and of placing the burden of proof upon those who suggested any change. Any decision in principle that boundaries should be redrawn to fit ethnic requirements would reopen the whole problem with its manifold possible difficulties.

On the other hand, to leave boundaries unchanged would be to leave the international sore spots unhealed, and would provide critics the opportunity to claim that the committee's conceptions were fixed in the pre-war groove. Mr. Armstrong had said that for these reasons it would be desirable not to apply the general principle of minimum change to the exclusion of necessary adjustments here and there. The Grosse Schuett, other areas of Slovakia, and Danzig, as well, afforded pointed illustrations of needed change, Danzig was a particularly significant area since it did not directly contravene the principles of minimum change. While the area was German in composition, it had not been under German sovereignty. Moreover, Germany had made a treaty with respect to the status of Danzig and had later violated it.

Mr. Armstrong added that it would be generally desirable to return to the boundaries of the last twenty years for the special purpose of not opening up territorial questions between our allies and their enemies.96 Ignác Romsics

The necessity to proceed cautiously with boundary change was increased by the interpretation likely to be placed upon the Atlantic Declaration. Many persons would probably believe, regardless of what the Declara- tion actually says, that we are obligated to restore the former frontiers of re-established nations. If we change frontiers in certain countries, we may then be accused of having "sold out", either to the enemy or to certain of our allies. As a means of averting this, it would be desirable to avoid calling entire frontiers into question. Instead, attention should be concentrated upon specific problem areas, such as the Grosse Schuett. There the case for adjustment is quite clear, since the population is predominantly Magyar, the Czechs have shown some willingness to make concessions to Hungarian claims, and the American position has been clear from the beginning. Instead of referring to adjustment of a frontier, it would be desirable to talk of settling a specific dispute in a given district. To facilitate adjustment in the case of the Grosse Schuett we could promise to assist in building the roads required by the Slovakia. At all events, it would be important to work out something quickly between the Czechs and the Hungarians soon after the close of hostilities.

Mr. Bowman commented favorably upon Mr. Armstrong's suggestion of concentrating upon minor areas and adjusting specific problems. Our efforts should, in the first instance, be directed toward furthering negotiations between parties concerned in any specific dispute rather than towards laying down the basis of settlement, he thought. Mr. Berle believed that the latter suggestion, while excellent, implied a profound change in the method of boundary settlement. Mr. Bowman, however, referred to the boundary dispute between Peru and Ecuador as affording an example of such procedure.* When those two states threatened to go to war over a boundary that had presumably been settled, outside parties intervened to see that the disputants reached an agreement without resort to war. The role of the United States was especially interesting, since this nation had abstained from pressure and permitted Argentina and Brazil to take the lead. Adjustment had been easier because Ecuador had found greater advantage in American aid and subsidies for the building of a large air field than in proceeding with war against our will. The President of Ecuador had been able to make the necessary concessions because he could say to the country and to the legislature that the country was pressed on all sides and therefore


*The1941 dispute over boundaries between Peru and Ecuador was settled by the 1942 Rio de Janeiro Agreement, when Ecuador "voluntarily" relinquished its claim, and yielded most of the disputed territory to Peru. had to accede. Mrs. McCormick thought that the procedures used in the Peruvian-Ecuadorean dispute were especially suggestive.

Mr. Bowman referred to another of Mr. Armstrong's suggestions, namely, that it would be desirable to ascertain the minimum of necessary rectification in any problem area. As applied in the disputed zone between Slovakia and Hungary, this would mean ascertaining those specific areas where adjustment could be considered inescapable. From the standpoint of essential change, Danzig offered an unique problem. The Free City had been created after the last war to meet a specific need, yet the experiment had failed. Today it is desirable to eliminate this problem area in Europe. The immediate obstacle to any solution is the German population resident there. This obstacle might be overcome by dividing the territory, as projected earlier in the meeting, and facilitating the migration of the remaining Germans.1 The Danzig area could be regarded as manageable from this standpoint whereas the larger area of East Prussia could not be. It might of course be said that the cession of territory to East Prussia would be a case of rewarding the aggressor. This was not necessarily so, since it had already been decided that Germany should not gain by aggression. Even if the territory were added to East Prussia, the future disposition of East Prussia remained uncertain.

Mrs. McCormick observed that we could not anticipate getting all the solutions we want after this war, but we should nevertheless concentrate upon obtaining these solutions most apt to prove stable and durable. Mr. Bowman added that we must, under no consideration, arrive at the peace table without specific proposals for particular problems. This had been a weakness of the American Delegation at Paris in 1919. While its position had been essentially idealistic and it had performed a useful function from that standpoint, the American Group was always in a position of having to comment upon proposals already made by other delegations. This time, by virtue of our greater prestige and military strength, our proposals must be more specific.

Mrs. McCormick stated that Europe would probably be so much worse off after the present war that the victor powers would almost be in a position to impose their own peace terms. She had recently been


1 At meetings of the subcommittee on July 10 and July 17, it was tentatively concluded that: Danzig should be transferred outright to Poland. (Port and transit facilities possibly to be provided for Germany. Emigration of German population to be facilitated, and to be under international supervision for two years. told by an informed Frenchman that the United States must go to the peace table with a precise and definite program. This program would very likely prevail, regardless of what other peoples or nations might wish. Mr. Armstrong thought that this view was perhaps too sanguine, but Mrs. McCormick and Mr. Bowman pointed out that for some months during 1918 and 1919 the United States had enjoyed just such a position. Mr. Armstrong stated, however, that this time we are proposing changes in the status quo to which the peoples affected will probably object. Mrs. McCormick thought that the chaos throughout Europe will nevertheless compel acceptance of American proposals. Mr. Bowman was inclined to agree, and said that territorial adjustments must be arrived at speedily, and must be carried out from the very first moment.

Mr. Berle reverted to the proposal Mr. Armstrong had made for a settlement of minor boundary disputes. He thought it was necessary to consider methods of action. First, the boundaries drawn should become the administrative boundaries for the occupying forces. Second, at the moment they are established, there should be set up "under the guns of the peace conference" a territorial council or bureau (possibly to become part of the permanent international machinery) to settle disputed points. The disputants should be expected to consult and arrive at an adjust- ment. The United Nations should see that the parties negotiated on even terms (enemy nations excepted) and that justice and common sense prevailed in the settlement. Third, in the event that the disputants failed to reach a solution, the solution laid down by the occupying forces should continue. Mr. Berle said that he had omitted the enemies because any obligation with respect to them was not yet clear. On the other hand, it was necessary to consider what kind of a mandate with respect to boundary adjustments between friendly states would be given to a bureau or commission of the United Nations or to any similar authority.

It was generally thought that Mr. Berle's suggestion was a good one. Mrs. McCormick said that the important objective would be to get the parties to a dispute to reach agreement upon it by themselves. Mr. Bowman stated that for such a purpose larger countries like the United States could exert influence without any direct intervention. Smaller countries are not in a position today to fight one another in terms of modern warfare. At the same time, they are often unable to reach solutions through negotiation, especially when one of the assistance and the moral pressure afforded by larger countries.

Mr. Berle explained that the committee on economic reconstruction had tentatively agreed on the desirability of a United Nations Bank and Frontiers of Hungary 99

a United Nations Transport Authority . The Umted Nations Bank would perform functions that had not been performed by the Bank of Interna- tional Settlements. Together with the United Nations Transport Authority, it would be placed in operation under the guns of the United Nations and would tend to prevent any single nation from establishing an overwhelming financial position. He thought that it would be useful for the territorial subcommittee to try its hand at elaborating the implications of such international authorities for the settlement of disputes involving territory and questions of sovereignty.

Mr. MacMurray thought that the proposals advanced by Mr. Ber1e resembled the actual situation surrounding the Chinese-Japanese negotiations regarding Shantung.* To begin with, the negotiators were themselves uneven in strength, and the Chinese knew that their countrymen stood ready to repudiate them if they made a single concession. The arrangements which provided for British and American observers during part of these negotiations had been useful, if only because they provided opportunity for both sides to talk and thereby to ease the tension and reach preliminary agreement. The outside observers themselves said little or nothing. It was their presence alone which exerted influence.

Mr. Armstrong thought that the illustration was apt, and said that in boundary disputes we or the United Nations might use our "good offices" to obtain some form of quid pro quo for the side which had to give up most. Mrs. McCormick believed that the Shantung situation was very different from that which will prevail after the present war when the disputant nations will likely be weak, disarmed, and chaotic. Mr. Armstrong and Mr. MacMurray were inclined to believe that Mrs. McCormick underestimated the probabilites of conflict and the possibility that the smaller nations may obtain arms from one source or another before the victory is complete. Mrs. McCormick maintained, however, that nations would be exhausted after the present struggle, and Mr. Berle believed that they would not be able to provide the elaborate installations necessary for carrying on modern war. Mr. Armstrong thought it conceivable that a dispute between Czechoslova- kia and Hungary over the boundary problem might even go so far that we would be called upon the employ force against the Czechs in favor of the Hungarians, a situation which would, of course, be impossible.


*With the signing of theShantung Agreement in accordance with the decision reached at the 1921-1922 Washington Conference, Japan was forced to restore to China the province of Shantung given to it by the Treaty of Versailles, and also to evacuate the coastal regions of Eastern Siberia. Mr. Mosely felt that any consideration of specific boundary disputes should take into consideration the general problem of an East European Union. If one aim was to establish lasting cooperation among the peoples of this area, some concessions would necessarily be made to certain countries. On the other hand, if no regional organization emerged from the post-war settlement, it would probably be necessary to strengthen some nations, territorially and strategically, as against others. It would also be necessary to know whether Soviet Russia and Great Britain would have predominant influence in the East European area.

Asked as to the British position on the problem of boundary settlements in Central and Eastern Europe, Mr. Berle stated that he would not be surprised if the British had made certain commitments in this respect. They may, however, be retreating from a position taken earlier. They may have agreed to relinquish to Russia the arbitration of disputes in the East European area. This may, however, only have been a pseudo-commitment and may not have been taken seriously. Mr. Berle explained that no more information was available concerning the agreement between Czechoslovakia and Soviet Russia, to which he had referred at an earlier meeting.* Mr. Armstrong stated that M. Nini of Yugoslavia was inclined to believe that no such agreement had been made. Nini had spoken to President Bene in connection with the recent negotiations between Russia and Yugoslavia, and President Bene had not given much credence to the report of a Russo-Czech agreement. Nini had felt that there was no reason why President Bene would refuse to disclose it, but Mr. Berle thought this assumption was open to question. This phase of the discussion was concluded by Mr. Armstrong's observation that the desire of the British to prevent the Czechs from reaching an agreement with the Russians now might reflect a desire on the part of Great Britain to keep the territorial problem open. (...)

The chairman asked whether the committee was prepared to support the suggested change in the Slovak-Hungarian boundary. Mr. Armstrong replied in the affirmative, provided the problem was stated in terms of specific changes for definite problem areas. This met with Mr. Bowman's approval. Mr. Mosely then referred the committee to the map on the Slovak-Hungarian frontier problem (Czechoslovak Series II). He explained that the dotted red line showed the area returned to


* The agreement on assistance and postwar cooperation between the Czechoslovak government-in-exile and the Soviet Union was signed only on December 12, 1943, following the Allied conference in Teheran. Hungary in 1938 on the basis of the 1910 census, a basis that was unfair because the Hungarian method of taking the census gave every possible advantage to the Magyar element and because taking 1910 as a baseline ignored the movements of population which had occurred in the last thirty years. The heavy red line indicated the additional territory seized by Hungary in 1939 upon the basis of Machtpolitik. Between 1910 and 1938 certain areas, such as the Grosse Schuett and the Little Hungarian Plain, had remained overwhelmingly Hungarian in population. Areas to the east, on the other hand, showed a much stronger Slovak population in 1930 than in 1910; this was due in part to the disparity in rate of natural increase as between Slovaks and Hungarians, in part to the removal of Hungarian pressure after 1918. At the present time, the towns of Levice, Luenec, Rimavská Sobota, Roava, and Koice are in predominantly Slovak territory, and on grounds of ethnic justice should be transferred to Slovakia. On the other hand, on ethnic grounds, the area of the Grosse Schuett (except for a small strip adjacent to Bratislava) should go to Hungary, together with the towns and surrounding areas of Galánta and Érsekújvár. A narrow southern strip in the district of of Levice, Luenec, Sobota Rimavská and Roava could also be transferred to Hungary; this shift would bring the line of territorial demarcation into fairly close concordance with the facts of ethnic distribution, without injuring the transportation system in Slovakia. In the Koice district, on the other hand, no concession could be made to Hungary without injuring the Slovakian railway system. Under the line of demarcation as suggested minorities approximately equal in size would remain on opposite sides of the frontier.

Mr. Armstrong requested that a map be made to show by lines rather than by dots the predominantly Hungarian and the predominant- ly Slovakian areas in the disputed zone. In other words, each specific problem area should be outlined. Mr. Bowman added that it would be desirable to segregate those areas within the disputed zone in which the case for transfer to Hungary is strongest. The committee should be specifically informed as to the problems in each case, whether of railways, administrative divisions, overlapping jurisdictions, or any other. It would be desirable to present this information orally to the committee at its meeting August 21, and see whether a memorandum would be desirable.

Mr. Bowman went on to remind the committee that it has the responsibility if determining whether it wishes to take a broad position on the boundary problems of this and other areas, or whether it wishes to take a position in terms of the specific history of people living there for the last twenty-five years. He recalled that when the problems of Hungary were discussed at the Paris Peace Conference, decisions had been made with respect to every other country before Hungary's claims were considered. The Americans, whose position on Hungary was more equitable than the actual decision, had lost out because they had not viewed Hungary's problems in relation to those of neighboring states. They had always been dealing with "friendly" states, with the result that the enemy state received only what was left.(...)

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The meeting was mainly devoted to a discussion of principles and procedures of boundary change.

Principle of Minimum Change

The advisability of changing pre-war boundaries as little as possible and of placing the burden of proof on those seeking change was reaffirmed. It was said that any attempted major boundary adjustment for ethnic or other reasons would likely create manifo1d difficulties by reopening the problem of boundaries everywhere.

Certain specific boundary adjustments were neverthe1ess regarded as unavoidable, both for the alleviation of former international frictions, and to correct manifest injustices or striking violations of the ethnic principle. Hence it was suggested that the desirable approach to boundary adjustment would be to concentrate upon settlements within specific disputed areas than to call entire frontiers into question. It would, therefore, be desirable to ascertain the specific disputed areas along controversial frontiers, and the minimum of necessary rectifica- tion in each area.

Slovak-Hungarian Frontier

The application of these procedures was recommended as a basis for consideration of the disputed frontier zone between Slovakia and Hungary. An analysis was requested of those areas within the disputed zone in which the case for transfer to Hungary might be strongest, together with a statement of the specific problems of each area. The boundary might be brought into fairly close concordance with the facts of ethnic distribution, without injury to the Slovak transportation system, if the Grosse Schuett and a narrow southern strip were recognized as preponderantly Hungarian. It was thought that the Grosse Schuett offered an appropriate example of a specific area definitely requiring adjustment. (...)

Adjustments by the Disputants Themselves

It was thought desirable that states which are parties to a territorial dispute should work out an adjustment themselves. The great powers might facilitate the negotiations through direct assistance or moral pressure, but should initially avoid laying down a basis for settlement. Assistance might take the form of some quid pro quo offered to the state required to give up most.

The suggestion was made that boundaries tentatively agreed upon in advance of the armistice should become the administrative bound- aries for occupying forces. In disputed areas, the parties concerned (except enemy states) should be expected to consult and arrive at an adjustment, aided by an international council or bureau on boundaries. If the disputants failed to reach a solution, that laid down by the occupying forces might continue. (...)


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