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

Document 3


Secret T Minutes 17

August 21, 1942


Mr. Isaiah Bowman, presiding
Mr. Hamilton Fish Armstrong
Mr. Adolf A. Berle
Mr. Herbert Feis
Mr. John Y. A. MacMurray
Mrs. Anne O'Hare McCormick
Mr. John Masland
Mr. Philip Mosely
Mr. Harley Notter
Mr. Easton Rothwell

(...) The chairman then introduced for reconsideration the problem of the Slovak-Hungarian frontier, and asked Mr. Armstrong to distrib- ute and read a memorandum he had prepared on this problem. (T Document 49--"Remarks on the Memorandum 'Hungarian-Slovak Frontiers: Alternative Territorial Solutions,' dated 21/VII/42." -- Appended).*

Mr. Armstrong in presenting the statement explained that he had incorporated some of the suggestions made by Mr. Mosely but had also offered some solutions of his own.

When Mr. Armstrong had read his statement, Mr. Bowman asked Mr. Feis to state his judgment on the position tentatively taken by the subcommittee with respect to this frontier area. He pointed out that the subcommittee had agreed it would prefer to deal with the specific problems of particular areas rather than to consider the rectification of entire frontiers. All the various factors in a given problem-area would be studied, and the boundaries would be shifted only if that were indicated by the results of the examination. Mr. Feis said he thought such a procedure was desirable and that the need for it was suggested by Mr. Armstrong's statement. At the same time, he was not certain whether these procedures would accord with post-war emotional


* See Document 3, p. 190. attitudes. If the war were a long one, the very existence of Hungary might be in question, rather than whether Hungary should be given a small slice of Slovakia. Mrs. McCormick replied that there would be little doubt as to the continued existence of Hungary, or at least of the Hungarian people. Mr. Feis then explained that he had not intended to make an issue of the possible disappearance of Hungary, but was in sympathy with the point of view accepted in the committee and expressed in Mr. Armstrong's memorandum. He thought that Mr. Armstrong's suggestion for compensating the side having to give up territory was a good one, but he questioned whether all the compensa- tion should come from the outside and believed that Hungary should be required to make some compensation. Mr. Armstrong said that he had implied as much in suggesting that "a close study should be made as to whether any Hungarian quid pro quo might be available."

Mr. Bowman suggested that if the technique of dealing with specific problem-areas were applied to the Sudetenland's, it might develop that the problems of the Sudeten area were not boundary problems at all. In this connection, it would be of interest to know what concern the Germans had expressed for the Sudeten areas before Hitler's rise to power.

Returning to the Slovak-Hungarian frontier, Mr. Bowman asked Mr. Armstrong what areas besides the Grosse Schuett and the Hungarian plain might be considered eligible for transfer to Hungary. In response, Mr. Mosely explained that the predominantly Magyar areas would be found principally in the western part of the disputed zone. Beginning on the extreme west, the three administrative districts which comprise the Grosse Schuett were strongly (more than 75 per cent) Magyar. The three districts immediately to the east were also strongly Magyar. A line drawn to the east and north of these six districts would set off an area possibly eligible for transfer on the basis of 1930 census figures. These six provinces might be transferred to Hungary without injury to Czechoslovakia's railroad system. It might be assumed that by 1930 those persons desiring to change their nationality had already done so and that the ethnic figures have become relatively stabilized. Mr. Bowman asked whether the figures would be reversed in the adjacent row of districts on the east, but Mr. Mosely replied that in these districts, the ethnic division was not so clear. He explained that in the central section of the problem-area the districts of Levice, Luenec and Modr Kame were Slovak in majority, with substantial Magyar minorities. On the other hand, the districts of Feledince, Moldava nad Bodvou and Tornal'a were strongly Magyar in character. In general, he reported, the problem-area consisted of a "southern" tier ten districts with strong Magyar majorities and a "northern" tier of fifteen districts, with a Slovak majority and substantial Magyar minorities. Presumably, he concluded, the two tiers of districts would be susceptible of different treatment in any settlement of the problem between Slovakia and Hungary.

The chairman stated that Mr. Mosely's explanation had given the committee a comprehensive view of the problem. Mr. Armstrong indicated that in the six districts first discussed, there were 40,000 Slovaks and 274,000 Hungarians. In the five administrative districts immediately to the north, however, there were 138,000 Slovaks as compared with 110,000 Hungarians. He believed that if the area to be transferred were to be restricted to a minimum, it would be desirable to register all persons living there with a view to determining those who would wish to migrate. Not all Slovaks would wish to leave, and the problem would be reduced in difficulty to that extent. It should also be noted, Mr. Armstrong added, that the transfer of the six southwest districts to Hungary would leave undisturbed the east-west railway line in Slovakia.

Mrs. McCormick asked whether the boundary drawn April 3, 1939 might not be presumed to be fair because it represented a frontier between two satellites of Germany. Mr. Mosely replied that the frontier had actually involved injustices to the Slovaks because it was based on the 1910 census which was heavily weighted in favor of the Magyars; moreover, taking 1910 as a base-line did not take account of the infiltration of Slovaks into the mixed regions between 1910 and 1939, or the higher of the vital excess of the Slovaks. In addition, parts of the boundary of 1939, especially in eastern Slovakia, were based on strategic considerations and had no ethnic justification.

Mrs. McCormick asked whether considerations other than ethnic distribution would not have to be taken into consideration in any boundary settlement. For instance, it would not be possible to move the boundaries to one or the other side of principal towns and cities without doing violence to established economic and other arrangements.

Mr. Bowman agreed, and said that ethnic facts could be regarded only as a starting-point for the examination of any problem-area. There would be needed, in addition, an intensive technical study of towns and cities affected, of transportation facilities, and of what might be termed strategic considerations.

At this point, Mr. Bowman said that he felt it would be useful to terminate the discussion of the Slovak-Hungarian problem for this meeting and asked Mr. Mosely to prepare for the meeting on Friday, September 4, a statement of nationality totals and subtotals within the articular problem areas of the frontier zone, as well, as an analysis of the specific transportation problems and those arising from the presence of cities and towns.

This phase of the discussion was completed by Mr. Armstrong who, after being assured by Mr. Bowman that transfers of population could be envisaged in this area because they were of relatively small scale, said that it would be desirable to block out the more desirable areas for territorial transfer, with a view to settling the rest of the problem by means of exchange of populations. (...)

x x x


Discussion of the Slovak-Hungarian frontier problem was opened by the reading of a specially prepared statement that enumerated reasons why only the most urgent ethnic considerations could justify the transfer of any territory to Hungary. Aside from the fact that Czecho- slovakia had consistently followed more enlightened policies than Hungary and had been a victim of German and Hungarian aggression, any extensive adjustment of this frontier might lead to allegations that the Atlantic Charter had been violated and to the opening of boundary questions elsewhere. It might detract from the strength of the restored Czecho-Slovak State, as a factor in East European Federation. The statement suggested restricting any territorial adjustment to limited areas where transfer to Hungary was overwhelmingly indicated. These areas were subsequently shown to consist primarily of six administra- tive districts the Grosse Schuett and the area immediately to the east.

The statement further suggested that direct agreement between the disputants should be encouraged, that some form of quid pro quo should be arranged for Czechoslovakia, that any necessary exchange of populations should be effected, that Hungary should be required to adopt thorough-going land and political reforms, and that the dimin- ished importance of all boundaries should be stressed. Further study was requested of ethnic and economic considerations, and of transporta- tion and other factors in the districts most eligible for transfer.


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