[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [HMK Home] Wartime American Plans for a New Hungary

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

Document 6


Secret T Minutes 38

February 5, 1943

Not to be removed from the

State Department building


Mr. Isaiah Bowman, presiding

	Mr. Hamilton Fish Armstrong		Mr. Harley Notter
Mr. Adolf A. Berle Mr. Philip Mosely
Mr. John V. A. MacMurray Mr. Easton Rothwell
Mr. Anne O'Hare McCormick Mr. William Koren, Jr.
Mr. S. Whittemore Boggs
Mr. Cavendish W. Cannon
Mr. Otto E. Guthe
Mr. C. E. Black
Mr. John Campbell
Mr. Richard Eldridge
Mr. David Harris
Mr. Harry N. Howard
Mr. Thomas F. Power, Jr.
Mr. Walter R. Sharp
Mr. Leroy D. Stinebower


The chairman asked Mr. Campbell to introduce the question of Transylvania. Mr. Campbell pointed out that the area of Transylvania was shaded in brown on the map.1 The term Transylvania was used for purposes of discussion to mean the entire area which Rumania had acquired from Hungary after the World War. This included the Banat and other provinces. This was a rich area with a population of five and one-half millions. It included the center of Rumania's heavy industries. Its loss would therefore force considerable change in Rumania's economy.


1East European Series Map 13, Boundary Problems of East European States The problem of the disposition of Transylvania tied in with the general problem of Eastern Europe, first because there was the possibility of both Rumania and Hungary becoming Communist, and secondly because both these countries were considered possible units in an East European Federation. The first possibility raised the question of what American and British policies would be concerning the extension of Soviet influence west of Russia's 1941 frontiers. Concern- ing possible federations it should be pointed out that Transy1vania linked Hungary and Rumania. If Rumania retained this territory it would be one of the Danubian states. If it went to Hungary, then Rumanian interests would be more exclusively Balkan, and Rumania would be particularly close to Bulgaria, Greece and Yugoslavia. The suggestion had also been made that an autonomous Transylvania might form one of the units in an East European Federation.

Mr. Campbell suggested three possible solutions. The first would be the restoration of the 1939 frontier, thereby reconstituting Greater Rumania. This would be a settlement consonant with the principle of legality and that of minimum change in boundaries. It would, however, perpetuate a difficult minority situation since one million five hundred thousand Magyars would be left in Rumania. The second possibility was to transfer the entire area to Hungary. This was a very unlikely solution in view of the political situation and would have the disadvan- tage of transferring some three million Rumanians to Hungary. The third possibility was to perpetuate the present partition of Transylvania. This partition had been designed to connect the Magyar population in the Székely district, which formed the eastern tip of the Hungarian acquisition, with Hungary. This meant that Hungary acquired other territory in which the population was largely Rumanian and transferred in all approximately one million Rumanians to Hungary. This division was a strange line also from point of view of local economy and transportation since the Székely area had its trade connections to the southeast, with the Old Kingdom of Rumania.

The chairman asked how many of the one million five hundred thousand Magyars in Rumania had been transferred to Hungarian sovereignty by this territorial change. Mr. Campbell replied that Hungary had acquired approximately one million one two million and two million five hundred thousand. This total was a little less than one- half the population of Transylvania. Mr. Campbell continued that the idea of an autonomous Transylvania held certain attractions but it was hard to say how it would work since it would not be a satisfactory solution either to Hungary or to Rumania or to the local Magyar and Rumanian population. He admitted that there was some local feeling in the area but that the majority of either linguistic group would turn an autonomous Transylvania into an adjunct of either Rumania or Hungary.

Mr. Armstrong pointed out that the proposal for an autonomous Transylvania had been put forward by Otto of Habsburg as a way of detaching some territory from Rumania without creating too much of a row. The chairman pointed out that that would leave Transylvania to be fought over later. Mr. Campbell explained that this territory had been autonomous for some time at an early period in history. It had become a part of Rumania for the first time in 1919, except for the Rumanian claim that it had been joined to Hungary in 1868 as part of the compromise between Austria and Hungary. Before that it had been a separate Habsburg Grand Duchy. Mr. Campbell pointed out that it had for several centuries had close associations with Hungary and had really been run by the Magyars.

Mr. Armstrong thought that any idea of setting up Transylvania as an independent unit was remote, foolish and comic. Some of the best elements in Rumania and some of the strongest Magyar Patriots came from Transylvania. They did not have merely Transylvanian alle- giance. He thought that the local feeling Mrs. McCormick referred to was really part of the feeling of the new Rumanians against the Rumanians of the Old Kingdom, who were in a less advanced state of civilization. Mrs. McCormick thought that in spite of these objections Transylvania might form one part of a large federation. Mr. Armstrong replied that this would not obviate the tensions between the Rumanian- speaking and Magyar-speaking Transylvanians. Mrs. McCormick considered that there would still be less friction than if the area were either under Rumanian or Hungarian sovereignty.

The chairman agreed with Mr. Armstrong that the pulls would be greater if the region were given autonomy.

Furthermore there would be the same objection to having such a unit in the East European Union as had been raised against the admission of East Prussia, namely that this would be a disturbing element in the Union. An East European Union would be difficult enough to set up in any case without adding these inexperienced units. Mrs. McCormick pointed out that there was a difference between East Prussia and Transylvania since the former was an area with a relatively unmixed population which was identical with that there had been no political separatist movement during the past twenty years. Mr. Campbell pointed out that there had been moves by the Magyars for autonomy but that this had been designed to increase their power and resulted from the fact that they thought as Hungarians, not as Transylvanians. The chairman asked whether any difference of treatment in this area should derive from the fact that both of the contesting parties were enemy powers. Mrs. McCormick suggested that fact gave the United Nations more freedom of disposition than would otherwise be the case. The chairman was not sure that this was correct. He declared off the record that the territorial subcommittee was handicapped by the fact that in this as in many other cases it had received no recommendations from the security subcomrnittees. This left the territorial subcommittee "out on the end of a limb" and, so far as it prevented prompt decision, left a way open for action by those on the spot which might defeat the final recommendations of the territorial subcommittee and of the political committee.

The chairman continued that in spite of the recent announcement that the United Nations expected unconditional surrender from the enemies it remained proper to talk of an "armistice" in a conventional- ized sense. Obviously an entire nation would not surrender to a group of powers and have it done as simply as Grant and Lee did at Appomat- tox.* The question would arise as to who had jurisdiction over particular areas. Unconditional surrender would not be equivalent to anarchy. Since the United Nations had to keep order, there would have to be some arrangements which should be technically spoken of as the armistice conditions. In Mrs. McCormick's opinion unconditional surrender meant an increase in the responsibilities of the United Nations. The chairman thought that this was relevant to the procedure to be followed in the case if this quarrel between Hungary and Rumania. If the armistice conditions restored the 1939 boundary, thereby returning Transylvania to Rumania, and negotiations were to proceed in that situation the conditions of negotiations would have in effect been written into the armistice terms. Hungary would therefore be tempted to use its remaining army.


* The reference pertains to the ending of the 1861-1865 American Civil War, when the commander-in-chief of the North, General Ulysses S. Grant, forced General Robert E. Lee to unconditional surrender. Once the capitulation documents had been signed, however, Grant treated the defeated very graciously. Officers,for instance, were allowed to ride home on their own horses and to keep their weapons. The term "unconditional surrender" was used at their January 14-24, 1943, Casablanca meeting by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Mr. Berle suggested the following possible approach:

1. that the United Nations do not recognize the forcible seizure of territory, thereby restoring pro tempore the 1919 frontiers;

2. that the United Nations recognize that a problem exist in the ultimate disposition of this territory;

3. that the United Nations will establish a military government in Transylvania and will administer that territory for an indefinite period;

4. that at the appropriate time the United Nations will attempt to promote negotiations between the two parties, such negotiations to be delayed until both Rumania and Hungary had shown an ability to handle domestic problems without civil strife;

5. that the United Nations will supply the troops necessary to carry out this plan.

The chairman agreed that military occupation would prevent immediate fighting. Mr. Berle considered that such occupation would be necessary since a war would develop between Hungary and Rumania if no third party were in military control. At the present moment it was the Germans who were preventing the Rumanians and Hungarians from fighting. He did not think that the United Nations were prepared to have a local war decide the disposition of Transylvania. We should rather say to them that if you make war over Transylvania you will be making war on the United Nations. There would still remain, of course the problem of training these people to live together. Apparently the ethnic situation made it virtually impossible to draw a frontier which would be satisfactory to both sides. Neither was he in favor of shifting the two populations across the line of the Vienna award; that would raise a howl from both parties. Probably some three to five years of occupation would be necessary. The question was which powers would undertake this.

Mr. Armstrong pointed out that the desires of the population would be affected by the social policy of Rumania and Hungary. The latter would, and, as Mr. Berle said, should, go through a period of reform in land tenure laws which would certainly affect opinion in Transylvania, where the greater Magyar landowning counts were so important. Bethlen, Teleki and Horthy were all from Transylvania.

Mr. Mosely pointed out that prior to the war there had been an increasing split in Magyar opinion in Transylvania: on the one hand the landowning counts, the professional class and most of the townspeople, were, intransigently for rejoining Hungary; on the other hand, the easantry, which had acquired some land by the Rumanian land reforms and which had found opportunity for cultural development, and rural improvement was essentially less irredentist in feeling. After the Vienna Award*, leaders of marked irredentist policies were placed in charge of NorthernTransylvania, and more conciliatory Magyar leaders were deprived of authority. Mr. Armstrong noted that this was evidence that local irredentism was not strong enough for the govermnent in Budapest. Mr. Mosely added that it was strongest among the wealthiest families who spent much of the year in the Hungarian capital.

Mrs. McCormick thought that it was too bad that the Magyar minority was so far inside Rumania. Mr. Campbell pointed out that, in addition to the Szeklers, there were local concentrations of Magyars which created a border problem in Transylvania. In replying to a question by the chairman, Mr. Campbell pointed out that the predomi- nantly Magyar cities of the area acquired in 1940 were Cluj, Satu Mare and Carei Mare. Of these only Cluj had a population of over one hundred thousand. In the Székely district the Magyar population totaled 90 percent of the whole. Mr. Mosely noted that in 1910, according to the Hungarian census, the district of Cluj had been 80 percent Rumanian but the city had been 80 percent Magyar.

Mr. Armstrong wondered whether this population balance would be offset by the different proportions of Hungarians and Rumanians who were being killed on the eastern front. Mrs. McCormick thought that far more Rumanians were being killed, but Mr. Campbell pointed out that most of the Rumanian troops in Russia were from the Old Kingdom. Mr. Cannon remarked that the Germans were reported to be placing the Magyar regiments in the most exposed positions but that there was no conclusive evidence to this effect. He noted that in the old days many leading German families had been close to the Magyars. He thought there might be a reversion to that situation once Hitler was thrown out.

Mr. Mosely explained that apparently nothing had been done to move the Germans of Transylvania back to Germany. Mr. Cannon added that they continued to have large privileges in Transylvania.

The chairman asked members of the subcommittee what they thought concerning Mr. Berle's proposals. Mr. Armstrong declared them sensible, and Mr. MacMurray said that something might be accom- plished in that way. He could think of nothing else as a solution. Mr.


* August 30,1940. German-Italian arbitration was unconditionally accepted in advance by both Romania and Hungary. Armstrong thought that the only other possibility was the restoration of the 1938 frontier and that that would lead to local fighting.

Mr. Berle remarked that one might hope that in two to four years one could down somewhat these local antagonisms. Mr. Armstrong pointed out that after such an interim period the United Nations would know what the Rumanian frontiers would be in other directions and whether Rumania would be a part of the Soviet Union. Mr. Berle added that we would also know whether Hungary would be Communist. He thought that in Russian thinking and in the Czech plans there was a desire to prevent any strong unit in Hungary. Mrs. McCormick pointed out that the question remained as to which power would occupy Transylvania. Mr. Berle stated that his proposal had left that question open.

The chairman asked Mr. Mosely whether he had any suggestions to make on Mr. Berle's proposal. Mr. Mosely said that he had a few scattered remarks to present on the Transylvanian problem. He pointed out that the Germans in the area had been relatively well satisfied under Rumanian rule, that they had had adequate rights and had felt that there was greater danger of their denationalization if they came under Hungary. He thought this was a very wide-spread feeling among the Germans of Transylvania. The chairman noted that this might affect the final settlement. Mr. Mosely added that the Germans within Hungary had not been so well treated by the Magyars since 1918 and traditionally had been pro-Habsburg rather than pro-Magyar. As most of these Germans were in southern Transylvania and in the Banat, few of them had been absorbed by Hungary in 1940. They had subsequently been left in the area by Hitler in order to strengthen German control, being particularly helpful since many of them spoke both Magyar and Rumanian. Although they had traditionally formed non-commissioned cadres in the Habsburg armies, they had apparently not of their particular usefulness in Transylvania.

Mr. Mosely also pointed out that one of the difficulties with regard to a possible exchange of populations was the fact that the Magyars lived in the plains and valleys while the Rumanians lived in the uplands and mountains. Hence, neither linguistic group could easily make itself at home in the land inhabited by the other. This situation did not obtain in the Banat, where such exchanges could be effected more easily. These factors would of course be more important in the ultimate solution to be fixed after the cooling-off period.

The chairman asked whether there was any objection to Mr. Berle's

suggestion for a cooling-off period. Mr. Armstrong thought that the main point such a plan was that it perpetuated Transylvania as a center of conflict. Furthermore the United Nations might not wish to keep troops there for so long a period. The chairman agreed that it was not so easy to draw a positive conclusion, as was also true in the case of Teschen,* but thought that good use might be made of the period, during which attempts could be made to quiet the situation. It was to be expected that allied forces would be spread widely over Europe. He thought that Mr. Berle's proposal might constitute the recommendation of the subcommittee.

Mr. Armstrong urged that, while the subcommittee left its recom- mendation concerning the ultimate disposition of Transylvania open, there ought to be developed research studies concerning the policy which might eventually be adopted. It was his opinion that, with modifica- tions, the boundary of the last twenty years did less ethnic injustice than any other. He thought that the 1940 boundary with its peninsula- like shape was essentially artificial and perhaps particularly designed to make trouble. He hoped that studies would be made to guide those who would eventually face the Transylvanian problem.

The chairman pointed out that one factor which could not be appraised at the present time was the action which the Hungarian army might take. The permanent solution might well reflect the situation brought about by the Hungarian troops if they got out of hand. Mrs. McCormick thought that it was unlikely that American or British forces would be the first United Nations troops to reach that area. Mr. Berle observed that it was yet too early to draw conclusions in this question. He agreed with the chairman that discussion of any future situation might be called academic at the present time. Mrs. McCormick and the chairman pointed that it was nevertheless necessary to begin thinking about Transylvania in order to have flexible material ready later for the actual negotiations. Mr. Armstrong hoped that particular study could be given to possible frontier lines in this area. Mr. Campbell exp1ained that his study on this matter was in progress, and the chairman asked him to report on it at the next meeting. (...)

x x x


* A disputed border region between Czechoslovakia and Poland, which, until 1938,belonged to Czechoslovakia,and from 1938, in accordance with the Munich decision, to Poland. i>Transylvania

The subcommittee reviewed briefly the historic claims of Hungary and Rumania to Transylvania and the raison d'etre of the present division. It recognized that serious minority problems would result if the entire territory were assigned to either state and that Magyar concentrations in the Székely district well inside Rumania and certain cities surrounded by non-Magyar country districts made a reasonable ethnic boundary very difficult to draw. It understood that the concen- tration of Rumanians in the hilly country and of Magyars in the lowlands would complicate any plan for an exchange of populations. Magyar irredentism was thought, however, to have been weakened among the peasants by the acquisition of farms through Rumanian land reforms. The German minority was understood to fear forcible assimilation if Transylvania came under Hungarian rule.

The subcommittee believed that it was inadvisable to establish an autonomous Transylvania within an East European Union. Since there was little local patriotism, such a solution would dissatisfy both Rumania and Hungary and both the Rumanian and Magyar elements in Transylvania. Whichever one of the latter got the upper hand locally would try to turn Transylvania into an adjunct of either Rumania or Hungary.

The subcommittee held that no negotiated settlement in this area would be possible at the close of the war. It therefore recommended that a United Nations force occupy Transylvania for as long as five years, or until both Rumania and Hungary had shown an ability to handle their domestic problems and a reasonable attitude in their mutual relations. During this period the United Nations should do their best to promote an amicable settlement of the Transylvanian problem.

The subcommittee postponed formulation of a preliminary view on the most appropriate final disposition of Transylvania at least until the next meeting, when the full results of research undertaken in PS would be reported.


 [Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [HMK Home] Wartime American Plans for a New Hungary