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DOCUMENTS - Part Two: Frontiers of Hungary - Chapter II. Proposals and Remarks to the Subcommittee on Territorial Problems

Document 2

Secret T Document 24

July 21, 1942


Stated schematically, three alternative territorial solutions present themselves:

A. return to the 1919-1938 boundary;

B. preservation of the present (1939) boundary;

C. establishment of a compromise boundary between the boundary of 1937 and that of 1939.


Ethnic Quantities

A. If the boundary of 1919-1938 is restored, Czechoslovakia will again rule a half-million Magyars (571,988 according to the Czechoslo- vak census of 1930) in Slovakia, most of them located along her southern border. It can be assumed that those who registered them- selves as Magyars in 1930 represented an irreducible nucleus of Magyardom within Czechoslovakia, and that changes of political and ethnic allegiance to the advantage of Czechoslovakia, such as were common after 1918, were no longer operative by 1930. Accordingly, Czechoslovakia would again govern Magyar majorities in the following districts:

       District          Magyars         Total           
Dunajská Streda              39,070      44,296          
Feledince                    25,195      32,565          
Galanta                      41,474      66,922          
Komárno                      53,154      64,098          
Král'ovsky Chlmec            29,832      37,817          
Moldava nad Bodvou           16,737      29,739          
Parkan                       39,483      48,413          

District Magyars Total (citizens) al'a 28,431 51,192 amorín 27,030 35,135 Stará ala 36,940 52,676 Tornal'a 17,701 21,297 Vel'ké Kapuany 11,314 20,304 eliezovce 24,164 30,227 Total 390,525 534,681

B. If the boundary of 1939 is allowed to stand after the war, Hungary would then govern a number of predominantly Slovak districts, together with parts of other districts, Slovak in majority.

       District          Slovaks         Total           
Koice urban                  42,245      63,967          
Koice rural                  50,188      55,715          
Krupina (part)               28,945      47,489          
Levice (part)                30,651      44,410          
Luenec                       49,302      71,699          
Modr Kame (part)             23,898      35,508          
Nové Zámky                   9,561       21,939          
(in  this  district      Slovaks   and   Magyars is      
balance between 9,561    10,193          held            
by 1,609 Jews and 256                                    
Revúca (part)                18,777      21,815          
Rimavská Sobota              40,324      48,093          
Roava                        34,417      42,131          
Vráble (part)                25,744      35,817          
Total (app.)                343,052      488,583         

If a new boundary were run so as to leave a maximum number of Magyars to Hungary and a maximum number of Slovaks to Czechoslo- vakia, it would lie somewhere between the boundary of 1937 and that of 1939. Presumably, it might run from the present Slovak-Hungarian boundary on the main branch of the Danube norths-eastwards, leaving Galanta and the city of Zámky Nové to Hungary (the northern part of the Zámky Nové district to go to Slovakia), leaving Levice City and the northern two-thirds of Levice province to Slovakia, leaving all of Krupina district and all except of a southern strip of Luenec province to Slovakia, leaving all except a southern strip of Rimavská Sobota province to Slovakia, together with all of Koice district. By this new line of demarcation Hungary would recover the predominantly Magyar districts of the Grosse Schuett, most of the Little Hungarian Plain and a small strip of ethnically Magyar territory running eastward to the boundary between Slovakia and Ruthenia. The remaining minorities on both sides of the frontier would then be approximately equal in size, and a certain amount of exchange of population and of farm properties might then be effected without undue compulsion, in order to reduce still further the size and importance of the respective minority problems.



A. If the frontier of 1937 is restored, Czechoslovakia will recover a preponderantly rural population, also engaged in a certain amount of lumbering along its northern strip and in household industry in the foothill villages. It would recover the small mining district of Rimavská Sobota and the small diversified industries of Koice.

B. If the frontier of 1939 is retained, Hungary will have added slightly to its population engaged in mining, small industry and lumbering and substantially to its agricultural population.

C. Under a compromise arrangement, Hungary would receive almost nothing in the way of population engaged in lumbering; Czechoslovakia would receive a slight increment of persons engaged in mining, in consumption-goods industries and in lumbering. Under any alternative the bulk of the rural population affected is engaged in agriculture, and the bulk of the small urban population is engaged in commercial, artisan, administrative, and cultural occupations.


Experience of Government since 1918

A. If the boundary of 1919 is restored, Czechoslovakia will again have within its boundaries a fairly large, compact and indigestible nucleus of Magyar irredentists. While the generally efficient level of Czech administration also applied in this border region, administrative efficiency often worked against Magyar interests and was therefore not appreciated by the Magyar minority. Since all Magyar national activities were at least potentially, and sometimes actively, irredentist, they were closely supervised and restricted. While the allotment of land to Magyar peasants lessened somewhat irredentist feeling in the villages, no feeling of real gratitude or of attachment to the Czechoslo- vak state was created, except in a small section of the minority, as most Magyars felt that Slovak peasants had been treated more generously and all Magyar groups resented the colonizing of Czech legionaries on the so-called "remnant estates" located in strongly Magyar areas. The Magyar Socialists came closest to preferring Czechoslovak to Hungarian rule, because of the character of the internal regime in Hungary; even they did not stress loyalty to the new state, and, in any case, they were few in numbers. The failure of the Magyars in Czechoslovakia to develop any really non-irredentist leadership was, and would presum- ably remain, a barrier to granting them any genuine autonomy. Restoration of the frontier of 1937 would therefore restore the compact Magyar minority to its former position of "fellow-travelers" on the Czech ship of state, and would recreate the vicious circle making the grant of autonomy conditional on proof of loyalty to the Czechoslovak state.

B. If the boundary of 1939 is retained, a large and fairly compact Slovak minority will be left under Hungarian rule. While most Slovaks did not object very vociferously to Magyar rule before 1918, the situation is quite different now. Twenty years of national education and of widened opportunities for advancement in all fields have pretty much eliminated the old humble attitude of the Slovaks towards the Magyar "ruling race." Since the Magyar system of local self-government eliminates non-Magyars from a voice in public affairs even more effectively than the Czechoslovak system of allowing free elections to a national parliament dominated by Czechoslovak parties, the Slovaks are not likely to be reconciled to Hungarian rule.

C. Under a compromise settlement, negotiated or imposed as part of a general settlement, irredentism on each side of the frontier would lose most of its sustenance. The presence of approximately equal minorities on each side of the frontier might lead to more favorable treatment in linguistic, cultural and local-government matters. The important factor in any settlement which would be tolerable to the local minorities would be to assure both them and the majorities that irredentism was now neither a hope nor a peril. From this realization might flow a relaxation of both majority vigilance and of minority irreconcilability. IV.


A. Under the boundary of 1937 Czechoslovakia would retain the principal east-west railway south of the Tatras, from Bratislava to Komárno, to Rimavská Sobota and Koice. Hungary would continue, as before 1938, to utilize its fairly dense railway network centering on Budapest.

B. Under the boundary of 1939 Czechoslovakia's principal east-west railway south of the Tatras would be cut by the loss of Luenec, Rimavská Sobota and Roava. She would still hold a new line connecting Bratislava with the Váh River line, and with the main east-west Tatra line, but connections of the southern parts of the highlands with the Danube and with Bratislava would be roundabout and costly.

C. Under a compromise line which would leave Nové Zámky to Hungary, Czechoslovakia would be fairly well equipped with railroads along her southern border. The areas left to Hungary would be excellently equipped with main and branch-lines providing easy connections with Budapest, and with the Danube ports. Presumably special facilities should be provided at Komárno (Komárom) for the transshipment of Slovak timber which is rafted down the Váh River during spring and autumn floods.


Natural Resources

A. Under the boundary of 1937, Czechoslovakia would retain some very productive farming country, in the Grosse Schuett and in the Little Hungarian Plain. She would retain a small mining center at Rimavská Sobota and small amounts of timber accessible to rivers.

B. Under the boundary of 1939, Hungary would retain valuable farming areas, considerable timber resources and a small amount of mineral resources.

C. Under a compromise line, Czechoslovakia would retain most of the timber and minerals and part of the rich farming country, while Hungary would hold the richest grain and livestock area. Under B or C, Czechoslovakia would presumably cease to be self-sufficient in grains, and would have to increase her imports of sufficient and fodder; this would be a factor encouraging her to cooperate more closely with Hungary and other Danubian states, or with Poland. Hungary's problem of disposing of her agricultural surpluses would be somewhat increased under B or C. Her requirements in lumber and minerals would not be satisfied to any applicable under B or C.

VI. |

Considerations of Security

A. The boundary of 1937 gave Czechoslovakia a greater sense of security as against Hungary, for it brought her frontier down into the plains and opened up an easy route to Budapest. In the event, Hungary proved to be merely a subsidiary menace to Czechoslovakia's existence.

B. The boundary of 1939 provided Budapest with a considerably extended zone of defense, and brought Bratislava within range of Hungarian attack. However, it still left to Slovakia the main east-west railway through the Tatras, covered by fairly extensive and difficult approaches; it also leaves to Czechoslovakia several alternative lines of egress to the Hungarian plain and Budapest.

C. A compromise boundary would deprive both Czechoslovakia and Hungary of any substantial advantages of terrain. In the central sector, between Levice and Luenec, the Czechoslovak frontier would again jut out somewhat, as before 1938, against Budapest. The Hungarian salient stretching west from Vác along the northern bank of the Danube would be exposed to a southward sally from Czechoslovak territory. On the other hand, Bratislava would again be within easy range of Hungarian forces.


Economic Considerations

A. A return to the boundary of 1937 would restore to Czechoslovakia a prosperous farming region with a high level of consumption of manufactured goods. It would also recover an important secondary center of consumption-goods industries, at Koice, and a small mining center at Rimavská Sobota. If postwar Czechoslovakia returns to its former policy of agricultural protection, the farming population of its Magyar-inhabited areas would be, as before, in a much more favorable position than the farmers of Hungary proper. B. Preservation of the frontier of 1939 would add considerably to Hungary's exportable surplus of cereals and animal products. This would be an advantage only if Hungary were assured of foreign outlets for its surpluses. The present frontier would leave to Hungary the consumption-goods center of Koice, which is hardly able to compete with similar industries of Budapest, together with a small increment of mining around Rimavská Sobota.

C. A compromise frontier would leave to Hungary most of the plains area, with its marketable surpluses of grain, while Czechoslovakia would recover the mainly mixed-farming areas of the valleys and foothills. Koice would presumably continue to develop as a subsidiary center of consumption-goods industries for Eastern Slovakia and Ruthenia. The mining of Rimavská Sobota adds very little to Czechoslo- vak total.



In extending full recognition to the Provisional Czechoslovak Government in London, the United States Government, in aide-memoire of July 31, 1941, specifically refrained from entering, even by implica- tion, into any commitment respecting the future frontiers of Czechoslo- vakia. The aide-memoire stated, in part: "...The relationship between our two Governments does not constitute any commitment on the part of the American Government with respect to the territorial boundaries of Czechoslovakia or the juridical continuity of the Czechoslovak Government headed by His Excellency Dr. Bene. The American Government considers that the occasion for more formal reservations on these points has not arisen."


Regional and Political Implications

A. The restoration of the boundary of 1919-1938 would satisfy the Czechoslovaks' demand for the recognition of the legitimacy of their Republic in its full territorial extent, a demand which is deep-seated in the Czech way of thought. It would likewise satisfy the natural desire to avoid penalizing the victim of an aggression after a victory over the most naked and unscrupulous forms of aggression. In domestic Czechoslovak politics the restoration of the status quo ante-Munich would undoubtedly bring great prestige to Dr. Bene personally. It would greatly facilitate the reestablishment of a unitary regime, or at least tend to hold to a minimum Slovak demands for autonomy. Within Slovakia the recovery of the boundary of 1937 would strengthen the Slovak Centralists and weaken the Independentists, for it would be regarded as an achievement of the Czechoslovak orientation, in contrast to the territorial losses suffered by autonomous and 1ater "independent" Slovakia.

On the other hand, under this solution it would be difficult, probably impossible, as it was before 1938, to reconcile the compact population of the Magyar minority to Czechoslovak rule. Nor could one then expect Hungary to cooperate with its neighbors better than it did prior to 1938, regardless of the internal regime in the country.

In discussions of the projected Czechoslovak-Polish Confederation the Czechs assume that Czechoslovakia will enter as a single unit into any such union. Some Poles would prefer to see separate Czech and Slovak units as members of it, as this would enhance Polish leadership. A restoration of the Slovak frontier of 1937 would tend to strengthen Czechoslovakia in acting as a unit towards Poland and towards the proposed confederation. Conversely, any severe limitation of Slovak territory might make the idea of direct Slovak-Polish cooperation more attractive to Slovaks.

B. The perpetuation of the 1939 frontier would undoubtedly weaken considerably the Czechoslovak orientation in Slovak politics. Slovaks tend to be either more anti-Magyar or more pro-Magyar than do Czechs, and a pro-Magyar Slovak leadership might emerge. Even the present Slovak leaders, if they saw their political fortunes and their lives endangered by a Czechoslovak triumph, might choose the pro-Magyar path, especially if it were made smooth by territorial concessions by Hungary. It would be a clever maneuver if Hungary were able to confront the victors with a Slovak-Hungarian federation as a fait accompli.

C. The enforcement of a compromise settlement based primarily on ethnic considerations would probably leave both Slovaks and Magyars disgruntled. However, under whatever territorial arrangement is adopted, strong therapeutic measures in the fields of security and economics will be required and will be decisive for the permanence of the settlement. Such treatment would have better prospect of lasting success if the minority problem were first reduced to its smallest possible proportions.

One very serious objection to making any change in the 1937 boundary is that, upon the abandonment of the principle of the legitimacy of the frontiers of 1919, the way would be open to call into question the legitimacy of boundaries elsewhere . However, frontiers can more reasonably be classified "stable" and "unstable" rather than as "legitimate" and "illegitimate." "Illegitimate" frontiers lose the bar sinister with time and custom; "legitimate" frontiers may become untenable under new conditions having nothing to do with the equity of the frontier itself.

Unofficial Czechoslovak spokesmen have on occasion indicated a willingness to sacrifice some Magyar-inhabited areas for the sake of a reconciliation with Hungary.* The real question, which remains unanswered, is not whether the Czechoslovaks will be more or less reasonable, but whether the Magyars can be brought to accept whole- heartedly a final and amicable settlement with each of their neighbors. Since Czechoslovakia must "live dangerously" if it is to live at all, it may find advantage in cutting its political risks along its exposed south-eastern frontier.

21/VII/42 .

SR/PEMosely/JRB Box 60



* A statement of this sort was made by almost every member of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. For details, see the Introduction.

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