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

Document 3

Confidential T Document 49

August 21, 1942



In connection with probable Hungarian claims to former Czechoslo- vak territories, the following considerations might be kept in mind:

1. Czechoslovakia had been the object of German and, in effect, Hungarian aggression, and only the clearest sort of ethnic requirements should lead us to reward the aggressors. The door to reaching a modus vivendi with Hungary, including even frontier rectifications, had never been closed definitely by Masaryk and Bene. Their position before the present war was that formal negotiations could never begin because the Magyars maintained the whole of their national claims integrally.

2. In Hungary the non-Magyar sections of the population were effectively precluded from having a voice in public affairs; the rural population is still kept in hand by Magyar landlords through the system of public voting in elections; and as no land reform ever was instituted in Hungary the Slovak peasants remain on much the same economic level as formerly.

Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, has demonstrated a respect for the cultural, political and economic rights of minority elements; has maintained a system of free elections by secret ballot; and after the last war instituted a broad system of land reform.

3. Partly because of the above, there never was any very articulate irredentist movement among the Magyars in Czechoslovakia. The cry, "nem, nem, soha," (no, no, never) raised in Budapest found no clear response across the northern Hungarian Frontier.

4. Some accommodation of interests had been achieved locally in the course of the living together of the Magyar and Czechoslovak populations during the twenty years between the wars. To whatever extent this accommodation is a fact, it should not unnecessarily be destroyed and the same problem of adjustment posed afresh.

5. There is an advantage in not raising the problem of the whole Czechoslovak-Hungarian frontier, as such, after this war. To do so would provoke serious Czechoslovak complaints based (whether entirely justifiably or not) on the allegation that the general implications of the Atlantic Charter had been violated. The Czechoslovak Government would find support in that position from a number of other directly interested states, including Poland and Yugoslavia, and probably also from Soviet Russia and perhaps Great Britain (cf. Eden's recent reaffirmation of the British repudiation of the Munich "Sett1ement"). Simultaneously, all the other states which would like to open or re-open boundary disputes with their neighbors would be galvanized into greater activity; Germany and Italy, to mention no others, would have new grounds on which to argue that annexations, or plebiscites preliminary to such, be recommended in areas such as Danzig, Alsace, Eupen and Malmedy, Nice, Corsica, Tunisia, et cetera.

6. We are committed to the restoration of the Czechoslovak state. Presumably, then, we intend that it shall be strong and prosperous. If the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile, or any successor group engaged in peace negotiations, were unable to prevent what seemed like an extensive amputation along the Hungarian frontier, it would tend to lose Slovak support and the future unity of the Republic would be impaired and perhaps destroyed. This is a factor to be weighed in connection with plans for an Eastern European Federation.

With the above in mind, I suggest that in considering the future relations of Czechoslovakia and Hungary, we would do well to avoid, so far as possible, any appearance of opening up the whole question of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian frontier. Instead, we might identify one or two areas of fairly limited size where the ethnic situation is such as to indicate overwhelmingly the wisdom of including them in Hungary in the interest of future amicable relations between the two neighboring peoples (e.g. the Grosse Schuett and perhaps an adjoining section of the so-called Little Hungarian Plain).


If this general course were adopted, I suggested more specifically that: a) American policy aim to facilitate a direct agreement between the two parties on the limited territorial question involved;

b) offers of American economic and financial assistance help to "sugar the pill" for Czechoslovakia, not only in broad terms but specifica1ly for the construction of new railway, airport and other facilities to replace those lost to Hungary;

c) a close study be made as to whether any Hungarian quid pro quo might be available, even if of minor importance, to save face for Czechoslovakia;

d) in connection with this limited transfer of territory an exchange of populations be effected therein, as well as in other Czechoslovak and Hungarian border regions under international auspices and with international help--all of which would benefit Czechoslovakia in the long run by removing a former source of weakness in the Czechoslovak state;

e) Hungary's adoption of a thorough-going land reform and the reform of her voting system be considered a necessary preliminary to any transfer of Czechoslovak territory to her;

f) in general, a vigorous effort be made to prove, not only to the two nations here involved but to all the states of Europe, that under the new international regime coming into effect after this war, security will be guaranteed and frontiers as such will be less important.


Box 60



* Hamilton Fish Armstrong b>

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