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DOCUMENTS - Part Two: Frontiers of Hungary - Chapter III. Summaries and Recommendations

Document 4

Secret H Document 86

Preliminary November 8, 1943



The problem is the disposition of that part of the Burgenland ("German West Hungary") which was ceded to Austria through the decision of the Paris Peace Conference and through the Protocol of Venice in 1921.*

The problem arises from Hungary's long-standing desire for the restoration of all territory of historic Hungary, of which the Burgenland was a part, and from the almost certain desire of Austria, if restored to independence, to retain it. Although no question has yet arisen with respect to the Burgenland the issue may develop after the war.

The Burgenland is a narrow strip of territory, 1,532 square miles in area, running the entire length of the Austro-Hungarian frontier from


* The Conference of Versailles gave 4,312 sq.km of theretofore Hungarian land to Austria. At the October 11-13, 1921 conference in Venice, however, due to armed Hungarian resistance and to Italian pressure, Austria agreed that a referendum be held to decide the fate of the smaller part of the territory in dispute (Sopron, and 8 villages of the Sopron area). the Czechoslovak boundary in the north to the Yugoslav frontier in the south and is made up of two distinct parts, almost entirely separated by a salient containing the city of Sopron (Ödenburg) which was left to Hungary by the Venice Protocol (1921). For several centuries in dispute between the Habsburgs and Hungary, the Burgenland since 1647 had been a part of Hungary, whose possession of it was confirmed by the Compromise of 1867. The entire Burgenland was claimed on ethnic grounds by the Austrian Republic in 1918 and assigned to it by the Peace Conference in 1919. After a plebiscite held in the city of Sopron and its vicinity in 1921, that area was allowed to remain in Hungary.

Ethnographically the region has been German for some time and the line of demarcation between Germans and Magyars had remained unchanged for centuries. The rural population has remained consistent- ly German. The towns were German until well past the middle of the nineteenth century but then began to acquire a Hungarian character owing largely to the success of the minority was greatly reduced by the transfer of Sopron to Hungary after the plebiscite of December 1921, in which the total vote was 65 percent for Hungary and 35 percent for Austria. In the city of Sopron the vote went heavily in favor of Hungary and in the surrounding rural communes slightly in favor of Austria. According to the 1934 Austrian census the population was 299,447, of whom 241,326 were Germans (80 percent), 40,500 were Croats (14 percent) and 10,442 were Magyars (4 percent). Only four communities in the Burgenland had a Magyar majority but forty-four had a Croat majority. These communities, most of them in the northern and central districts, are so scattered that no ethnic ground can be found for transferring any part of the Burgenland to Yugoslavia. These Croats provided the ethnic basis for a "Slavic corridor" between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, proposed but not seriously considered in 1919. The Croat inhabitants might be given the opportunity to opt for Yugoslav citizenship and for emigration to Yugoslavia.

The economic interests of the region lie with Austria rather than with Hungary. Although communications are easier with Hungary, the natural markets for the food products produced in the Burgenland are situated in Austrian territory, hence means of transportation are essential to its economic welfare. The cession of Sopron to Hungary severed the arterial communications of the region and further intensi- fied the difficulties of transportation. A transportation agreement (1922) setting up a system of privileged traffic partially compensated for the loss of the Sopron junction. Although Austria constructed one secondary railway connecting the Central Burgenland with Vienna and built a better system of roads, good transverse rail communications, especially in the Central and Southern Burgenland, are still lacking.


A. Retention of the Boundary of 1921.

The area is inhabited by a predominantly German population which benefited economically by inclusion within Austria. The economic interests of the Burgenland would profit from the establishment of a customs union between Austria and Hungary, which would enable its timber to move freely to Hungary and its agricultural products to Styria and to the Wiener Neustadt region of Austria. The situation of Sopron might readily be improved if a customs union were set up, as most of the traffic passing through that city before 1918 was destined for Austria.

B. Retrocession of the Burgenland to Hungary

This solution can be justified on historical but not upon economic or ethnic grounds. Hungary has not pushed its claim to the Burgenland rigorously. its loss has not been of great economic importance, although Hungary still needs timber which the Central Burgenland formerly supplied and could easily transport it to central Hungary.

PS: M.E. Bradshaw:DFN

Box 153

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