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


3. Hungary's Borders

Both President Roosevelt and his Wilsonian Secretary of State believed that the most important guarantee of lasting peace in the postwar world was the creation of an international organization which, unlike the League of Nations, was strong enough, if it saw fit, to defend the status quo in the face of any aggression anywhere in the world. At the same time, they were only too aware of the fact that the only status quo that could be preserved in the long run was one which did away with the territorial injustices preserved, or created by the previous postwar settlement. A great deal of the Advisory Committee's efforts, therefore, were focused on identifying the various territorial disputes the world over, and coming up with proposals for their solution. It was specifically

the job of the territorial Subcommittee to do so. The members of the Territorial Subcommittee did not aim at a radical revision of territorial boundaries. Though their chief goal was ethnic fairness, at the very first sessions they introduced the "Principle of Minimum Change," and this was to be the guideline in decisions involving both borders and population exchanges. In practice, this meant that they wanted to change the borders established in the wake of the World War I only to the extent absolutely necessary on ethnic, strategic, or economic grounds. Accordingly, they decided to look into not borders as such, but only the most disputed segments of each country's frontier.[36]

Besides the princples of ethnc fairness and of minimum change, the matter of which side the given country was on in the war also entered into the Territorial Subcommittee's deliberations. We must note, however, that the idea of "punishment" or "retribution" was never a dominant consideration, not even in the case of Germany or Japan. In the case of "satellite countries" such as Finland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, it was a very minor consideration indeed. Roosevelt and his Secretary of State, as is known, considered these countries "victims," not aggressors, and did not take seriously their declarations of war.

Most members of the Territorial Subcommittee shared their view. Thus, as we shall see in a moment, the Subcommittee not only strove for ethnic fairness in the case of two enemy countries, but, in the case of an allied and an enemy country, was capable of deciding in favor of the latter[37]

Of the over fifty areas of tension identified and examined by the Territorial Subcommittee, thirty-four were in Europe, and of these, twenty-four in Eastern Europe (cf. Map 1). Except for where Hungary bordered on Austria, every section of the Hungarian border, the Yugoslav-Hungarian, the Slovak-Hungarian, and the Romanian- Hungarian stretches of the frontier, was included among the areas in dispute. A fourth area of territorial tension with an impact on Hungary's future, and one separately listed and treated, was Ruthenia, a region that had belonged to Hungary until 1920, was part of Czecho- slovakia between 1920 and 1939, and was reannexed to Hungary in 1939. The Soviet Union annexed it in 1944, and it has been part of the Ukraine ever since.

The Subcommittee first dealt with the Slovak-Hungarian border in the summer of 1942. By that time, Mosely and his research staff had prepared a number of background studies on the ethnic composition of the region, on Slovakia's development between 1919 and 1938, and on the findings of the American peace delegation of 1919-1920. Though their report included the relevant data of the Hungarian census of 1910, because of the alleged distortions in the Hungarian count, and because the Czech figures were more recent, they took the 1930 Czechoslovak census as the more reliable. On this basis, the ethnic Hungarian population of Slovakia without Ruthenia, was not 650,000 (as the more impartial figures of the 1921 Czechoslovak census also showed), but only


Even so, it was clear that the Slovak-Hungarian border drawn in 1920 was considerably farther south than the ethnic frontier, and that it would be neither fair, nor expedient, unless one wanted to feed Hungarian irredentist feeling by restoring the 1920 demarcation line.

Since they were dealing with two enemy nations, Anne O'Hare McCormick suggested that they might leave the 1938-1939 borders well enough alone. The majority on the Subcommittee, however, rejected this proposal. In the course of the debate, Mosely pointed out that the First Vienna Award had been based on the Hungarian census of 1910, and was, thus, prejudicial to the Slovak population. He noted, more- over, that the 1939 reannexation of Ruthenia had absolutely nothing to do with the ethnic composition of the population. It had been strategic decision bolstered with historical arguments. Thus, rather than keeping the 1938-39 borders or restoring those imposed by the Treaty of Trianon, he recommended a compromise solution which, in effect, split the difference between the two boundary lines. The new border would involve no real hardship for Czechoslovakia's transportation system or economy, and was maximally fair from the ethnic point of view. The Czechoslovak census of 1930 had shown that Hungarians comprised the absolute majority of the population in ten border districts: six of them in the itn Ostrov (Csallóköz or Grosse Schuett), three in central Slovakia, and one in eastern Slovakia. It was this area of 2,355 square miles, with a population of 396,000, seventy-eight percent (309,000) of which was Hungarian, that Mosely wanted to see returned to Hungary. He also thought it desirable that the southern parts of the fifteen districts north of the border districts, areas of mixed population, with the Hungarians comprising the largest single group (for instance, the areas around Galánta and Érsekújvár), also belong, wholly or in part, to Hungary. On this proposal, the size of the pre-1938 Czechoslovak region, excluding Ruthenia, that would have remained in Hungarian hands was a minimum of 2,700 square miles, and a maximum of 4,500 square miles, with populations of 484,000 and 854,000, respectively. Redrawing the borders along the above lines would have decreased the ratio of ethnic Hungarians within Hungary's population to 64 percent in the first scenario, and to 59 percent on the second (cf. Map 2).

It was to improve these ratios somewhat that Mosely recommended that some measure of population exchange take place as well. The Territorial Subcommittee had Mosely's proposal on its agenda on five separate occasions. The main, and only serious, opposition to it came from Hamilton Fish Armstrong, who adduced every possible argument in the effort to leave Hungary with as little of the disputed territory as possible. He pointed out that Mosely's proposal was inconsistent with the Principle of Minimum Change, and did not take into account that Czechoslovakia was a victim of Nazi aggression, while Hungary was one of the aggressors. Armstrong went so far as to state that, because Czechoslovakia was so much more democratic than Hungary, "there never was any very articulate irredentist movement among the Magyars in Czechoslovakia," and that the cry "No, no, never!" had hardly ever had much of an echo north of the borders drawn at Trianon. The most Armstrong could envision was that the six southwestern districts that comprised the Csallóköz be recognized as belonging to Hungary.[40]

The vehemence of Armstrong's arguments was not something that other members of the Subcommittee could match, nor, probably, did they really want to. For while they did not agree with him on every detail, they did not really try to refute his arguments. The vote on September 4 rejected Mosely's proposal, and recommended that Hungary be allowed to keep only the above six southwestern districts, an area of 1,400 square miles, with a population of 275,000, 79 percent of which was ethnic Hungarian (cf. Map 2, Table 2). By way of a compromise, they left open the matter of where the three central and the one eastern district along the border would belong. The Subcommittee recommend- ed that further research and discussion precede any decision on this issue.[41]

Transylvania, which had been part of Hungary prior to 1920, was part of Romania between 1920 and 1940, and was split between the two by the Second Vienna Award, i.e. between 1940 and 1944, was discussed

by the Territorial Subcommittee on three consecutive occasions in February of 1943. The rapporteur was John C. Campbell, a thirty-two year old assistant professor of history, who, like Mosely, had graduated from Harvard and had also got his Ph.D. there in 1940. Campbell outlined four possible solutions, of which he deemed none to be particularly satisfactory. Restoration of the borders determined at Trianon was undesirable *******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************deration was to keep the borders drawn by the 1940 partition. Economic and infrastructure consider- ations argued against that solution, as well as the fact that the partition had annexed to Hungary not only the purely ethnic Hungarian easternmost region, the Székely region (Székelyföld) and the western regions with their predominantly ethnic Hungarian popu1ations, but also the million Romanians living in the ethnically mixed regions. The fourth possibility was that of an independent Transylvania. 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."

Though Campbell conceded that there might indeed be such a thing as sense of Transylvanian identity, he thought it probable that both ethnic groups would rather see an independent Transylvania added to their own nation-state. Like Campbell, the members of the Subcommit- tee, too, found themselves in a quandary. Anne O'Hare McCormick ventured the opinion that independence was still likely to lead to less friction than "if the area were either under Rumanian or Hungarian sovereignty". Bowman and Armstrong, however, were both adamant on this score. Armstrong considered the idea of an independent Transyl- vania nothing short of "foolish and comic". He added 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." Bowman, too, believed that independence would only make for a permanent state of undeclared war between Romanians and Hungarians for the possession of Transylvania. Alternative solutions, however, were not proposed.

On February 5, 1943, thus, the Territorial Subcommittee closed its first session on Transylvania without a resolution being passed. The only point they all agreed on was that Transylvania would have to come under the supervision of Allied or United Nations forces for the first few postwar years to word off the danger of armed conflict between its Hungarian and Romanian population. Deputy Secretary of State Berle, who had raised this possibility, expressed his hope that such a transi- tional period would provide time for tempers to cool, enough, perhaps, for the two ethnic groups to themselves agree on some kind of long-term solution, without interference from the great powers[42]

The next session, on February 12, likewise closed without a resolution. Campbell and Mosely gave a detailed account of Transyl- vania's ethnic composition, with the conclusion that the matter of the Székely region had to be distinguished from that of the predominantly Hungarian strip along the border, and different solutions be found for each. To this, Adolf Berle made a quite unexpected counter-proposal:

It might be a more fruitful approach to the Transylvanian problem to abandon all efforts to disentangle the population and to start from the theory of constructing a state. By that method one would concentrate on what would appear to be the most powerful element in the population, the one most likely to maintain itself as a group, and turn over to that group a territory included within the frontier most likely to lead to its stability. This would mean either enlarging Hungary as far as the Carpathians or the recreation of Versailles' Rumania.[43]

At the third session on Transylvania, the Subcommittee again reviewed all the possible approaches to the problem. Cavendish W. Cannon, head of the State Department's Southeastern European Department, advocated that they apt for an independent Transylvania, or rather, for a trialistic solution -- loose federation of Romania, Transylvania and Hungary -- reminiscent of an old idea of a former prime minister of Hungary, Count István Bethlen. Bowman, Mosely and Campbell were inclined to have the border strip go to Hungary, with the Székely region to enjoy autonomy within Romania. Armstrong continued to oppose the idea of an independent Transylvania, and wanted to see the whole go to Romania, except for a narrow border strip. Finally, John MacMurray, an adviser to Cordell Hull, took a stand for restoring the Trianon borders on the grounds that it was impossible to come to a fair decision in the matter of the Hungarian- Romanian territorial dispute. With no consensus forthcoming, Bowman adjourned the meeting, with hopes that those present would continue to study the matter and arrive at a resolution at the next session.[44]

Bowman's intentions notwithstanding, the Territorial Subcommittee

never again returned to the question of Transylvania. What was taken to be its recommendation was the minutes of the March 2, 1943 meeting, which summarized the proposals that had been made in a way that gave preference to two of them. Most highly preferred was the idea that Transylvania should belong to Romania, with the Székely region enjoying wide-ranging autonomy, and the Romanian-Hungarian border revised to coincide with the linguistic border, or to lie just a little to the east of it. In second place was the notion of an independent state of Transylvania, which was to be a member of the proposed Mid-European Union, or a condominium of Romania and Hungary.[45]

An interesting feature of the Subcommittee debates on Transylvania was that the members of the Department of State frequently found themselves arguing for positions diametrically opposed to those of the experts. The latter tended to take ethnic composition as their point of departure, and offered solutions which differed from that worked out at Trianon only on points of detall. The former, particularly Berle and Cannon, were much more original and daring in their approach, and tended to support solutions favorable to Hungary.

That the State Department was inclined to favor Hungary and Transylvania's autonomy probably had a great deal to do with the Soviet Union's expected penetration of East Central Europe. In this scenario it seemed a wise move to try to prop up Hungary. Cannon, in fact, practically said as much at the third session, when he argued that separating Transylvania from Romania would make it harder for the Soviet Union to advance to the west, and in this sense, the proposal served Romania's interest as well.[46]

There is also some likelhood that in the two weeks between the first and the third of the Subcommittee's sessions on Transylvania, Otto von Habsburg, Tibor Eckhardt, János Pelényi, as well as some of the leading Hungarian democratic exiles, Oscar Jászi, Rusztem Vámbéry -- working in concert or in a series of independent actions -- had made good use of their contacts in the White House and in the Department of State.

It is well known that President Roosevelt, Sumner Welles and other members of the government met with Archduke Otto on quite a regular basis, and that the latter, in his own plans, always spoke of Transyl- vania as an independent member of the proposed federation. Eckhardt and Pelényi, too, were for Transylvanian autonomy, and they, as we have already had occasion to note, were on good terms with Deputy Secretary of State Berle. Though the acrimony between the conserva- tive and the democratic groupings of Hungarian émigrés was, by that time, vituperative, and the two groups regularly denounced one another to their American contacts, it is highly probable that on the matter of Transylvania, they closed ranks. This is borne out by the series of articles in the Amerikai Magyar Nepszava in the summer of 1943, in which Jászi and a number of his associates came out in favor of an autonomous Transylvania within a Danubian Confederation.[47]

There is also the letter Jászi wrote to Rusztem Vámbéry in 1942, in which Cavendish W. Cannon, who had proposed the notion of an autonomous Transylvania at the Territorial Subcommittee's third session, is referred to as "our mutual friend.[48]

A final evidence of the activism of the Hungarian lobby during the Transylvania sessions is a report sent from Washington by a member of the Romanian secret service in February of 1943:

Finally, Eckhardt has succeeded in convincing his friends in the United States that it is in the interest of the Anglo-Saxons to have a powerful Hungary, specially as a counter-balance to the Soviet Union. But in order to be powerful, Hungary needs Transylvania, which has many resources enabling Hungary to develop a big industry.[49]

This was practically a verbatim summary of the arguments Cannon used at the Subcommittee's third session on Transylvania. The stand taken by the "other side" was motivated primarily by considerations of ethnic fairness, and the Principle of Minimum Change. This, certainly was true of Mosely and Campbell, who were young enough to be impartial in the matter. In Bowman's case, loyalty to the "joint" decisions of 1919 probably played a part; in Armstrong's, his sympathy for Romania, and antipathy to Hungary.

The matter of the Yugoslav-Hungarian border was discussed on February 12, at the Subcommittee's second session on Transylvania. The rapporteur in this case was Cyril Edwin Black, an assistant professor at Princeton. One of the youngest members of the research staff, Black was not yet thirty years old, and, like Campbell and Mosely, was a Harvard graduate.

Based on his background research,Black distinguished five separate areas where the borders were open to dispute. Along the southwestern frontier established at Trianon, there were twenty-eight predominantly ethnic Hungarian communities in an area of Wend settlement; these he recommended that the postwar adjustment recognize as belonging to Hungary. The greater part of the Prekomurje, however, which was inhabited by Wends, and the predominantly Croatian Medjumurje, Hungarian territories since the spring of 1941, Black considered to be parts of Yugoslavia on ethnic grounds. Along the southern border, in Baranja, Baka, and in the Banat, he recommended a compromise solution reminiscent of the American proposal of 1919, and one that followed linguistic borders to the extent possible.

The compromise would have left about as many Hungarians (150,000) under Yugoslav rule as there would have been Yugoslavs under Hungarian rule (174,000) if the recommended northern districts were returned to Hungary. This northern tract, an area of 2,476 square miles, had a population of 486,000, whose ethnic distribution, according to the 1921 Yugoslav census, was the following: ethnic Hungarians, forty-seven percent; South Slavs, thirty-six percent, and German speakers, sixteen percent (cf. Map 3).

Black's consistent attempt to implement the principle of ethnic fairness was, however, taken exception to in this case by Berle and Cannon, the very people who had been inclined to side with Hungary in the matter of its borders with Romania. Yugoslavia was an ally, and they took its side, more precisely, Serbia's side. Clearly there was no guarantee that the Yugoslav federation could be restored after the war. But Hungary, noted Berle "had broken its word and had behaved badly" in breaking its 1940 Treaty of Perpetual Friendship with Yugoslavia, and in having joined in Germany's 1941 aggression against it. Certainly, this was not the kind of conduct that they wanted to see rewarded at Yugoslavia's expense. The issue was decided by Pasvolsky. The head of the Advisory Committee found no reason for the United States to recommend changes to the pre-1941 Yugoslav-Hungarian border, and the Subcommittee voted unanimously for the status quo ante bellum.[50]

On Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the research staff completed its report in late October of 1943. Of the possible options, Harry N. Howard, a senior member of the team, and the one who took over for Mosely when the latter was absent, considered the reunification of Czechoslovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia "the best possible solution." He recom- mended neither the creation of an autonomous Carpatho-Ukraine nor the region's autonomy within either the Ukraine, or the Soviet Union, or Poland, or Hungary. He did, however, have his reservations about the proposed solution. "Simple restoration, however, might not solve the problem, since it might leave open the door for new revisionism on the part of Hungary, or possibly on the part of the Soviet Union." By way of a preventive measure, Howard thought that certain border adjustments might perhaps be made in favor of Hungary in the southwestern corner of the region, where even the Czechoslovak census of 1930 had put the ratio of Hungarians in excess of fifty percent. What argued against such change, on the other hand, was the layout of the transportation and communication network, particularly of the railway system. To leave with Hungary an area even approximating the one it had regained by the First Vienna Award, argued Howard, would cut the entire region off from Czechoslovakia, and would make communication between the various settlements of the region very difficult.[51]

Howard's report was distributed to the members of the Subcommit- tee on November 12, 1943, with the purpose of putting it on the agenda for debate in the near future. In fact, it never was put on the agenda. For the remainder of the year, the Subcommittee dealt exclusively with Asian affairs. Its last session was on December 17, 1943, since the Subcommittee as such was dissolved as part of the Advisory Commit- tee's reorganization.

For, by summer of 1943,the Advisory Committee had accomplished a great deal of what it had been set up to do, while the series of Allied victories raised hopes that the war was rapidly drawing to a conclusion. It was this hope that led Secretary of State Hull to reorganize the peace preparatory committee. Though certain of its subcommittees, for instance, the Territorial Subcommittee, continued to sit for the rest of the year, the emphasis shifted from debate to summaries which, as Hull put it, "can serve as a basis of more specific considerations of policies and proposals." The task of recapitulating the debates and whatever proposals had emerged fell to the research staff, restructured as the Division of Political Studies already in January of 1943.[52]

The summaries dealing with Hungary were prepared by the research staff between the summer of 1943 and January of 1944. They presented a detailed account of the debates up to that time, including the Subcommittee's proposals. Still, reading them, one cannot help detecting small shifts of emphasis, and perhaps a selective grouping of arguments and counter-arguments. The purpose, one feels, is to make the original expert recommendations -- based, as far as possible, on the principle of ethnic fairness -- seem far more attractive than the Subcommittee's subsequent suggestions, motivated, without a doubt, by more partial considerations. We might, thus, with some exaggeration, see these documents as the circumspect "rebellion" of the disinterested young staff of experts against the political motives of the older generation, and the strategic considerations of the pragmatic career diplomats.

The summary dealing with the Slovak-Hungarian border, for instance, was prepared by Harry N. Howard in Mosely's absence who was away as consultant to the London-based European Advisory Committee. It offered as the first of the proposed solutions the Subcommittee's resolution that Hungary be allowed the six districts of the Csallóköz. Very fairly, it notes, further, that "the Territorial Subcommittee did not favor suggesting wider territorial concessions to Hungary." It goes on, however, to present as an equally possible alternate solution one that Mosely had held to be optimal, but which Armstrong had repudiated in the strongest terms: namely, that the ten southern districts where ethnic Hungarians formed an absolute majority, as well as the southern parts of the adjacent six northern districts, be ceded to Hungary. Altogether, this would have meant an area of 2,740 square miles, with a population of 484,000, sixty-four percent of which was ethnic Hungarian (cf. Map 2, Table 3). "This solution would eliminate from Czechoslovakia as large a Hungarian population as is possible without serious economic and strategic injury to Czechoslovakia," noted Howard. This option also involved Mosely's recommended exchange of the approximately equal numbers of Hungarian and Slovak populations left on the wrong sides of the new border, "thereby eliminating the ethnic basis for any further irreden- tism."[53]

We see much the same story repeated in the case of the Yugos******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* his "compromise proposal" contained over the one he had presented in February was that the line of demarcation to run through Baka and the Banat had been refined. The population of the area he proposed to be granted to Hungary fell from 486,000 to 435,000, with the figures for the South Slavic minorities dropping from 174,000 to 148,000. The number of ethnic Hungarians left in Yugoslavia by the new variant, on the other hand, rose from 150,000 to 160,000[54]

(cf. Map 3, Tables 3 and 4, Adjusted line.)

The summary most closely reflecting the Territorial Subcommittee's stand was the one dealing with Transylvania. The Subcommittee, as will be recalled, in the absence of a consensus, had postponed making a clear-cut recommendation for a later session never in fact held. Campbell's summary followed Berle and the Subcommittee's expressed hope in assuming that at the end of the war, Transylvania would, for a while, be occupied by Allied or United Nations troops. As to where Transylvania's temporary administrative borders were to be drawn, along the pre-Trianon line, the Trianon line, the 1940 line, or along a new line to be determined by the Allies arbitrarily or through plebiscite, the summary was undecided. Of the possible solutions, the two most preferred by the Subcommittee were recommended: border adjustments in Hungary's favor and an autonomous Székely region within Romania; or alternately, the "creation of an Autonomous or Independent Transyl- vania within a Federation or Union of East European or Danubian States." Neither the pre-Trianon nor the post-Trianon status quo, nor the validation of the Second Vienna Award, nor an autonomous Transylvania outside some federation was recommended.

As compared to the earlier documents treating of Transylvania's future, Campbell's August 1943 summary was a forward step in that it specified the size of the strip of land along the western border to be returned to Hungary: an area of 3,475 square miles, shown by the 1930 Romanian statistics to have a population of 591,000, fifty percent of which was ethnic Hungarian. The alternative recommendation, less closely based on ethnic boundaries, involved leaving Hungary in possession of 5,600 square miles of post-Trianon Romanian territory, with a population of 1,980,000, only thirty-six percent of which was ethnic Hungarian (cf. Map 4, the two top tables). For his part, Campbell unequivocally supported this latter solution. The first of his two reasons was that the Arad-Nagyvárad (Oradea, Grosswardein) railway would, in that case, run all the way on Hungarian soil, instead of criss-crossing the border at several points. The second was that, not counting the Székely region, this latter solution would leave roughly equal numbers, about half a million each, of Romanians and ethnic Hungarians under foreign rule, and the exchange of these populations, as Campbell saw it, would be relatively easy to effect.[55]

The abstract dealing with Subcarpathian Ruthenia differed from the Subcommittee presentation of late 1943 primarily in being much more constructive. For one thing, Howard specified the possible forms that the southwestern strip to be ceded to Hungary might take. He presented three options: recognition of the borders established in 1938 by the First Vienna Award; the purely token gesture of returning 125 square miles of the area to Hungary; and a "compromise solution" between the two extremes, which would leave Hungary with 535 square miles of the 731 square miles reannexed in 1938. Of the population of 90,000 involved, the 1930 Czechoslovak census specified fifty-nine percent as ethnic Hungarian, as compared to the 1910 Hungarian census figures also given by Howard, which put their ratio at eighty- eight percent (cf. Map 5). Howard's chief argument in support of the compromise solution was the consideration of ethnic fairness; the communications problem it would involve he deemed to be quite secondary, and one that could be remedied with the building of new railways.[56]

At the end of 1943,the research staff also reviewed the matter of the Austro-Hungarian border. Since their absolutely correct information was that Hungary was laying no "serious" claim to the Burgenland, more than seventy percent of which was German-speaking, the matter was not considered particularly problematic. It was taken for granted that after the war, the region would continue to belong to a once again independent Austria. This was the gist of the report submitted on November 8 by Mary Bradshaw, a new member of the research staff.[57]

The above-outlined summaries prepared by the research staff became the basis of "more specific considerations of policies and proposals,"even as Hull had intended them to be. The groups that were to "consider" them were the Inter-Divisional Country and Area Committees set up in late summer of 1943, which set to work immediately, and continued to study the reports all of the first half of 1944. These Committees consisted of members of the research staff, and the officials of the Department of State involved with the countries and areas in question. Bowman, Armstrong, and other prestigious members of the Subcommit- tees, though called in for consultation, were not involved directly in this work either.[58]

The first of the Inter-Divisional Country and Area Committees to be set up, on August 12, 1943, was the Inter-Divisional Balkan and Danube Region Committee. Harry N. Howard was appointed chairman. By the spring of 1944, the Committee had submitted its recommendations regarding Hungary's borders in reports of a page or a little more. As compared to the research staff's summaries of 1943, these were both more concrete and more unambiguous, containing, for the most part, only the recommended solutions. For all that, they did leave room for some flexibility.

In the case of the Slovak-Hungarian border, for instance, the Committee recommended the cession to Hungary of only the six districts of the Csallóköz, on the grounds that Czechoslovakia's postwar government would not be willing to agree to more. It did not, however, rule out the possibility of supporting "a more just solution on a purely ethnic basis, " ...i.e. the cession of ten entire districts, and parts of another six, if later circumstances should be favorable to its adoption."

In view of the military situation, and of the Soviet Union's expan- sionist plans, the Committee suggested alternative solutions in the case of Subcarpathian Ruthenia as well. If the post-war settlement was such that the region was returned to Czechoslovakia -- the alternative the Committee preferred -- they wanted to see the borders revised in a way "which would leave predominantly Magyar districts in Hungary" without, however, disrupting railway communications toward Slovakia. Should Subcarpathian Ruthenia end up as part of the Soviet Union, however, they wanted to see the borders redrawn to coincide with ethnic boundaries, independently of any other consideration.[59]

For the Yugoslav-Hungarian border, the Committee supported Black's compromise proposal. This meant that, as opposed to the Territorial Subcommittee's stand, this higher-ranking Committee was for Hungary's keeping the northern part of the Baranja-Baka-Banat region.

No pithy recommendation was ever made concerning Transylvania, due, perhaps, to the significance of the matter, or perhaps to its basic insolvability. The Committee accepted the research staff's 1943 summary; the only change it made was to mark some of the solutions as "recommended" solutions. As a temporary measure in the immediate postwar period, it suggested keeping the 1940 borders, i.e. the ones established by the Second Vienna Award. As a long-term solution, it recommended that the strip stretching from Arad to Szatmár, an area of 5,600 square miles, with a population of 1,098,000, be ceded to Hungary, with the Székely region to enjoy autonomy within Romania. The idea of an independent Transylvania, until this phase a preferred solution, was listed as one of the possible, but not recommended solutions in this document of April 20, 1944.

The reason for this is probably that the idea of an East European federation of which an independent Transylvania was to be a part was coming to appear more and more chimerical in the light of the Soviet Union's ever more evident expansionist plans, especially given the advances being made by the Soviet army[61]

We shall see in what follows how far the Committee's plans in connection with Hungary's borders were influenced by this very real political consideration.

No new report was drafted concerning the Burgenland either. The Inter-Divisional Balkan -- Danube Region Committee's report of April 17, 1944, was a verbatim copy of Bradshaw's summary of November 8, 1943[62]

The Committee's recommendations with regard to Hungary, the borders, the need for a new form of government, the armistice, and so on, were outlined in a fourteen page document, dated May 1, 1944, and headed: "The Treatment of Enemy States: Hungary." The paragraphs on the Czechoslovak-Hungarian, Yugoslav-Hungarian, and Austro-Hungarian borders were verbatim transcripts of the respective April précis on the subject.

The paragraphs treating Transylvania, however,were very different. There was no reference to an intermediate, postwar phase, nor to a United Nations peace keeping contingent. There was no talk of autonomy for the Székely region within Romania. Of all the recommen- dations made to redress Romanian-Hungarian territorial grievances, all that remained was the suggestion that the "small strip" between Arad and Szatmár be ceded to Hungary. The idea of an independent Transylvania, on the other hand, cropped up again, as something which, despite the problems it involved, "should not be excluded from consider- ation."[63]

The recommendations of the Country and Area Committees were presented to a high-level select committee set up by the Department of State in early 1944; the Committee on Post-War Programs. Its chairman was Cordell Hull, and its deputy chairman the new Under- secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius; members included the Deputy Secretaries of State, department heads, Pasvolsky, who had headed the 1942-43 Advisory Committee, the chairmen of the various Subcommit- tees, for instance Bowman, as well as the leading members of the research staff, such as Notter, Mosely, and Howard.

The fourteen page proposal on Hungary was discussed and accepted at the May 26 session. In his commentary, Mosely emphasized that the most difficult of the territorial problems, and one that was hardly likely to receive a satisfactory solution, was the issue of Transylvania, or rather, the matter of the Székelys of the Székely region. His comment, however, was received in silence. The little debate there was, centered on the tone of the proposal: since they were dealing with an enemy state, someone suggested, the text ought to have a harsher tone. Berle and others rejected this, saying that Hungary was but a "satellite state," and as such was not to be equated with Germany.[64]

The only subsequent change in the position adopted on May 26 was that, in July of 1944, it was condensed to four pages, and in September of 1944, to a page and a half. The recommendations for how to deal with the various disputed areas along Hungary's borders were reduced first to a paragraph, and finally to a sentence or so. Gone was the "provisional" nature of the proposed Slovak-Hungarian settlement: the six districts of the Csallóköz were all that was suggested for cession to Hungary. Subcarpathian Ruthenia and the Yugoslav-Hungarian border region were mentioned without their territorial limits being specified, while all that was left of the Transylvanian problem was the "narrow strip" to be returned to Hungary between Arad and Szatmár[65]

These were the modifications contained in the briefing prepared for President Roosevelt in September of 1944, which the President took with him to the second conference at Quebec.[66]

Like the idea of a Mid-European Union, the real value of all this painstaking study of Hungary's disputed border regions depended on how far these recommendations would be put into practice. Initially, the members of the Advisory Committee were optimistic on this score. Their optimism was based on "assuming a complete victory for the United States and a free hand in reconstruction." A corollary of this assumption was Bowman's belief that "larger countries like the United States could exert influence without any direct intervention."[67]

Besides their exaggerated notion of the position of strength in which the United States would find itself after the war, the Department of State was encouraged also by the fact that the emigré politicians of the countries concerned did not reject offhand the idea of a settlement that was perhaps less advantageous from their own point of view, but was, on the other hand, more fair. As Bene, the ex-president of the Czechoslovak Republic, declared in July of 1940:

Nothing that has been imposed upon us since Munich do we consider to be valid in law... This does not mean that we desire as our war aim a mere return to the status quo of September, 1938... We wish to agree on our frontiers with our neighbours in a friendly fashion... Changes in detail are possible....[68]

A 1942 article of his contained much the same message[69]

Similar statements were made by other members of the Czechoslovak govern- ment-in-exile as well. For instance Finance Minister Ladislav Feiera- bend, in his speech to several members of the Advisory Committee on April 12, 1943, and Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, in an interview conducted by Ferenc Göndör on November 13, 1943, and in an other statement on April 4, 1944.[70]

The Yugoslav government-in-exile made no such promises. Its communique of May 20, 1942, stated no more than the determination to restore the pre-1941 Yugoslavia[71]

Since, however, neither the American nor the British government would guarantee this any more than they would the Czechoslovak borders drawn at Trianon, in 1942- 1943 it was still quite conceivable that the matter of the Yugoslav- Hungarian border would be decided by bilateral negotiations. The American experts working on the peace proposals thought this all the more likely as they had no very clear-cut notion of Yugoslavia's future. While, with small adjustments of its borders, they supported the restoration of pre-1938 Czechoslovakia, repudiating the idea of both an independent Slovakia and of an independent Subcarpathian Ruthenia, they were not at all convinced of the expediency of restoring pre-1941 Yugoslavia.

President Roosevelt was as uncertain on this score as anyone else. Twice in 1943, in the course of his discussions with leading members of the Advisory Committee, he spoke of Yugoslavia's restoration as improbable, and of an independent Serbia and an autonomous Croatia as possibilities[72]

As late as September of 1944, Otto von Habsburg recalls him saying that "Yugoslavia is, in his view, an unnatural state. It should be transformed into a federation."[73]

The United States had no easy task justifying its support for the territorial claims of an enemy state against those of an ally, and a member of the United Nations. For all that, the Department of State never wavered in distinguishing between Germany and its allies. While in drawing the tentative borders of Germany the ethnic principle p1ayed practically no part at all, in the case of the small satellite states, it remained the fundamental consideration.

Thus, when the principles of territorial adjustment were rethought one more time in the summer of 1944, we find the following line of reasoning in the report of June 21, 1944, classifying territorial disputes by types:

In the interest of a stable and lasting settlement in the Balkan-Danubian region, it may be desirable to consider on their merits certain claims of Hungary and Bulgaria against members of the United Nations... If these two states, which after the last war had to accept rather severe terms not entirely consistent with principle of national self-determination and for that reason not supported by the United States at that time, are denied even a hearing, the struggle between satisfied and revisionist states in this area will continue and may be exploited again by Germany or by some other power. European security and the long-term interest of the United States in peace and stability in Europe would be better served by a territorial settlement calculated to promote friendly and stable relations among all the nations of central and southeastern Europe than by a policy of exclusive reliance on one or another grouping of states within that region.[74]

Still, though there was no change in the principles, the method envisioned for their implementation in 1944 differed from what had been thought feasible in 1942. Agreement reached through bilateral negotiations was the only recommended way for a loser state to settle its territorial dispute with a victor state. In practical terms, this would mean restoring the prewar borders as the first step, and then the two sides, perhaps with the mediation of the great powers, reaching some peaceful consensus on the ultimate borders. In the case of territorial disputes involving two loser nations, plebiscite remained the recom- mended solution, or arbitration by the great powers. The "third party" with an immediate interest in Hungary's borders was the Soviet Union. In the first phase of the war, as is common knowledge, Moscow repeatedly reassured Budapest that the Soviet Union had no territorial claims against Hungary, and that the Soviet leadership considered Hungary's claim against Romania to be well founded, and one that would enjoy Soviet support when it came up at the postwar peace conference.[75]

After the summer of 1941, however, when Hungary joined in Germany's attack on the Soviet Union, the Soviet stand changed. Thenceforward, the Soviet Union called into question the legitimacy of Hungary's revised borders with Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia alike, as well as of the Second Vienna Award. The first indications to this effect reached Washingbon in early 1942. Ambassador John C. Winant reported from London that Sir Anthony Eden had information that Stalin meant to compensate Romania for the loss of Bessarabia with "territory now occupied by Hungary," i.e. with Transylvania[76]

The information was confirmed by Molotov's memorandum of June 1943, which, among other things, noted that the Soviet Union did not "consider as fully justified the so-called arbitration award carried out at the dictate of Germany in Vienna on 30th August 1940 which gave Northern Transylvania to Hungary."[77]

It was at this point, as we have noted, that the members of the Advisory Committee recognized the contingent nature of all their planning, and shifted from comprehensive reorganization proposals toward a solution as far as possible in keeping with the Principle of Minimum Change. For all that, they continued to strongly oppose the en bloc restoration of the 1920 borders.

The United States first came up against the Soviet Union's alternate plans fort Transylvania directly in the spring of 1944, at the time that the Romanian armistice was negotiated. The Department of State wanted to see the settlement of territorial disputes postponed until the peace conference, and wanted an armistice agreement that contained absolutely no reference at all to borders. The Soviet Union, however, wanted an armistice agreement to contain guarantees that it would get back Bessarabia, which had been annexed to Romania near the end of World War I, and was, thus, willing to include in it the compensatory condition that after the war, "Transylvania or the greater part thereof" would be returned to Romania. The conflict was finally settled in a compromise. At Churchill's insistence, the American side agreed to the Soviet formula against its better judgement; while the Soviet Union, for its part, agreed to have appended to the sentence on Transylvania a qualifying clause: "subject to confirmation at the peace settlement" Washington had no real way of knowing the Soviet stand on Subcarpathian Ruthenia. On June 9, 1942, Molotov had written to Bene in London saying that the Soviet Union regarded the decisions of the Munich Conference--and the border revisions it effected--as null and void. In his speech of November 12, published also by the Izvestia, Bene understood this to mean that Stalin supported Subcarpathian Ruthenia's reannexation to the postwar Czechoslovak state. At other times, the Soviet press spoke of Subcarpathian Ruthenia as a part of the Ukraine, i.e. as "trans-Carpathian Ukraine.[79]

The Advisory Commit- tee's reports, thus, took account of both possibilities. Though the preferred solution was to have the region returned to Czechoslovakia, they were prepared to see Subcarpathian Ruthenia become part of the Soviet Union.

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