Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/56

CF–56

Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Tuesday, June 10, 1919, at 4:15 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando.
    • Czecho-Slovakia
      • Dr. Kramarcz.
      • Dr. Benes.
    • Roumania
      • M. Bratiano.
      • M. Misu.
Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B. } Secretaries.
Count Aldrovandi.
Professor P. J. Mantoux.—Interpreter.

1. (M. Clemenceau arrived half an hour after the beginning of the Meeting, having been detained in the Chamber.)

Military Situation in Hungary President Wilson said that the Council had been much concerned with the military operations continuing in and about Hungary. The part of it which had attracted the principal attention was the movement of the Magyars against Czecho-Slovakia. The information of the Council, which might possibly not be wholly correct, was to the effect that this was due to the movement of the Czecho-Slovaks, threatening the principal coal mines of Hungary. Behind them there were understood to be other causes that had contributed largely to the situation. Some time past General Franchet d’Esperey had drawn a line beyond which the Roumanian forces were not to pass. Nevertheless the Roumanian forces had passed the line. Then a second line had been drawn, and again they had passed beyond it, thus declining to obey the orders of the Allied Commander-in-Chief under whom their army had been placed. It was this second advance which had caused the downfall of Karolyi who, more than any other Hungarian, was supposed to be friendly to the Entente. The fall of Karolyi had been followed by the establishment of the Bela Kun Government, which was understood to be not acceptable to the more substantial classes of the population of Hungary. However, the information of the Council was that when it was believed the Czecho-Slovaks were advancing, [Page 282] even the better classes rallied to the support of Bela Kun. Thus it came about that the Roumanian forces had brought the Bela Kun Government into existence, and the Czecho-Slovak forces had prolonged its existence. The interest of the Council was to stop this fighting, not only in the general cause of peace, but more particularly in order to bring about a settlement. The Council’s wish was to draw a boundary line, thus making a good beginning, after which it would be hoped to keep things steady by means of the common authority of the nations. The Council were deeply concerned to remove the causes of the present trouble, and to produce a situation when there would be no more difficulties in the East, and Peace could be maintained and a settlement made in Paris.

M. Bratiano said he thought that the Council had not been very well informed as to the role of the Roumanian Army, and the provocation that had been given by the Hungarians. The true situation was as follows. When the Armistice was proclaimed General Franchet d’Esperey, whom he had seen several times, had told him that he knew almost nothing of the military and political situation of the Roumanian Army, and of the relations between the Army and the State. General Franchet d’Esperey had drawn an Armistice Line quite arbitrarily, which left in the hands of the Hungarians the greater part of the most Roumanian population in Hungary. Behind the Roumanian front order had been immediately established, and foreign populations, like the German speaking people known as Saxons, for example, had not only shown passivity, but had made movements for union with Roumania. Then it was that Karolyi’s Government started in Hungary the Bolshevist propaganda. He had in his possession proclamations making an appeal for Bolshevik movements in Transylvania, and behind the Roumanian front. It was then that he had asked for a new line, and this had been agreed to and drawn in conjunction with the French High Command. The Roumanian Army then advanced and occupied the line drawn up at Versailles. After this there had been a struggle, and in the course of the fighting the Roumanian Army had advanced to the only decent military line of defence, viz: the line of the River Theiss. He had definite proof that the Bolshevik propaganda just referred to had been paid for by Karolyi’s Government, and he had in his possession documents prepared by the Government and printed in Pesth. Then it was after securing proof of this Bolshevist propaganda by Karolyi’s Government that he had proposed, in line, as he thought, with the general policy of the Entente, to advance on Budapest. He was, however, told not to advance, and the Army had been stopped on the Theiss. A short time ago M. Pichon had told him that the Council were apprehensive lest the Roumanian Army [Page 283] should advance on Budapest. He had replied that if the Allies preferred to leave the Bolshevist movement to ferment freely in Budapest, and perhaps to perish in the process, he had nothing to say, and the Roumanian troops remained where they were. The Bolshevist movement in Hungary had been organised just as much by Karolyi as by Bela Kun. He also thought that the Council had received incorrect information as to the attitude of the Hungarian population. The Army had occupied some territory that was purely Hungarian, including the district of Debreczen. The Mayor and Bishop of that place had come forward to thank the Roumanian Commanding Officer for the good order that had been kept. Also, when the King of Roumania visited these districts, he received many deputations from Hungarian bodies thanking him for the protection that had been given and the good order kept. He would permit himself to insist that the Hungarians had been left in such uncertainty as to their position that they had somehow received the impression that instead of being a conquered people, they were Allies. Once they realised that they were a conquered race, peace would follow. They were not in a position to resist and if strong language were used they could do nothing but submit. Any other course would only result in much greater difficulties. He would add that quite recently the non-Bolshevik elements of Hungary had sent emissaries to Roumania, inviting them to advance on Budapest, but they had refused these invitations.

Mr. Lloyd George said he understood that the Commissions set up by the Peace Conference had given their advice as to the boundaries between Hungary and Roumania.

Dr. Benes said that was the case between Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

M. Bratiano said that the only line that had ever been communicated to him was the Versailles Armistice Line.

Dr. Benes said that the Commissions had given their recommendations as to the final frontier line between Czecho-Slovakia and Hungary, but after that the matter had gone before the Central Territorial Commission and finally to the Foreign Ministers.

Mr. Lloyd George asked if M. Bratiano had never received any intimation as to his frontiers.

M. Misu said he had heard nothing officially. Many people talked, but the matter was supposed to be secret.

Mr. Lloyd George asked whether they had made any demand to the Secretary-General.

Dr. Benes said that the Czecho-Slovaks had done so, but that the line was supposed to be secret.

M. Bratiano said he had only read it in the newspapers.

[Page 284]

Mr. Lloyd George asked whether Roumania had claimed Debreczen.

M. Bratiano said he did not. The Roumanian Army was on the Theiss for military reasons.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the Army on the Theiss was half-way between the proposed eventual frontier and Budapest. This was the way to make Bolshevism.

M. Bratiano said that Mr. Lloyd George misunderstood the matter. The Roumanians had been attacked on the Versailles line and they had advanced to the Theiss solely for military reasons. He explained the whole of these incidents on a map. The evidence in regard to the Bolshevist activities of the Karolyi Government was very definite. Radkowski, who was now Commandant of Kieff, had been at the head of these activities.

Mr. Lloyd George said it would take a great deal to convince him that Karolyi had encouraged the Bolshevik movement.

M. Bratiano regretted that he could not convince Mr. Lloyd George. This was a matter on which probably his information was better than that of Mr. Lloyd George.

The movement had been begun before the time of Karolyi by the Germans. There had been a regular Bolshevik organisation established in Mackensen’s time. The whole machinery of the movement was quite familiar to the Roumanians. Part of the plan had been to connect the Bolsheviks of Hungary with the Bolsheviks of Russia, across Roumania as part of the German war machine. Of this he had substantial proofs.

President Wilson said he had no doubt intrigues of this kind had been started by Germany. Unquestionably Germany had tried to make the situation in Eastern Europe impossible for the Allies. It was, however, one thing to stir up trouble by means of propaganda and another to do it by aggression. The Allies must see that they do not contribute to it by giving anyone just ground to dread them. As an example, he mentioned that in the United States there was an organisation known as the Industrial Workers of the World which was largely and [an?] anarchistic organisation of labourers but one that was opposed to agreements with anyone. When opportunity offered they took action by means of sabotage. The policy of the United States Government had been to check this by ensuring, as far as possible, that no grievances should exist among the army of working people. He would not say that there were no grievances but where these grievances had been removed the activities of the Industrial Workers of the World had been checked. The right thing, therefore, must be done. Whatever the reasons might be, it was certain that under the terms of the armistice the Roumanian troops [Page 285] had no right on the Theiss. So long as they remained there they were helping to create Bolshevism in Hungary even more than propaganda would. This situation was one of provocation to Hungary. He was surprised at what had been told him as to the Roumanian and Czecho-Slovak Delegations knowing nothing of the proposed boundaries for them. They certainly ought to be informed, and he could only presume that the reason was that only the initial processes had been passed through. The first question was to settle boundaries and have some understanding in regard to them which could be observed. When the boundaries were settled, he thought the Bolshevist support would be weakened. As a result of this afternoon’s meeting, he hoped that they would come to an understanding as to what was right in respect to the positions the armies should occupy and as to the action that the armies should take. With all respect, he would say that the Roumanian troops had no right in Hungary, and if he himself had the misfortune to be Hungarian he would be up in arms against them, and so would anyone.

Mr. Lloyd George added that when the Czecho-Slovaks crossed the frontier. Bela Kun, who was then tottering had rallied to him to [sic] officers of the old army and the anti-Bolshevik forces.

Dr. Kramarcz said he was much surprised when he heard that the Czecho-Slovaks were accused of provoking the fighting. There had been great discussions in his country as to whether an advance should be made into Hungary or not. Some people said it was necessary to adopt an aggressive attitude in order to effect a junction with the Roumanian army and crush Bolshevism. There had, however, been strong opposition from the democratic elements and the socialists, and the offensive had been stopped. He had no idea whether Czechoslovak armies had crossed the line of demarcation. He had no knowledge of any aggressive movement. He knew nothing as to whether any advance had been made. The cause of the fights was the Bolshevik movement against them. He knew that General Piccione,1 on resigning the command, had undertaken to ask the Italian Government to send arms and ammunition for the Czecho-Slovak forces. When he heard that the Czecho-Slovaks were accused of being the cause of this fighting he directed his mind to the Magyar side. There they had an army as well organised as one of the great armies. It contained hundreds of thousands of men and a very good armament, including what Mackensen had left behind. It contained German elements and also, he believed, a few Russian Bolshevik elements. It had not been raised on the spur of the moment. He had no detailed information in his possession, but he certainly had no knowledge of [Page 286] any offensive. In regard to the Bolshevist propensities of Karolyi, he entirely supported that [what?] M. Bratiano had said. They actually knew the name of the man who had exercised control over it. If the conquest of Hungary had been intended, the Czecho-Slovak army must have been prepared. This, however, was not the case and they had adopted a purely defensive attitude. They had been greatly tempted to advance. The bourgeoisie in Hungary had clamoured for them to advance and crush Bolshevism. The Czecho-Slovaks, however, had been bound to recognise things as they were, and had desisted from any advance. The Hungarians had amassed a great army and had the ammunition of the Austrian Army and of Mackensen to support them. They had attacked the Czecho-Slovaks, who were, and still are, much weakened. The Czecho-Slovaks, therefore, expected the Allied and Associated Powers to order the Hungarian army to stop, and if they did not do so, to send them help. In his country, there was great enthusiasm for the defence. Even the socialists were marching like the greatest patriots. If they only had arms there were plenty of men at their disposal. They had no desire to cross the line of demarcation. He was not sure that the danger would not increase, but he had read in the papers that Vienna was also threatened by Bolshevism. On the Western front Czecho-Slovakia was threatened from Bavaria by 40,000 men. Consequently they were in a very difficult situation, and their communications with their Allies were very seriously threatened. He asked, therefore, that the Allies would assist with arms and ammunition. He would give a pledge never to use the arms for any offensive purpose, but only for defence against the Bolshevik advance. He thought a compromise with the Magyars was unbearable in view of the atrocities they had perpetrated in Czecho-Slovakia.

President Wilson said he ought to mention that word had been sent to Hungary two days ago to stop all offensive action. A satisfactory reply had been received, and they had undertaken to stop if not attacked themselves.

Dr. Benes asked to add a few words to what Dr. Kramarcz had said. He could give a historical account of the line of demarcation between Czecho-Slovakia and Hungary, and show that Czechoslovakia had always been loyal and always on the defensive. The line of demarcation had been drawn last November after the armistice. It had been so drawn, however, as to leave no line of communications with the East of Slovakia which was separated from the rest of the country by mountains. Consequently, they had asked for an alteration of the line to enable them to have direct communication. This was a very modest demand, because their territorial claims went far South of it. Then the Territorial Commission [Page 287] recommended a frontier South of the first line of demarcation, and when they knew that the final frontier would be drawn further to the South, they had asked for the original line of demarcation to be moved, and had made an application to the Conference and to Marshal Foch and the High Command for its amelioration. After three or four appeals Marshal Foch had agreed to the change. The final frontier extended South of the new line of demarcation.

Mr. Lloyd George asked whether the new line of demarcation had ever been communicated to the Hungarian Government.

Dr. Benes said he did not know, but it had been communicated to the Czecho-Slovaks. The application for the new line had been supported by Mr. Hoover, who required it for his relief work. The new line had been drawn about four weeks ago, and on this line the Czecho-Slovak forces had remained. Then the Government had begun its preparations for financial reforms and for elections and had distributed its forces on the frontiers towards Germany, partly because they knew that Poland was threatened by the Germans, and partly because Marshal Foch had wished them to be ready either to enter Bavaria, or at any rate to meet a possible attack from that quarter. The result had been a distribution of the forces which had enabled the Magyars to see that Czecho-Slovakia had no forces on her frontier. Throughout they had remained loyal.

Mr. Lloyd George asked whether their forces had not advanced towards the coal mines?

Dr. Benes said that some four weeks ago, when the new line was drawn, he believed the Czecho-Slovak troops had transgressed and advanced towards the coal district. Immediately afterwards M. Pichon had spoken to him, and he had told M. Mazaryk, who had at once ordered a retirement, which had been carried out.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that when the Czecho-Slovak troops advanced towards the coal district they had been attacked by the Magyars and fell back.

Dr. Benes said he had no information about this.

Mr. Lloyd George said that this was the Council’s information. When the Czecho-Slovaks had crossed the frontier and directed themselves towards the only coal district in Hungary, the Magyars had turned upon them and had driven them out.

Dr. Benes said he supposed some mistake had been made. The extension of the Line of Demarcation had not been in the direction of the coal mines. The Magyar attack had been further to the Eastward, with the object of dividing Slovakia into two. He explained the situation on a map.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that Kassa, towards which Dr. Benes said the first attack had been made by the Magyars, was behind the Roumanian lines.

[Page 288]

M. Bratiano begged the Council to remember that Roumania was in a state of war with Hungary. Her army had occupied certain territory for purely military purposes. He hoped that the territory so occupied would not be mixed up with the territory claimed. The only reason for its occupation had been for security. Its occupation did not indicate any [more?] desire on Roumania’s part to retain the territory than the occupation of territory in Germany by the Armies of the Allied and Associated Powers indicated an intention to hold that territory. If the Roumanian army had to withdraw from this territory it would put it in a very insecure position.

M. Clemenceau said he had received a despatch from General Pellé who commanded the Czecho-Slovak Army, declaring that the Czechoslovaks were overwhelmed, and had no guns and no gunners. Hence, he was in a state of great embarrassment. The Roumanians had twice crossed the lines drawn by General Franchet d’Esperey, and this had produced the present difficulties. How long did the Roumanians propose to occupy these lines?

M. Bratiano said they would quit them immediately on the signature of peace.

M. Clemenceau said the object of the Council was to stop fighting. Would the Roumanians stop if the Hungarians did?

M. Bratiano said the Roumanian Army had stopped already.

(At this point President Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George, M. Clemenceau and M. Orlando withdrew to an adjoining room for a consultation.)

On their return,

President Wilson explained that he and his colleagues had wished to confer for a few minutes, in order to consider what ought to be done. They had come to the conclusion that an Armistice line and merely temporary arrangements were thoroughly unsatisfactory. Consequently, they had decided to invite the Council of Foreign Ministers to confer with the Czecho-Slovak and Roumanian delegations on the following morning on the subject of the permanent boundaries between Hungary and Czecho-Slovakia and Hungary and Roumania. When these permanent boundaries were fixed, which would be done at once, it was proposed to communicate them to the Hungarian Government, from whom they had received a radio-telegram favourable to the cessation of fighting and to peace negotiations. The Hungarian Government would be told that any movement across this line would mean a cessation of the peace negotiations. The suggestion was that the Roumanian and Czecho-Slovak Governments should also agree to respect these boundaries, and call their armies behind them. The observance of this would determine the attitude of the Allied and Associated Powers in the matter of further assistance.

[Page 289]

Dr. Benes said that this was exactly what he had asked for in a letter he had addressed to M. Clemenceau a few days ago.

M. Bratiano said he had no observations to make.

M. Clemenceau said that as soon as the Foreign Ministers had agreed [on] the boundaries, the reply should be sent to Budapest.

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to arrange with the Secretary-General for a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers on the following morning as early as possible, to which Dr. Kramarcz, Dr. Benes, M. Bratiano and M. Misu should be invited.)

2. M. Clemenceau apologised for not being able to give his opinion on the draft reply to Count Brockdorff-Rantzau on the subject of Reparation which had been circulated by Sir Maurice Hankey.2 Reparation

At the moment of his conference with M. Loucheur on the subject he had been summoned to the French Chamber, but he undertook to give his views on the following day; but on the first reading he liked it.

M. Orlando said that M. Crespi approved it.

(It was agreed that the draft should not be remitted to experts, but that each member of the Council should discuss the matter with his own experts.)

  1. Gen. Luigi Piccione, of the Italian Army, in command of the Czechoslovak armies in Slovakia until June 1919.
  2. See appendix to CF–57, p. 295.