740.00119 European War 1939/1928

The Military Attaché in Portugal ( Solborg ) to the Chief of the Intelligence Branch, Military Intelligence, G–2 ( Kroner )31

No. 201

Dear General Kroner:

I wish to report on the conversation I have had with a Hungarian diplomat who has arrived in this country a short time ago and is now accredited here as Counsellor to the Hungarian Legation. His name is Alexander de Hollan, a career diplomat previously “en poste” in Bucharest, Vienna, Paris, Berlin and Madrid. A man in his early forties, of pleasing personality, with perfect command of French and German languages, who I understand is related to the best families in Hungary.
The interview was arranged through Dom Saldanha da Gama in his country home at night; only de Hollan and Saldanha being present. I was formerly told by the latter that the Hungarian wished to meet me, and having consulted Mr. Kennan32 on the subject I consented on the following conditions:
Meeting to be absolutely unofficial on both sides.
Mr. de Hollan to be aware of the fact that I would ask him questions of military and politico-military nature which I should expect him to answer.
That I would answer no leading questions and would offer no encouragement to his demands if any.
That no matters relating to restoration of Habsburg monarchy would be raised.
This background was scrupulously observed and I have found Mr. de Hollan a gentleman of great tact and sincerity. He told me that Hungary wishes to quit the Axis at the earliest opportunity and he intimated that the Hungarian Army, about 500,000 strong, would cooperate with Allied forces once the latter are within negotiable distance. He mentioned the strong affinity Hungary possesses for Poland and that they would welcome Polish troops on their soil when the appropriate time comes.
He stated that his government asked Berlin for permission to withdraw Hungarian occupationary divisions from Russia and was told that the Government of the Reich would consent only if the Hungarian government would send equivalent number of troops to Croatia or the Balkans. His government has turned down this proposal. It will be noted that there are roughly 9 divisions in Russia, plus aviation brigade of 8 squadrons and some labor battalions, totaling roughly 120,000 men.
He invoked two extenuating circumstances, which to his mind should serve to benevolently consider the case of Hungary, namely: her friendly treatment of Polish problems (borne out by other sources); and the fact that the armistice terms granted Hungary in 1918 have been violated on several occasions by the then forces of occupation (at the instigation of neighboring countries) which justified Hungarian initial mistrust of Allied motives in this war.
He further stated that Hungary would be willing to reach an amicable solution of the Transylvanian problem providing the settlement would be final and definite and, he added, that the creation of an autonomous Slovakia economically united to Czech state would be favorably envisaged by his government in the post war adjustment. He said that his government is desirous of establishing contact with the Yougoslav government but opined that in view of the deep seated passions and divergences between the Croats and the Serbs, also the very big difference between the cultural levels of the two respective countries he failed to see how they can again form a political entity.
My interlocutor concluded by saying, that generally speaking and in his personal opinion, his government wishes to be guided by the desiderata of the Allied leaders in all the above mentioned problems and would wish to receive directives as to its immediate attitude and conduct. This, said he, particularly applies to the military units now in Russia which strategically should be removed so as to be available when Allied forces penetrate into the heart of Europe.
All throughout his expose a note of anxiety was discernible as regards Soviet intentions in Eastern and Central Europe, as much of [Page 500] Hungary’s destiny in the present strife is wrapped up in this enigma, stated Mr. de Hollan. He did say, however, that the President’s and Mr. Churchill’s33 utterances have done much to instill hope in Hungary to the effect that just and equitable settlement of this problem would be forthcoming. Mr. de Hollan expressed the desire to be able to continue these conversations which he intimated may grow into official proposals on his part at an early date.
He asked me what were American aims in this war, and I have referred him to the Atlantic Charter,34 and so that he may have a modest amplification of the meaning of four freedoms from an average American citizen, I told him that we were fighting this war to the end so that we would not have to repeat the experience every quarter of a century, and because we believed in what we preached, namely, liberty of mankind, and absence of persecution of any kind. He seemed quite pleased with this frugal response to his quite spontaneous and voluminous exposé.

Evaluation: A discreet investigation conducted subsequent to this interview revealed that Mr. de Hollan is a man of importance and high in the esteem of Admiral Horthy.35 He has been sent here at this psychological time with the mission of exploring the possibilities of contact with the Allies and of reporting on the leading personalities in the Allied camp in Lisbon.

From a military point of view it would seem that contact with bona fide, duly accredited personalities at this stage, and in this locality should be of value, providing it is kept on an exploratory basis. I visualize that when and if our onward march in Europe takes us into Yougoslavia, military help from Hungary will become a burning question, and yet it must be so timed as to reap the full benefit of this impact and preclude German preventive measures.

It is known to me that there is a great bond of sympathy between the Poles and Hungarians, based on a goodly fund of mutual trust. I therefore believe that there are distinct possibilities of military nature by a carefully prepared plan of Hungarian cooperation with the ultimate aim of using their forces in conjunction with Polish units incorporated into an Allied Army of liberation to strike a flanking and a mortal blow at Germany. There are also other advantages of strategic and political nature which it is not within the precinct of this thesis to develop.

[Page 501]

In view of the above, I should request directives as to the attitude to adopt when further approached by this source.

With kindest regards,

Robt. A. Solborg

Colonel, G. S. C.
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by Assistant Chief of Staff, G–2, War Department, Maj. Gen. George V. Strong.
  2. George F. Kennan, Counselor of Legation in Portugal.
  3. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister.
  4. Joint statement by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill on August 14, 1941; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.
  5. Adm. Miklos Horthy, Regent of Hungary.