Archduke Otto of Austria to President Roosevelt 37

Dear Mr. President: First of all, let me thank you most warmly for your kindness for having acted rapidly on my requests in these last days. I am the more grateful as I know that you have not been feeling well and that therefore my letters and notes meant an added strain on you.

For this reason also it is only reluctantly that I send you this letter and the vital Annexes to it. I would have certainly waited if I was not forced to act because of the situation in Europe. But without endangering the whole future I can no longer let the Hungarian diplomats and the Underground wait for instruction and for guidance.

I join to this letter three Annexes, which cover the problems:

A short historic review of the events leading to my present letter to you;
The plan of the Hungarian Council for Resistance.
A short outline of measures that would be necessary and for which we would ask your kind assistance in order to help the Hungarian Council for Resistance.

I would be most grateful if you could let me know as soon as possible, for the aforementioned reasons, your views, your advice and your decisions on all these matters.

[Page 861]

Needless to say that, as in the past, you can be assured of my absolute discretion on this entire subject.

With my best wishes for a prompt and complete recovery of your health and with my renewed thanks for your kindness and respectful regards I remain, dear Mr. President,

Yours very sincerely,

Otto of Austria
[Enclosure 1]

Annex I

Historic Review of the Diplomatic and Military Events Leading to the Present Letter

N.B. This is a compilation from Hungarian official documents and official telegrams from Lisbon.

Evolution of the situation since January: Hitler refuses to General Szombathely, Chief of Staff of the Royal Hungarian Army, the return of the remainders of the eight Hungarian divisions, which are scattered behind the Russian front. He demands new action against the Jews, the sending of Hungarian workers to Germany, more supplies and more raw-materials. He demands the extradition of the interned American and British pilots. All these demands are rejected. Hitler declares early in February that he expects that the Hungarian army shall fight on the Hungarian border against the Russians. In the same time Hitler conspires with Hungarian Nazis.
On March 14th Hitler demands in a stiff note the shipping of 25,000 Jews per week to Germany. Reason: In Hungary live in freedom more than a million Jews, more than in the whole remainder of Europe; this becomes intolerable with the approach of the Soviets.—The Hungarian Cabinet rejects this demand unanimously and notifies the Germans on March 15th.
On March 16th Hitler invites Horthy urgently for a visit at his headquarters in Germany on the matter of the Hungarian troops in Russia.—Horthy sends a telegram to the Hungarian ministers in neutral countries ordering them that, in case of German invasion, they should immediately seek contact with their American and British colleagues and should put themselves at my disposal. He furthermore sends a document for me as the legitimate King of Hungary, containing full powers. This document is deposited with my brother Charles Louis in Lisbon. Horthy orders the army to resist in case of invasion. Only then does he leave for Hitler’s headquarters.
A Hungarian Underground is organized and its arming had also been started. It is put under my orders through an intermediary agent in a neutral country.
At Horthy’s arrival Hitler demands from him the complete mobilization of Hungary against Russia, the extradition of all Jews, refugees and prisoners of war to Germany, the shipping of 250,000 workers to Germany, the handing over of the Hungarian food and raw-material reserves; Horthy refuses these requests. Since that time nobody has seen him and the place of his present residence is unknown.
While these conversations take place, the Germans attack by surprise Hungary with extensive use of parachutists. The Hungarian troops offer scattered resistance.
The Kallay Government refuses to resign and the Germans, not Horthy, appoint a new Government in Hungary, which at once suppresses the Hungarian Constitution.
Only the Hungarian Minister in Ankara follows the orders of the Quisling Government. The other heads of diplomatic Missions follow Horthy’s orders to keep the Legations for the legal Government, subject to my instructions. This is done in Libson, Madrid, Bern, Helsinki and Stockholm. There is good outlook that the neutral countries will continue to recognize these diplomats as the representatives of the legal Government of Hungary.
The just mentioned five Ministers report to me on March 29th, they ask for further instructions, suggesting that, in conformity with their instructions and the powers deposited by Horthy, I at once appoint a new Hungarian Government.
[Enclosure 2]

Annex II

Plan of the Hungarian Council for Resistance

Although the legal basis obviously exists I do not intend, for the time being, to create a Hungarian Government in exile. On the other hand, it has become urgent and indispensable that some competent Hungarian Authority be created for guidance and coordination of all Hungarian efforts for the fight against Hitler.

It is therefore planned to organize a Hungarian Council for Resistance, composed now of the five loyal Hungarian Ministers, namely the Ministers in Lisbon, Stockholm, Madrid, Bern and Helsinki. As soon as this Council is organized, it shall elect as its Chairman Mr. John Pelenyi, former Hungarian Minister in Washington, D.C., and at this time Professor in Dartmouth College. The members of the Council retain their present diplomatic posts. Membership of the Council is limited to active diplomatic representatives of Hungary, whose number might still increase. Besides electing Mr. Pelenyi as its President, the Council may designate also other Hungarian personalities [Page 863] for specific tasks or missions. Neither myself nor Mr. Eckhardt are included in the Council.

The Council is not a Government. It constitutes nevertheless the only existing organ of the legal Hungarian Government deprived at present of its liberty of action. By the formation of this Council, the continuity of Hungarian constitutional life is maintained. The Council shall cease to exist when constitutional order on Hungarian soil is restored.

The Council offers its services to the Allies.

The Council’s aims are:

To unite, organize and direct the Underground Forces in Hungary as well as Hungarian factors abroad for political resistance and for armed fight against Hitler.
To save patriots, Jews and refugees in Hungary from extermination by the Nazis.

The Council has no other aim. But by its existence and by its actions Hungarian Statehood survives and the participation of Hungary in the fight against Hitler is assured.

I believe it to be my duty to proceed to the formation of this Hungarian Council for Resistance as soon as your acceptance of this plan has been won.

[Enclosure 3]

Annex III


Leadership of the contemplated action and the Central Office of the Council for Resistance, is planned to be located in Washington D.C., as I desire to keep all activities of the Council in full harmony with the U.S.A. views and policies. Should I be fortunate to receive your consent, the following assistance seems indispensable for the efficient and orderly functioning of the Council:

In General:
Authorization for the publication of the organization and the aims of the Council, with the moral backing of the U.S.A. Government.
As the main activity of the Council for Resistance would be carried on along Underground lines, some form of stable military collaboration, also by appointment of a military liaison Officer with the Council. Designation of an Officer of liaison also by other interested Government agencies would improve efficient collaboration in every respect.
Authorization of rapid and secure means of communication between the Central Office in Washington D.C. and each member of the Council in neutral countries.
Authorization for the use of an adequate news and propaganda service directed towards Hungary for the information and guidance of the Hungarian people.
If necessary: the unfreezing of some Hungarian assets in order to cover the costs of the Washington Central Office and eventually also of member-legations in neutral countries which do not possess adequate financial means.
Should you, Mr. President, approve of these measures, I beg to ask you to give the necessary orders to the interested Government agencies.
Specific Instructions: seem further needed in order to secure urgently harmony amongst the widely scattered Hungarian forces of resistance in Europe:
An order to General Bissell to grant me the possibility to wire to my brother through General Bissell’s channels (as in the past week). Also authorization to my brother Charles Louis to send me wires through the same channel.
Authorization for Archduke Charles Louis to travel by the Military Transport Plane from Lisbon or from the Azores to the United States and back to Lisbon. Also instruction to grant to him the U.S. Visa in Lisbon as well as an immediate Exit-Permit from the United States for his return to Lisbon. The reasons for his trip are:
Charles Louis has received valuable secret information which he should report personally to you and to myself.
Charles Louis is seriously ill and has to go to a hospital, probably for an operation, which should be performed here and not in Portugal. But he cannot leave Lisbon before he is adequately replaced by his brother Rudolf.
Authorization that my brother Archduke Rudolf be granted the use of the Military Transport Plane to the Azores or to Lisbon, in order to replace urgently Charles Louis, especially in maintaining contacts with the Underground.

  1. On April 7 President Roosevelt transmitted this letter with enclosures to the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Dunn) with a memorandum as follows: “Will you be good enough to let me have your views on the enclosed from Archduke Otto? F.D.R.” For reply, see memorandum of April 12 by the Secretary of State, p. 866.