840.4016 DP/9–1045

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

No. 85

Sir: I have the honor to refer to Minister Schoenfeld’s telegrams from Budapest to the Department, the most recent of which was repeated [Page 934] to Prague as No. 7 of August 31,24 reporting the protests of the Hungarian Government at the treatment of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. I have discussed this subject with officials of the Czechoslovak Government and particularly with officials of the Slovak National Council during my recent visit to Banska Bystrica.

All of the officials with whom I have talked deny the existence of a “reign of terror”, “inhumane persecution”, or “terroristic oppression”. They do not deny that what they describe as “a few Hungarians” have been expelled from Slovakia to Hungary “where they will presumably have no further cause for complaint” and that the property of “a limited number” has been seized. They contend that the sovereignty of the Czechoslovak Republic having been undermined and then wiped out by and with the active aid of the Hungarian and German minorities who, they point out, were accorded the most generous treatment of any minority in Europe with equal civil rights, their own schools and newspapers, parliamentary representation, etc., and who in return constituted the advance guard of the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, the new Republic is determined that these same individuals are not to remain within the frontiers of the new Republic. They assert that as only a few of the ring leaders have thus far been arrested or expelled most of the loudest complaints of alleged ill treatment are coming from individuals who are known in their local communities to have been active Nazis who either took part in or encouraged the inhumane treatment to which the Slovaks were subjected by the Hungarians during the Nazi occupation. The Slovak authorities state that they are prepared to prove that individuals who have recently complained to the Hungarian Government of alleged persecution and of the existence of a reign of teror are the same individuals who were directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Slovak citizens including most of the Jewish population of Slovakia. They describe the protests now being made by the Hungarian Government on behalf of Hungarian Nazis residing in Slovakia as “hypocritical, disingenuous and as a device to influence public opinion in the United States and Great Britain and to gain sympathy for defeated Hungary”. They argue that it stands to reason that Hungary desires to keep its fifth column in Czechoslovakia in the hope of some day avenging its defeat.

In my opinion, the repeated protests by the Hungarian Government (which I do not believe has as yet been recognized by the Czechoslovak Government) are merely serving to increase the determination of the Czechoslovak Government, and particularly of the Slovak National Council, to rid themselves of the greater part of the Hungarian and German minorities as well as to fan their indignation [Page 935] at what they describe as the audacity of Hungary and Germany enemy States defeated ony a few weeks ago in criticizing the internal affairs of one of the United Nations after what the world knows of the sufferings of the Czechs and Slovaks at the hands of the Germans and Hungarians when they were in the saddle.

It may be of interest to the Department that I have already received no less than 200 letters of protest from members of the German minority who seek American intervention to prevent their expulsion from Czechoslovakia or the confiscation of their real estate. On causing a few of these letters to be investigated I subscribe to the use of the word “audacity” in that several of the authors have been identified as having actively participated in the overthrow of the Czechoslovak Republic and as having in certain instances been responsible directly or indirectly for the sending of many Czechs to concentration camps or their deaths, the seizure of their property including real estate, and other inhumane acts. Under the circumstances I am inclined to the view that more or less the same situation on a smaller scale exists with respect to certain members of the Hungarian minority.

It is my intention as soon as time permits to visit the area of Slovakia in which the Hungarian minority is located and to send the Department a report of my impressions of the treatment being accorded them in general. Judging by the treatment being accorded the German minority in the areas I have thus far been able to visit, I am of the opinion that notwithstanding individual acts of injustice or inhumanity the Czechs have exercised commendable self-restraint in dealing with about 2,800,000 Sudeten Germans and about 1,000,000 German refugees having regard to the treatment to which they were subjected for nearly seven years by the German minority within their frontiers and by the German forces of occupation.

Respectfully yours,

Laurence A. Steinhardt
  1. Same as telegram 520, August 31, from Budapest, p. 932.