840.4016/12–1145: Telegram

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

721. ReDepts 453, December 7, the unbiased firsthand info I have been able to obtain of reports of persecution and expulsion of the Hungarian minority from Slovakia indicates that these reports have been grossly exaggerated and have been designed to operate as a spearhead to win the peace after having lost the war.

Admitting that there have been limited expulsions of individuals whose conduct was particularly obnoxious, if not criminal, during the period of the Hungarian invasion of Slovakia as recently as April 1945 and that the Hungarian minority in Slovakia now has been deprived of its pre-war privilege of maintaining a state within a state, unbiased observers have expressed surprise at the moderation of the Czech and Slovak authorities in their treatment of the Hungarian minority since May 1945, having regard to the excesses committed by the Magyars during the 6 years of their occupation of Slovakia.

While the hardships now being borne by the Hungarian minority and the limited expulsions that have taken place since May are deplored, most unbiased observers express the opinion that the local Slovak authorities and particularly the Czech Government should be commended for the restraint exercised by them in not permitting vengence against individuals who not only sought to undermine the [Page 947] Czech Republic but stabbed it in the back immediately after Munich.57 That the Hungarian Government embarked sometime ago on a studied course in an endeavor to wipe out Hungary’s defeat and change roles with victorious Czechoslovakia appears to be indicated by the steady drumfire of formal protests to the Allied Control Council, scores of which were individual complaints, and the insistence ‘Of Gyöngyösi in his recent talks with Clementis that there could be no satisfactory or permanent solution of Hungarian Czech differences unless Czechoslovakia cedes to Hungary the territory occupied by the Hungarian minority and which was seized in 1938 under the Vienna Award of November 2 and which Hungary now has been obliged to return as a result of its defeat in the war.

The pessimism expressed by Gyöngyösi to Schoenfeld in connection with his impending visit to Praha (see Budapest’s November 27 and November 30 to the Department58) would seem to indicate that territorial concessions rather than an exchange of minorities was uppermost in his mind. That a partial agreement was reached notwithstanding Gyöngyösi’s pessimism tends to confirm the assumption that the Czech Government is sincerely seeking a mutually satisfactory solution in an orderly and humane manner.

A striking inconsistency in the Hungarian position which should not be lost sight of is the determination to expel the German minority from Hungary while objecting to the expulsion in Czechoslovakia of the Hungarian minority. This German policy unquestionably results from Hungarian territorial aspirations against Czechoslovakia.

With reference to Hungarian request (see Budapest’s 997, November 30 to the Department) that an international commission be constituted to investigate the controversy over the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia, in effect a request that an international body be created at the instance of a defeated nation to investigate the conduct of one of the victorious nations, and such step would create deep resentment throughout Czechoslovakia and might well raise the cry that Czechoslovakia was again “being sold down the river by the Western democracies”. It would reopen the wound resulting from the treatment accorded Czechoslovakia at Munich, the seizure of [Page 948] Tesin by Poland,59 and the seizure of Danubian Slovakia by Hungary.60 The consequences to American prestige in Europe which might result from our taking the initiative and the possible resulting newspaper outcry are difficult to foresee.

As to the desirability of exchanging views with the British and Soviet Governments on the subject of an international commission as requested by the Hungarian Government, the Department may wish to consider the possibility that the Soviet Government might find an advantage in the existence of such a commission by prolonging its occupation of Hungary and perhaps reoccupying Czechoslovakia.

In view of the foregoing and particularly having regard to the progress thus far made in the direct negotiations between Gyöngyösi and Clementis, the success of which apparently was not anticipated by the Hungarian Government, it would seem as though suggestion No. 3 in Department’s 453, December 7 should be pursued.

For the Department’s info Masaryk’s trip to London was planned long prior to Gyöngyösi’s visit to Praha.

  1. The Munich Agreement, signed on September 29, 1938, between Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, provided for the cession to Germany of certain Czechoslovak territories inhabited in whole or in part by ethnic Germans; for text, see Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945, series D, vol. ii (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1949), p. 1014. For documentation concerning the German-Czechoslovakian crisis of 1938, see Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. i, pp. 483 ff.
  2. Apparent reference to telegram 979, November 27, 3 p.m., from Budapest, p. 940, and telegram 993, November 30, 3 p.m., from Budapest; latter not printed, but see footnote 49, p. 942.
  3. On October 1, 1938, the Czechoslovak Government yielded to an ultimatum by the Polish Government for the immediate cession of Tesin (Czech spelling; in German, Teschen, and in Polish, Cieszyn) to Poland. For the text of the Polish ultimatum and the Czechoslovak response, see Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919–1939, Third Series, vol. iii (London, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1950), document 101, p. 68. For documentation regarding the cession, see Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. i, pp. 708718.
  4. The cession of Slovak territory to Hungary under the Vienna Award of November 2, 1938.