CFM Files

Memorandum by Mr. John C. Campbell, Secretary, United States Delegation42

Hungarian Claim for the Rectification of the Hungarian–Rumanian Frontier

The territorial claim put forward by Hungary at the joint meeting of the Hungarian and Rumanian Commissions on August 31, 194643 is based purely on ethnic considerations. It is about the same as the hypothetical ethnic line worked out in the Department which is shown in the upper left-hand corner of the attached cartogram.44

The population in the territory claimed, according to the census of 1930, is 489,147. According to the criterion of declared nationality 261,169 (53.4%) of these people are Hungarians while 141,353 (28.9%) are Rumanians. According to the criterion of mother tongue, 320,680 (65.6%) are Hungarian-speaking while 127,098 (26%) are Rumanian-speaking. The figure of 67% given by Mr. Auer in his speech is undoubtedly based on the latter criterion. The principal reason for the considerable difference in these figures is that some 45,000 Jews and and 15,000 Germans in this territory in 1930 spoke Hungarian but declared themselves in the census to be Jews and Germans respectively. The figures on language are too favorable to the Hungarians; those on nationality are probably somewhat prejudiced in favor of the Rumanians. A balanced estimate would be that some 55 to 58 percent of the population is Hungarian in national sentiment and 26 to 28 percent is Rumanian.

It is thus apparent that a cession of territory based on the Hungarian claim would reduce the number living under alien rule, at the maximum, by less than 200,000. 150,000 would be a reasonable estimate, taking into account the fact that many of the Jews and Germans which inhabited this territory in 1930 are no longer there, and even if they were there, might have no preference for Hungarian as opposed to Rumanian rule.

In making their claim the Hungarians have proposed a frontier which takes no account of economic and geographic factors and cuts off the cities of Szatmar (Satu-Mare), Nagyvarad (Oradea Mare), and Arad from their hinterland to the east and even from their immediate [Page 852] suburbs. The Rumanians will probably stress these arguments in their rebuttal of the Hungarian claims.

It is clear that the proposed frontier rectification would by no means solve the problem of the Hungarian minority in Rumania, which would remain over one million strong. Also, the fact that the frontier would cut the main north-south railway at several points and would sever the frontier cities from their economic hinterland would introduce complications and would make absolutely necessary an arrangement between the two countries for the unhampered passage of goods and persons across the frontier. There can be no doubt, however, that some such rectification would have an important political effect in Hungary since it would represent a change in the Trianon frontier on the basis of Hungary’s justifiable ethnic claims. It might create an atmosphere more calculated to bring about better relations between Hungary and Rumania through the establishment of a frontier which could be regarded as more or less permanent by both nations and which other nations might feel able, with less hesitation, to support and to guarantee. It would probably improve the position of the present coalition regime in Hungary and avoid a situation whereby the Smallholders Party could be charged with complete failure to obtain in the peace settlement even the granting of Hungary’s most reasonable claims.

In the Deputies’ meeting of August 3145 it was apparently decided that the Big Four would support in the Commissions the text of the Articles on this frontier as they now stand in the draft treaties. Should there be any review of this decision and any later discussion by the Deputies on the merits of the case in which, by mutual agreement among the CFM members, we were able to state a view not in accordance with the decision to restore intact the 1938 frontier, we might give as our view that the Hungarian claims appear reasonable with the exception of the claim for Arad and the immediate vicinity of that city. Arad is a particularly important center for the surrounding area to the south and east, and its loss would be felt by Rumania. Since the population of the area of Arad and vicinity claimed by Hungary is about equally divided between Rumanians and Hungarians, there seems to be more reason to leave it with Rumania than to award it to Hungary. The other areas claimed by the Hungarians, however, are definitely more Hungarian than Rumanian in the character of their population and might well be allowed to change hands if there is any disposition on the part of the other members of the Big Four to make any change in the frontier.

Should the CFM members reach general agreement on the desirability of a change, it could be arranged for the Hungarian and Rumanian Commissions to recommend to the Hungarians and Rumanians [Page 853] that they work out together a solution based on the Hungarian claims (minus Arad). If within a given time they reached no agreement the Commissions could themselves study the details of the problem and make a definite recommendation of frontier rectification to the Plenary Conference.

  1. This memorandum was directed to Ambassadors Harriman and Smith.
  2. For the United States Delegation Journal account of the First Joint Meeting of the Political and Territorial Commissions for Rumania and Hungary, August 31, see vol. iii, p. 330.
  3. Not printed.
  4. No record of the 108th Meeting of the Deputies on August 31 is printed.