864.00/3–1248: Telegram

The Minister in Hungary (Chapin) to the Secretary of State


407. Although as reported mytel 218, February 111 Communist power has long since achieved completely effective political control in Hungary, mass of population had not really abandoned hope some solution which would allow Hungarian people certain amount of political and economic autonomy thus retaining at least a window open to the west to which people traditionally look. However, in last few weeks feeling of despair and hopelessness has been overtaking Hungarian people in all walks of life with natural exception of enthusiastic Communists. Conclusion of the Moscow pact, increasing severity Communist drive in political and economic life and especially lightning events in Czechoslovakia have appeared to man in street as final and incontrovertible proof of weakness of US and UK, their abandonment of east Europe and irresistible force of Russian expansionism.

There persisted feeling that in those satellites with strong western traditions at any rate, loyalty to Soviet Russia would be recognized by Soviet abstention from imposing Soviet social and economic system on these countries. Now it realized nothing can satisfy Kremlin’s imperialist ambitions short of complete and utter subjection.

As has been reported by Legation certain industrial leaders have made individual settlements and left or are leaving the country. Likewise members of former aristocracy or middle class who have been fortunate enough to arrange their affairs also abandoning sinking [Page 308] ship. Others struggling with their consciences and traditions to find some sort of settlement which will permit them bare existence. Illustrative of general trend of mind was conversation between Hungarian employee of Legation, a former petty noble and army officer. Latter said he and his wife had long discussed what course they might take event Legation withdrawn or he should lose his position. It agreed he should make effort emigrate and his wife in interest of their child would, upon notice his safe escape, denounce him to police and apply for divorce in hope that she could later rejoin him. This typical of adjustments and abandonment of principles being forced by cold pressure on decent people throughout country.

In liberal professions as well as in industry or govt or even among small independent shopkeepers, journeymen and unskilled workers people are now being offered stark alternative of joining Communist organizations or of eventual starvation through unemployment. Economic drive of government (i.e. Communist control of large industries) has been extended in last few days to middle-sized enterprises and it is only a question of time before small shopkeepers will also be forced to close down or join cooperatives in accordance with pattern already set in Rumania, Bulgaria. Only difference has been one of timing since Hungary more industrialized and more western in outlook. Peasants are less affected although reports received they are profoundly depressed and in certain areas exercising unorganized passive resistance in form of withholding produce from market.

Complete self abasement of Social Democrats amply shown in proceedings recent congress where violence of statements exceeded those of Communist. Other parties completely discredited and man in street utterly cynical as to leadership from President Tildy2 down. While Hungarian people until recently often expressed opinions privately, resistance has now been so atomized that few dare express any ideas when other Hungarians are present. Informers belonging all social classes now everywhere, whether became such through bribery or threat of reprisal. Situation developed to point where naked force usually no longer necessary although this applied when required. It is threat of terror whether political or more often an economic sanction which reaches every person in population.

It is difficult for any self-respecting American to sit by and see this complete collapse of nation and people who however foolish or weak in the past, surely have not deserved present cup of bitterness.

It is heart-rending, particularly since only single ray of hope to which these people cling is pathetic belief in America and while representing [Page 309] greatest nation on earth, yet be admittedly unable offer either help or effectual encouragement to Hungarians.

Irrespective, however, of the personal feelings of myself and staff and at risk being thought give too great weight local aspects of world wide problem I confess to a mounting pessimism, for if western peoples decline to be shocked into necessity of prompt, firm and combined action by events of last two years, and especially of last two months these countries it seems plain that nothing can do so before day when they themselves individually will be subject to the same attack whether in form of a stroke or of creeping paralysis.

It is with heavy heart and only after much consideration that I reach conclusion that barring miracles nothing short of physical pressure can now save Hungary and its people. First phase when it possible save Hungary ended with Nagy coup;3 second phase when process of Sovietization could still be slowed ended last week with Moscow pact,4 Czechoslovak coup5 and announcement merger left parties; third phase which had already set in in other satellites now begun Hungary where Communist control must be regarded as unchallengeable.

However, I most earnestly suggest that if there is little we can do in the satellite states, there remains much that can be done elsewhere. It should be apparent by now that costly as it may be, material aid to weakened economies of west nations under ERP is insufficient and we must be prepared to underwrite in time not only morally but financially such truly democratic political forces as can combat Russian imperialism. Armed with a knowledge of extent of Soviet intervention, moral, physical, military, and economic in these states, it would be suicidal withhold support from our friends on grounds of high political morality.

To one who has seen the corrosive, gangrenous effect on moral fiber peoples of these forces of evil, need for urgent action only too apparent.

It is imperative that the lessons learned in this area be analyzed with a view to profiting therefrom in other threatened areas. While not unmindful repercussions such meeting in US, in satellites, in Kremlin and in France and Italy (which I feel would in themselves be helpful), I therefore suggest that Department give consideration to immediate convoking of a conference of chiefs of mission from all [Page 310] satellite states either in Washington, Paris or Rome under presidency of a high officer of Department to discuss agenda including:

Future functions and activities of our missions this area in light present developments and limitations.
Means or methods of shocking American people into realization gravity of situation including possibility of simultaneous withdrawal at psychological moment of diplomatic representation from satellites on grounds no longer independent of Soviet Union.
Drafting of a combined report on the immediacy of the menace to the vital interests of US describing the nature of the consequences and pointing up conclusion which may legitimately be drawn from experience these countries. The Department might wish to make such a report available wholly or in part to Congress and even to American public.

Repeated Bucharest 46; Sofia 36; Belgrade 21; Warsaw 5; Prague 18; Paris 44; Rome 9.

Department please pass to Moscow as 55. Repeated to London as 36.

  1. Ante, p. 295.
  2. Zoltan Tildy, President of Hungary, February 1946–July 1948, and a leader of the Hungarian Smallholders Party.
  3. In May 1947, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Nagy resigned his position and went into exile as a result of machinations by the Hungarian Communists and their allies; for documentation regarding the Nagy resignation, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, pp. 297 ff.
  4. On February 18, 1948, the Soviet Union and Hungary concluded a treaty of alliance and mutual cooperation.
  5. For documentation regarding the attitude of the United States toward the Communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, see pp. 733 ff.