Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Harold C. Vedeler of the Division of Central European Affairs

Participants: Dr. Fedor Hodža, former member of the Czechoslovak Parliament and Secretary General of the Slovak Democratic Party
EUR—Mr. Thompson1
CE—Mr. Beam2
CE—Harold C. Vedeler

Dr. Hodza called after an appointment had been arranged during a visit by him to the Department on the preceding day. Mr. Thompson suggested that we would like to hear Dr. Hodza’s views on what had happened in Czechoslovakia and what future developments might occur. Dr. Hodza expressed appreciation for the assistance which he had already received from representatives of the United States, and said that he and other refugee leaders were understandably more interested in the future than in what had already happened.

Mr. Thompson made it abundantly clear that, while there was much useful work to be done by those who had escaped, the establishment of any organization having the character of a government-in-exile would be out of the question. The United States continued to maintain diplomatic relations with the present Czechoslovak Government and thereby recognized it. The United States maintained such relations with all the “curtain” countries inasmuch as there were certain advantages to be derived from this policy. The most urgent activity which might be undertaken by the refugee leaders without objection by the Department would be to plan and organize relief work for the benefit of the refugees in Germany.3 We understood that plans were being laid to establish a Czechoslovak Relief Committee, presumably in New York City, which could perform the most valuable kind of function in establishing contact with Czech and Slovak-American groups in this country in order to channel aid from them to the refugees in Germany. It was essential for these various groups and the new refugees to work together and to avoid the development of irreconcilable factions.

Dr. Hodza referred to the attitude of the United States Government toward the present régime in Czechoslovakia and asked if it would [Page 415] have made a difference with respect to recognition had President Benes resigned. In reply, Mr. Thompson pointed out that the position of Benes had made it difficult for the United States to take any action with reference to the new government at Praha. The continuation of President Benes in office had given a continuity to the new government and the appearance at least of legality. If President Benes had resigned without approving the new Communist government, the decision of the United States as to recognition would probably have been guided by the outcome of the Czech case in the United Nations. The United States would have carried out its duties in this connection as a loyal member of the United Nations.

Dr. Hodza recognized that no possibility existed to form an émigré government in the United States but said that refugee leaders hoped to establish a central organization broadly representative of all shades of political opinion among the Czechoslovak people. Such an organ might serve as a rallying center for the democratic forces and, at the same time, as a coordinating agency for relief efforts throughout the world in behalf of the Czechoslovak refugees. He stressed the necessity of having a meeting in the United States of the most prominent leaders, at which plans would be formulated, the organization announced, and assignments of various leaders to certain countries made. This central organ would maintain ties with the Czechoslovak Relief Committee in London and with a comparable committee to be formed in Canada. A question was raised as to the number of persons involved in visits to the United States for the purpose of forming this organization. Dr. Hodza believed that all twenty-six former members of Parliament among the refugees, and certain other prominent political personalities, should be brought to this country, possibly as many as thirty or forty persons. Of these, ten or fifteen might then be assigned to carry on activities in other countries.

Pointing out certain difficulties with regard to the holding of such a meeting at this time, Mr. Thompson urged that either such a meeting should be held in another place, perhaps London or Paris, or that a small group, probably no larger than six persons, might come here for the present. Attention was called to two special problems: (1) The difficulty of obtaining visitors’ visas for a considerable number of refugees when it was uncertain whether they would return at once to the country of departure or to a third country, and (2) the likelihood that a meeting of any large number of such refugees in New York at this time would put the United States in the position of becoming a single-handed proponent of the Czech case in the United Nations. It was emphasized to Dr. Hodza that it would take some time to form the type of organization which he had in mind. Meanwhile, it was [Page 416] of the utmost importance to undertake the organization of relief activities by the group of Czechoslovak refugee leaders.

Mr. Thompson cautioned that, while we recognized the organization envisaged by Dr. Hodza might concern itself with things other than relief, it would have to be careful not to use for political purposes funds that were collected for relief. Dr. Hodza indicated that he fully understood this could not be done.

  1. Llewellyn E. Thompson, Jr., Deputy Director, Office of European Affairs.
  2. Jacob D. Beam, Chief, Division of Central European Affairs.
  3. On March 25, 1948, Thompson and Vedeler had discussed with Juraj Slavik, the former Czechoslovak Ambassador to the United States, the situation of the Czechoslovak refugees in Germany. Vedeler’s memorandum of that conversation is not printed (860F.00/3–2348).