864.404/1–2649: Telegram

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


114. In previous communications I have indicated something of feeling here with respect Mindszenty case.2 It generally assumed that in addition to domestic significance, persecution and liquidation Cardinal has serious and far-reaching international implication. Moreover, public opinion in Hungary—and presumably elsewhere behind Curtain—looks with anxiety for vigorous countermeasures not only in defense of US prestige but also as evidence official US cognizance cynical violation human rights and proof of continued US interest in welfare peoples behind Curtain.

It seems clear that eventually the whole question of violation of human rights in satellite countries must be forced into UN Assembly and that Hungary, in light recent developments, culminating in present case, may well present best point of attack.

As will not have escaped Department’s attention, 18–month period envisaged in Article 39 Hungarian peace treaty expires March 15, while individual supervision rights of three Chiefs of Mission do not necessarily expire that date, their collective rights do. For this reason, suggestion was considered here, even before publication of Yellow Book,3 of calling meeting of three chiefs before that date with a view to suggesting the institution of an international investigative commission to expose wholesale suppression human rights and fundamental [Page 224] freedoms in violation peace treaty. It was suggested further that parallel action be taken simultaneously in Sofia and Bucharest (Deptel 684, November 19 to Sofia4).

However, it seems essential that before starting course of action, one must have a clear idea of extent to which US and British Governments are prepared to go. The time is now far past, and our protests have been proved ineffective too many times in these countries, tor a protest or a demand for reparation of a wrong to be effective, unless the satellite concerned and the Soviet Union are convinced that such protest and demand will be followed up by concrete united action. It was this threat which proved so effective in Ruedemann-Bannantine case.5 Protests not followed through such as occurred in Bela Kovacs case,6 far from having any effect, merely make US appear feeble and irresolute and render later positive action that much more difficult.

If, as I believe may now be the case, the US and British (since uncoordinated action here would be regrettable), are prepared however, to back an appeal to UN for investigation in satellite defeated nations to the extent of strong effective measures such as economic sanctions, now is the time to take such action.

Such sanctions which may eventually have to be extended to other satellites would appear to exert restraining pressure on Czechoslovakia and Poland, but it is entirely possible that this course may lead to rupture diplomatic relations.7

Sent Department 114, repeated London 7, Warsaw 3, Prague 3, Bucharest 2, Sofia 2, Moscow 4.

  1. Josef Cardinal Mindszenty, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Esztergom and Prince-Primate of Hungary was arrested by Hungarian authorities on December 27, 1948, was tried in Budapest, February 3–5, 1949, and was subsequently found guilty of treason, conspiracy, and other crimes against the Hungarian state and sentenced to life imprisonment. For documentation on the attitude of the United States toward the arrest, trial, and conviction of the Cardinal, see pp. 451 ff.
  2. See telegram 87, January 20, from Budapest, p. 455.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, p. 390.
  4. Regarding the case under reference here, see footnote 4 to telegram 459; March 23, from Budapest, p. 466.
  5. Béla Kovaes, a member of the Hungarian parliament and former Secretary General of the Smallholders Party, was arrested by Soviet occupation authorities in February 1947. For documentation on the arrest and the subsequent American protests, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, pp. 271 ff.
  6. In telegram 116, January 26, from Budapest, not printed, Minister Chapin outlined a possible program of action relative to Hungary (740.0011 EW (Peace)/1–2649).