864.404/1–2049: Telegram

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

secret

87. I have now read over carefully twice the 96-page Hungarian Yellow Book issued yesterday in English, French and Hungarian entitled “Documents in the Mindszenty Case”, copies of which being airmailed from Vienna direct to Department. Summary and extract of principal passages relating to Legation being forwarded separately, but understand UP has given good coverage.

The distortions, misstatements, false inferences and outright lies concerning American personalities, this Legation and particularly myself are woven together cleverly to present picture in which I allegedly encouraged Mindszenty to conduct espionage for obtension intelligence both as respects Hungary and the Soviet forces of occupation, and conspired with him against the Hungarian state, specifically to restore Hapsburg monarchy. The product which is based upon certain documents alleged to have been found buried in Cardinal’s palace, and to certain confessions obtained from the Cardinal, his secretary and other followers, is typical of East European conspiratorial mentality. As was to be expected, allegations have been immediately taken up in Hungarian press which may be expected to become more violent in attacks on Legation.

I did, of course, call on Mindszenty upon my arrival in July of 1947 and again to extend New Year’s greetings in 1948, just as I called on other Hungarian high personalities, and these calls were returned. I likewise responded to Mindszenty’s appeal to see him last November.1 [Page 456]The substance of conversations in each case were duly reported to the Department. At no time, needless to say did I ask for any “intelligence” from the Cardinal or encourage its procurement, nor did I at any time discuss with him possibility of change in regime, let alone a restoration of the monarchy.

So far as concerns Otto of Hapsburg, I recall that after attempting to dodge meeting him, I did agree to receive him in my office in the new State Department in May 1947. Our conversation extremely limited and he appealed to me principally to do what I could for the maintenance of religious toleration, specifically Catholic, in Hungary. I also recall that in my first conversation with Mindszenty, in response to question, I did say that Otto seemed to me a likeable and serious young man, but we did not discuss him further. Fact remains that these allegations are contained in an officially sponsored government publication, and that such allegations are far-reaching in character and set forth as definite accusations against me and other members of Legation. So far as I can recall, such an official and serious attack in peacetime on a duly-accredited envoy of a foreign power is without precedent.

Whether Hungarian Government will declare me persona non grata either immediately or following trial of Cardinal, which it announced will be public, I have no means of knowing. It would certainly seem the logical consequence of such grave and insulting allegations if normal intercourse between the two nations obtained. However, it may suit the Communist book even better not to request my withdrawal since it would thus leave me here as an officially discredited representative of country generally regarded as most powerful on earth and render my position and that of my staff ridiculous and contemptible, in Hungary and satellite eyes. I need hardly point out that my usefulness in any case would be all but lost, since no Hungarian of any kind will now dare be seen talking to me in a public or private place, and my official representations will be obviously less effective.

Certainly, Department will not wish to let these allegations go unanswered. However, I am doubtful of effectiveness or propriety of our stooping to detailed refutation of the allegations or to the publication of statements on my conversations with Otto of Hapsburg and the Cardinal. Likewise, while, on one hand, it might be advisable for Department to anticipate any request for my withdrawal by recalling me while simultaneously issuing a public statement; on the other, we will wish to avoid any step which might suggest a confession of guilt or weakness. It is difficult for me to offer concrete suggestions concerning the appropriate course of action to be taken by the Department when I am so deeply involved personally and particularly when I feel genuinely proud conduct of my office in Hungary. In the interest of American prestige here and elsewhere behind the curtain, I urge that [Page 457]our government mark its condemnation of this latest insult to US by strong positive action.

Chapin
  1. For Chapin’s report of his conversation with Cardinal Mindszenty on November 15, 1948, see telegram 1791, November 17, 1948, from Budapest, printed in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, p. 389.