Memorandum By the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson) to the Counselor of the Department of State (Bohlen)1
Subject: Proposal to declare Mr. John G. Florian, First Secretary of the Hungarian Legation, persona non grata.[Page 458]
The Hungarian Government, in a note handed the American Minister in Budapest on January 29, 1949 (Attachment A2), demanded that Mr. Stephen Koczak, Second Secretary of Legation and Vice Consul, leave Hungary within 48 hours. This request is based on the pretext that he is “conclusively suspected of carrying out intelligence work in Hungary”. In reply to a query by Minister Chapin, the Acting Hungarian Foreign Minister stated that the request had nothing to do with allegations against Koczak in the recently-published “Yellow Book” on the Mindszenty case and that he could not specify the “charges”, though they were “extremely grave and serious.” Mr. Koczak was to proceed yesterday (January 30) to Vienna.
Having in mind our retaliation in declaring two Rumanians here personae non gratae following a similar Rumanian expulsion of our Counselor and Military Attaché from Bucharest, which we described to the press as a “pure coincidence”, Minister Chapin has suggested that the Department might wish to discover a like “coincidence” in this instance and expel a corresponding Hungarian officer.
We believe that political and prestige considerations, arising from the obvious timing of this action of the Hungarian Government to coincide with the heightened official propaganda attacks against the US in connection with the Mindszenty case, as well as from the brusqueness of the Hungarian demand and the fact that it is based on groundless charges vaguely stated, make advisable reciprocal action by this Government against a member of the Hungarian Legation staff here. In this connection, EUR suggests that the Department demand the withdrawal of John G. Florian, First Secretary of the Hungarian Legation. It has come to the Department’s attention from reliable sources that Florian has attempted to intimidate several former members of the staff of the Hungarian Legation who opposed the present Communist-dominated regime in Hungary and resigned their posts to remain in the US as political refugees. It has also been reported, though this is difficult of confirmation, that he is a representative here of the Hungarian secret police. A biographical note on Florian is attached (Attachment B3).
In declaring Florian persona non grata, we believe we should, if asked, publicly deny any connection between his expulsion and that of Koczak. While the Hungarians will be under no illusion as to our motivation, we should avoid official adherence to the reciprocity principle which the Hungarians could extend to our disadvantage.[Page 459]
It is recommended that:
- we inform the Hungarian Legation here, by the attached note, prepared in S/S–PR (Attachment C4), that the presence of Mr. John G. Florian, First Secretary of the Hungarian Legation, is no longer agreeable to the US Government and that the US Government accordingly requests the Legation of Hungary to take appropriate measures to effect his departure from the US at the earliest possible moment;
- we do not issue a press release giving the text of the US and Hungarian notes but, in confirming, if asked by the press, that the Hungarian Government requested Mr. Koczak’s withdrawal and that we have requested the withdrawal of Mr. Florian, decline to comment as to any connection between the two cases.5
- This memorandum appears originally to have been addressed to the Secretary of State (or Under Secretary of State). The responsible officers in the Department of State subsequently agreed that while the matter under consideration need not be considered at that level, it would be appropriate for formal action to be taken at least at the Counselor’s level. The source text is initialed by Hickerson.↩
- Attachment A, telegram 135, January 29, from Budapest, not printed (123 Koczak, Stephen).↩
- Not printed.↩
- Not printed.↩
In a memorandum of February 2 to Walworth Barbour, Chief of the Division of Southeast European Affairs, not printed, Hickerson commented as follows on the action proposed here:
“Thompson [Llewellyn E. Thompson, Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs] thinks that we should be more leisurely about this and take this action say in a couple of weeks. He points out the Hungarians have only three and that we may run out of raw material shortly when they will be down to one and our alternative will be to submit to their picking off our people one by one or breaking relations with them. On balance, I am disposed to waiting a few days and going ahead with this one.” (701.6411/1–3149)
Appropriate approval was subsequently obtained for the action recommended here, and on February 9 the Hungarian Legation was informed that Florian was no longer agreeable to the United States Government.↩