No. 731

264.1111–Vogeler, Robert A./4–2051: Despatch

The Minister in Hungary (Davis) to the Department of State

top secret
No. 721

Subject: Vogeler Case

Memorandum of Conversation1

Present: Chief Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Berei; Dr. Sik, Chief, Political Department, Ministry for Foreign Affairs; the Minister

I called on Mr. Berei at 4:00 p.m. today at his request. There were two unusual features. First, the Chief of Protocol telephoned me personally to ask if that hour would be convenient. Ordinarily such appointments are made between Mr. Berei’s secretary and my own. Second, Dr. Sik was in the anteroom and chatted with me for a few minutes about inconsequential nothings, but pleasantly. He then escorted me into Mr. Berei’s office.

Mr. Berei opened the conversation by saying that he had two comments to make on our latest meeting and two documents to hand me in connection therewith. First, as to the Royal Crown. [Page 1454] The Hungarian Government found the position of the United States Government as set forth in my latest aide-mémoire and during our conversation wholly untenable and without legal justification. He wished to hand me a communication on the subject which I could read at my leisure and in which I would find set forth the unanswerable position of the Hungarian Government. He then handed me aide-mémoire 00523/1951 bearing today’s date.2

Mr. Berei then said that quite independently of this question which the Hungarian Government wished to pursue further through normal diplomatic channels, his Government was of the opinion that since the United States has met the insistent demand of the Hungarian Government that it take steps to remove radio interference his Government perceived no obstacle to the release and expulsion of Mr. Vogeler provided I could assure him that the other points on which agreement had already been reached in this matter were still valid; in other words, if the United States maintains its willingness to do certain things on which we had agreed and with which I was familiar. To facilitate consideration of this matter he had put these points together in an informal memorandum, which was not a communication, which he then handed me. It is No. 00522 and bears today’s date.3 I glanced through the memorandum and noted that it starts by reciting that during discussions initiated by this Legation under instructions of the United States Government the Legation had declared its readiness to take the following steps in the event of Mr. Vogeler’s expulsion and departure from Hungary:

Approve re-opening of Hungarian Consulates in New York and Cleveland;
Again validate passports of private United States citizens who may wish to travel to Hungary;
Facilitate the delivery of “all Hungarian goods in the United States Zone of Germany which have been found available for restitution” and permit two Hungarian representatives to enter the United States Zone to receive restituted property and arrange for its transportation;
To recognize the two above-mentioned representatives as official representatives of the Hungarian Government, facilitate their entry and render all proper assistance.

(This is a brief summary. Each point cited the appropriate note from this Legation).

The memorandum then referred to interference with Hungarian broadcasts by the VOA “the termination whereof has been stipulated by the Hungarian Government as one of the conditions of Vogeler’s release” and states that the Hungarian Government “considers this condition fulfilled as the Government of the United States has imparted by the aide-mémoire of April 9, 19514 of its Minister to Budapest that it ‘has decided to terminate the relay of the Voice of America program through Munich and to transmit through another channel which will avoid such interference’.”

Finally the memorandum states that if this Government will corroborate in writing the obligations assumed as set forth in numbered paragraphs 1 through 4 above “there will be no obstacle as far as the Hungarian Government is concerned of [to?] Vogeler’s expulsion and departure in the nearest future”.

I told Mr. Berei that I could give him the assurances he asked for. He said as a matter of record he would like them in writing and I said I observed that his memorandum so stated and he would have a note the first thing tomorrow morning.5 Mr. Berei heaved a sigh, smiled and said, “Thus ends a long diplomatic exchange.” He then said he wished to remind me of the desire expressed on previous occasions that the first publicity on this matter should be that issued by the Hungarian Government; this was quite an unusual step for the Hungarian Government to take and it would be necessary to explain it for the benefit of Hungarian public opinion.6 I [Page 1456] said I realized that and was willing to meet his wishes; I was sure that if the position were reversed I would seek the same. Mr. Berei asked me if I had any desires as to the timing of the publication and I replied that as his Government desired to have the first say they should make their announcement prior to Vogeler’s arrival in Vienna since once he is free the United States Government could not control access to him by American newspaper correspondents. Berei laughed and said I could be sure that the announcement would precede his arrival in Vienna by some hours so that the story would not be first news for the journalists.

Mr. Berei then indicated that we seemed to have reached agreement on all points and the next step was a written communication from me. I repeated that he would have it tomorrow morning and that I shared the satisfaction he had expressed a few moments ago that this long diplomatic exchange was terminating in a satisfactory manner. Berei said he wished that more basic differences between governments could be settled as satisfactorily as we had settled our minor problem and I replied that I thought there was some hope of steps in that direction now being taken in Paris proving successful. Berei said he hoped so.

We remained together for a few moments and indulged in some joking about the leave regulations of our respective Governments. I had told Berei that I was going home next month and what with leave, travel time and awaiting accommodations would probably be gone about three months. He said he would soon have complaints from his people in Washington because they only get 30 days and have to travel by the fastest means. When he asked if I could take that much leave every year I explained our system briefly, including accumulated leave. Berei laughed and said that was something worth looking into but he was afraid that the accumulation of leave was too capitalistic for his state to which I countered that it wasn’t a complete development of capitalism because while unused days of leave remain to my credit in what might be called the leave bank they do not draw interest. This drew boisterous laughter from both of them and upon that happy note I took my departure.

Nathaniel P. Davis
  1. A very brief summary of this conversation was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 489 from Budapest, April 20. (264.1111–Vogeler, Robert A./4–2051)
  2. The following summary of the salient portions of the Hungarian aide-mémoire 00523–1951 was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 491 from Budapest, April 20:

    “Hung aide-mémoire re Crown considers US viewpoint ‘wholly unfounded and unlawful’ states Crown undoubted property Hung state, hence only Hung people’s rep has right to dispose thereof, hence Govt US is not and cannot be authorized withhold it when Hung Govt claims restitution. Counters statement Crown not removed by force but surrendered for safekeeping by pointing out surrender cld only have been by persons not legally proprietors. Crown removed from Hung by ‘gov’t of war criminal Szalasi’ subservient to Hitler, then cites memo IV May 1, 1947 from office US mil governor econ div, and points out Szalasi ‘whose mandate led to the Amer auths holding the Crown in trust’ was extradited to Hung as war criminal by same Amer auths and executed.” (264.1111–Vogeler, Robert A./4–2051)

    The full text of aide-mémoire 00523–1951, a copy of which was transmitted as an enclosure to despatch 722 from Budapest, April 20, is printed in Hungarian White Book, pp. 241–242.

  3. The full text of the note under reference was transmitted as enclosure 2 to despatch 722 from Budapest, April 20. (264.1111–Vogeler, Robert A./4–2051)
  4. For text, see footnote 2, Document 729.
  5. The note is printed infra.
  6. Telegram 495 from Budapest, April 23, reported that the following statement had been published in all Hungarian newspapers on April 22:

    “Hungarian-Amer discussions—The Info Section MinFon Aff communicates the fol: Upon instructions from its govt, the American Leg, Budapest has started negots a few months ago to the effect that the Hungarian Govt expel from Hungary American citizen named Robert Vogeler who was convicted in the so-called Gieger espionage case. In exchange it declared itself willing to fulfill Hungarian People’s Republic govt’s various rightful but hitherto unfulfilled wishes. The discussions conducted on these bases have led to good results.” (264.1111–Vogeler, Robert A./4–2351)

    Regarding the formal Hungarian Government statement of April 28, see Document 733.