140. Memorandum From William Hyland and Robert Hunter of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • The Crown of St. Stephen

We met Thursday2 for an hour with Representative Mary Rose Oakar and about six Hungarian leaders on the Crown of St. Stephen.

They are deeply concerned about the Vanik story on a possible return. The Congresswoman assumed that this had been inspired by the Administration.

They indicated all the reasons for not giving it back; for not giving it to the Vatican; and for only giving it back when Hungary is “free” (for some this meant the withdrawal of Soviet troops; for others, also holding free elections).

We indicated that we knew of no U.S. intention to give back the Crown. This was not being considered at a high policy level; there has been no study. But we could not say that it would never be given back, though of course it would be appropriate, if consideration were given to doing so, to consult with Congress beforehand. This would be consultation with all elements of Congress, including Representative Vanik and others of his persuasion.

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They asked for four things:

1. A history of how the Crown was acquired (Bob Murphy was the intermediary)—which they believe could help them for juridical reasons, if it was not war booty. We said we would try, but that in any event a promise made like that 30 years ago was not really relevant.

2. To see the text of the cultural agreement with Hungary. We said we would send it.

3. To have a simple statement from the Administration that it is not our intention to give back the Crown. We said that we could not pledge that, and would have to refer it.

4. Representative Oakar also wants Administration backing for her bill requiring the approval of Congress before the Crown could be given back.3 We temporized, but she may come back again.

We therefore refer the issue back to you for guidance. Do you want to put out such a statement? Would you be willing to have the Administration support her bill?4

We do not support either course of action: but it will be hard to get out of the first one.

Could we have your further thoughts before proceeding?

(Hyland thinks it is senseless to play around with the Crown: raising the issue of returning it would just do political harm, and actually doing so would gain us nothing with the Hungarians.)


1. That you approve the memorandum at Tab I5 asking State for a history of the Crown’s acquisition and an accounting; and

2. That you give us your views on how to proceed.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 27, Hungary: 1–12/77. Confidential. Sent for action. Brzezinski wrote “see comments on p 2. ZB” in the margin with an arrow pointing to the subject line and returned the memorandum to Hyland and Hunter
  2. April 28.
  3. On April 26, Oakar introduced H.R. 6634, a bill “to require that the Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen and other relics of the Hungarian royalty remain in the custody of the United States Government and that they not be transported out of the United States, unless the Congress provides otherwise by legislation.” The bill was discussed in subcommittee, but was never submitted to a vote on the House floor.
  4. Brzezinski marked the paragraph and wrote at the bottom of the page, “No—there’s no point in blanket, timeless negative commitments of ‘I’ll never beat my wife’ variety!”
  5. Not attached. Brzezinski signed the memorandum to Vance on May 2, requesting that the Office of the Historian at the Department of State prepare an unclassified memorandum on the manner by which the Crown of St. Stephen came into U.S. possession at the end of World War II. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Hunter Subject File, Box 14, Hungary: Crown of St. Stephen: 4–6/77). The Department forwarded to Brzezinski a study prepared in the Office of the Historian on May 24. (Ibid.)