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  • 1 Royal Military College of Canada Kingston, ON, Canada
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The Treaty of Trianon was the peace settlement that the victors of World War I imposed on Hungary after the war. The treaty's severity was unprecedented in modern European history. By dismembering the multi-ethnic “historic Kingdom of Hungary” the treaty left Hungarians less than a third of their former territory and transferred 3.3 million of them to neighboring states. Not surprisingly, Trianon came as a shock to the Hungarian people and constituted an enduring blow to the Magyar national psyche. During the next quarter century, Hungarians were obsessed with the idea of reversing this dictum and the primary objective of their foreign policies was the creation of international conditions in which the revision of Trianon could become possible. For this purpose the regime in Budapest sought allies, as this aim could be attained only with outside help. By the first half of 1941 this search had led to Hungary's entanglement in an alliance with Nazi Germany. Once Hungary became a partner in the Nazi war, the danger emerged that if the country did not toe the German line, Hitler would reverse the frontier adjustments that he had rendered earlier in Hungary's favor. Already during the late summer of 1941 some of Hungary's statesmen realized that the Third Reich might not win the war, but their plans to limit their contribution to the Nazi war effort and to prepare for defection from the Axis were frustrated by the fear that, if they abandoned or weakened the alliance with Berlin, no more “lost” Hungarian lands could be regained and lands already recovered might be forfeited again.

  • For further details see my "Hungary and the Second World War," 15-21; and "Thousand Years of Hungarian Survival," 41-47.

  • My research into Hungary's wartime history has been supported by various grants, most of them coming from the Arts Research Program of the Royal Military College of Canada, provided by Canada's Department of National Defence. For this help I am grateful.

  • I describe the material destruction and economic losses in a number of my publications including "Hungary and the Second World War," an introduction to Hungary in the Age of Total War, 1938-1948, ed. N. F. Dreisziger (New York: East European Monographs/Columbia University Press, 1998), 3-24; and in "Thousand Years of Hungarian Survival," an introduction to the volume Hungary, 1001-2001: A Millennial Retrospection, ed. N. F. Dreisziger (Budapest and Toronto: The Hungarian Studies Review, 2001), 38-47.

  • This argument has been used recently by S. B. Várdy, in his review of the book Hungary in the Age of Total War, 1938-1948, which appeared in the Hungarian Studies Newsletter (New Brunswick, NJ, USA), Nos. 58-61 (2000): 7.

  • For an overview of Kánya's diplomacy in this period see Endre B. Gastony, "Hungarian Foreign Minister Kálmán Kánya, Hitler, and Peace in Europe, August-September, 1938," Hungarian Studies Review, 8 (Spring, 1986): 3-34, republished in Dreisziger, Hungary in the Age of Total War, 213-238. Gastony's overall conclusions are shared by Thomas L. Sakmyster: Hungary, the Great Powers, and the Danubian Crisis, 1936-1939 (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1980), see the conclusions, especially p. 237.

  • Sakmyster, Hungary, 234. For a more recent and more detailed analysis of Anglo-Hungarian relations of the time see András D. Bán, Illúziók és csalódások: Nagy-Britannia és Magyarország, 1938-1941 [Illusions and Disappointments: Great Britain and Hungary, 1938-1941] (Budapest: Osiris, 1998), especially chapter 1, part 3. Bán sees British interest in and knowledge of Hungary in more positive terms.

  • Human costs included military and civilian casualties, a massive exodus of refugees, as well as the deportation of tens of thousands to Soviet labor camps. The war also saw the destruction of most of the country's Jewish community and the expelling of a large part of Hungary's German ethnic group at war's end.

  • Frank, "Treaty revision," 159. According to Frank, the Teleki government was "conservative and cautious in its politics" with the exception of its anti-Semitic legislation which went far beyond the anti-Jewish legislation of Teleki's predecessors (158-159).

  • The most strident pro-German position was taken by Werth, while historian Bálint Hóman, the Minister of Cults and Education, saw Hungary's future in terms of taking the side either of Germany or Russia, a situation in which siding with Hitler seemed the lesser of two evils. Antal Náray, Náray Antal visszaemlékezése, 1945 [The recollections of Antal Náray, 1945], edited and introduced by Sándor Szakály (Budapest: Zrínyi Katonai Kiadó, 1988). Náray was the SDC's secretary and was in charge of keeping the meeting's minutes.

  • The text (apparently reconstructed from memory, as the original had been destroyed) of István Bethlen's July 1941 letter of Tibor Eckhardt can be found in the latter's papers, Box 2, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, Ca.

  • The very first revision of the territorial provisions of the Treaty of Trianon, granted through the First Vienna Award, had grudging approval in Western Europe, including tacit approval in London. Gastony, "Hungarian," in Hungary in the Age of Total War, 235; and Balogh, "Peace-ful Revision," 45. No such recognition was accorded to Hungary's post-1938 revisions of the Trianon settlement.

  • Notably by Mario D. Fenyo, the author of Hitler, Horthy and Hungary; German-Hungarian Relations, 1941-1944 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972). Fenyo calls this change "one of the mysteries" of Hungary's participation in the war. Fenyo discusses Hungary's entry into the war and the early phase of her involvement in Hitler's Russian campaign in chapters 1 and 2. The deterioration of Budapest's relations with Britain and the United States is discussed in chapter 3.

  • The argument that, until the 26th of June, Bárdossy did not want to join the German invasion of the USSR is made in my article "New Twist," 234-235. See also Francis S. Wagner, "Diplomatic Prelude to the Bombing of Kassa: Reflections and Recollections of a Former Diplomat," Hungarian Studies Review 10 (1983): 67-78.

  • Several scholars have suggested that Bárdossy's conclusion might have been accurate, though no concrete evidence has ever been found to support their theories. For the most substantial of these arguments see Thomas Sakmyster, "The Search for a Casus Belli and the Origins of the Kassa Bombing," Hungarian Studies Review, 10 (1983): 53-65.

  • Documents on German Foreign Policy, vol. 13, doc. no. 54. On the antecedents of Hungary's decision to enter the war against Russia see my "New Twist," and C. A. Macartney, "Hungary's Declaration of War on the U.S.S.R. in 1941," in Studies in Diplomatic History and Historiography, ed. A. O. Sarkissian (London, 1961), 158f.

  • As a result of this treaty Hungary lost 71.4% of her territory and 63.6% of her population. Rumania alone received a larger share of the Kingdom of Hungary's former territory than that which was left to Hungary. The excuse for this territorial settlement was the principle of national self-determination, but in the application of this principle the rights of millions of Hungarians to self-determination were disregarded: historic Hungary's dismemberment involved the transfer of close to 3.5 million ethnic Magyars to the so-called "successor states." Hungarian calls for plebiscites in the territories concerned were ignored, with the minor exception of the case of the town of Sopron on the Hungarian-Austrian border. The irony of dismembering the multinational Kingdom of Hungary was the fact that the states that benefited most from it were themselves multi-national, in some cases even more mixed ethnically than Hungary had been before 1918. With the territorial losses came the loss of resources and infrastructure. For example, Hungary lost 89% of its iron-production capacity, 84% of its forests, and 62% of its railway lines. What was left of the country had to rely very heavily on imports of raw materials. Although the country retained most of its food producing capacity, it had to depend on fickle and greatly disrupted export markets to produce any income from exported produce to pay for the imports that became essential for the national economy. Poverty became rampant in the country's villages. The treaty also disrupted Hungary's transportation and communication systems. Most of Hungary's railway lines found themselves in detached territories. Even lines in the Hungarian heartland ended up with parts of them passing through foreign territory. The same happened to some roads and telegraph lines. Water transportation systems were also disrupted. The treaty, furthermore, caused mass migrations. During 1920, 426,000 refugees left the successor states and settled in Hungary, often swelling the ranks of the unemployed. For a recent summary of the terms and immediate impact of the Treaty of Trianon see Tibor Frank, "Treaty revision and doublespeak: Hungarian neutrality, 1939-1941," in European Neutrals and Non-Belligerents during the Second World War, ed. Neville Wylie (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002), 151-153.

  • Steven Béla Várdy, "The Impact of Trianon upon Hungary and the Hungarian Mind: The Nature of Interwar Hungarian Irredentism," in Hungarian Studies Review, 10 (1983): 21; a revised and enlarged version of this paper has appeared in Hungary in the Age of Total War, 1938-1948.

  • Magda Ádám, "France and Hungary at the Beginning of the 1920's," in Essays on World War I: Total War and Peacemaking, A Case Study on Trianon, ed. Béla K. Kiraly, Peter Pastor and Ivan Sanders (New York: Social Science Monographs, Brooklyn College Press, distributed by Columbia University Press, 1982), 145-182, especially p. 172.

  • Gyula Juhász, Magyarország külpolitikája, 1919-1945 [Hungary's foreign policies, 1919-1945] (Budapest: Kossuth, 1969), 161. On Gömbös's pro-German sentiments and his disappointments concerning Hitler's refusal to support Hungarian revisionist aspirations in the east and the south, see Magda, Ádám, "A Versailles-i Közép-Európa összeomlása: A müncheni válság és Magyarország" [The collapse of the Central Europe created at Versailles: The Münich crisis and Hungary], Századok, 133/134 (1999): 689.

  • On Hitler's "stormy" reaction to Teleki's plan to observe neutrality in the upcoming conflict see Frank, "Treaty revision…," 160f. After the onset of hostilities, the Hungarians, instead of facilitating the German's assault on Poland, opened the border to Polish refugees. Tens of thousands came. In time, most of the Polish soldiers who managed to escape to Hungary were allowed to proceed to the West, where they joined the Polish units which, after the Normandy invasion of 1944, fought alongside Allied troops. For Hungary's policies during September 1939 see Gyula Juhász, Magyarország külpolitikája, 1919-1945 [Hungary's Foreign Policy, 1919-1945] (Budapest: Kossuth, 1969), 207-209. For more details, see the same author's A Teleki-kormány külpolitikája, 1939-1941 [The Foreign Policy of the Teleki Government, 1939-1941] (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1964).

  • István Bethlen's secret memorandum, undated but probably written in early September, 1939, has been printed in Magyarország külpolitikája a II. világháború kitörésének időszakában, 1939-1940 [Hungary's Foreign Policy in the Era of the Outbreak of World War II], Gyula Juhász, ed. (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1962), volume IV of the series Diplomáciai iratok Magyarország külpolitikájához, 1936-1945 [Diplomatic Documents on Hungary's Foreign Policy, 1936-1945], László Zsigmond general ed. (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1962-1982), doc. no. 577 (pp. 743-761). The memorandum is summarized in English in my study: "Count Istvan Bethlen's Secret Plan for the Restoration of the Empire of Transylvania," East European Quarterly 8 (1975): 413-423.

  • C. A. Macartney, October Fifteenth: A History of Modern Hungary, 1929-1945 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1957, 2nd edition, 1961, 2 vols). Published in the United States as A History of Hungary, 1929-1945 (New York: Praeger, 1957) 2 vols. My references are to the British edition, vol. 1, 388-389.

  • Werth's memorandum is cited in Juhász, A Teleki-kormány kölpolitikája, 103f.

  • Ibid., 106.

  • Ibid., 121-124.

  • Telegram, [Ribbentrop], to State Secretary von Weizsäcker, 1 July 1940, giving instructions to von Erdmannsdorff, the German Minister in Budapest. Also, memorandum by [Weizsäcker], 2 July 1940, detailing the German démarche to the Hungarians. Printed in Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945 (hereafter DGFP), Raymond James Sontag, John W. Wheeler-Benett, et al. eds. Series D (1937-1945), Vol. X, The War Years, June 23-August 31, 1940 (London, 1957), doc. nos. 75 and 81.

  • News of Hungary's threatening attitude was reported to Berlin by Erdmannsdorff, the German minister in Budapest. See his telegraphic reports of July 1st and 2nd, printed in DGFP, Series D (1937-1945), Vol. X, The War Years, June 23…, doc. nos. 69 and 85. The record of the discussions between Hitler, Count Ciano and the Hungarian delegation of 11 July 1940 are given in doc. no. 146 (179-182). These events are summarized in Juhász, A Teleki-kormány külpolitikája, 150f.

  • Nicholas Nagy-Talavera, The Green Shirts and the Others: A History of Fascism in Hungary and Rumania (Stanford, Ca. Stanford University Press, 1970), 303. In his memoirs, Rumanian diplomat Alexandre Cretzianu tells the story of the economic negotiations with the Germans and the origins of the Anglo-French guarantee. According to him, Viorel Tilea, the Rumanian Minister in London, told the Foreign Office that the Germans had presented his government with an ultimatum to accept the proposed economic pact. Tilea's ruse worked: it resulted in the offer by London and Paris to extend a guarantee to Rumania, in order to fore-stall a possible German invasion of that country. British efforts to have Moscow, Warsaw, and Ankara involved in the guarantee were not successful. Alexandre Cretzianu, Relapse into Bondage 1918-1947: The Political Memoirs of Alexandre Cretzianu. S. D. Spector, compiler, chapter 7 in Southeastern Europe 16 (1989 [1997]): 58-61. Rumanian discussions with the Foreign Office were conducted at the time by Tilea and Cretzianu.

  • Nagy-Talavera, Green Shirts…, 304-305.

  • The story of these negotiations is outlined in András Hory, Még egy barázdát sem [Not even one furrow] (Vienna, 1967), 34-73. Hory was a senior diplomat in Hungary's diplomatic service during the late 1930s. He headed the Hungarian delegation.

  • Memorandum by Teleki addressed to Regent Miklós Horthy, 1 September 1940. Printed in Miklós Szinai and László Szücs (eds), Horthy Miklós titkos iratai [The secret papers of Miklós Horthy] (Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1965), doc. no. 49 (pp. 233-239).

  • The award transferred about a million Rumanians to Hungary and left almost half a million Hungarians within the new boundaries of Rumania. A settlement which would have been satisfactory to both sides was probably impossible. For further details see Macartney, October Fifteenth, vol. I, 422-424. For the award's text, see DGFP, Series D (1937-1945), Vol. X, The War Years, June 23…, doc. no. 413 (pp. 581-584).

  • Eva S. Balogh, 'Peaceful Revision: The Diplomatic Road to War," Hungarian Studies Review 10 (1983): 43-51.

  • Teleki would have no doubt preferred a Hungarian-Russian non-aggression pact, but because Horthy opposed this idea, he had to be satisfied with a trade agreement and such gestures of friendship as the return of the Hungarian flags that the Tsarist army had captured at the end of the Hungarian struggle for independence in 1849. On improving relations between Hungary and the USSR see Peter Pastor, ed. A moszkvai magyar követség jelentései 1935-1941 [The Reports of the Moscow Legation, 1935-1941] (Budapest: Századvég Kiadó & Atlantisz Kiadó, 1992), documents 180 to 214.

  • See my paper, "Bridges to the West: The Horthy Regime's Reinsurance Policies in 1941," War & Society, Vol. 7, No 1 (May 1989): 1-23. This and the following parts of this paper are based in large part on my essay "Hungary Enters the War, March-December, 1941," in Hungary in the Age of Total War, 63-66.

  • Sakmyster, Hungary's Admiral, p. 270.

  • Ibid., 271f.

  • Swiss-Hungarian historian Peter Gostony (known to Hungarians as Gosztonyi) had argued that Horthy was the first Axis leader to realize that the Red Army would not collapse under the German onslaught and that already in September, 1941 he had decided that Hungary "had to get out of the war." Péter Gosztonyi, A Kormányzó, Horthy Miklós [The Regent, Miklós Horthy] (Budapest: Téka, 1990), 128-136. This date is also accepted as the time of Horthy's "conversion" by Sakmyster who, writing in 1989, explained that the men who brought the Regent around to this view were "Bethlen and a few trusted military advisors." See Thomas Sakmyster's chapter on Horthy in Hungarian Statesmen of Destiny, 1860-1960, ed. Paul Bődy (Highland Lakes, NJ: Atlantic Research and Publications, 1989), 113. In his biography of Horthy, Sakmyster gives a somewhat different explanation, one which stresses the influence that István Horthy had on his father. Sakmyster, Hungary's Admiral, 271f.

  • The German invasion of the USSR in June, 1941 created an alliance between London and Moscow. In September Stalin asked Britain to declare war on Finland. The British leaders had reservations about complying with the request but Stalin persisted. At the end of November, the UK leaders decided to give in to his demands and soon issued ultimatums to the government of Finland, as well as those of Hungary and Rumania, demanding that they end their military operations against the USSR. As these demands were not complied with, the UK went ahead with the declarations of war.

  • Bárdossy did not believe that Hungary's involvement in the war could be reversed. In any case, with Hungary being at war with the UK, Bárdossy did not feel that it mattered much if she was at war with the US as well. See my papers: "A Dove? A Hawk? Perhaps a Sparrow: Bárdossy Defends his Wartime Record before the Americans, July 1945," Hungarian Studies Review, 22 (1995): 71-90; and "Was László Bárdossy a War Criminal? Further Reflections," Hungary in the Age of Total War, 311-320.

  • Sakmyster, Hungary's Admiral, 274f.

  • The story is discussed in Rita Péntek, "István Horthy's Election as Vice-Regent in 1942," in Hungary in the Age of Total War, 276-280.

  • Gosztonyi, A kormányzó, 135-138.

  • Sakmyster, Hungary's Admiral, 282-285.

  • Bán, Illúziók, especially part III (the conclusions).

  • Sakmyster, Hungary's Admiral, 286.

  • Among others by István Mocsy, "Hungary's Failed Strategic Surrender: Secret Wartime Negotiations with Britain," in Hungary in the Age of Total War, 85-106. The story of the 1944 mission Horthy sent to Allied headquarters in Italy is told in Laura-Louise Veress, Clear the Line: Hungary's Struggle to Leave the Axis During the Second World War, ed. Dalma Takács (Cleveland, OH,: Prospero Publications, 1995).

  • Bán, Illúziók, 11. I had come to similar conclusions in my Hungary's Way to World War II (Toronto: Helicon, 1968) see especially the conclusions, 179-188.

  • Bán, Illúziók, 12.

  • On the crisis leading to Teleki's suicide see the concluding parts of Loránt Tilkovszky, Pál Teleki, 1879-1941: A Biographical Sketch (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1974). For an over-view of the crisis and of Horthy's role in it, see Sakmyster, Hungary's Admiral, 255-262.

  • What follows is based on my essay "Hungary Enters the War," 66-67, and an earlier article of mine: "New Twist to an Old Riddle: The Bombing of Kassa (Košice), June 26, 1941," Journal of Modern History, 44 (June 1972): 232-242.