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13: Russia's Responsibility in World War II

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THERE WERE, of course, in Hungary as in other countries, people who without being national socialists advocated a policy of appeasement. Count Stephen Csaky, foreign minister in 1939 and 1940, was a member of this group. His political stature, however, was so insignificant that he had no real hand in Hungarian foreign policy. It would have been more to the point to have called him the prime minister's undersecretary for external relations. Imredy undoubtedly chose him because he wanted him. Teleki, I am sure, would have much preferred de Kanya, but did not want to make a change because he considered it would be very difficult to replace Csaky. He knew that if he dismissed him, he would have to replace him with someone acceptable to Germany and Italy, and de Kanya was distinctly not acceptable. Teleki preferred the devil he had to the devil he might have. He did not trust Csaky, however, so he set up his own foreign office at the prime ministry and privately sent emissaries to various countries. This created a very curious situation. Many diplomats started to bypass Csaky and call on Teleki, but they found they couldn't get anywhere at all. When asked a question, he replied with something irrelevant about the Boy Scouts and his experiences when he was young, and went on and on as though he had not heard the question. If you asked him again, he repeated his tactics. Soon we all gave up and stopped calling.

This was obviously Teleki's object, for when he wanted to talk, he talked quite freely. At various times he employed subterfuges for that purpose. On several occasions I was called by Countess Teleki and invited to tea. When I got there, I would find Countess Teleki and her sister or just the Countess, but in a few minutes the prime minister would come in and the ladies vanish. On these occasions he would talk at length and without reservation.

Count Csaky talked -he loved to talk. When you called on him, he never was in a hurry, and he told you all kinds of wonderful stories. The only trouble was that most of them were untrue; you never knew what to believe and what not to believe. On one occasion, he entertained me at length with accounts of his prowess as a fighter pilot in World War I. It did not occur to me to question him, as I didn't know how old he was, but when I happened to mention something about it, everybody laughed and I was told that he was in school in Paris during that war and had not participated in any fighting. On another occasion, when he was telling me about Hungary's refusal to let German troops go through to Poland, he embellished the story by saying that, to make it impossible, the Hungarian government had taken up the railroad tracks and blown up the tunnels. I was accordingly surprised to meet a man who that afternoon had come in to Budapest by train from near the Polish border where he lived. He laughed heartily at Csaky's story.

Shortly after Sumner Welles made his trip to as President Roosevelt's special envoy, Csaky told the secret committees of the upper and lower houses that he had met Welles in Italy, and that Welles had told him Germany would be the dominant power in Europe for the next five years and any nation would be foolish not to play along with her during that period. I doubted this statement very much. I wrote a personal letter to Mr. Welles and received a categorical denial by telegraph, with instructions to go to the highest possible authorities and inform them that the statement was untrue.

Csaky probably in his heart was pro-Ally, but he was very much flattered by any attention he received from the Axis leaders and particularly from Mussolini; he liked to feel that he was one of the big boys himself. Csaky, like Teleki, imagined himself a very smart fellow. He greatly overestimated himself by thinking that he could outsmart people like Hitler and Ribbentrop.

His idea of cleverness is exemplified by a letter which I received one day within half an hour after I had arrived home from the Foreign Office, where I had spent about three-quarters of an hour with him. In our conversation Csaky had said nothing to indicate that there was any deterioration in Hungary's relations with America. But the letter stated that relations between the two countries were bad and that he was sorry he had not had time to discuss it with me in our conversation. He said, further, that as far as he was concerned, they would not get any better and would probably get worse, unless he got satisfactory answers to some questions, which he then proceeded to put. The questions really accused our government of various unneutral acts -raising an army for the Czechs, raising money for the Czechs, and other things which he probably knew were not true. He apparently hoped that I would be foolish enough to reply, thus giving him something to take with him when he went up that week to the launching of a boat in Germany. He probably thought it would be very nice to hand this to Mr. Hitler and show what important work he was doing.

I did not even acknowledge the letter, but telegraphed the State Department and awaited instructions. Nearly a week went by, and I knew the Department was waiting for Csaky to get on the train. As I expected, a few hours after he was out of Hungary, I received instructions to go to the Foreign Office and, in effect, tell them our relations with the Czechs were none of their business.

Voemle, a strong pro-Nazi, afterward minister to Ankara, and in charge during Csaky's absence, was undersecretary. We called him "Fishface" and that was a good description. I saw him and carried out the instructions, which he received very solemnly. As I walked out, I said, "I presume in the event that you decide to declare war, you will give us the usual diplomatic courtesies?" and even he had to laugh at that.

It was customary to give the foreign minister a dinner once a year and it just so happened that prior to this, Csaky had accepted an invitation at our legation on a date which turned out to be the day on which he came back from Germany. I told my wife that I was quite certain the guest of honor would not be able to come. I felt sure he would be ill. I could not imagine anyone having the face to attend a dinner under the circumstances. But when the time came, lo and behold, Csaky was there just as suave as could be. He never mentioned the exchange of "compliments"-on the contrary, was full of information about Germany. He took me into another room and told me in great detail everything that he was supposed to have seen and heard, and ended up by saying that the Foreign Office had discovered a German spy in their own ministry.

Since the German minister, although he was a very nice fellow, was a hard man to entertain because so many people did not want to be entertained at the same time, I had invited him to the Csaky dinner. Many people considered the latter a Nazi and it seemed a good time to have all the Axis people. I wondered what he thought when Csaky and I left the party for so long. Csaky apparently was desperately anxious to fix things up, and I suppose he found a good lie to tell the German minister later.

Csaky and I broke later over an incident in connection with Imredy. The latter came to see me one day in great excitement. He said that Csaky had told him that I had said in a recent conversation that Imredy was intriguing against the Regent in various ways. Imredy said that this was not true, and he demanded an explanation.

Whenever I went to the Foreign Office or anywhere else for an important conversation, I had a stenographer meet me at home immediately thereafter and dictated the whole conversation while it was fresh in my mind. I knew I had made no such statement. I asked my secretary to bring in a draft of the conversation. Without looking at it, I handed it to Imredy, and he read it over. I said: "Is there any such reference?" and he replied that there was not. I said: "Well, that is the conversation." He seemed mollified and finally left.

If there is one thing that is supposed to be confidential, it is conversation between a diplomat and the foreign minister. Accordingly I wrote to ask Csaky for an explanation. Ignoring the falsity of his statement, Csaky attempted to justify his course by the fact that Imredy was on the foreign affairs committee of parliament. After consulting de Kanya, who was greatly astonished at Csaky's behavior, I presented the Regent's chief of staff with copies of the correspondence and also told him of Csaky's previous letter concerning American-Hungarian relations.

The Regent sent for me. I immediately explained that I felt myself in an extremely awkward position: I could no longer call on Csaky because I could not trust him, and therefore felt myself cut off from official information. The Regent said, "Well, come to me. I will get you any information you want." We arranged that I was to call his aide-de-camp as often as I wanted. This proved to be very useful. Later, while the Foreign Office were denying the presence of German troops on the way to Rumania, the Regent not only confirmed it but sent me daily the exact number that were passing through.

There was genuine relief when Csaky died in January 1941, of food poisoning which he had acquired during an official visit to Belgrade. After his death, appeasement was no longer tried and the Magyars, having learned that the Germans used every concession to extort more concessions, dev~oped the abrogation of concessions to a high art. The Germans called it sabotage.

One story came up during Csaky's term as foreign minister which I was disposed to doubt at the time because of my previous experiences with him; but it has since been proven true for the most part at the Nuremberg trials.

In November 1937, when war was still a little way off, Tibor Eckhardt had told me that according to information he had, the German general staff would never agree to war as long as they had to fight on two fronts. The only solution the general staff considered feasible was to neutralize the Soviets or make them their allies first. This, as we know now, was an accurate forecast. In a conversation on October 4, 1939, Mr. de Kanya expressed the opinion that the German and Russian rapprochement had not been the consequence of Great Britain's military opposition to Hitler, but had been going on for some time. As far back as a year before, de Kanya said, he had reached the conclusion that Germany and Russia were coming to a general understanding. He had no doubt that Stalin had definitely committed himself to Germany well before he had started conversations with Britain and France in the summer of 1939 concerning an alliance against Germany.

German-Hungarian relations were not based on mutual trust but the Hungarians had their channels and German diplomats and officers, especially anti-national socialists, told their former comrades-in-arms more than they would have revealed to us or the British. Hence I was certain that something was behind de Kanya's vague allusions.

In 1940 Mr. Leon Orlowski, whom I have already mentioned as the last Polish minister to Budapest, told me the following story: In May of 1939 -that is, between three or four months before the outbreak of war -a Hungarian lawyer employed by the Polish legation told him that he had it from very high authority that Stalin and Hitler had agreed on the division of Poland. Orlowski was naturally distrustful, especially since the lawyer was unwilling to reveal the source of his information. Nevertheless, Orlowski reported this to his government, as a rumor.

In the fall of 1939, when history had confirmed the rumor, Orlowski asked the lawyer whether he felt authorized to name his informer. The lawyer stated that he had been pledged not to do so, but now felt free to say that it was Monsignor Alexander Ernszt, leader of the Christian Socialist Party and minister of education in Count Teleki's government. Ernszt had his information from Count Teleki, who wished to give the Poles a warning but was too cautious to commit what the Germans would have called an indiscretion. Mr. Orlowski, at that moment the envoy of a defunct country, was still interested in worming out the truth. He asked Tibor Eckhardt if he would not sound out Foreign Minister Csaky. According to Csaky, Hitler came to the conclusion in March 1939, that time was running against him, as Great Britain and other nations were rearming. Hence, he decided that he had to advance his plans. He discussed the situation with the general staff, but they, still enjoying a great measure of independence, were firm against war. On one front, they said, if sufficiently prepared -yes; but on two fronts-no.

Baron von Neurath, former foreign minister and at that time protector of Bohemia, was informed of the general staff's hesitation. He called in General Sirovy, prime minister of President Hacha's Czechoslovak regime, and said to him: "We know you as a great friend of the Russians. Naturally, you would like to see Germans and Russians as friendly as possible because that would help your own people. With that in mind, I suggest that you see Stalin and sound him out as to the possibility of a pact with Hitler on the basis of a partition of Poland."

General Sirovy, Count Csaky went on, visited Moscow and was told that they were interested in the idea, and he so advised von Neurath. Baron von Neurath then went to the Fuehrer with this information, but Hitler was hesitant. He was afraid of Stalin. Nevertheless, he discussed it with the general staff, and they liked the idea. The partition of Poland, the general staff considered, would be sufficient safeguard against Russian aggression. Accordingly, Hitler, addressing his party chieftains in April 1939, told them that Russia was not interested in defending Poland.

When the British and French, Count Csaky said, came to Moscow in August, Stalin had already made, in principle, a deal with Germany, knowing that the latter could offer him more than the Western powers were willing and able to tender; but neither Hitler nor Stalin wanted to make this fact known before the invasion of Poland could be started.

As I have said, I doubted Csaky's story: To me it smacked of his usual desire to add drama to the facts. It was true that very soon after the Russo-German pact of August 23, 1939, Poland was partitioned; but confirmation of any agreement on that partition by a formal pact came out only in the Nuremberg trials.

Perhaps I should say "leaked out." The Russian representatives insisted on keeping the text of the secret treaty out of the official Nuremberg records.

According to Richard L. Stokes, correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at Nuremberg, the existence of the so-called "secret protocol" was first mentioned during the defense of Rudolf Hess, by Dr. Alfred Seidl, attorney for Hans Frank, Nazi governor general of Poland. "At the insistence of the Russian prosecution which has always shown itself acutely sensitive in this matter," Stokes reported in his article of May 22, 1946, in which the text of the protocol was published for the first time in America, "Seidl was stopped in his tracks."

Some weeks later, however, despite continued Russian protest, an account of the documents drafted from memory by Dr. Wilhelm Gauss, legal adviser of the Nazi Foreign Office, was placed in the evidence.

Still later, when Dr. Seidl again tried to bring up the secret protocol he was prevented from entering the text as evidence, but at the suggestion of Mr. Thomas L. Dodd, the American deputy prosecutor, the witness on the stand at the time, Ernst von Weizsaecker, was permitted to give the contents from memory. At Mr. Stokes' request, Mr. Dodd obtained a German copy of the agreements from Dr. Seidl and arranged for their translation into English.

Since the agreement is of such historic importance, and the account of this portion of the trial itself should be of considerable interest to the reader, I am including Mr. Stokes' article in full, along with the Gauss affidavit as published in the New Leader the following November, in Appendix I of this volume.

The secret protocol attached to the nonaggression pact signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939 by Mobtov and Ribbentrop, demarcated the spheres of interest in the Baltic States, Poland and Bessarabia between the German Reich and the USSR. A second agreement made a month later in Moscow modified the spheres of interest in Lithuania and Poland.

One wonders why more publicity was not given the secret protocol when it was published in this country and why there was not more discussion in Congress concerning the documents.

In an article published in the New Leader for January 4, 1947 Julius Epstein, author and political analyst, quoted the Official Report of the English Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) of October 23, 1946, as follows:

Mr. Thurtle asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in order that the British public may have an opportunity of reading it, he will arrange for the publication, in a convenient form, of the recently discovered text of the supplementary secret agreement concluded between Nazi Germany and the USSR just prior to the Nazi attack on Poland, which led to the world war.

Mr. Bevin: The text of the secret protocol attached to the nonaggression pact of 23rd August, 1939, has been published in the British Press. No advantage is seen in making any official publication of the text.

Mr. Thurtle: Does not my right Hon. Friend agree that in view of the importance of this as a factor in precipitating the world war, it would be as well to have an official record of it?

Mr. Bevin: I think it was published in a reputable newspaper, the Manchester Guardian, and may be taken as accurate.

Mr. Warbey: Can the Minister say how the Press got hold of a copy of a document under official control?

Mr. Bevin: I have not the slightest notion. I have been trying to find out that process for a long time.

It is known that the American State Department has copies of these documents, but although they were published a few times in the American press, no official statements have been made about them.

The testimony offered at the Nuremberg trials proves beyond doubt that when offered partnership both by Britain and Germany, Russia chose the latter whom she feared more, but with whom she could accomplish more quickly the conquest of border territories and acquisition of seaports; and signed a secret agreement with her for the partition of Poland. Stalin knew that if he took England for a partner, his country would lie at the mercy of Germany's armies. On the other hand, having been informed that Germany's general staff only awaited assurance that Germany would not be faced by enemies on two fronts -that she was ready for war- and realizing that with Germany his ally between him and England, the prospective enemy, he would be in a better position and have more booty as well, Stalin became the "trigger man" for World War II by signing the pact with Germany. Since it seems to be true that Hitler would not have attacked Poland without Russia's guarantee, Stalin bears a heavy responsibility for his role.

We owe it to ourselves to obtain clarification concerning the origin of the second World War. The fact that the Soviet Union later became our ally must not deter us.

Nobody can say what would have happened if Stalin and Hitler had not come to terms. What would be the situation today if Stalin, instead of becoming Germany's ally in 1939 had become the ally of England and France? I have already pointed out that in a war fought by coalitions, it is almost axiomatic that you fight on the right side and at the same time on the wrong side. We need not feel ashamed if Russia's early guilt comes to light, but we ought to be ashamed if we lend ourselves to abetting political fictions and historical forgery. We should insist tenaciously upon obtaining the whole truth. As Americans we share the responsibility for the world that has resulted from the war. We should not be kept in darkness.

During my stay in Budapest, two or three events in connection with the Soviet legation seem to be very typical of the real nature of the Red Empire. The first minister after I arrived was Mr. Beksadian, a fat man with a stout wife. He was an Armenian. They were quiet, rather shy and inoffensive. He showed me a picture of a palace in the Caucasus which he said was his home. Apparently he belonged to the new upper class in Russia, and he was supposed to be a great friend of Litvinov's. This was perhaps his undoing.

He went home with his wife on leave, apparently without misgivings, but he did not return to Budapest. His disappearance was quite a mystery. We all wrote eventually to our ambassadors in Moscow to find out what had happened to him, since all inquiries at the Soviet legation were fruitless. Even the secretaries who spoke English suddenly could not understand when you asked them about Beksadian. Eventually we learned that Mr. Beksadian, his wife and his son, who had been held as a hostage in Russia, had been "liquidated" during the great purge. When the news reached Budapest eventually, many people regretted that they had not shown him and his wife a little more personal kindness.

His successor, Mr. Sharonov, was young, lively, and a good linguist; he and his supposed wife threw grand parties in the best (or worst) Hollywood manner. Obviously they were allowed to spend money without stint. Their dinners lasted at least three hours. Two orchestras played at their receptions, and movie cameras followed everybody around. He had a strange habit, during the war, of inviting foreign diplomats, friend and foe, Germans, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Japanese -all indiscriminately. At one of his receptions, he insisted upon having the German minister and me appear in a movie with him. It appeared in all the picture houses of Budapest. I made no objection, but I said, as we were being posed, "I wonder which one of us will get fired first for this." The German minister turned as red as a beet.

The Russian legation's funds for entertainment seemed to be unlimited, but when the minister's wife needed a new pair of stockings, she had to send old ones to Moscow before she could get a replacement. Sharonov was a very agreeable fellow, but he was certainly ignorant of the world-or he pretended to be for his own reasons. He insisted that Soviet industrial production was many times that of the United States, and often said this in my presence. At first, I tried to argue about it, but I saw there was no use. Apparently he believed it to such an extent that nothing would change his opinion. Perhaps he didn't dare to say otherwise.

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