16: The Island Submerged
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PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT considered dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy one of the
worst blunders of the peacemakers after the first World War. He planned a Danubian
confederation with the idea of unifying the Danubian region. He was not interested in
dynastic restoration, but certainly would not have objected to it if it had facilitated
reconstruction. I have been told that both he and Mr. Churchill had agreed before Russia
entered the war that American troops should occupy the Balkans, Hungary and Austria, but
that Mr. Benes, when informed of it, hastened to negotiate a Czech-Polish customs union in
order to strengthen his bargaining position toward the other prospective members of the
Danubian confederation, and concluded as early as June 25, 1941, a secret agreement with
At the Moscow Conference (1943) Molotov immediately brought up the bogey of the cordon
sanitaire and sabotaged the sound idea of a Danubian federation. The communique
issued by the Moscow Conference contained a special declaration on Austria, and many
people wondered why that little country had been singled out in this manner. Those who
were familiar with the background were able to understand. There was, first, the wish
"to open the way for the Austrian people themselves, as well as those neighboring
states which will be faced with similar problems, to find that political and economic
security which is the only basis for lasting peace." (Italics mine)
The New York Times, probably on higher inspiration, commented November 6,
1943, on that passage as follows:
It is no doubt open to many interpretations, but its implications seem to point in
only one direction, and that is co-operation for 'political and economic security' between
Austria and her neighbor states. When Austria-Hungary was broken up into its component
parts, a great economic unit vanished from the scene . . . but all the many schemes for
closer political and economic co-operation among the central European states launched
before the war led to nothing, and the one structure that did arise, the Little Entente,
was too narrow and exclusive and fell apart at the first blow.
The declaration of the Moscow Conference is therefore a promise that renewed
efforts in that direction would find support from all the three powers, including Russia,
which previously had opposed all 'federation' plans in eastern Europe.
In the same declaration there was a statement reminding Austria that she had "a
heavy responsibility for having participated in the war on the side of Hitler." This
was Molotov's way of reintroducing the arbitrary discrimination which, applied by the
peacemakers after the first World War, had rendered a Danubian confederation impossible.
Today we understand much better the ways of Moscow. It is not certain that the Soviets are
opposed to a Danubian confederation. It is, however, quite certain that they will only
allow it to materialize under their own aegis and not as a creation of the West. I should
not be surprised if the Soviets made, before long, great efforts to bring it about in
order to chain Hungary and Austria to their system, of which a chief pillar is, of course,
Czechoslovakia. On December 31, 1944, Jan Masaryk said quite frankly:
We want a strong and democratic Poland, but only a Poland which will collaborate
with the Soviet Union. We have neither time nor inclination for a different solution of
the Polish question. We want a decent and democratic Hungary which will let us live in
peace, but again only a Hungary which will collaborate with the Soviet Union. The same is
true for Yugoslavia, Austria and Rumania.
I want to make clear that I am not concerned with the non-Slavic nations of central
Europe alone. It would be a foolish policy to say: "Let the Slavic countries go where
they belong." As long as it is not proved by genuine elections, held in an atmosphere
of real freedom, I shall not believe that the majority of Slavic nations -Poles, Slovaks,
Czechs, Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians and Slovenians- are in any way more pro-Soviet than the
majority of Hungarians, Rumanians and Austrians. On the contrary, I think that the
elections in Austria and Hungary, which simply crushed the communists, were typical of the
The Russian armies looted and took away everything; they transformed regions of
agricultural abundance into deserts of famine and starvation. We and the British at the
Potsdam Conference gave them a legal title for some of their looting by enabling them to
call "German assets" everything in which Germans or Germany had acquired a
share, or where they had taken a hand in developing production for their war economy.
Wholesale pillaging, as we have shown, is an important tool in making these countries
ready for the role they are destined to play within the expanded Soviet orbit. The
Russian-occupied countries are being proletarianized and leveled down to Soviet standards.
One of the chief means of accomplishing this end is the so-called "land
reform," which has been set up under Soviet supervision in Poland, east Germany,
Rumania, Yugoslavia, Hungary and even in Bulgaria. I use the word "so-called"
because genuine land reform consists of partitioning oversized estates into holdings which
are capable of maintaining themselves. Genuine land reform does not permanently reduce
production, but under Soviet land reform the holdings into which every large property is
broken are too small for the proprietors to maintain themselves. The purpose is to enforce
gradually collective farming, ultimately replacing the former owner by a bureaucrat.
Under the Potsdam formula as interpreted by Russia, practically everything is subject
to seizure, since every larger business within Germany and German-occupied countries was
taken over by the Nazis. Businesses belonging to Americans are subject to seizure because
the Germans took them over during the war, and hence, to the Russians, they are German
assets. The oil wells in Hungary belonging to the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey work
under permanent threat of being taken over by the Russians; the Russians have kicked out a
part of the American personnel in charge and insist on having oil pumped as fast as they
can so that if ultimately the wells have to be returned, there won't be much left. The
American personnel were barred for some time from the plant because they objected to
Soviet exploitation of the wells, knowing that it would result in great damage and
As Colonel Townsend showed in the case of Hungary, the Soviets have a fine system of
increasing reparations by levying penalties for actions that they control; thus the actual
amounts are subject to almost unlimited expansion. The army lives off the country
meanwhile; the Soviets make no effort to furnish food, clothing or anything for the
subject peoples. Much of the supplies, medicines, clothing, etc., sent from the United
States and other countries and distributed by communist officials, finds its way into the
black market. Thus with what the Soviets take officially and what their army takes
unofficially, there is little left.
The general plight of the Hungarian people was further aggravated by mass deportations
started with consent of the three major powers. At Potsdam the Big Three admonished
Soviet-Poland and Czecho-Slovakia to carry out their mass deportations of Germans and
Hungarians (from Slovakia) in a "humane and orderly" manner. Anne O'Hare
McCormick, in an article in the New York Times, referring to the expulsion of the German
population from Sudetenland, stated: "The exodus takes place under nightmarish
conditions, without any international supervision or any pretense of humane treatment. We
share responsibility for horrors only comparable to Nazi cruelties."
To complete the picture of the developments in Hungary I wish to quote as a final note
a statement of Prime Minister Ferenc Nagy of Hungary made to the press upon his arrival in
the United States as a refugee. The harsh treatment of Hungary at the peace conference and
the consistent pressure and terrorism of the Russian power of occupation has finally
broken the backbone of that brave little nation and has forced it temporarily to play the
inglorious role which Stalin and the politbureau have assigned it.
The statement made to the press on June 17 by Premier Nagy appeared in the New York
Times of June 18, 1947 as follows:
A year ago, when I first came to Washington, I was the leader of the freely elected
majority in the Hungarian National Assembly and the head of a coalition government. Since
that time, the majority has been overruled by the joint pressure of Soviet Russia and the
Communists in Hungary; some of my closest collaborators have become actual or virtual
prisoners; others are sharing exile with me. The only duly elected government in
Russian-occupied southeastern Europe has fallen victim to totalitarian aggression.
The Hungarian coalition government was broadly representative, as required by the
Yalta Agreement, and made strenuous efforts to be friendly with Soviet Russia. While
trying to maintain the independence of the country and to establish freedom and democracy,
the paramount aim was to assure a peaceful evolution to the Hungarian people, worn out by
the hardships of war and the armistice period. It was our earnest hope that, with the
coming into effect of the peace treaty, a political and economic system based on Western
concepts of democracy would be consolidated.
Although my party had won a clear-cut majority in the elections of November, 1945,
we decided to maintain the coalition government and, taking into consideration the facts
that the sovereignty of Hungary was limited by the armistice agreement and the country was
occupied by the Red Army, we were ready to make concessions to the minority as well as to
the Soviet Government.
I admit to having appeased the Communists and Soviet Russia, in the hope of being
able to save my people from further troubles, meanwhile maintaining the basic political
structure as it had resulted from the elections. But I must emphasize that on several
occasions I also resisted; the best proof thereof is that, until the recent coup,
political and economic conditions in Hungary differed greatly from those prevailing in
other oppressed countries in southeastern Europe.
Our position was extremely difficult, however. The rigged Rumanian elections in
November, 1946, further consolidated the Russian position in southeastern Europe; and the
way toward cooperation with Czechoslovakia was blocked by the ruthless treatment of the
Hungarian minority in that country. Thus we were isolated, the more so because the Allied
Control Commission, the supreme authority under the armistice agreement, was actually a
When the Foreign Ministers agreed on the definite terms of the peace treaty, in
spite of all of its undue hardships and shortcomings, we hoped that the treaty would soon
come into effect. This would have enabled the duly elected majority to proceed with
greater freedom toward the achievement of its aims: to consolidate the radical reforms in
our ec~ nomic and political life and to make Hungary a country of happy, free and
self-governing human beings.
But our hopes did not materialize. In December, 1946, the Communist-controlled
police discovered an alleged conspiracy to overthrow democracy in Hungary. At first the
police produced evidence and statements which made me agree to the prosecution of the
case. However, now that I can have no further doubts as to the methods and aims of the
Communists and their police, I can say that I do not believe in the existence of a
conspiracy aimed against the democratic form of government.
Among those accused there might have been some people who had talked and written
fantastic and childish things, but the leaders or the rank and file of the Smallholders
party did not plot against the country.
The signature and eventual coming into force of the peace treaty being in sight, I
had to play for time once more, and with the inter- party truce of March, 1947, we still
succeeded to save the basic results of the elections: The majority in the National
As a result of the direct intervention of the Soviet Union, however, I was ousted
from my office, and a new Government was imposed upon the Hungarian people.
The events in Hungary, as well as in many other countries in southeastern Europe,
make it definitely clear that the Soviets and Communists do not seek fair and genuine
cooperation, but dominance. To them, the coalition is only a means to save the appearance
of representative government, and nothing short of unconditional surrender is considered
by Russia as a friendly gesture.
As a consequence of Russian and Communist conspiracy, Hungary has lost her
independence. The Hungarian people are no longer responsible for the words or deeds of
their imposed rulers. Whatever might be said or done on behalf of Hungary by her present
and eventual rulers, the Hungarian people, deprived of their freedom, are no longer
I sincerely hope that American public opinion, having been fully informed by the
American press on present events in Hungary, will judge with more understanding and
sympathy the very similar events which forced her in Hitler's time into the same degrading
situation in which she has been placed now, mainly because of her geographical position
and the policy of appeasement on the part of the Western powers.
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