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15: Friction With Hitler

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Friction With Hitler

The year of the Austrian Anschluss, of the Sudeten crisis, of the Munich Agreement, and finally of the Vienna Award arbitrating between Hungary and Czechoslovakia, put Hungarian politics to a severe test. As a former sailor, I was used to relying not on sunshine alone but also on the readings of barometers and weather charts. In 1938, I could see the storm approaching while not only the masses but also eminent statesmen still believed in "peace in our time". I knew, the helm would have to be firmly grasped to keep the small Hungarian ship of state on her set course through the mounting waves. We desired revision, yes, but revision by peaceful means. I am not writing this with the wisdom gained after the event. To my great satisfaction, I find in the memoirs of Ernst von Weizsäcker(1), the Permanent Secretary of the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs, a sentence which shows clearly how my thoughts were running at the time. "We must avoid becoming involved in a new war at all costs." These were the words with which, in August, 1938, I greeted Frau von Weizsäcker, who had come to accompany my wife on our travels through Germany. I am now going to record expressing these self-same sentiments, not to a lady, though she was the wife of a Permanent Secretary, but to Hitler himself.

In a state of extreme tension, we had watched, from Budapest, the dramatic struggle waged by the Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg, for the retention of the independence of his country. The unification of the two German states was the logical consequence of the violent disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Hungary was neither called upon nor was she in a position to guarantee Peace Treaties after the Western democracies, suffering from a fresh defeat in the Spanish Civil War, together with Mussolini had withdrawn their support from Austria. I learned later that even Yugoslavia, a member of the Little Entente, had strengthened Hitler in his resolve. When we, together with Italy and Yugoslavia, had become the neighbours of Germany on March 11th, 1938, it had entirely changed the balance of power in Central Europe. I realized that Czechoslovakia's hour had struck now that she was hemmed in by Germany on three sides. For Benes and Masaryk the time of reckoning had come for having procured the creation of their artificial state at the Peace Conference by means of falsified maps and fictitious(2) data. By such ruse they gained regions in which the Czechs, the State-nation, were a minority that ruled over incensed Slovaks and other despoiled nationalities: Germans, Magyars, Ruthenes and Poles. We, at any rate, felt no surprise when, a few weeks after the Anschluss, the Sudeten Germans came forward with their claims. Our Premier, Béla Imrédy(3), who had taken over from Darányi on May 14th, and Kánya, our Foreign Minister, returned from their journey to Rome in July with Mussolini's assurance, after Hitler's Italian visit(4), that he, Mussolini, would 'unreservedly support' the German claims against Czechoslovakia. London sent Lord Runciman(5) to Prague. Was Hungary expected to go arm-in-arm with Litvinov(6) to the defence of the Czechs? Particularly, as three years earlier we had voiced our worry even to the American Government concerning the re-entry of the Soviet Union into the affairs of Central Europe by reason of her treaties with France and Czechoslovakia. However, it is important to establish this point, we had in no way bound ourselves politically or militarily to Germany during my visit to that country.

Hitler, in issuing an invitation to me to visit Germany in the summer of 1938, had bethought himself of a signal honour to pay me. In my distinction as the last Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian fleet, the traditions of which were now proclaimed by the German Navy, I was to attend the launch of a heavy cruiser and my wife was to christen the vessel. However much I enjoyed meeting my German friends of the sea, I was always inclined to be suspicious when my natural and understandable fondness for my former avocation was too blatantly invoked. In this matter of Hitler's invitation, the purpose was clear and it displeased me. And events were soon to prove how well founded my forebodings had been.

The journey, on which I set out with a considerable retinue in my special train on August 21st, had been arranged with all possible circumspection from the German side. The heavy cruiser was originally going to be named Tegetthoff apparently to stress the Austro-Hungarian traditon. After glancing through the proposed programme, I pointed out that to name the ship after the victor of the naval battle of Lissa might well be taken amiss by Germany's Italian friends, whereupon the name of the Prince of Savoy, Prince Eugen(7), was chosen. On the other hand, the Germans feared that I might take offence at the words of the bass singer in Lohengrin, the opera I had selected for the gala performance: "0h Lord, protect us from the wrath of the Magyars!"

I put Baron Dörnberg's(8) mind at rest, he being the master of ceremonies. I knew the passage in question. As a sincere lover of Wagner, if I had not chosen Lohengrin on that account, I could not pretend to myself that I would be sorry to hear of a time when Hungary's might was greater than it was at that moment.

When our special train, which Baron Dörnberg had joined in Vienna, arrived at Kiel in the morning of August 22nd, Hitler received us. He handed my wife a large bouquet of lilies of the valley, a remarkable attention as these were my wife's favourite flowers and a rarity at that time of the year. Our rooms and the banquet tables were adorned at all times with a profusion of flowers. In Berlin, my wife, who is a Roman Catholic, was given a prayer-stool and a crucifix in her room.

The weather was glorious as we entered the open cars at Kiel and drove to the Germania yard, my wife in the car of Grand-Admiral Raeder(9), I in Hitler's. High above us towered the proud ship, elegant and strong, a fine example of modern shipbuilding, which owed much in ingenuity to the limitations imposed by the Allies on the German Navy. We mounted the tribune, my wife pronounced the words, "I christen you Prince Eugen," and pressed the electric switch, releasing the bottle of champagne which shattered against the bows. With well-directed hammer-blows, workmen knocked away the last supports, the last ropes were severed. Majestically, the Prinz Eugen moved down the ways, slowly at first, then gathering speed through the foaming water.

After the christening ceremony, Hitler showed me over the Germania yard, which was alive with activity. He laid particular stress on the fact that we two heads of states were mingling so peacefully with the workers. He seemed to think this remarkable, perhaps because dictators have special reasons for distrusting people. I am, however, only too ready to affirm that these north-German workers, strong and tall, gave us the most friendly greetings.

My wife, meanwhile, accompanied by a party of ladies and several other guests, had gone on board the elegant Hapag liner Patria. Hitler and I went on board the control vessel Grille, which Hitler used for his sea trips. At luncheon, Grand-Admiral Raeder made a short speech in which he referred very flatteringly to my career as a commanding Admiral and gave the assurance "that the German Navy would at all times safeguard and follow the great traditions of the Austro-Hungarian Navy". In the sense of this tradition, the German Navy has certainly proved its bravery.

During the torpedo-boat and artillery manoeuvres on the Baltic, use was made of the target-vessel Zähringen, steered by remote control. The naval review that was held displayed the surprising number of vessels possessed by Germany, considering the short space of time she had had to build up her fleet.

On the return voyage to Kiel, Hitler asked me for a private conversation. Two years had passed since our talk at the Obersalzberg, and those two years had wrought a great change in Hitler. He was behaving as the master of Europe as he explained with few preliminaries his plan to absorb Czechoslovakia, which later became known by its code name: Plan Green. His aim was to smash the Czechs, as he put it, destroying Prague if necessary, and to make Czechoslovakia a German protectorate. He was fully resolved on war, and he tried to persuade me to pledge the Hungarians to march into Slovakia from the south as the Germans entered Czechoslovakia(10). He gave me to understand that as a reward we should be allowed to keep the territory we had invaded. This project was put in the form of a request, and I replied with all courtesy but with great firmness that there could be no possibility of Hungarian participation. Hungary had, of course, revisionist claims on Czechoslovakia, I added, but it was our wish and intention to press those claims by peaceful means. I pointed out that, in any case, our restricted forces were not strong enough to overrun the fortifications that had been erected along our borders(11). "We'll provide you with the arms," Hitler interrupted. But I adhered to my refusal and even warned him against the risk of a major war, as, in my opinion, the chances were that neither England nor France, nor even Soviet Russia, would passively watch a German entry into Czechoslovakia.

The friendly mood of the morning had evaporated; our conversation ended on a rather unpleasant note. A conversation, similar to that between myself and Hitler, was held between Ribbentrop, Imrédy and Kánya, during which the significant words, "If you want to join in the meal, you must help with the cooking," were spoken. Herr von Weizsäcker, who was present at this conversation, made a note at the time that the answer of the Hungarians had "raised objections". Indeed, our Premier and our Foreign Minister refused, just as I had, to consider military co-operation. The Germans were also annoyed about certain discussions that were being held at the time between Hungary and the states of the Little Entente(12). The provisional results of these had been simultaneously published in Budapest and in a communiqué concerning the Council meeting of the Little Entente held at Bled on August 21st and 22nd under the chairmanship of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Dr. Milan Stojadinovic(13). In this statement, both sides had declared themselves averse to violence in their mutual relations, while Hungary's right to re-arm had been fully recognized. Ribbentrop regarded this as an act of withdrawal on Hungary's part from the German policy towards Czechoslovakia. In a sense this was true, for we had no desire whatever to engage in warfare. Kánya had considerable difficulty in calming the extremely excited German Foreign Minister.

I took pains, while I was on board the Grille, to make my attitude clear to General Field Marshal von Brauchitsch(14), who gave me the impression that he fully understood my position. What I did not know, and what von Brauchitsch naturally did not tell me, was that the German military leaders, headed by Major-General Beck(15), were conspiring to arrest Hitler and his immediate collaborators if the Fuehrer allowed the Sudeten question to lead to war. The British, as far as I have been able to learn since, were aware of this in September.

We spent that night aboard the Grille; the next day we went over to the Patria, which sailed through the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal to Helgoland, where Admiral Tegetthoff had fought a superior Danish fleet in the war of 1864. Inscribed on the base of the monument erected to his memory that was transported from Pola to Graz after the First World War are the words:

By battle bravely joined off Helgoland,

By glorious victory at Lissa,

He won immortal fame

For himself and Austria's Navy.

We inspected the island's new fortifications and also visited its famous aquarium. The Helgolanders in their gay costume entertained us with folk dances. As lobster-culture is an important part of the island economy, my wife was offered a gigantic specimen on a silver dish.

During the cruise to Hamburg, the entertainment provided for us was magnificent. The pianist, Elly Ney(16), and the cello-player, Hoelscher(17), gave two excellent recitals. The band of the former Hungarian officer, Barnabás von Géczy, played dance music on board. According to the original programme, it was not intended that we should go over to the Patria before the evening. Apparently, my "no" to Hitler had effected the change in arrangements, to the consternation of the wretched master of ceremonies. I noticed, however, that Hitler, contrary to his usual practice, spent the whole evening amid the merrymaking throng, after having had dinner with my wife and myself at a special table. He, of course, was served with vegetarian dishes. Our conversation ran mainly on music. Hitler said that the days of the Wagner Festival were his only time of relaxation, and he invited us to visit Bayreuth. As nearly all the members of the German Government, the leading military figures and several of the diplomats, including the Italian Ambassador Attolico(18), were on board the Patria, there were many easy opportunites for discussion.

The old Hanseatic city of Hamburg, which we toured before the luncheon held at the Town Hall, delighted us with its combination of rustic beauty, natural elegance and industrial activity. On the journey to Berlin, Hitler repeated the manoeuvre he had employed on the occasion of Mussolini's visit. He saw us off at the railway station in Hamburg, and, by some clever shunting, contrived to reach Berlin some three minutes before our train drew in, so that there he was on the platform, welcoming us on our arrival. I was fascinated by the mobile chancellery coach and the news-van attached to his private train which I saw as it overtook us. To Hitler's considerable annoyance, the Czech and Rumanian Ministers had also come to meet us as a result of the rapprochement induced by the recent statement of Bled. This caused the Fuehrer to give the innocent master of ceremonies, Baron Dörnberg, a ferocious dressing down.

In Berlin, we were the last guests to be received in the old Palace of the Reich's President in the Wilhelmstrasse, one wing of which was then occupied by Meissner(19), the Minister of State. The building was earmarked for Ribbentrop, who contended that it was 'naturally' too cramped for him and had two new wings added. In his toast at the banquet given in the new Chancellery, Hitler declared that the Hungarian and the German peoples are at last near to reach "their final historical frontiers". He declared, similarly, shortly afterwards at Munich that Germany's last territorial claims had been satisfied by the acquisition of the Sudetenland. I had expressed my thanks for our reception while on board the Grille. I had added the civil warning that the destructive activity of a typhoon could not be stayed by calling it "an abnormal atmospheric depression". In Berlin, I emphasized our wish "to continue our work of peaceful reconstruction". Hitler's behaviour on that evening led the guests to understand that he was anything but satisfied with the results of our visit.

The military parade in my honour in Berlin on August 25th was the largest that had hitherto been held. The number of armoured cars, and they were not made of papier mache, the tanks and motorized artillery taking part, which lasted two and a half hours, seemed endless. Troops and armaments were amazingly impressive. As my eye fell on the tribune on which stood diplomats and military attachés, I had a feeling that the grandiose spectacle Hitler had orgarized was not failing in its objective.

In the afternoon, I had my second private talk with Hitler. It not only failed to dispel the tension created by our first talk, it aggravated it. In a manner that I considered quite unwarranted, he asserted that I should not have discussed his plan, and my definite refusal to cooperate, with General Field Marshal Brauchitsch. I emphatically refused to accept his rebuke and declared that it was my custom to decide for myself to whom I spoke and of what I spoke. Moderating his tone, Hitler then insisted that the Generals had no say in any matter; he alone made decisions. I replied that I considered that a truly dangerous policy. Hitler than changed the subject, but our conversation remained uncomfortable

I do not know whether Hitler noticed the line about "the wrath of the Magyars" in the opera that night. We, for our part, thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Lohengrin. The following day, we visited Potsdam and the tomb of the great King of Prussia, whose name Hitler so frequently invoked, though he had very little of the self-control and strategic genius of the philosopher of Sans-Souci.

To emphasize his exceptional position, Hermann Göring(20) had not put in an appearance before we arrived in Berlin, when he invited us to be his guests at Karinhall. Hitler had already told us about the breeding of aurochs(21) and wild horses on the Schorf Heath. He had added with a laugh that he would not be surprised if 'Hermann' were not one day to set about breeding a strain of Ancient Germans there. The Ancient German idea seemed to have captivated Göring. Not only did he himself receive us clad in an 'Ancient German' hunting costume complete except for the bearskin, but even his menservants and his maids were garbed similarly. Our host changed his attire at least twice, down to bangles and jewellery. As he welcomed us to his 'home', he added in the same breath, "and all you can see belongs to me".

We wondered why he should have to tell us that.

In spite of his many eccentricities, and the blatant luxury with which he surrounded himself, Göring had several conciliatory characteristics; I remember him lifting his little daughter Edda out of her cradle and swinging her proudly over his head. He also knew something about hunting and game, which was why I was pleased to accept his invitation to an elk-hunt to be held in September in East Prussia. An ardent huntsman, I was enthusiastic about the hunting laws he had inspired. The last leader of the Richthofen fighter squadron, wearer of the Pour le Merite, he was of all Hitler's immediate entourage the one whom foreigners would find most accessible. I am reminded of von Weizsäcker's remark, "the official world of the Third Reich remained utterly alien to me and I disliked all contact with it".

This alien quality was very much to the fore during our visit to Nuremberg, where, on the last day of our stay, we were shown the Party Conference Grounds. The ancient city, with its memories of Dürer and Hans Sachs, and the splendid castle of the Hohenzollerns, pleased us very much. But we felt out of sympathy with the mountain of stone which constituted the Party Buildings. We were told that more stone was used in their construction than for the Pyramids. We were taken over the Hall of the Fifty Thousand, which was then under construction, and Herr Himmler(22) explained that this was where the leading party members gathered annually to hear the Fuehrer's great speech. My wife could not resist asking, "I suppose this then is where they make their reports and put their requests?" "Certainly not," Himmler replied. "Only one person speaks here: the Fuehrer." My wife went on to voice her surprise that so vast and costly a building should have been built for a single annual event. Himmler, plainly disgusted by her failure to appreciate the greatness of the Fuehrer, expressed his opinion by giving her a contemptuous glance.

That night we boarded our private train and went home. If Hitler's intention was to impress us by so lavish a display of entertainments and festivities, tours and presents, he had certainly succeeded, but in a way that he could not have envisaged. The incredible achievements of the few years since 1933, the industry, discipline and ability displayed by the German people could only be admired. Factory chimneys were smoking, shipbuilding yards were ringing with the sound of multitudinous hammers, and in the fields the farmers were toiling at gathering in the harvest. But the overall picture was too feverish, the total impression filled the beholder with forebodings. He could not refrain from asking himself, "To what is all this leading?" It strengthened my determination to prevent Hungary from being engulfed in the vortex of National-Socialist dynamism. Hitler might want Lebensraum, but we Hungarians were not prepared to render up our country as part of it.

Yet Hungary, I hear the critics murmur, has had her share of the spoils of the Munich Agreement and even, in the wake of the Germans, of the partition of Czechoslovakia. John Wheeler-Bennett(23) has gone so far as to accuse us, and Poland, of playing the part of a jackal. Sir Winston Churchill, in the first volume of his 'The Second World War', gives an account of my talks with Hitler which is contrary to fact. He gives the reader to understand that it was I who insisted and Hitler who hesitated. Also, he puts forward the view that we were prepared to help with the cooking in order to share the meal.

The truth, however, was very different. I will make a long story of negotiations as brief as possible. Our agreements with the Little Entente states had, as I have said, been contingent on their giving us satisfactory guarantees for our minorities in their territories. To this effect, we then, at the same time as the Poles, demanded through our Minister in Prague, on September 21st, rights for the Magyars within Czechoslovakia equivalent to the rights granted the Sudeten Germans. Earlier we had been forced to protest, on the 16th of that month, against the military measures being taken along the Hungarian frontier. We had received no replies to our Notes. On the contrary. Since my return from Germany, conditions in the Hungarian areas of Czechoslovakia had deteriorated. Clashes and incidents were becoming more frequent. A suspicious aeroplane with Hungarian markings which was flying over a prohibited military area was forced down by our artillery and proved to be manned by Czechs. Thereupon, just before the Munich Conference, we immediately approached the two nations who were friendly to us, Italy and Germany, with the request that the discussions should also review the well-known claims made by Hungary at Trianon. We did this, not to gain a prize, but to assert our rights. The truth of this has been endorsed by Hugh Seton-Watson, the son of the well-known Slavophile Robert Seton-Watson(24).

Count Csáky(25), the Chief of the Cabinet of our Foreign Minister, Kánya, was sent to Munich; he was received neither by Hitler nor by Ribbentrop. This was clearly the result of my attitude at Kiel. He was, however, able to talk with Count Ciano. As a result of that Mussolini demanded and achieved at the conference of the four powers that the Hungarian question should be dealt with and that the Prague Government should be instructed to come to terms with the Hungarian Government. Should no agreement be reached by direct negotiations, the Big Four would again take up the matter.

The latter alternative proved necessary. The negotiations which opened early in October soon reached deadlock although we proposed a plebiscite to solve the problem of allegiance. We should have preferred a question of this nature to be solved by amicable means as it ought to be between neighbours, but when Father Tiso(26) insisted, in the name of the Prague Government, in submitting the dispute to Germany and Italy, we agreed. We should, after the Munich decisions, have preferred to adhere to the original proposal that the four signatory powers should solve the problem. However, after the Slovak proposal had been made, this would have seemed a slight to Germany, a contingency that our Premier, Imrédy, wished to avoid at all costs.

A point that cannot be proven is whether Hitler would have awarded us the whole of Slovakia had we agreed to the proposal he made at Kiel. It seems likely, however, that the thought of an independent Slovak state occurred to him only after our talks. In Vienna, Kánya, our Foreign Minister, with Paul Teleki, our most eminent geographer, who had previously been Prime Minister and was to be Prime Minister again, watched our interests. The Czech interests were looked after by Chavalkovsky(27), the Czech Foreign Minister. On the ethnographical maps that had been prepared, new frontiers were drawn by Ribbentrop and Ciano, and on November 2nd their arbitration, by which part of the former Upper Hungary was re-united to its fatherland, was made known. In the official text of this arbitration statement, which was agreed to in the minutes signed by the four Foreign Ministers, the words Czechoslovakia and Czechoslovak were hyphenated, which cannot have been accidental.

Here it must also be recorded that, after the conclusion of the Munich settlement, the German Government claimed from Czechoslovakia the bridgehead at Pozsony (Bratislava; Pressburg), i.e. the village of Ligetfalu (Engerau) and its environs, south of the Danube. Regardless of the fact that this area belonged to Hungary prior to 1920 and that its population was purely Hungarian, Ligetfalu and the surrounding district were incorporated into the Third Reich even before the Vienna Accord. This action on the part of the German Government very understandably caused Hitler to lose much of his popularity in Hungary.

Even though Pozsony, with its large population of Hungarian inhabitants, was lost, still November 2nd was a great and significant day to the Hungarian nation. The average Hungarian was ignorant of the prehistory and background of the settlement.They were ignorant too of the appalling bad taste with which a day that decided the fate of so many thousands ended: the uproarious feasting on the Coblenz above Vienna and the pheasant shoot in the Wiener Wald.

I issued a proclamation addressed to the people who were again united to their fatherland:

"You are once more free. The days of sorrow and tribulation are past. Your sufferings, your unshakable determination and our common struggle have brought victory in a just cause. Once again the light of glory shines upon you from the Holy Crown. Once again you are sharers of our common fate of a thousand bygone years. The Hungarian fatherland has awaited your return with confidence. The Royal Hungarian Army is the first to set foot on the national soil that has now been freed from subjection. With deep affection we welcome all national groups in these areas, that they may rejoice with us and participate in the feast of liberation. May order, peace and honest endeavour prevail. Make no mistake: the eyes of the whole world are fixed upon you. May God bless our Fatherland!"

On November 6th, at the head of my troops, I crossed the Danube bridge at Komárom. On November 11th, I made my entry into Kassa. It was my experience to see the joy, often awkwardly expressed, of those two towns. As I passed along the roads, people embraced one another, fell upon their knees, weeped with joy because liberation had come to them at last, without war, without bloodshed.

At Kassa, a huge triumphal arch had been erected, and our hussars, who were at the head of the procession, were carried away by their excitement. At gallop they rode across the frontier which was no longer a frontier. The old historic town had probably never before seen so vast a concourse of people. From near and far, even from Budapest, thousands of people had come together. It truly was the "laughing happiness of a nation which hitherto had been treated unfairly and had been plunged into despair", as Lord Rothermere declared. He had hastened over from London to see with his own eyes the outcome of the policy he had been so insistently advocating in his Daily Mail since 1927. Of the many orators, I shall name only Count John Esterházy(28), the leader of the Magyars in Czechoslovakia, who had courageously and selflessly defended the rights of his fellow countrymen. I replied to his speech first in Hungarian and then in Slovak, assuring our new Slovak-speaking citizens(29) that they would have no reason to regret the change of rulership. After the parade, in which former Czechoslovak soldiers in their old uniforms took part, a solemn Te Deum was sung in the ancient Cathedral. After that, I laid a wreath on the tomb of the hero of liberty, Francis Rákóczi(30).

A few months after the entry into Kassa, the Czechoslovak 'appendix', as Mussolini had called sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, was surgically removed. This narrow strip of land, inhabited preponderantly by Ruthenes of the Greek Catholic faith infiltrating from the northern slopes of the Carpathians, had been given to the newly created Czechoslovak state by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 to make possible a direct railway link between Czechoslovakia and Rumania. It completed the encirclement of Hungary, thereby preventing her from having a common frontier with Poland. The Peace Conference had instructed the Prague Government to create an autonomous region with a Parliament of its own, but Prague had ignored this charge. After the Second World War(31), Prague 'presented' Ruthenia to its Communist ally, although that territory had never belonged to Russia and the Soviet Union had declared itself in the Atlantic Charter averse to territorial expansion. The population was given no opportunity to express its own preference. When, earlier, we had announced our claim to Ruthenia as territory that had at one time belonged to the Crown of St. Stephen, we met with scant sympathy in Berlin. The possibility of a common Hungarian-Polish frontier conjured up unpleasant visions before the politicians and the German General Staff. After the Munich Agreement, conditions became increasingly anarchic in Ruthenia. The Prague Government found itself under the necessity of sending General Prchala(32) there, in January, 1939, to re-establish order. He did not succeed in doing so. On January 6th, a well-organized attack was made on the border town of Munkács, which had been returned to Hungary by the Vienna Accord. On February 28th, the town of Ungvár was attacked. Hungary could not remain inactive while irresponsible elements such as the Szics Guard(33) endangered the safety of her borders. The problem became acute when Hitler marched into Prague and Slovakia was declared an independent state. If the Prague Government had been unable to keep order, then the government of an independent Slovakia would certainly be in no position to do so. Since part of the area had for some months been re-united to Hungary, Ruthenia no longer had railway links with Slovakia and Prague, and even by road it was difficult to reach from Slovakia. It was no longer possible to submit the question to the arbitration of the signatories of the Munich Agreement, as that agreement had been torn up by Hitler. Our government, therefore, presented the government at Pozsony (Bratislava) with a twelve-hour ultimatum on March 14th, the day of the proclamation of Slovak independence, demanding that Ruthenia be forthwith evacuated. Pozsony submitted to the ultimatum and our troops occupied Ruthenia. Berlin had by now lifted its veto. It was of the utmost importance to us to avoid German encirclement by establishing a common Hungarian-Polish frontier.

Looking back on that chequered year of 1938, we can clearly see the main lines of future events. Neither Munich nor the creation of a protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia had been the last of Hitler's claims. On the contrary, the Anschluss, the seizure of the Sudeten areas, and the occupation of Prague were well-planned preparations for the next and again the next step. The smaller states could but wait for the next blow to fall: either on Poland or on the Soviet Union, both being Hitler's eventual targets.

They had to wait, possessed of only one conviction: that it was in no way possible to halt the course of events.

1. Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker (1882-1951), deputy to German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop.

2. Indeed, for example, they proposed for boundaries "navigable rivers" that were creeks so small that a child could wade through them.

3. Béla Imrédy (1891-1946), was tried and executed after the war.

4. On May 3, 1938.

5. Lord Walter Runciman of Doxford (1870-1949). He visited Prague on July 25, 1938. On his return, he reported favorably on Nazi claims.

6. Maxim Maximovich Litvinov (1876-1951), Soviet diplomat, Foreign Comissar.

7. Liberator of Hungary from the Turks. He recaptured the fort of Buda in 1686.

8. Baron Alexander von Dörnberg (1901-1983), Chief of Protocol of the German Foreign Ministry.

9. Grand Adm. Erich Raeder (1876-1960).Appointed to command the German navy in 1928, he secretly rebuilt it in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. During the war he disagreed with Hitler's policies and was replaced by Admiral Dönitz. He was sentenced to life in prison in Nuremberg but was released in 1955.

10. Contemporaries' memoirs claim that Hitler suggested that Hungary attack Czechoslovakia first, and than ask Germany for military assistance. Hitler hoped that this would not have drawn the ire of the Western Powers. Horthy's resolute refusal irked Hitler. (Bokor, P.: Endplay by the Danube, Budapest: RTV-Minerva, 1982. p. 253: TV interview with general Kálmán Hardy (1892-1980) relative of Mrs. Horthy. In Hung.)

11. Both Rumania and Czechoslovakia constructed a line of concrete bunkers and other fortifications along Hungary's borders by this time.

12. As Foreign Minister Kánya has just before signed an agreement of non-belligerence with the Little Entente (Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Yugoslavia), after very long negotiations at Bled, Horthy was in firm position to reject the proposal. (P. Pritz: Conditional Bridge Party in Dachau, Népszabadság, Nov. 25, 1995.)

13. Milan Stojadinovich (1888-1961).

14. Walther von Brauchitsch (1881-1948), Commander of the German Land Forces.

15. General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944). He was a highly cultivated career soldier who opposed Hitler's aggressive policies, and his attempts to destroy the independence of the army. In 1938 he retired in protest against the planned attack of Czechslovakia. Implicated as one of the leaders of the failed attempt to kill Hitler, he was executed by the Nazis in 1944.

16. Noted German pianist Elly Ney (1882-1968).

17. Celloist Ludwig Hölscher (1907- ?)

18. Bernardo Attolico (1880-1942).

19. Otto Meissner (1880-1953).

20. Field Marshal Hermann Wilhelm Goering (1893-1946), commander of the German Luftwaffe.

21. Extinct European wild ox.

22. Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945), German Minister of the Interior, SS leader. Under his personal direction the Nazi death camps were built. He committed suicide in a British prison in 1945.

23. British historian John Wheeler-Bennett (1902-1975)

24. Writing under the pen-name of Scotus Viator, Robert William Seton-Watson (1879-1951), a British journalist and historian, carried on a one-man crusade in the British press before and during World War 1 toward the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He had a significant role in influencing the British public opinion in favor of dissolving the Monarch and partitioning Hungary. The anti-Hungarian propaganda emanating from the Successor States still, in the 1990's, rely on his books as references. Horthy's restraint of showing any rancor is quite admirable.

25. Count István Csáky (1894-1941), to be prime minister later.

26. Roman Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso (1887-1947) became president of Nazi Slovakia. He was executed after the war. Apparently he was rehabilitated after the break-up of Czechoslovakia, his picture is prominently displayed on Slovak official functions.

27. Frantisek Chavalkovsky (1875- ?).

28. Count János Esterházy (1901-1957), died in a Soviet prison camp.

29. Traditionally, there was no enmity between Slovaks and Magyars. During the 1848-49 Revolution tens of thousands of Slovak miners and students fought valiantly in the Hungarian army. Austrian attempts to recruit Slovaks against Hungary were utter failures.

30. Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II (1676-1735) leader of the last major anti-Habsburg rebellion in Hungary. He died in Turkish exile and was reburied in Kassa, his favorite town, in 1906.

31. June 29, 1945.

32. Czech general Lev Prchala (1892- ?).

33. Armed contingent of the Ruthene nationalist 'Ukranian National Party' in autonomous Ruthenia.

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