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23: A Last Glance in Retrospect and Outlook on the Future

<< 22: The Arrival of the Americans || Recollections by Ilona Bowden

A Last Glance in Retrospect and Outlook on the Future

At the beginning of these memoirs, I recorded that the Austro-Hungarian Navy, when I joined it, still consisted partly of sailing ships. I may live to see ships driven by atomic power. In the year 1931, the flight, undertaken with Lord Rothermere's kind assistance, of the Hungarian pilots, Endresz(1) and Magyar, from America to Hungary in the plane "Justice for Hungary", was hailed as a bold pioneering achievement. Today, four-engined planes roar over my house daily on the Lisbon route across the Atlantic. In my time, the pride of the Hungarian Army was its cavalry; today the heroic charge has the quality of tales of bows and arrows. And not only have weapons changed; so also has the spirit of man. Of the honourable warfare of an earlier age, little was left in the Second World War; total war does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. It can also be regarded as a retrogression of mankind to a condition which the Hague and Geneva Conventions were believed to have outlawed.

The diplomats were no better than the warlords. Neither at Versailles nor at Trianon was the conquered who had fought bravely recognized as hostis justus, (rightful enemy) to whom, after the dust of battle had seffled, the victor held out his hand, and since Versailles and Trianon there has been no peace in the world. The First World War, which was allegedly fought to make the world 'safe for democracy', terminated, at the dictates of hatred-fed electorates, in treaties which were a breeding-ground for Communism, Fascism and National Socialism. The Second World War, in which again millions upon millions of people lost their lives, has not ended in the proclamation of the four freedoms and the Atlantic Charter which were its declared aim. Where today is the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from need and freedom from fear? Admittedly, no one in the Western world is persecuted for belonging to a particular sect or for not belonging to some other, and everyone is allowed to criticize the government. But are not want and fear greater than ever in many of the countries of this free world? Meanwhile, a quarter of the human race is forced to live under a new tyranny that has but one aim: to bring the other three-quarters under its sway.

The secret diplomacy and the 'autocracy' of the old monarchies have been much condemned. But the secret diplomacy of the Congress of Vienna preserved Europe from the suffering and misery of a major war for over a century. Nationalism, radiating from France and infecting one European country after another, finally overthrew the balance on which peace was based. A well-meaning idealist, ignorant of European affairs, American President Woodrow Wilson, inscribed the self-determination of the peoples on his banner. But he could not prevent the first application of that principle from being falsified to suit the interests of the victors of 1918 and their henchmen. The mistakes of his successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, led finally to the utter destruction of self-determination in Central Europe by Stalin.

Hungary, for her participation in Hitler's war, has been called an unwilling satellite. It would have been truer to say that Hungary tried, with the relatively small means at her disposal, to defend herself against two encroaching forces: against the Soviets with all her available arms; against the Nazi ideology with all her diplomatic powers. Nor am I willing to admit that present-day(2) Hungary is a vassal state, for even between lord and vassal there are relations of reciprocal rights and duties. Hungary is an occupied country, governed by foreign masters, and I speak literally, for the Communist Ministers in power are mostly Soviet citizens(3).

How the liberation of Hungary, for which we work and pray, will finally come about, no one can say. Many people behind the Iron Curtain look forward in their despair to a third world war. But would there be a Hungarian nation left at the end of it? Would not Europe, of which Hungary is an integral part, be so completely ruined and devastated that the destruction brought by the Thirty Years' War and the Wars of the Turks would pale into insignificance?

By whatever means Soviet Imperialism may one day be thrust back behind its boundaries, a process in which the United Nations are bound to play the major part, this much is certain: that we must prepare ourselves for the day to come. I belong to the few still alive who have actively served the brilliant Habsburg monarchy, who have known the kind and wise Emperor Francis Joseph ruling over his contented people. I have lived through the collapse of that empire and the vain attempts to create a workable order in its place. Had the dismemberment of the realm of St. Stephen's Crown brought happiness to the people 'liberated', we might have discerned reason in the general injustice. But that was not the case. Bowed down beneath the costly burden of armaments, forced by the injustices committed into a political war on several fronts, robbed of the advantages of a well-balanced concert of industry and agriculture within a unified customs area, our neighbours failed to experience the happiness they had anticipated. That the Czechs were never so contented as they had been under the old monarchy was admitted by Jan Masaryk(4) to Duff Cooper, the British Ambassador in Paris, in a confidential conversation. He could not have pronounced a harsher indictment of his father's policy. Even the Transylvanian Rumanians were dissatisfied with the Bucharest rule, however much they tried to exploit their new-won position as masters of the Transylvanian Magyars and Saxons. Like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia soon fell asunder when the external pressure which had respectively held Czechs and Slovaks, Croats and Serbs together ceased to exist. The Slovaks, who had been deceived by Masaryk's promises incorporated in the Pittsburgh Treaty of 1917, will never, after the Second World War, forgive Benes and his regime for the death sentence passed on Father Tiso. If today we can speak of a leader of the Croats, that leader is Archbishop Stepinac, who was admittedly released from prison under the 1951 Communist regime of Belgrade but who was not allowed to resume his function. When, after the war, representatives of the Hungarian Smallholders' Party presented their claim on the Magyar areas outside of Hungary's borders, they were designated 'Enemies of Peace' by the Communists and were politically silenced.

To divide the Danube basin with its many racial mixtures into national states is as impossible(5) as squaring the circle. The more I have thought about the problem, the clearer it has become to me that the peace and prosperity of all the peoples between the Tirol and Bukovina, between the Banat and the Sudetenland, can only be re-established within a reconstruction of their old historic unit. It may be said that the same experiment should not be tried twice. I realize that it is impracticable simply to return to the old regime. But oppression and tutelage, favouritism and exploitation can easily be circumvented by giving complete autonomy on the Swiss model or on that of any other federated state, or in accordance with the plans of Emperor Charles, which were never implemented owing to the outbreak of the 1918 revolution.

In government, in industry, in any kind of society, the best method of sharing is that of the nursery, "You divide, I choose." Since legislation aims at giving each party a fair deal, not one of the partners in a federal state need be at a disadvantage, for if in a given area the ethnic majority were to place a minority at a disadvantage, in another area the position might well be reversed, which would be to no one's advantage.

The period between the wars, and the war itself, showed how tragic was the position of the small Danubian and Balkan countries, the Great Powers using them as pawns on a gigantic chessboard. The mutual enmity of the small states facilitated the machiavellian policy of the great. If a large state were again to be created, consisting of all these parts, covering roughly the area of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, it would be a stabilizing factor in European affairs(6). The stabilizing factor which Austria-Hungary was, and was recognized to be, throughout the nineteenth century.

Bismarck was certainly not the last to recognize this. In a talk with the Hungarian poet, Maurus Jókay(7), on February 27th, 1887, he gave a detailed formulation: "It is necessary that there should be a well-consolidated state in Central Europe such as the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. I was aware of that when, in 1866, I hastened to conclude a peace which displeased many of our friends. To found small national states in Eastern Europe is an impossibility; only historical states can survive." Bismarck, at that time, conceded only Germans and Hungarians to have "administrative talent and a knowledge of statesmanship" and the other nationalities to have merely good military qualities. That judgment must now be revised, yet the fundamental truth of his contention remains. It has also been stated by the eminent Czech historian, F. Palacky(8), "If Austria did not exist, it would be necessary to create her." To Bismarck, it was obvious that the historic house of Habsburg should stand at the head of the historic state. It may be looking too far ahead to concern ourselves with this at the present moment, but it would seem evident, were the unity of this new-old state to be re-created, that at its head should be placed a person who stood indisputably above the strife of nationalities. I would rejoice if, at the helm of a mighty and happy Federation of Danubian States, I were to see the rightful heir of the Habsburg dynasty(9).

Whatever the future may bring, I beg and pray all Magyars worthy of that name, whether living in silence under foreign overlords or in exile far from their homes, to hold together, to forget party strife, and to keep before their eyes a single purpose: the restoration of Hungary's freedom. Let us remember, lest their sacrifice was in vain, all those who gave their lives for their fatherland and those prisoners of war who have not yet returned home. The Hungarian people, and especially the Magyar peasants, are noble-minded. If the peasantry, the backbone of our nation, can succeed in retaining its well-tried, centuries-old national sense, its moral integrity, its martial courage and its joy in labour, even in times of terror and subjugation, if it refuses to heed those political agitators who preach class hatred and kindle the passions of the multitude, then, one day, Hungary will regain her freedom. To her defence and protection I dedicated my life.

1. György Endresz (1893-1933), Sándor Magyar (1898-1981).

2. These words were written during the heights of the Communist Reign of Terror, that lasted from mid-1948 until 1956. Horthy lived to learn about the Hungarian revolution in 1956. Upon it's suppression, he discontinued following the news and died a few months later.

3. These Soviet imports were Prime Minister Mátyás Rákosi (Rosenfeld), Secret Police leaders Mihály Farkas and his son Vladimir, Economics Minister Ernô Gerô (Singer), Minister of Industry Zoltán Vas (Weinberger), chief ideologue József Révai, and propagandist Ferenc Münnich. They were all Soviet citizens. Horthy delicately omits mentioning that they were all Jewish.

4. Jan Masaryk (1886-1948), son of Thomas G. Masaryk, was Czechoslovakia's Foreign Minister. He was murdered by the Communists.

5. U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is in complete agreement. He devoted a whole book to this subject: Pandaemonium: Ethnicity in International Politics, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

6. The Economist (Nov. 18, 1995) whole heartedly endorses Horthy's assessment in a survey article, entitled "The Return of the Habsburgs".

7. Mór Jókay (1825-1904) famous Hungarian novelist, one of the leaders of the reformist revolutionary youth in 1848.

8. Frantisek Palacky (1898-1976).

9. Horthy refers to Otto von Habsburg.

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