2. The impact of the introduction of Hungarian Administration
The Hungarian government, from among more variations of the invasion, prepared in February, 1939, a "direct intervention", that is a military action with "irregular troops" and the army. The government of the Third Reich, on the other hand, "advised... not to do it. We cautioned them against arbitrary actions", - says the telegram sent by the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the German Ambassador in Rome.1/a On March 11 the preconditions of German approval were formulated: 1./ German transport-needs must be reckoned with; 2./The action will not effect the interests of the Reich and its citizens in Carpatho-Ruthenia, the Hungarian government recognizes the economic agreement concluded between official and private organs of the Reich and the puppet government of Carpatho-Ruthenia; 3./ The Hungarian government recognizes the "acquired rights" of the Volksbund; 4./ Carpatho-Ruthenian authorities, personalities and paramilitary organizations will get political protection.1/b Regent Horthy expresses his "boundless thanks" on the 13th. On the 16th, the day after the marching into Prague, Horthy sent a message to Hitler that "he would like to be the first to recognize the new territorial acquisition in the Czech regions"1/c As a sign of recognition, German state and private enterprises received concessions, the validity of the agreement on agricultural produce was raised to five years, the exploitation of mineral oil and - partly - the Danube Steam Shipping Co. was handed over to the Germans.2
The Hungarian troops marched into Carpatho-Ruthenia on the third day after the occupation of Czechoslovakia. A group of politicians, trained under the direction of the General Staff of the army, took part in the preparations. They constituted the spine of the Ministry for Upper Northern Hungary. The might of this Ministry was multiplied and the functioning of the authoritarian regime was stamped by law No. XIX. of 1937, affording extraordinary rights to the Regent, and Law No. II. tc. sz. of 1938 ( the so-called Defence Law ). The latter gave the government exceptional rights over services and means of production in case of war, introduced general and compulsory military service as well as compulsory labour service for the unreliable elements and the Jews, and obligatory military training for the young ( within the "levente" organization ).
Concurrently with the introduction of military administration, special police squads were sent to the towns and more than a thousand gendarmes were commanded to Carpatho-Ruthenia. A Borderland Headquarters was set up in Ungvár with local units in the countryside. An undercover network was built up - mainly in the leftist centers: Ungvár, Munkács, Huszt, Beregszász - to provide information on communists and other suspicious elements. In order to have "a unified leadership under the higher command of the center", the military area was ordered under the direct authority of the Ministry of the Interior.3
The network of Hungarian administration and the special institutions in Carpatho-Ruthenia - attached to the center - exercised the multiple supervision over the territory. Rejecting even the gesture of graduality and the easing of social feeling, they wanted to give a legal semblance to all steps and "as soon as possible." The very early and possibly complete pushing out of the Czechoslovak code of laws from the country got to the agenda, in the interest of an immediate implementation of all laws of the mother country, including anti-Jewish laws, and under the pretext of unification. The carrying through of all these steps was in the competence of the military administration functioning for two months. Civilian administration was launched on May 12, 1938 in principle, but actually only on June 7, - headed by a minister without portfolio.
Neither earlier theoretical analyses ( and requirements ), nor the experiences of the military and the civil administration solved the format of governing or, to be more precise, its place in state life. In fact, arguments about the status of the region became sharper.
Those at the peak of power have always been aware that the specific problems of non-Hungarian ethnicities await solution. The Teleki government, at the beginning, rejected the open forms of forced assimilation. Pál Teleki, Prime Minister at the time of the occupation, had earlier - when he was a geographer and minister of education and culture - sketched up a certain autonomy plan. First, on territorial ground, later, - the area being bilingual - on cultural grounds. The idea was that the Ukrainian government headed by Brody and supported by the Hungarian government should have given special rights to the Hungarian minority. Even the extreme-right, Nazi-friend and arrow-cross leader Ferenc Szálasi designated this region to have rights of territorial autonomy and the status of a "co-country", - to become later part of the Great Hungarian Empire.4
The real aim pertaining to Carpatho-Ruthenia, the activities of the executive apparatus, the social basis of the governance and the interests of the transferred mercenaries made even the attempt of modernization or any partial administrative reform impossible. Even the mentioning of the possibility of a self-government of alien nationalities aroused conflicts among the Hungarians. The document on the "temporary arrangement of public administration" of the bilingual territory, published in the name of St. Steven and planned for August 20, the day of St. Steven, got finally off the agenda at the meeting of the government. Teleki himself, at a number of government meetings, warned against bureaucracy, centralism and rudeness and the consequences - in the language of public administration and social care.5 At the end, however, magyarization was carried through by all possible means. The consequence was a sharp dictatorship, more severe than that in Hungary proper. Civil administration was in force till December 21, 1938. At the beginning the United Hungarian Party - Egyesült Magyar Párt ( EMP ) - was the main basis of the government in Carpatho-Ruthenia. This party has never become legitimate, as Carpatho-Ruthenia was left out of the general elections of May 28-29, 1939. Nine deputies were simply drawn from the territory into the National Assembly. Two members were appointed into the Upper House: the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and the President of the Russian National Council. Teleki in 1936, when he was minister of education and culture, refused to permit the founding of a Slovak Party in Hungary, - intended as a counterweight to the functioning of the United Hungarian Party in Slovakia. In 1939 he granted government administration role to EMP; later, as the next step, its representatives were placed in various ministries. In 1940, as the "third act", Teleki merged the earlier political ally into the government party.6
The social organizations which moved to Carpatho-Ruthenia from Hungary proper exerted intensive activity. The Union of Catholic Unmarried Men - Katolikus Legényegylet ( KALOT ) undertook "the ideological organization of the youth"; the Arrocross Party - Nyilaskeresztes Párt - established local units; the Greek Orthodox Church issued a declaration of allegiance; The Boy Scouts and the youth organizations of the Calvinist and Evangelist churches also took part in social and mental care.
In the meantime the civilian public administration set up - with haste - new organs of centralization: "Map Correction Committee", which "delighted" 176 settlements with "Hungarorussian" names. ( In official Hungarian various names were used: Hungarorussian, Ruthenian, etc. ) The Chief Educational Inspectorate of Liberated Territories elaborated a special plan in order to make teachers "the free troops of pedagogues".7
The Ministry of Agriculture set up a Central Office in Ungvár to revise the Czechoslovak land reform in Carpatho-Ruthenia. Even the minister of the interior acknowledged that "because of the mass-production of laws and decrees" and the 20 year-long clumsiness, state administration - besides the gendarmerie deploying sword and butt - became one of the main enemies. Ferenc Keresztes Fischer concluded that decentralization and legal protection were the solution.8
By transferring the center of county administration to the right bank of the Tisza river, where the overwhelming majority of the population was Hungarian, public administration in the new set-up of counties was intended to be of Hungarian language from the outset.
Tasks undertaken and set by the Hungarian government were reachable by more and more severe dictatorship only. On the insistence and with the understanding of the General Staff, Count Miklós Kozma, the organizer of armed provocations, a confidant of German government circles, took over the Government Commissioner’ s duties in December 1939, as -using Regent Miklós Horthy’ s words - viceroy and designated governor general.9
The plan for the magyarization and war economy of Carpatho-Ruthenia together with the method of implementation were - mutatis mutandis - the training school of Aryanization and deportation. From this point of view the present study is a unique, early chapter of the Holocaust. Magyarization ( property rights, school affairs, certificates of citizenship, the change-over ) are elements of the irrational exclusion of ethnic groups. My study is a contribution to the debate: Did the persecution of Jews stem from the essence of the system? My answer is: Yes.
The central budget and the private firms delivering to the state were especially burdened by three items: The costs of arming and equipping the army and the costs of the occupation; the satisfying of the economic demands of the German Reich; The increasing burdens of the country, the maximalized wages, calls-up, inflation slowly climbing upward, the rapid opening of the agrarian scissors, - all this generated widespread social discontent. This increased the chances of right-wing parties and endangered internal stability. With the decrease of the means dictatorship could rely upon, certain social gestures were needed. The government did not touch large estates and big capital. There was only one single "reserve": To get hold of the property of a relatively wide strata of the population by means of state intervention and possibly legal measures, without being obliged to give an account of the utilization.
Béla Imrédy, the prime minister having prepared anti-Jewish Law No. 1, promised a land reform in his speeches of August 20 and September 4, 1938. He said that the government intended to distribute one third of estates above 300 cadastrals ( 156 hectares ) and half of the estates above 500 cadastrals ( 260 hectares ). Those receiving land were supposed to get credit support too. Question: Where from and from whom will this land be confiscated? The reserve -without limits on value and size - was the confiscation of Jewish estates envisaged for the following year. That’ s why land had such a high priority among the anti-Jewish laws.
The "land problem " seemed even more simple in Carpatho-Ruthenia. It was far away from the center; prior to anti-Jewish measures, land was confiscated from Czechs, Slovaks and Ukrainians without any obligation to give account of disposal; the interests of small agricultural tenants, workers, agricultural seasonal workers, as subordinated ethnic groups were not regarded as a part of national social politics, - or only to the extent that out of their land the immediate and plentiful rewarding and stabilization of the new elite participating in the occupation and the old elite interested in revision became possible.
The distribution of land started with decrees Nos. 8430/1940 ME and 190/1942 MESz. Andor Jaross became the head of the "Government Commission for the arrangement of landed property cases", set up in March 1939. The Commission "in order to make quarters for the Hungarians in Carpatho-Ruthenia" should have finished the revision of Czechoslovak land reform in six months, "with special regard to the guidelines of a perfect merger into Hungary proper." ( Implementation was taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture in July, 1941. ) The confidential directives stated: "Only Hungarian nationals can receive immovable, and only those Hungarian nationals who, during the occupation, manifested an impeccable behaviour." That is, members of the "vitéz" order, old landlords and persons whose estate was confiscated by the Czechoslovak authorities for one reason to the other.( The primateship of Esztergom, for example, "received back" more than 27,000 hectares of land. )10
Propaganda leaflets advertised: "... the Hungarians will not confiscate land from anyone. Rather, they give land; only the Czechs must get out." Actually, they planned to change the property status of 229,000 cadastral yokes ( 142,000 hectares ), and not only from the point of view of nationality. From among the Hungarians the church- and secular landlords got land. In principle, earlier tenants could also apply for land. Under the pretext of "production interests", however, such lands were also given to the protégés of the United Hungarian Party and not to smallholders, poor peasants, earlier small tenants or men-in-the-street!
"The clearing of annexed territories from alien elements" went off rapidly. Czechs and Moravian settlers left behind 36,500 cadastral yokes ( 22,000 hectares ) of land. Slovaks and "Slovak speaking" persons were driven off 34,000 cadastral yokes ( 17,680 hectares ) of land by armed force. Carpatho-Ruthenians and Hungarians, who received land in the course of the Czechoslovak land reform, were - as unreliable elements from the point of view of fidelity to the nation - induced to leave voluntarily.11 The Ukrainians, as "unsuitable people for autonomy", were simply removed from local authorities. The Government Commissioner transferred thousands of Ruthenians from good quality land to poor quality land.
The governance made forest economy practically impossible, prohibiting any kind of firewood collecting, hunting, animal husbandry, timbering. Namely, for the sake of gentry-type hunting they doomed the poorest strata of the population to starvation. Even the blood-thirsty Government Commissioner was of the opinion that the burdens of the population are too much.12 From time to time, with reference to the historical continuity of right and the size of the estate before 1918, Hungarian landlords were compelled to give up the hope of receiving new allotments. However, they immediately registered their claim for Jewish estates on annexed territories! It should be noted that at that time there was no law whatsoever concerning the confiscation of "Jewish land". But an official document elaborated by the government, reckoned with such instructions of the second anti-Jewish law in preparation already.
There was a plan to resettle the Székelys ( Magyars ) of Transsylvania, in the spirit of magyarization. This plan was also based on Jewish estates not yet confiscated but envisaged to be confiscated. The "land issue" in Carpatho-Ruthenia is an object-lesson and an illustrative sample for the aims and ideological load of the later anti-Jewish law in Hungary; it projects its social functions: The role of the Jews was this time fulfilled by the native nationalities in Carpatho-Ruthenia. At the same time it became possible to make experiment with the consequences of the confiscation of Jewish land.
Magyarization was in the center. All plans were subjugated to this. The most elementary aspect, however, is: an autonomy subjected to a Hungarian governance is doomed to failure from the very beginning and for various reasons. The Hungarians were the first to protest against Ukrainian jurisdiction of any kind and in any territorial distribution.13
The territories poor from the outset and further crippled by measures since 1939, had no economic basis. The Hungarian government was afraid of the attraction of the Soviet Union and the effect of Pan-Slavic movements too. ( We have data proving that, at the same time, Soviet border guards did not let through, rather turned back people who wanted to escape to the Soviet Union. )
The spreading of the idea of autonomy was made impossible not only by the Slav attraction but by Hungarian repulsion as well. Racial arrogance and discrimination were very much present among the intellectuals, at high schools and in offices. It is characteristic of the atmosphere that the Nationality Department of the Council of Ministers gave an ear to the offer of one of the chief prefects. He, "who knows the soul of the Carpatho-Ruthenian people very well, could organize the Hungarian camp with the help of which he could persuade all the Ruthenians to decline self government voluntarily."14
At this time there were no ghettos in Hungary, but labour service units "to re-educate" the Jews were already in the phase of organization.
Mass immigration was supposed to be the "positive aspect" of magyarization. I have already referred to the limits of land occupation by the peasants. The idea of mass re-settlement of closed communities was also raised, as a radical solution. They had the landless, overpopulated Székelys ( Magyars ) of Transsylvania in mind who could have magyarized "without any pressure... the fanaticized Ruthenian masses, - avoiding the coming of real aim into sight."
I noted above that Jewish estates were planned to be the sites of these settlements. The idea, however, did not seem expedient. Jewish estates were reserved for the exponents of the Hungarian government. Furthermore, "the Jewish estates were too scattered about and were not suitable to realize the establishment of closed magyarized settlements."15
Deprival of citizenship and labour permits were the best means of magyarization. This was done mainly through legal and administrative ways. However, "experts" sent from Hungary, local racists, the armed bodies and paramilitary organizations also played a decisive role in the removal of "antinational" elements.
The first step was the launching of a screening procedure against public employees of annexed territories. Screening was done by committees consisting of representatives of the United Hungarian Party, the Ministry for Upper Northern Hungary and other ministries. Thousands of persons were concerned; for example 700 employees of Hungarian State Railways ( MÁV ) under the pretext of "special interests pertaining to Upper Northern Hungary." The government extended the screening procedure to schoolteachers, lawyers, doctors and pharmacists, too. Pensioners, widows and orphans of public servants had to go through a "loyalty to the nation" screening. Jobs were regarded temporary from the very beginning of the screening procedure. Previous salaries were paid out at the rate of 1:7, much lower than the real level. Consequently, the newly fixed pensions were "cheap" too. About 15 per cent of public servants passed the screening, notwithstanding they were qualified as temporary employees only. Jews, by means of enforcing anti-Jewish laws, were as a matter of course excluded from public service. Later, to simplify decision-making, the accusation that "they speak Slovak at home in the family" was enough to be dismissed.
Schoolteachers were exposed to an even more rude treatment. The school became one of the main fields of magyarization. But this was the very place where it became widely evident that the government rewarded its faithful supporters with a job. The intellectual and public jobs in Carpatho-Ruthenia were one of the reserves of easing unemployment at home. ( Taking pedagogues alone: 5940 schoolteachers got a job in Carpatho-Ruthenia. )
The ratio of Hungarian speaking students to enrolled schoolchildren was far the highest among the Jews.
The following two internal and confidential reports of Gyula Fleischmann of August 1940, at the end of the school year are staggering documents of the Ruthenian reception of forced and versatile magyarization and the readiness of the Jews for assimilation: I. "Report on the Ruthenian language course of schoolteachers in Ungvár" ( August 10, 1940. ) and II. "The school problem of Ruthenia. Summary report on the data and experiences collected at the language courses of schoolteachers in Ruthenia" ( August 15, 1940 ). The reports speak for themselves, demonstrate the complete fiasco of the occupation. The logic of the "way out" is the administrative marginalization of non-symphatizers, the murdering of the Jews, - and at the end the establishment of a new military system and a new life on scorched earth.
From report No. I.: "The young participants of the course, who went to Carpatho-Ruthenia to learn languages ...found themselves in an alien world....The Ruthenian population and the Ruthenian colleagues look at them with hatred, as they think that the participants are sent there to magyarize the Ruthenian children and to counterbalance Ruthenian schools. The participants are unable to find accommodation in the poor, uncultured, dirty Ruthenian villages. They are compelled to live in dirty, smelly and mouldy rooms or in overcrowded Jewish homes. There are months when they do not get their pay. On such occasions they live on the goodwill of the Jewish innkeeper as he is the only one to give them credit. ...The Ruthenian colleagues boast that what well-to-do persons they were and what a salary they received in Czechoslovakia. The Hungarian state disrespects the schoolteacher, does not esteem his work, pays him starvation-wage. ...At most of the places only Jewish children attend Hungarian schools. For example: At Bedoháza there are three teachers. The schoolmistress, whom I have spoken to, teaches the first class of 30 children. All of them are Jews. There are only Jewish children at the Hungarian school of Raho. ...The school-inspector is a very busy man, he does not visit their school. Consequently, they do not get instructions, there is none to discuss school-matters with, to present experiences and requests. The Ruthenian headmaster is not interested in the Hungarian school. ...They have many problems with Jewish children and their parents and it is very depressing that only Jewish children attend Hungarian classes. To my question whether the "levente" ( a paramilitary organization ) trainers help them, they answered that the trainers deal with the training only and do not care about the Hungarian school. ...Some others prefer that the Jews get the possibility to acquire the Hungarian language. They argue that if we exclude the Jews from Hungarian schools then there will be no Hungarian schools in Ruthenia and the Hungarian teachers will lose their job."16
From report No. II: "...At the courses I met with the young
generation of Ruthenian schoolteachers the majority of whom was on the territory of
Trianon Hungary for the first time. ...During the past 15-16 months they got acquainted
with the Hungarian state through the lower administrative organs of the Hungarian
authorities. Sorry to say, this inspired aversion and hatred in them against the Hungarian
state and people. Maybe, these lower administrative authorities were with good intent, but
they did not know - and do not know today either - the conditions in Ruthenia, the
language, the way of thinking and nature of the Ruthenian people. ...The influence of
schoolteachers on the Ruthenian people is quite big. This is understandable, as most of
them come of the simple Ruthenian people, maintain contacts with it, did not get detached
from it... Through the teachers I could get acquainted with questions they are concerned
about:1./ The further maintenance of the Ruthenian national spirit; 2./ The language
question, which has been the seed of contention for twenty years; 3./ Bolshevism, with the
Pan-Slav idea behind it;
4./ The Jewish question. Anti-Semitism is strong, especially among Ruthenian intellectuals. They would like to be emancipated from Jewish influence; 5./ Their placement within the framework of the Hungarian state. ...They strongly criticize that the administrative authorities don’ t know how to deal with them, quite often they take them for criminals. The authorities disregard the fact that they ( the Ruthenians S.Á. ) have lived in a foreign country up to now and cannot change and adapt themselves from one day to the other. This way the Ruthenian people cannot be won over, - only be alienated. Good Hungarian public officials are needed there, who speak the Ruthenian language, who are considerate and intelligent."
Fleischmann, from the professional point of view, is of the opinion that the problems of 1531 schools, 2526 classes and 2353 schoolteachers, as well as the political-moral crisis, could be solved by the "betterment" of education.17
The aim and the method of a change-over were tested in Carpatho-Ruthenia, one year prior to the "tightening" of anti-Jewish laws. The course of events was commenced at the nationalities. Anna Kéthly, the chief speaker of the then Hungarian Social Democratic Party, characterized this course of events during the parliamentary debate on the 2nd anti-Jewish law as follows: "Get out of here, so that I can take your place!"
1/a,b,cconsecutively: Wilhelmstrasse pp. 363, 368, 369.
2Tilkovszky, Lóránt: Volksdeutsche Bewegung und Ungarische Nationalitä tenpolitik 1938-41. Acta Historica 1966 pp. 82-86. Romsich, Ignác: Magyarország helye a német délkelet-európai politikában - Hungary’ s place in the South-East European policy of Germany. Valóság 1992.10.pp.12-39.
3MOL BM.res. 1939-2-7834 and 1939-2-15121.
4Detailed analysis about autonomy plans: Tilkovszky, pp. 10-17. 175-176, 220-222, 226.
5MOL ME Nemzetiségi o. irataiból. - Data from documents of Nationality dep. of Prime Minister’ s office, about the dispute between the Prime Minister and Keresztes Fischer at government meetings of April and August 1938, Published by: Tilkovszky pp. 55-63 and 173.
6Tilkovszky: p. 99.
7MOL Min. Tan. jkv. - Minutes of the Council of Ministers 1939 jul. 25. And Tilkovszky pp. 104-105, 186-187.
8MOL Min. Tan. jkv.- Minutes of the Council of Ministers 1939 aug. 17. and MOL ME Nemzetiségi O. 93. cs. ( bundle ) G 15697/1941.
9Horthy Miklós titkos iratai ( szerk. Szinai Miklós és Szücs László ) - Secret papers of Miklós Horthy ( edited by Szinai, Miklós and Szücs, László ) Budapest p.223.
10Data pertaining to land and not noted separately are taken from Tilkovszky’ s book, chapter: Hungarian revision of the Czechoslovak land reform ( pp. 64-91. ) Tilkovszky: Directives for the functioning of the Government Commissioner for the settlement of landed property cases in Upper Northern Hungary - A felvidéki földbirtokrendezési ügyek kormánybiztosa muködésének irányelvei MOL FM Elnöki iratok 587/1939.
11Képviselőházi napló - Diary of the House of Representatives ( Hereafter KN 1939 ) XI. 473 and MOL Nemzetiségi o. 78. cs.L. 18559/1940.
12Az erdőkincstárral szemben támasztott kívánságok - Expectations addressed to the Forest Directorate" MOL Kozma iratok 32. cs. ( bundle ) sz. n. ( without number ) and MOL MT j.k.vk 1939 aug. 4.
13Bölöny, József: Kárpátaljai Vajdaságról és annak önkormányzatáról szóló törvényjavaslat bírálata - Criticism of the Bill on Carpatho-Ruthenian Voivodship and its self-government, Budapest 1940.
14MOL Nemzetiségi osztály - Nationality department 80.cs. ( bundle ) L 20769/1940.
15Concerning "settlements of Jewish estates" see MOL Kozma iratok 32. cs. ( bundle ) Nos. 195 and 196.
16MOL XIX J-l-a Bé.o. XXVI/2-pp..169-172.
17MOL XIX-J-l-a XXVI/2 pp. 173-182.