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HUNGARY: Nationalism

4 minute read

Last week’s staggering crises, diplomatic reversals, panics, had one plain effect on the Balkans. They sent citizens back to the simple nationalistic faith of their fathers like bombed refugees running for an air-raid shelter. Plain from Lake Balaton to the Black Sea, the trend was plainest in Hungary, where Hungarians had plenty of reasons for uneasiness: their

Foreign Minister was racing from one Axis capital to another, and no word of his policy appeared in their press; they were involved in a growing Polish-German conflict, but did not know how deeply; they were menaced by troop movements that had nothing to do with Hungarian conflicts. Result was that Hungarians high and low wanted to be Hungarians and nothing else. Whether the Axis ran from Berlin to Rome or from Berlin to Moscow, Hungarians were determined to close their ranks.

Main source of disquiet were the “holiday” travels and talks of small, suave, dark Count Stephan Csaky, Foreign Minister and big landowner, who signed Hungary into the Anti-Comintern Pact. When Führer Hitler and Count Ciano met in the mountains of Bavaria last fortnight, Count Csaky was near by, remaining at the foot of the mountain but conferring daily with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. When Count Ciano flew back to Rome, Count Csaky soon followed. When Count Ciano was too busy to see the U. S., British or French Ambassadors, he still had time to spend an hour and ten minutes with Count Csaky. When II Duce was making mysteries by his silence, he could still spend an hour with the Count.

All this tantalized foreign observers, but it scared Hungarians at home. Although the last election gave Hungarian Nazis 50 new seats in Parliament, they have not had an easy time; their leader, Ferenz Szalasi, the “Hungarian Henlein,” is serving a three-year prison term; aristocratic, 71-year-old Admiral Horthy has so little use for Nazis (although he visited Führer Hitler in 1938) that their opponents insist Hungary can become a Nazi state only over his dead body. Last December the aged hero got so mad at Nazi hecklers at a Budapest opera that he left his box, climbed upstairs to theirs directly overhead, would have assaulted them had detectives not intervened. Recent success of a book called Germany Can’t Win, attacking Nazi theories of a lightning war, cheered Count Csaky’s opponents: it plugged for Hungarian independence, damned Nazi theorists by quoting Germany’s military men.

Last week as Count Csaky kept silent, opposition parties tried to make capital of Hungary’s alarm, to smoke Count Csaky out. Said Tibor Eckhardt, head of the Independent Agrarian Party: “Our Foreign Minister once said that we had to demonstrate our loyalty to friendly countries in difficult times. I agree with him, but this loyalty must extend to all our friends. If . . . a German-Polish conflict breaks out, under no circumstances can we interfere.” Then he challenged the Government—”Admiral Hoi thy pledged Hungary to independence and neutrality, let the Foreign Minister repeat the pledge.”

Count Csaky said nothing. Tension grew in Hungary as Nazis protested against the arrest of 21 Nazi youth leaders, as the

German-Polish conflict sharpened. Often tagged as Hungary’s next Premier, Count Csaky waited until a few hours before news of the German-Russian Anti-Aggression Pact fell like a bomb on Europe’s capitals. Then he said suavely what nationalistic Hungarians wanted to hear: “An independent and strong Hungary is an indispensable factor in the political balance of Central Europe. . . . This thousand-year-old nation has preferred, above all, in every age and under all circumstances, to be reliable and to keep its national honor. Neither in Germany nor Italy was anything asked or demanded or begged from the Hungarian Government. . . . Personally, I was so pleased in both countries that only the end of my holidays compelled me to return.”

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