Falsification of History in Slovakia
9/13/2011 - Slovak President shamefully calls Janos Esterhazy, a hero of the Holocaust, a follower of Hitler. AHF continues call for rehabilitation of Janos Esterhazy, reacts to Slovak falsification of history...
Stalin, who in 1948 extended his empire to include Czechoslovakia, was a master of historical falsification, as best evidenced by his orders to blame the Germans, who were nowhere near the site, for the Katyn Forest massacre of Polish officers and other prisoners in 1940. The peoples of Central and Eastern Europe shook off their communist masters more than twenty years ago, which lead to the disintegration of the Soviet empire. Old practices like the falsification of the past and intolerance toward minorities, however, die hard, as events in Slovakia, a NATO and European Union member, recently demonstrated.
Ivan Gasparovic, President of Slovakia and a former prosecutor under the communist regime, resorted to this shameful practice when he labeled Janos Esterhazy a follower of Hitler and fascism and opposed the unveiling of a sculpture in Esterhazy’s memory in Kassa (Kosice), a city close to Slovakia’s border with Hungary. Gasparovic’s statement is historically indefensible and serves to fan the flames of ethnic hatred and intolerant nationalism in Slovakia.
In 1938, Hungary regained part of Czechoslovakia inhabited predominantly by ethnic Hungarians. Fewer than 100,000 Hungarians remained in Slovakia, an ally and client state of Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1945.
Although Esterhazy could have left Slovakia and taken a seat in Hungary’s parliament, he chose instead to stay to serve the small Hungarian community remaining in Slovakia as the head of the Hungarian Party. In that capacity, Esterhazy opposed the Slovak Nazi puppet regime of Jozef Tiso. At great peril to himself, he was the only member of the Slovak Parliament to vote against the law authorizing the deportation of Jews in 1942. Later, Esterhazy personally saved Jews from the Holocaust.
Not surprisingly Esterhazy’s and his party’s anti-fascist stand did not sit well with the Nazis. He was pursued by the Gestapo and went into hiding, choosing once again to stay with his community in Slovakia instead of going into exile.
Immediately after the war in 1945, Esterhazy was arrested on the orders of Gustav Husak, a post-war communist leader of Czechoslovakia, for speaking out against the discriminatory anti-Hungarian measures introduced by the government. These measures, rooted in the anti-democratic concept of collective guilt, stripped ethnic Hungarians of their citizenship, virtually all of their rights, property (without compensation), dignity, and, in some cases, their lives. After being handed over to the KGB, Esterhazy was convicted as a “war criminal” by a Soviet court.
In 1947, while Esterhazy was imprisoned in the Soviet Union, the National Court in Slovakia in a perfunctory proceeding, and without any evidence, sentenced him to death in absentia on the trumped up charges of being a fascist and having contributed to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. It is a cruel irony that Esterhazy was wrongly accused of doing exactly what Slovakia would do on its own forty-six years later in the “Velvet Divorce” of 1993 -- dissolving Czechoslovakia. Upon his return from Russia, Esterhazy’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died in a Czechoslovak prison in 1957 and was buried in an undisclosed mass grave.
It was more than reasonable to expect Slovakia to exonerate Esterhazy, an unsung hero of anti-Nazi resistance, after the demise of communism. Even Russia exonerated him on January 21, 1993, acknowledging that he had been “arrested without cause.” Astonishingly, however, Slovakia still refuses to exonerate him. This despite the irrefutable historical record of Esterhazy’s principled anti-fascist views and actions, the pleas of the Hungarian minority and his family, and support from internationally recognized individuals such as Simon Wiesenthal who wrote on behalf of Esterhazy to Dr. Peter Samko, Chief Judge of the Bratislava Court. Slovakia is even failing to take into account that the Catholic Church has begun the process to beatify Esterhazy.
Not only is President Gasparovic’s statement a falsification of history, it dishonors a man of integrity and courage, is a slap in the face to Slovakia’s Hungarian minority and, hence, has become a source of tension between Hungary and Slovakia. Esterhazy’s posthumous exoneration, on the other hand, would constitute a long overdue act of reconciliation, which would lead to improved relations between two NATO allies as well as serve the cause of truth and justice.
Frank Koszorus, Jr., a lawyer, is President of the American Hungarian Federation.
AHF REMEMBERS THE HEROES OF THE HUNGARIAN HOLOCAUST
A Few Related Articles
6/30/2009 - Use of Hungarian ILLEGAL in Slovakia... Hungary's Foreign Ministry expressed regret and concern over the amendment to Slovakia's act on its official language approved in parliament on Tuesday. Under the amended act the use of the minority language in official communication would be punishable in towns and villages where the ethnic community makes up less than 20 percent of the total population. [read more]
11/8/2011 - The Anti-Defamation League presented the Jan Karski Courage to Care Award to Count Janos Esterhazy. This comes just two months after the Slovak President shamefully calls this hero of the Holocaust a follower of Hitler. AHF continues to express concern over Slovakia's anti-Hungarian measures. "Those who defended and aided Jews and other victims of the Nazi slaughter merit our recognition and our eternal thanks. They were individuals who followed the call to conscience, which is surely no simple matter... Count János Esterházy was such a person of conscience, one who had more than enough reason to remain silent." [read more]
12/02/2011 - Slovakia strips citizenship of ethnic Hungarian minorties. AHF submits a statement to the US Congress Helsinki Commission: "Intolerance and discrimination targeting any group based on ethnicity, nationality or religion is not acceptable... The most recent anti-Hungarian incident involves Slovakia stripping Oliver Boldoghy of his Slovak citizenship after becoming a dual citizen. This decision is not only contrary to American and European practices, it violates the Slovak constitution, which provides that “no one must be deprived of the citizenship of the Slovak Republic against his will.” [read more]
3/23/2011 - AHF honors Col. Ferenc Koszorus, Sr., reflects on Holocaust Memorial Month. AHF honors the millions of lives lost and the untold suffering caused by Nazism and Communism. But even during the horrors of WWII, stories of resistance to Nazi atrocities emerged.
Hungary, heavily influenced by her desire to regain lost territories and reunite Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin, had found support in Italy and Germany and joined the Axis, a tragic mistake. [read more]
10/20/2007 - Slovaks confirm Benes Decrees: “Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation, without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation” - Jan Slota. AHF releases statement on the Benes Decrees and recent extremist developments in Slovakia. "Having taken a step that has fueled ethnic hatred and assaulted good relations with Hungary, the Slovak Parliament on September 20, 2007 adopted a resolution proposed by extremist Jan Slota ratifying and confirming the Benes decrees. Those decrees shamefully imposed collective guilt on the Hungarian (and German) population of Czechoslovakia in 1945 and stripped them of their citizenship, rights and property without compensation. Czechoslovakia also pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing in southern Slovakia. The debilitations continue to affect many of the victims of the crimes committed in post-World War II Czechoslovakia.
The concept of collective guilt is abhorrent to Americans and to anyone committed to the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Rather than affirm the inviolability of the Benes decrees, Slovakia should reject them, provide legal redress to remedy their continuing and discriminatory effect and thereby adopt the values shared by the trans-Atlantic community of nations. [read more]
"The Slovak government has strayed onto a dangerous path when it submitted the bill about expelling the Jewish, because by that it acknowledged that simply ousting a minority by the majority is lawful... As a representative of the Hungarians here, I state it, and please acknowledge this, that I don't vote in favour of the proposal because as a Hungarian, a Christian and a Catholic I believe that this is against God and humanity." - Count János Esterházy
5/10/2013 - AHF, which has called for the exoneration of Count János Esterházy (the only member of the Slovak Parliament in 1942 who voted against expelling the Jews, he was convicted on trumped up charges and died in a communist prison), publishes documents that attest to his principled stand and actions to save Jews during World War II and protect the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. The documentation includes letters from Simon Wiesenthal, Yad Veshem, and historians Dr. Magda Ádám and Dr. István Deák, Professor Emeritus from Columbia University. [read more]
On November 3, 2011, the Anti-Defamation League presented the Jan Karski Courage to Care Award posthumously to Janos Esterhazy. "Those who defended and aided Jews and other victims of the Nazi slaughter merit our recognition and our eternal thanks... They were individuals who followed the call to conscience, which is surely no simple matter. Count János Esterházy was such a person of conscience, one who had more than enough reason to remain silent." [read more]
Briefly about Janos Esterhazy
A Proud Aristocratic Tradition
The Courage of Conviction
On May 15, 1942, the Slovak parliament approved constitutional law 68/1942 ordering the expulsion of Jews from Slovakia. Esterházy was the only MP who voted against the bill and he immediately became the target of fierce attacks in the Slovak press. To defend his views, he said:
"The Slovak government has strayed onto a dangerous path when it submitted the bill about expelling the Jewish, because by that it acknowledged that simply ousting a minority by the majority is lawful... As a representative of the Hungarians here, I state it, and please acknowledge this, that I don't vote in favour of the proposal because as a Hungarian, a Christian and a Catholic I believe that this is against God and humanity."
He also declared:
"It is shameful that a government, whose president and prime minister claim to be good Catholics, deports its Jewish citizens to Hitler's concentration camps"
János Esterházy helped hundreds of Jewish, Czechs, Slovaks and Poles escape prosecution. He was interned for a short period and the German Gestapo declared him wanted. Here is a quote from Irén Rujder, widow of Ödön Rujder's a Jew who was rescued by Esterházy:
"We all, who lived in Slovakia in that time, know the truth. They (the Czechoslovaks) handed him (Esterházy) to the Soviets, because if they had brought him to justice in Bratislava, all of the Jews would have testified his innocence. The misinterpretation of truth like this is painful, Esterházy really deserves the true tree of Israel."
A Tragic Life and Death
"It is hereby certified that János Esterházy, citizen of Czechoslovakia, born in Újlak in 1901, was arrested without cause on June 27, 1945.....and sentenced to ten years in a labor camp.... János Esterházy was rehabilitated according to the Russian Federation's "Political Terror Victim's Rehabilitation Act" of October 18, 1991, paragraphs 3 and 5...."
Slovakia still refuses to rehabilitate Esterhazy. But it enacted it's Slovak Language Law and confirmed the outrageous Benes Decrees. Renowned Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal wrote a letter to Dr. Peter Samko, chief judge of the City of Pozsony (Bratislava), (published in the newspaper of Új Szó, 1993) in which he strongly defends Esterházy and offers witnesses on his behalf. Janos Eesterhazy was one of many Hungarians who spoke out against the Nazi threat.
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged. Until 1920...
The Treaty of Trianon in 1920... in the aftermath of WWI, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.
In the newly created Slovakia, the tragedy of 1920 that befell the historic Hungarian communities was only the beginning. The Benes Decrees sent hundreds of thousands of people, who had lived in the region for many centuries, off in sealed wagons, away from their homes, their families - not to mention the odd ones who died on the trip. Tens of thousands of these were Hungarian. More recently, the Slovak Language Law makes the use of the minority language in official communication punishable in towns and villages where the ethnic community makes up less than 20 percent of the total population. The amendment requires that all documentation of minority schools should be duplicated in the state language. The law stipulates that the names of streets and buildings anywhere in Slovakia must be stated in the Slovak language [despite 1100-year-old tradition] and it also introduces sanctions of 100 to 5000 euros for municipalities and public offices for not using the Slovak language "properly."
The following graphic shows ethnic distribution in Slovakia and population decline from 1910 - 1991:
Ethnic Distribution in the Kingdom of Hungary in 1910 (Hungarians shown in red)
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, this trend continued over the past 90 years.
By Any Other Name: Hungary, Apartheid,
and the Benes Decrees
These decrees sent millions of people, who had lived in the region for many centuries, off in sealed wagons, away from their homes, their families - not to mention the odd ones who died on the trip.
WHAT THE BENES DECREES SAY
One may be forgiven for suspecting, by the casual way the Benes Decrees are often disparaged by commentators, that many of those who write about the Decrees have never taken the trouble to [read them].
Living as I have for over 20 years in South Africa, I know this language well. It is the language of Apartheid.
There is no moral difference, to my mind, in withdrawing civil rights, confiscating private property and deporting people, whether they be Black South Africans sent to some "Homeland/Bantustan," or Armenians, or deported Chechens, or Germans and Hungarians.
The Hungarians who lived in what is now Slovakia and Trans-Carpathian Ukraine (which was given to Stalin by a grateful Benes in 1945) were more than one million strong in 1910. By 1930, thanks to the above-mentioned "administrative" cleansing, their numbers had been reduced to 585,434. After Hungary reclaimed its lands in 1939, people began moving back to their homes. In 1941-45, there were about 761,000 in what is today Slovakia alone. [read more]
The "Benes Decrees" began in the mind of Czech statesman Edvard Benes sometime in 1940. He made some quite clear statements about his plans by 1941. The plans? To kill and/or expel all people of German or Hungarian ethnicity/language from a reunited Czechoslovakia, which had fallen apart at the start of the war. This is the sort of thing you would expect from a Himmler or a Beria, not a guy who is lionised in Western history books, and generally books about Central Europe, as the only true "democrat" in the region. But Czechoslovakia was never a complete democracy. Just as interwar Hungary, or Poland, or Yugoslavia, were not. Not quite. In Czechoslovakia, designed as a "national homeland" for Slavs, the Slavic Rusyns had to have two votes to equal one Czech vote! Democracy? [read more]
THE PRESIDENTIAL DECREES
OF EDWARD BENES
The first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) was recreated in 1945 at the end of World War II and existed until the end of 1992. In both cases, Czechoslovakia utterly failed to form a governmental structure that secured freedom, prosperity, peace, and equal rights for all citizens of the state.
In 1918, the newly founded Czechoslovak Republic was entirely carved out of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy by a unilateral decision of the victorious entente powers. The dictated peace treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Trianon were not an outcome of a true peace conference at which the defeated would also have been given the opportunity to enunciate the limits of acceptable conditions for peace. Such a peace conference was never assembled.
The Versailles peace treaty with Germany was condemned by non-interested parties. In fact, the US Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, had declared that "the Versailles treaty menaces the existence of civilization," and two popes had stigmatized the instrument. Benedict XV condemned it for "the lack of an elevated sense of justice, the absence of dignity, morality or Christian nobility," and Pius XI, in his 1922 encyclical "Ubi arcam Dei," deplored an artificial peace set down on paper "which instead of arousing noble sentiments increases and legitimizes the spirit of vengeance and rancour."
The peace treaty of Trianon (1920) with Hungary resulted in the dismemberment of the thousand- year- old Hungarian Kingdom, as a result of an unbelievably inimical attitude of the allied representatives toward the Magyars. The consequence to Hungary was a loss of 71.5% of its territory and 63.6% of its population. The extreme tragedy of Hungary can be illustrated by comparing the smaller losses in 1871 of France to Germany, in which France gave up 2.6% of its territory and 4.1% of its population to Germany. The Trianon treaty forced three and a half million Magyars to live, without their consent, in Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians and Rumania, with the stroke of a pen. The right of self-determination of nations, solemnly promised in the 14 points of US President Woodrow Wilson, was apparently forgotten. [more]
The Hungarian Problem
Newly Elected Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it well: "The borders of the Hungarian nation and the Hungarian State do not coincide." This is true, as witness the fact that fully one-third of all Hungarians are minorities in neighbouring countries, most just on the far side of the border.
This is, naturally, a problem for Hungarians. It is also a problem for all the states who got Hungarian lands. Many in neighbouring countries, and politicians in many more, have said in the past, and no doubt will say in the future: "Why don't they just go home?!!" But they are home!
They are home in the sense that they, as communities, haven't moved anywhere. They just woke up one morning to be told: "You are now a Czechoslovak, you are a Romanian, you are a Yugoslav." This first happened in 1918-20, when Hungary was partitioned by the infamous Trianon Treaty, which was not a treaty at all, but a diktat enforced by occupying Entente Armies. In the late 1930's, Hungary got some portions of its territories back, but after losing yet another war, the borders were tightened even more in 1947.
The key weakness of these treaties was that neither ever asked - or cared - what the local population wanted. Did they want to join a new state (e.g., Czechoslovakia) did they want to stay with Hungary, or did they want independence or autonomy or what?
The fact that these questions have never even been asked, let alone answered, in a supposedly democratic age, remains the central problem of the Hungarian minorities in the countries immediately surrounding Hungary. [more] [back to all AHF news]
..."the American government accepts, against its better judgment, the decision not to announce a plebiscite in the matter of the final drafting of frontiers. He believes that in many respects the frontiers do not correspond to the ethnic requisite, nor to economic necessity, and that significant modifications would be in order, particularly in the Ruthenian area." Later on Wallace submitted for the consideration of the Great Powers proposals with regard to a restoration of the economic unity of the Danubian states. The American initiative, however, came too late ... The only thing left was the Millerand cover letter, which did not oblige anyone to do anything!
The Hungarian peace delegation signed the peace treaty consisting of 14 points at the so-called Great Trianon palace, near Paris, on June 4, 1920. Hungary's fate was determined for an unforeseeable future by the second part of the treaty which defined the new borders. According to this section Hungary's area (without Croatia) would be reduced from 282,000 km2 to 93,000 km2, whereas its population decreased from 18 million to 7.6 million. This meant that Hungary lost two thirds of its territory, whereas Germany lost but 10 percent and Bulgaria but 8 percent to the benefit of their victorious neighbors.
As regards population, Hungary lost more than 60 percent of its inhabitants as opposed to the 10 percent lost by Germany. In the lands taken away from Hungary there lived approximately 10 million persons. Persons of Hungarian nationality constituted 3,424,000 in the areas taken away from Hungary. Of these 1,084,000 were attached to Czechoslovakia, 1,705,000 to Romania, 564,000 to Yugoslavia, and 65,000 to Austria. Thus 33.5 percent of all Hungarians came under foreign rule, i.e., every third Hungarian. For the sake of comparison. while the treaties of Versailles and Neuilly placed only one German or one Bulgarian out of every twenty under foreign rule, the Trianon treaty placed seven out of twenty Hungarians in the same position.
Furthermore about one half of the Hungarian minority attached to the neighboring states was ethnically directly next to the main body of Hungarians on the other side of the borders. Had the peace treaties signed in the Paris suburbs really tried to bring about, however incidentally, nation-states, then it would have had to leave at least 11/4 to 2 million more Hungarians inside Hungary. In contrast the 42 million inhabitants of the successor states there were about 16 million minorities, as a consequence of which Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia became multinational states much like the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had been. What is more, according to the census of 1910 the percentage of Hungarians in Hungary had reached 54.4 percent, whereas in the nations that came about as a result of the peace treaties, in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, the leading Czech and Serbian elements constituted but a minority as compared to the other ethnic groups.
The Treaty of Trianon was a great blow to Hungary in economic terms as well. Hungary was deprived of 62.2 percent of its railroad network, 73.8 percent of its public roads, 64.6 percent of its canals, 88 percent of its forests, 83 percent of its iron ore mines and of all its salt mines.
At the Peace Conference the Entente powers, in order to satisfy the imperialist greed of their allies in central Europe, cut across roads, canals, railroad lines, split cities and villages in two, deprived mines of their entrances, etc.
There was but one modification of the frontier: thanks to Italian intercession
and the stand taken by patriotic forces in Western Hungary, a plebiscite
was obtained in Sopron and its environs. At the plebiscite of December
4, 1921, 65 percent of the population opted for Hungary.
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