VERITAS Research Institute and Archives

János Wettstein was the deputy general secretary of the Hungarian peace delegation in Paris in 1920. It was his responsibility to keep the so-called “political diary” of the peace delegation, which fortunately has been saved (and made public by Miklós Zeidler in 2018). Following the peace agreement, Wettstein served as embassy councilor at the Hungarian diplomatic mission in Paris and was considered as one of the most outstanding diplomats of the Horthy Era. On June 4th, 1920, he was present when the Treaty of Trianon was signed. On the Hungarian side, the text of the peace treaty was recorded by government representative Ágost Benárd and diplomat Alfréd Drasche-Lázár, in the presence of the representatives of the victorious Entente. On the afternoon of the tragic day, the document, which had already been stamped by the commissioners in advance, was lying on an ornate baroque table in the middle of the hall of the Grand Trianon palace by the time the members of the Hungarian delegation arrived. A newspaper with one of the highest circulations in France, Petit Journal featured a photograph of this famous table on the front page of its morning edition. Next to the photograph lay an editorial two columns long by a respected political publicist who apostrophized the peace treaty as the “moment of truth”.

According to the diary of the peace delegation referred to above, the secretariat of the peace conference had been informed only on June 1st that Minister of Welfare and Labor Ágost Benárd and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Alfréd Drasche-Lázár would be the signatories. On that day, Wettstein wrote the following in a letter to his mother:

After a long wait, we have finally received the official announcement today that Benárd [Ágost] and Alfréd [Drasche-Lázár] will be the ones to sign the peace treaty. I can only imagine the difficult battle the government went through to take this difficult step. But under the circumstances, there is in fact nothing else, for no one can take responsibility for the catastrophic consequences of refusing to sign. There is yet reasonable hope that the bitter situation created by peace will be only temporary and that over time we can regain most of what we have lost through difficult and resolute but not hopeless work. However, this will require that the  people at home come to their senses, that their feelings of decency be awakened and that they finally look out  for not only their own advancement through more or less dirty party intrigues, but that the whole nation works together to achieve the great and sacred goal.

Even after one hundred years, the letter excerpt makes one consider both its content and tone. The following final paragraph was entered into the diary of the delegation on June 4th:

The somber ceremony was held without incident, the only embarrassment being the conspicuous warmth with which the Czech and Romanian signatories had greeted Serbian Commissioner Pašić and how they had congratulated each other so demonstratively. The cawing of vultures over the carcass of the lion presumed dead. But there will be a resurrection, for the God of the Hungarians is still alive!

According to Le Figaro, the signing ceremony had taken only ten minutes, during which it had been so quiet that one could have heard the “buzzing of a fly”. The reporter closed his article in an elegiac tone: As the Hungarians left, “the wind died down”, the leaves "did not rustle" in the park, as if "afraid" to disturb the “melancholy" of the place.

Le Petit Journal

by András Joó