VERITAS Research Institute and Archives

The “Munich Agreement”, as it is referred to in the history of international diplomacy, was signed by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier on September 29th, 1938. The document allowed the Wehrmacht to move into the primarily German-inhabited Sudetenland (28 thousand km2, approximately 3.6 million inhabitants) by October 10th, followed by the annexation of the territory by the German Reich. According to the appendix of the agreement, both Hungary and Poland would resolve their territorial demands via bilateral negotiations with the Czechoslovak government. In the event that a compromise could not be reached between the sides after three months, the dispute would come before the four participants of the Munich Conference. By October 2nd, Poland had already occupied by force the Teschen region, consisting of 1,000 km2 and 250 thousand inhabitants. The sovereign statehood of Czechoslovakia came to an end with the Czech State and the Slovak State appearing as independent states on the maps of Europe as of March 15th and March 14th, 1939, respectively.

On October 8th, 1938, Hungarian-Czechoslovak negotiations kicked off in Komárom (Komárno) but had already broken down with no concrete results by the 13th. Thereafter, the Hungarian government requested the mediation of the Axis powers, to which the other negotiating partner agreed. Representatives of the British and French governments resolutely declined to participate and then from behind the scenes elegantly rejected the diplomatic solution to the Hungarian-Czechoslovak territorial dispute guaranteed by the Western great powers. On November 2nd, 1938, German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Italian counterpart Gian Galeazzo Ciano disclosed their arbitration decision in the Golden Room of the Belvedere Palace in Vienna, where Minister of Foreign Affairs Kálmán Kánya and Minister of Religion and Education Pál Teleki represented Hungary and Minister of Foreign Affairs František Chvalkovský and Deputy Prime Minister Ferdinand Ďurčanský represented Czechoslovakia.

The first phase of the reannexation had already occurred by the time of the announcement of the First Vienna Award when the Slovaks, in the interests of forging a successful compromise solution, had agreed to return Újhely (Slovenské Nové Mesto), the onetime part of the town of Sátoraljaújhely lying on the banks of the Ronyva Riverlet (strategically important because of its railway station), and the town of Ipolyság (Šahy) on October 9th and October 11th, respectively. The territories returned by the First Vienna Award were taken over by Hungarian forces between November 5th and 10th, 1938. Regent Miklós Horthy personally led the troops into Komárom and Kassa (Košice) on November 6th and 11th, respectively. According to the 1910 census, the population of the reannexed territory (11,915 km2, 862,747 inhabitants) was 86.6 percent Hungarian, 9.7 percent Slovak, 2 percent German, 1 percent Ruthenian and 0.7 percent other. The territory was also rich in towns that had played significant roles in both Central European and Hungarian history, such as Kassa (70 thousand inhabitants), Munkács / Mukačevo and Ungvár / Užhorod (26 thousand), Érsekújvár / Nové Zámky, Komárom and Beregszász / Berehovo (20 thousand) and Losonc / Lučenec and Léva / Levice (over 10 thousand). An important fact about the reannexed towns, which also included Rimaszombat / Rimavská Sobota, Rozsnyó / Rožňava, Ipolyság, Jolsva / Jelšava and Gúta / Guta (a community with more than 10 thousand people), was that the Hungarians accounted for approximately 70-80 percent of their population.


by Péter Bertalan

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