VERITAS Research Institute and Archives

Peace preparations were soon underway following the conclusion of World War II. The Peace Preparation Committee, under the guidance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and whose work was supported by military experts, was established to manage the main tasks thereof. The military experts prepared documents focused on the development of a new post-war military, the POW question and the arrangement of post-war borders. Their role was also significant because in spring 1946 the Romanians provided the Soviets with various documents related to the Transylvania question. These also called for confirmation of the borders as established by the Treaty of Trianon, included reparative demands and detailed Romanian military involvement on the side of the Soviet Union.

So from the Hungarians’ point of view, it was important to settle the question of which principles to lay their arguments upon at the peace negotiations. The materials related to Romania were prepared by journalist László Gáspár, who had put together his work by extracting from the country’s most important press materials found in the Library of the Hungarian Parliament. He emphasized that Hungary’s attempt to get out of the war on October 15th, 1944, had been doomed to fail because of the weak condition of the Hungarian military, while Romania’s switching sides had been successful for the opposite reason. The Hungarians had also been hampered by the fact that efforts to aggressively build up military capabilities had begun only in 1938 while their southeastern neighbors had begun at the conclusion of the Great War. It was no wonder then that the Romanians could utilize twenty-two divisions and 700 thousand men in the campaign against the Soviet Union, significantly greater than what the Hungarians could afford. The Romanians also referred to their war against the Soviet Union as a “crusade against Bolshevism”. The report detailed the losses inflicted on the Soviets by the Romanian military, which Hitler had placed under Ion Antonescu’s command and fully mobilized. In total, the Romanians had shot down 792 warplanes, dropped 3,218,101 kilograms of bombs, while losing 5,998 officers, 2,633 non-commissioned officers and 148,911 private soldiers. Gáspár’s report was so comprehensive that it included a timeline breakdown through 1942 of when the men had been lost. Quoting directly from the report about how the Romanian press had attempted to downplay Hungary’s participation in the campaign against the Soviet Union: “The Romanian press tried to ‘bury’ the news about Hungary’s call to arms by using a smaller font, thereby emphasizing Hungary’s completely subordinate and insignificant role in the  struggle against the Soviet Union. This bias continued throughout the duration of the war...” Gáspár also listed Romanian leaders recognized by Hitler and their respective honors / awards. What also becomes apparent through Gáspár’s review of the press materials was that Romania had paid close attention to Hungarian domestic affairs throughout the war. Several issues were missing: the entire year 1944 and one issue from the year 1943 that would have provided a complete list of losses. According to Gáspár’s recollection, Romania’s losses by then would have been around half-million. He wrote the following about the data that had been analyzed up to 1944: “These losses were many times greater than Hungarian losses, making it perfectly clear that Romania participated in the war against the Soviet Union to a much greater degree than Hungary.” A referendum had been held on whether to enter the war, the results of which had been 3,391,160 ayes and 65 nays. Gáspár also stressed that during the course of the occupation of Hungary, the Romanians had amassed troops along the northern Transylvanian border.

Although Stalin raised the matter of a border correction against Romania, he did not sincerely mean it. In all of this, his goal was simply to expedite a communist takeover in both countries. In the 1945 parliamentary election, Mátyás Rákosi declared that in the event that the “democratic” forces, i. e., the Hungarian Communist Party, won the election, Hungary would have a greater chance of signing a favorable peace treaty. The communists in Romania used similar propaganda as well. The question of border revision, however, had already been decided much earlier, so the voluminous material produced by the Peace Preparation Committee and its experts was all for naught. Being on the losing side of the war allowed for only minimal Hungarian successes at the negotiating table.

by Dávid Kiss