July 1944: Deportation of the Jews of Budapest Foiled

Géza Jeszenszky ed.
— former Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs 1990 – 1994
— former Hungarian Ambassador to USA, Norway, and Iceland

July 1944
Deportation of the Jews of Budapest Foiled

The aim of this volume is to shed light on a little known controversy about the most tragic year 1944, in Hungary: did a unit of the Hungarian army prevent the deportation of 300,000 Jewish Hungarians living in Budapest to the Nazi death camps?

Colonel Ferenc Koszorús used the 1st Hungarian Armored Division under his command to force the removal of the gendarmerie loyal to the pro-Nazi puppet government and ready to carry out the deportation of the Jews from Budapest. By that time the Regent, Admiral Horthy, under international pressure and learning from the Auschwitz Protocol of what was in store for the deported Hungarian nationals, ordered the ending of the deportations. There were rumors in town that the pro-Nazi and rabidly anti-Semitic State Secretary Baky was planning a coup to remove the Regent and to continue the deportations. As the round-up of Jews, contrary to the order of the Regent, was started on the outskirts of Budapest, Col. Koszorús, with the approval of Horthy entered Budapest with his troops and sent a courier to Baky threatening him with military action unless the gendarmerie is evacuated. Baky had no alternative but to comply. This action foiled both the coup (if that was really planned) and the continuation of the deportations.  The Jews of Budapest were thus temporarily saved and Wallenberg and others could help them to survive the war until the Soviet Army occupied Budapest and expelled the Germans by February 1945.

The late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) called Col. Koszorús a “Hero of the Hungarian Holocaust” as entered in the Congressional Record on May 26, 1994. In his introduction, Mr. Lantos said, “I rise today to recognize one of the great heroes of the Hungarian holocaust. Ferenc Koszorus, who at great personal sacrifice to his own life, saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps.” 

Contributors to this volume include its editor, Géza Jeszenszky, Col. Attila Bonhardt, head of the Military Archives in Budapest, journalist and author Charles Fenyvesi, historians István Deak, Tamás Stark, Susanne Berger, Deborah Cornelius, the son of Colonel Koszorús, Ferenc Koszorús Jr., and the late renowned Hungarian historian György Ránki. The remarks of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos complete the volume. The Appendix includes translations of archival documents from the German Foreign Office related to Hungary’s role in World War II and specifically on the deportation of its Jewish population.

CEU Alumnus Jaap Scholten Launches Comrade Baron

Dutch writer Jaap Scholten knows a good story when he hears one. In the early 1990s, when his Hungarian wife’s grandmother began telling him about life before communism, he was entranced. This was the beginning of the road to writing “Comrade Baron: A Journey Through the Vanishing World of the Transylvanian Aristocracy,” Scholten’s first work of non-fiction and the first to be published in English, launched May 29 at CEU.

The New Criterion Review: Comrade Baron

“Elegy for elegance” by David Pryce-Jones

Vol. 35, No. 6 / February 2017

A review of Comrade Baron: A Journey through the Vanishing World of the Transylvanian Aristocracy by Jaap Scholten

Comrade Baron

Comrade Baron is a highly personalized defense of aristocracy. These days, that’s the sort of thing that simply isn’t done and this singular book therefore runs the risk of being overlooked, perhaps even finding a place on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum that keeps progressives occupied. That would be a shame. Comrade Baron is thought-provoking and a pleasure to read.

Read full review on New Criterion website

Forbidden Federalism: Secret Diplomacy and the Struggle for a Danube Confederation: 1918-1921

Zoltán Bécsi

Forbidden Federalism
Secret Diplomacy and the Struggle for a Danubian Confederation, 1918−1921 Zoltán Bécsi

ISBN 978-1-943586-11-9
310 pages, cloth

The key concept of his title is that of federalism, understood as a unifying factor for the peoples of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the First World War, even those resolutely in favor of dismantling Austria-Hungary recognized that the Danubian area required some sort of federal unity, if only for economic reasons.

One of the main actors of the narrative is Karl of Habsburg-Lorraine, the last Emperor-King of Austria-Hungary. As soon as Austria-Hungary fell apart, Karl started actively to try to reconstruct his empire by writing a plan for a new con/federal monarchy and by contacting the pope and the leaders of the Entente regarding this plan.

Bécsi’s book is a study in virtual history, what might have been, and reading it one is tempted to follow this line of thought as well. The shadowy figures that cross its pages—the Marquis de Castellone who sought to win over the Foreign Office to Karl’s plans, the better-known Stepan Radić who played with federal schemes in an effort to advance the Croatian cause, or the obscure swindler Karol Bulissa—all failed in their attempts.

The present configuration in Central Europe, with the emergence of the Visegrad bloc and disintegration in the Balkans, seems to make Zoltán Bécsi’s work more relevant than ever.

Review: Third Europe: Polish Federalist Thought in the United States, 1940–1970s

Reviewed by Marcus E. Ethridge 
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Emeritus)

Third Europe

Between 1939 and 1945, nearly 15,000 Poles arrived in the United States, including a substantial number of highly respected Polish intellectuals. Their ideas they explored and the proposals they discussed were driven by their shared hope for an independent Poland, lost first to the Nazis and later to the Soviet empire.

This book’s title can be traced to an observation by a British columnist in January of 1942. The columnist, Valentine Heywood, identified the “Third Europe” as a “lithe” area situated between Germany and Russia, and stretching from the Baltic as far as the Adriatic, the Aegean, and the Black Sea” (p. 1). The Cold War divided Europe into East and West, of course, but Polish émigrés in the United States made strong arguments for the idea that Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, and Greece constituted an identifiable region that would figure prominently in Europe’s future.

Sławomir Łukasiewicz brings a detailed historical perspective to the political and legal analysis generated by these Polish intellectuals, giving us valuable insights into the issues at stake in the emerging bi-polar post-war world. Although these thinkers were a diverse lot, the book focuses on their efforts to create a federal arrangement for the countries of central Europe.

Long before the creation of the European Common Market and decades before the EU was formed, the idea of a European federation had been discussed seriously among important politicians and philosophers, particularly in Central Europe. Among the most important was Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, an Austrian politician (born in Japan in 1894), who had argued in 1923 for a federal system. According to Łukasiewicz, Coudenhove-Kalergi’s ideas influenced Winston Churchill and many others during and after the war. However, while many spoke of a “United States of Europe,” Łukasiewicz notes that the federation envisioned by Coudenhove-Kalergi and others would primarily emphasize collective security and trade.

Although many Polish intellectuals were initially drawn to the Pan-European Movement, most broke away from it in the early 1930s. Toward the end of World War II, the Polish government thoroughly rejected the concept of Pan-Europeanism, largely because its leaders distrusted the Germans and the Soviets. Łukasiewicz chronicles the evolution of support among Polish-American intellectuals for a federation of central European states. These thinkers represented an extensive array of perspectives, although they shared the idea that a federal arrangement of these nations would be beneficial. Some were concerned about collective security, given that the countries included had a population of some 15 million, which could support an army of more than a million. Others focused on the need for independence from the Soviet and Western blocs.

The book documents the contributions of dozens of historians and political scientists, more than can be described in this review. Among the most noteworthy is Oskar Halecki, who joined the faculty of Fordham University in 1944.

Łukasiewicz points out that Halecki was opposed to a “world order based on the balance of power, which was the opposite of a world order based on federalist states” (p. 111). Feliks Gross was, according to Łukasiewicz, “one of the most original Polish thinkers of the twentieth century” (p. 219). Gross’s 1945 book, Crossroads of Two Continents: A Democratic Federation of East-Central Europe, set out proposals for several alternative federations of central and eastern European nations, based on the importance of security and economic factors.

Piotr Wandycz, currently professor emeritus at Yale, contributed significantly to the concept of federalism in the post-war years. One of his key contributions was the idea that a federal arrangement can only work if it was “transformed into a new ideology” that supported personal and national freedom. 1

Łukasiewicz points out that the proposals prepared by the Poles during the war failed in 1945. The Cold War dominated international relations, and Western policies were often shaped by concerns for Soviet responses and demands. However, it is arguable that many of the ideas discussed in this book have been fulfilled. 

As the author notes, an identifiable “Eastern Europe” became a reality “when Belarus and Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union” and when Poland, Hungary, and other nations joined NATO. Recent actions by Putin’s Russia are perhaps best understood by appreciating the pro-federation forces that existed throughout the last century, which were articulated so ably by Polish émigrés. Some readers will feel that The Third Europe is more of a bibliographical synopsis than a thorough analysis of the federalism concept as it applies to Poland and her neighboring states. However, the book provides an excellent discussion of the contribution that Polish émigrés made to the modern understanding of history and international relations by exploring the special problems of central Europe in the mid-twentieth century. 

1. Halecki was also a founder and President of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (PIASA). Gross and Wandycz later served as President of this interdisciplinary academic Association, which is the sponsor of The Polish Review.

Polish American Studies Vol. 74, No. 1, Spring 2017: White and Red Umbrella: The Polish American Congress in the Cold War Era, 1944–1988

Reviewed by Dominic A. Pacyga 
Columbia College, Chicago

White and Red Umbrella

Joanna Wojdon’s latest study of the Polish American Congress (PAC) and the role it played during the Cold War is the best study of the subject in English. For those who can read Polish, her two-volume study W Imieniu Sześciu Milionów and W Jedności Siła remains the classic interpretation. Wojdon, who teaches at the University of Wrocław, has done a yeoman’s job in the various archives that she has visited. Her patience with, and scrutiny of, the primary sources has created an encyclopedic look at the events that surrounded the creation of the PAC and its reaction to national and international events. The book follows a somewhat chronological outline, although given its focus on various themes and sub-themes it at times moves back and forth. This can be slightly confusing to the reader. The title, White and Red Umbrella, of course reflects the national colors of Poland, but also the role of PAC in the American Polonia. When it was founded during World War II, it provided an umbrella organization that could lobby on behalf of both Poland and the Polish American community. It continues to play that role today, although, I would argue, on a more limited basis. 

White and Red Umbrella focuses on the administrations of the PAC’s first two presidents, Charles Rozmarek and Aloysius Mazewski, both of whom also served as presidents of the Polish National Alliance, Polonia’s largest fraternal organization. They also led the association through a most difficult period in both Polonia and Poland’s postwar history. For the American Polonia the years after World War II saw increased Americanization as well as the influx of several waves of Polish immigrants. Poland, of course, fell under the domination of the Communist Party as a result of the victory of the Red Army during the war. The Polish American Congress thus faced tremendous challenges on both the domestic and foreign front as it attempted to play out its role as protector of the cultural ethnic community at home and the role of supporter of Poland’s independence abroad. Neither Rozmarek nor Mazewski ever recognized the communist regime in Warsaw, although as Wojdon points out, PAC’s stance toward communist Poland did show some flexibility as events played out both in Europe and the United States. 

Wojdon places PAC’s origin at a meeting held on March 4, 1944, in the offices of the Polish Women’s Alliance on North Ashland Avenue in Chicago. At this meeting Rozmarek called for a united American Polonia in support of the Polish cause of independence and freedom. The gathering began plans to hold a national organizational meeting in Buffalo the following May. The fifty-member group representing major Polonia organizations elected an executive committee with Rozmarek as president of the new organization. PAC was another in a long line of attempts to unite Polonia’s often warring organizations that date back to the nineteenth century. In fact, only the events surrounding World War I even temporarily imposed a type of unity on Polish American organizations. The stresses of both World War II and the Cold War made unity once again possible for the Polish diaspora in the United States. 

Wojdon does an admirable job of relating various events and PAC’s responses to them. One of the themes that emerge from this study is the frustration caused by PAC’s inability to reach its various goals. Chief among these were financial targets. PAC always seemed to be short on funds and therefore political power. Even opening an office in Washington, D.C. caused financial hardship for the organization. Also, its various state divisions often pursued their own agendas at times in conflict with the Chicago based leadership. Creating and maintaining an umbrella organization in a frequently divided community proved difficult. What Wojdon refers to as the “steadfast” post-1945 immigration, which came to dominate many of Polonia’s organizations, sometimes tied PAC’s hands because of their strict attitudes toward the Warsaw regime. The tension between the various immigrant waves, as depicted by Mary Patrice Erdmans in Opposite Poles, could not help but also cloud the picture and hamper PAC’s ability to respond to events during the Cold War and Solidarity eras. 1

While PAC suffered from a lack of funds and also with a sense of political frustration given the realities of the post-Yalta Conference years, it put its best foot forward in the period after 1968 culminating in its support for Poland during the Solidarity movement and martial law in the 1980s. As during the World War I era, the American Polonia heartily supported the homeland in its struggle for freedom and independence. The Mazewski years (1968–1988) were especially important for the PAC and its objectives, on both the domestic and foreign fronts. Wojdon skillfully portrays the balancing act that Mazewski had to perform in guiding the congress during this crucial era. He always had to deal with different factions within Polonia. Mazewski also hoped to revitalize interest in Polonia organizations among the quickly Americanizing descendants of the earlier immigration. He created an anti-defamation campaign and fought against perceived prejudices against Polish Americans. On various occasions, Mazewski sponsored studies of Polonia and employed then young scholars in the pursuit of an accurate profile of the American Polonia (I among them). While the election of Pope John Paul II and the emergence of the Solidarity Movement shortly thereafter, improved Polonia’s and Poland’s standing in the eyes of the American public, there was still much work to be done. Wojdon again does a thorough job in describing these efforts. 

Once the Solidarność movement began its decade long struggle that led to the eventual downfall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe, the Polish American Congress was able to successfully play the role it originally intended to pursue, that is to promote the cause of freedom and independence in the homeland. As Wojdon states its impact is not widely celebrated or even understood in either Poland or the United States. PAC organized a tremendous amount of aid for the Polish nation during those trying times. It put a good deal of pressure on Washington to respond to events in Poland and to encourage the Solidarity Movement. As during the two world wars, Polonia sent relief and aid to those suffering during the economic and political struggles of the 1980s. It again fulfilled the role of what was once called the “Fourth Partition” as a valuable ally to those who struggled for change in the homeland. 

White and Red Umbrella is an excellent study of the Polish American Congress. The author also outlines PAC’s relationship with other ethnic groups such as Jews and Germans. Wojdon examines PAC’s flaws and those of Polonia as well as its triumphs. For those interested in American or immigration and ethnic history it will be the most important study of this crucial Polonia organization. 

1. Mary Patrice Erdmans, Opposite Poles: Immigrants and Ethnics in Polish Chicago, 1976–1990(University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998).