Henry A. Fischer
We are now in a much better position to be able to reconstruct the historical events and dynamics that were at work in the time frame between the First and Second World Wars and its impact on the German minority in Hungary. Complex developments between the various states involved and their consequences will be identified and delineated. We are dealing with matters that would result in the deaths of millions, the loss of family members and the expulsion of millions of others from their homelands. None are more aware of this than the German minorities in south-eastern Europe.
We begin with a quick overview of the Danube-Swabian Roman Catholics in Hungary. Following the liberation of Hungary from the Turks in 1699 all that remained was a mostly unpopulated wasteland. The land, which had not been worked since the time after the Battle of Mohács in 1526, awaited the ploughs of its first colonists. They were Germans who responded to this redevelopment under the auspices of the Habsburgs initiated by Charles VI in 1712, followed up by the Empress Maria Theresia and were settled in the neglected region. They came from the Rhine-Mosel region and rural areas surrounding Mainz and Heidelberg and also later from Hesse, Bohemia and Moravia. The final wave of settlers came during the reign of Joseph II. They were chiefly farmers but there were also tradesmen and merchants among them and these settlers also had to provide defence forces along the unruly southern borders of Hungary. Due to their indomitable will and industriousness the areas of their settlement became prosperous economic regions so that Temesvár became the centre of culture in Middle Europe.
The Roman Catholic Swabians were incorporated into existing Hungarian dioceses unlike the Transylvania Saxons who had autonomy in their church affairs. There was little chance or opportunity for them to maintain a strong consciousness of their German identity under the leadership of their local Hungarian priests and hierarchy during the 19th century when Hungarian political policies were focussed on their assimilation along with all of the other minorities. The social structure of the Swabians consisted of two basic groups: the large farming population living for the most part in their own separate villages and enclaves and a much smaller group who were part of the emerging urban population which to a great degree provided the candidates for the future clergy and teachers to serve the rural Swabian communities. There were others who took up academic positions and a small number served within the structures of the government. These groups of urban Swabians constituted an intelligentsia that became thoroughly Magyarized through the educational process and were given the mission to work towards the assimilation of the rest of the German minority. For that reason these Swabians had little or no self-consciousness as a “nationality” as the term was understood at that time. It was during the First World War that the Swabians got in touch with their identity through their army contacts with the Austrian and German military and grasped a concept of the possibility of being a “people” in their own right rather than second class citizens in Hungary. They also discovered Germany’s economic might in the process as well. Even the defeat of Germany would not stamp out their self-understanding of their identity and rediscovered a Motherland long forgotten.
In effect, there was no Swabian intelligentsia to provide leadership and a programme to establish any kind of political movement among them to maintain their German identity and culture. Jacob Bleyer would fill this void. He inaugurated his programme in 1917 when he asked for the return of the German schools that were closed in 1907. He tried to win the Magyarized Swabian intelligentsia to his side because he faced great opposition on the part of the Hungarian government. Various other leaders of the German minority for both his stance and activities also attacked him.
Following the end of the First World War Bleyer founded a movement called: The German Hungarian People’s Council, that was to safeguard the cultural rights of the German minority and had no political or territorial autonomy in mind. Most of the Swabians ignored his organization and saw it as anarchistic. The only support he received was from the Zipser Saxons and some others in southern Hungary. During the “Red Republic” established by the Communist leader Bela Kun attempts were made by Bleyer to undo the damage done to the German schools and reinstitute German instruction wherever possible but with little success. Admiral Nicolas Horthy and his “white” army put down the insurrection and unleashed a reign of terror against the Jewish population. Issues around the “nationalities problem” became central for his regime as it cloaked the real issue of minorities rights guaranteed in the Treaty of Trianon.
With the end of the First World War not only the political structures in Europe changed so did the frontiers especially in south-eastern Europe. The geographical borders of the newly emerging states of Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were expanded at the expense of their neighbours. Hungary lost vast territories as indicated earlier in this study from 325,500 square kilometres to 93,000. Just as importantly it also lost vast numbers in terms of population. In 1910 the census in Hungary reported a population of 1,903,357 Germans. After the Treaty of Trianon was put into effect they numbered 551,221 or 6.9% of the total population. This number was reduced to 479,630 by 1930 about 5.5% of the population. This was the result of an intensive government coordinated Magyarization programme. In addition, according to the census of 1930 the German minority’s religious breakdown indicated there were 392,000 Roman Catholics (82%); Lutherans 67,891 (15%); Reformed 7,201 (1.5%) and others 11,000 (2.5%).
It became a Hungarian government priority to work for and advocate the guaranteeing of the minority rights of the Hungarian populations living in the successor states but they were adamant in denying those same rights to the minorities in Hungary and set up a new programme to quicken the pace of assimilation. They targeted the schools. They tried to carry out the legislation strictly according to the law. Communities had the option to chose one of three types of schools, known as A, B and C. Type A schools in which German was the language of instruction and Hungarian was taught as a course. Type B schools were mixed language schools where some courses were taught in both languages and the Type C schools where the language of instruction was Hungarian and German was taught as a separate course. If 40% of the pupils in a given school belonged to a minority the parents could vote on the type of school they desired for their children but educational officials could disallow their vote if they so desired for reasons they were not required to give.
This meant that German language instruction had deteriorated greatly and by the 1920s the vast majority of the German minority spoke both languages. We get a better picture when we look at the school statistics for 1930 at which time it is reported that from among the 454 “German” schools 273 were Type C (with Hungarian instruction and German as a course); Type B schools numbered 134 (equal instruction in both Hungarian and German) and Type A schools existed in only 47 communities (German the language of instruction and Hungarian a course that was taught.) It became extremely difficult to provide German literature and books in libraries and the effects of Magyarization were becoming more and more noticeable among the young.
This led to the formation of the Volksbildingsverein by Gustav Gratz, the son of Magyarized farming parents in the Zips who had also been the Foreign Minister of Hungary. He and his colleagues including Jacob Bleyer kept a close eye on developments among the ethnic German minorities in Romania and Yugoslavia who were being granted all kinds of concessions by their new national governments in keeping with the minority rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Trianon. Bleyer was a strong advocate for the revisionist aims of Hungary and saw that as a way to “unite” the ethnic German minority. He made all kinds of contacts in Germany with various groups with an interest in the ethnic German minorities in Eastern Europe. He and his colleagues received financial support to help strengthen relationships between Hungary and Germany and the programmes of the ethnic German minority in Hungary. Bleyer became well known and well received in the higher circles of the German government.
Bleyer sought to raise the level of awareness of the “national consciousness” of the ethnic German minority in Hungary through sending German students to visit the Swabian communities during their vacation to spread cultural, social and political views among the population. Because it was not possible to develop a ethnic German intelligentsia in Hungary because all higher education was in Hungarian, Bleyer organized raising stipends to enable high school students to study in Germany. While studying there they were enlisted and prepared for carrying out the “national” work among the people when they came home as champions of the “national” movement and placed themselves under Bleyer’s leadership and direction. The lines were being drawn for an emerging conflict between the “loyalists” and the “nationalists” among the ethnic German minority in Hungary.
The results of the census of 1930 alarmed Bleyer and as a result he identified more and more with the concept of the “greater” German people as the head of the Ungarn Deutsche Volksbildungsverein (UDV) and sharply condemned the Magyarization policy of the Hungarian government. The claimed decline in numbers of the ethnic German minority in Hungary also brought criticism from the newspapers of the Danube Swabians in Romania and Yugoslavia. The German government also joined in the protest. For their part, the Hungarian government proceeded with the mandatory Magyarization of family names of all those in the military, government service and the schools.
Bleyer’s movement was charged with Pan-Germanism by various levels of Hungarian society and government which inferred that he and his followers were in active support of the Eastern policy of the Reich government, simply using the ethnic German minority in Hungary for their own purposes. The charge was also made against the other ethnic German minorities in Eastern Europe. The so-called “German menace” was spoken of openly in parliament and in the press. These were efforts on the part of the Hungarian government to draw attention away from their Magyarization activities.
The government party in power in Hungary could always count on the votes of the ethnic German electorate in areas where they formed the majority by simply running candidates who were Magyarized Swabians who received the full and active support of the Roman Catholic clergy which made it difficult for the candidates that Bleyer supported to be elected. The only legal opposition party during the 1920s and 1930s that played a role in domestic policies alongside of the governing party were the Social Democrats who counted 70,000-80,000 ethnic German members. The party as a whole repudiated Bleyer’s policies and challenged the failed national minority policies of the government and supported the legitimate aims of the ethnic German minority, above in terms of their linguistic rights.
As a result of the Great Depression (1929-1931) radical ideas spread and social democratic ideals were spurned by the electorate. As Nazism came to power in Germany their ideology spread among the ethnic German minorities in Eastern Europe and won the allegiance of some in the ethnic German communities in Hungary and affected the political landscape. Bleyer and his organization increasingly began to be influenced and infiltrated by Nazism that saw both the Church and Jews as their enemies.
Although Prime Minister Gömbös (1932-1936) was orienting Hungarian foreign policy favourably towards Germany and its new Nazi government he wrote in February 1934 informing Hitler in no uncertain terms that Hungary would not allow any interference in its government policies towards its ethnic German minority. The major problem he faced dealt with the school issue that many among the ethnic German minority opposed for a variety of reasons. The Prime Minister identified the leadership of Bleyer’s UDV organization as the chief culprit behind the opposition. He was not prepared to tolerate the fact that the young intellectuals from among the ethnic German minority who received financial support from Germany to attend universities there were returning to Hungary and taking up key positions in the Bleyer organization and engaged in spreading their “propaganda” across the land. One of these students who rose to prominence was Franz Basch who rose to the position of the General Secretary of the UDV. Most of his support had come from groups in Germany organized to support ethnic German nationalist movements outside of the Reich. He was dismissed from his office in the UDV by order of Gömbös on a charge of slander against the Hungarian nation. Within a year all of those in the UDV leadership who sympathized with Nazi Germany were no longer in the organization.
All of the advocates and mouthpieces of the Nazi ideology that were driven out of the UDV took their place alongside Basch and established a rival organization: The Volksdeutsche Kameradschaft (The Ethnic German Brotherhood) that was under the leadership of Gustav Gratz who was a professor at the University of Debrecen. He was the titular head of the movement but it was Basch who was the motor who drove it.
The school issue as it affected the ethnic German minority in Hungary was seen by Hitler’s Germany as a political setback to achieving their long-term objectives and led to attacks upon Hungary’s anti-minorities politics and policies. In response, the Minister of the Interior in the Daranyi government, Joseph Szell assured the Reich officials he would seek to ensure the ongoing welfare of the ethnic German minority to the best of his ability.
With this background in terms of the attitude and policies of the various levels of the Hungarian government and it ministries Franz Basch, with the support of Nazi Germany, took great pains to have the Kameradschaft recognized as the single legal representative voice of the ethnic German minority in Hungary. He launched a propaganda campaign directed against the UDV led by Gustav Gratz to achieve the legalization of the Kameradschaft by the Hungarian government. Basch did not only receive political support from the Reich but also financial assistance. He increased his power through the tacit approval of the leadership of the Volksdeutschen Mittelstelle (VOMI) a branch of the SS that dealt with issues and concerns with regard to the ethnic Germans who lived outside the Reich. Making use of the Deutschen Volksboten a publication of the Kameradschaft sponsored by Germany, Basch was able to infiltrate and make inroads among the ethnic German minority and its communities.
Hitler established the VOMI on July 2, 1938 according to a secret Reich memo in which he gave the organization wide powers in the dissemination of the Nazi ideology among the Diaspora German communities outside of the borders of the Reich. Because of Basch’s close contacts and relationships with the VOMI, the Hungarian government was unable to work against Basch and his followers because of the possible political consequences in their relationship with Germany. Prime Minister Imrédy who replaced Daranyi, legalized the new organization that replaced the Kameradschaft in the fall of 1938 as the Volksbund Der Deutschen in Ungarn which in the future in the general parlance of the ethnic German minority was simply called the Bund. With the legalization of this organization a new chapter in the history of the ethnic German minority in Hungary was being written and set in motion the consequences that would follow.
With the annexation of Austria in March 1938, Hitler placed the Sudeten Germans as the top priority on his agenda posing a major threat on Czechoslovakia with whom Hungary shared a common border. This strengthened Basch’s hand in making demands on behalf of the ethnic German minority, which the Hungarian government could no longer ignore or fail to implement. In both his speeches and articles that he wrote in the party newspaper he viciously attacked the leadership of the UDV and charged them with aiding and abetting the policies of the Hungarian government directed against the ethnic German minority and served their interests and not those of the ethnic German minority. He pointed out that they had the approval of the Hungarian government and were recognized by them and where therefore not in opposition to the assimilation policies of the government but were its advocates. Much of his criticism was directed against Gustav Gratz who had led the movement following Bleyer’s death. In many ways this kind of character assassination is how the Nazi movement under Basch got to its start. He had learned well from his master.
Basch now campaigned more vigorously for the autonomy of the “German Folk Group” and demanded an independent school and educational system in Hungary for them. His “Folk Group” of a nation within a nation concept and programme was closely modeled after that which had been established by Henlein in the Sudetenland. He promoted it in the Bund newspaper and through the German press in the Reich. His proposed a “minimal programme” for the Bund that involved seven points:
1) The demand for the recognition of the rights, freedom and autonomy of the German minority to organize itself for its own purposes.
2) The self-administration of an independent educational system.
3) The permission to publish daily and weekly newspapers.
4) The freedom to form associations, clubs, etc.
5) The planning and carrying out of assemblies for various reasons.
6) Religious life should be placed in the hands of the ethnic German minority.
7) The formation of a political party that could seek election of members to parliament.
This “programme” was a copy of the objectives of the ethnic German minorities in all of the neighbouring states. It would only be in the autumn of 1944 that Basch was able to put the autonomy of the “Folk Group” into effect but only because of the power of the Reich following the German occupation of Hungary.
Even as the projected “programme” was being worked out it was still uncertain whether the Kameradschaft could weaken the leadership of the VDU and drawn its membership into their planned new organization, the Bund. Huss, who was Basch’s equal in rank but was more knowledgeable and more adept in political matters sought for discussions and talks with the VDU leaders and the Hungarian government. Hitler had a different attitude. Basch called off any relations with the VDU. There was no question in Basch’s mind that in short order, he would be in control and was totally intransigent in his attitude about the VDU leaders. When Huss was accused by the Minister of Cults of espousing unpatriotic “Folk Group” politics in presenting Basch’s proposals he backed off from participating any further in the Kameradschaft leadership and Basch quickly grabbed the leadership all for himself. Because the organization had the support of the German government and the VOMI the Hungarian government hesitated to challenge them. The Führers and agitators were now free to intensify their efforts to win the ethnic German minority to their “programme”. Issues relating to the churches and schools led to provocations with the Hungarian government who were intransigent in their opposition so that Basch attempted to deal personally with the Prime Minister using the tried and true method that Henlein had used with the President of Czechoslovakia to make the case for the Sudeten Germans in the same kind of situation.
The Kameradschaft purchased the German weekly the Günser Zeitung (which had a history of sixty five years of publication) through an economic agreement with Germany on June 7, 1938 and Basch proceeded to use it to further his “Folk Group” programme. He had the approval of the German Minister of the Interior and the support of the German press to make it the voice of the German minority in Hungary. The party officials that controlled the press in the Reich covered Basch’s back and gave him the courage to publish the Neue Sonntagsblatt (New Sunday News), which like all such German language newspapers inveighed against Jewish interests. These attacks and others led to the resignation of Gratz and Pinter (a Magyarized German Roman Catholic priest) from the leadership of the VDU. Gratz, who belonged to the liberal leaning political circles of the time, had been characterized by Basch as a “protector” and “shield” of the Jews and as a consequence an opponent of the aspirations of the ethnic German minority and their political recognition. Gratz and Pinter were forced to turn down the invitation to represent the ethnic German minority in Hungary on the Presidium of the European Minorities Conference being held in Stockholm. Basch and Dr. Goldschmidt went to Stockholm in their place as the official representatives. At a conference of the various Bund types of associations in Eastern Europe held in Reval on August 30-31 in 1938, Basch and the lawyer Johann Hoffmann participated representing Hungary.
Basch and his minions were soon able to exert so much influence because of their backing by the Reich government that all of their opponents were no longer able to maintain any hold of the rank and file members of the VDU from among the ethnic German minority. Following the Hungarian annexation of southern Slovakia on November 2, 1938 in order to placate Hitler the Hungarian Prime Minister Imrédy indicated he would discuss the issue related to the matter of the schools and carry out such actions as he deemed appropriate but without “any outside interference.” But the Hungarian government proceeded to act on its own without consultation with the Kameradschft.
With more and more support from the Reich, Basch became more self-conscious of his self-importance. His closest confidant was Franz Karmasin the German Bund leader in Slovakia. The celebration of the founding of the Bund took place in Budapest on November 26, 1938 with several hundred present as Basch unveiled the seven-point programme. In his speech on that occasion he attacked the Hungarian government with regard to the rights of the ethnic German minority and openly made threats. A new situation developed as a result. Basch and his cohorts initiated confrontations with both the VDU and the Hungarian government and they were forced to react to their demands, which resulted in Gratz’s resignation from the VDU in December of 1938.
Basch was determined to get his hands on the leadership of the VDU and refused to accept any compromises related to his Nazi policies and ideology that became more and more aggressive leading to open conflict with Professor Huss, the one time president of the Kameradschaft. Basch was not only the Führer of the newly founded Volksbund but was seen as the leader of the ethnic German minority on the public scene because of his Reich contacts and support so that it was easy for him to take over the leadership of the VDU. In spite of its scepticism about his politics, the Hungarian government saw Basch as the most important personage within the ethnic German minority but that did not mean that they would accept his threats and policies nor would they be carried out.
Basch had an audience with Imrédy three days after the founding of the Volksbund. He was informed that the Hungarian government was not prepared to recognize the ethnic German minority as a “Folk Group”…a nation within the nation. The Hungarian government as the representatives of a sovereign state where charged with providing for the needs of the ethnic German minority as citizens of Hungary and they intended to carry them out. They turned down the Bund’s demands to be recognized as the representatives of the ethnic German minority even if they were prepared to accept the other aspects of their seven-point programme. Imrédy indicated he was prepared to make some minor concessions with regard the question about the schools.
Basch’s strategy was to be recognized as the official and only Führer of the Germans in Hungary by the Prime Minister, which would lead to the majority of the old VDU to turn to his Volksbund in the future.
Up until this time the distribution of the Deutschen Volksboten (German Folk News) was forbidden along with Basch’s Kalendar (an annual calendar more like an Almanac) and subscribers were liable to be fined by the police. Joseph Goebbles’ paper in the Reich referred to this in an article as “police terror” and raised uproar as fodder for his agitators in Hungary.
Pinter, who had taken over the presidency of the VDU attempted to expose the Nazi policies of the Volksbund in an article published in Kirchenblatt für das katholische Volk (Church news for the Catholic People) in which he accused the Volksbund of attempting to foment animosity against Hungary as the Sudeten German Bund had done to create enmity between Hungary and Germany. Pinter failed to find much support. The old VDU association could not compete with the Bund with its heavy financial support from the Reich and its practical programmes and ideological propaganda that won over large segments of the ethnic German minority. The failed policies of the Hungarian government and the frugal resources of the Bleyer organization, the VDU were no match for Basch and the field was left wide open for him.
January 16-17, 1939 in a meeting between Csáky with Rudolph Hess in Berlin, the Hungarians in an attempt to cool things down with the ethnic German minority’s leaders agreed to observe the guaranteed minority rights of its ethnic German citizens and to re-legislate the school issue. He indicated he was prepared to allow the establishment of confessional (denominational) schools for the ethnic German minority. The constant ambivalence of the Hungarian government with regard to the school question was typical throughout this long controversy. When meeting with officials from the Reich they always agreed and said yes but when in parliament they always said no.
When Teleki replaced Imrédy as Prime Minister on February 16, 1939 he announced he would not accept any “special or legal rights” of the ethnic German Folk Group. In fact he would eliminate any thought of such an “official” group from among the citizens of Hungary. At a meeting of the Bund leadership on March 4, 1939 Basch complained that Teleki would take the hard won rights gained under Imrédy away. He had met Teleki and energetically protested against the treatment and persecution of the ethnic German minority living in Western Hungary and in Pécs who had suffered great indignities at the hands of Hungarian officials when they were simply acting within their rights and claimed that the Jewish liberal press was using the issue to simply buttress their anti-German bias. At the meeting the issue of establishing a political party was also discussed. Berlin was interested in establishing a Volksdeutsche NSDAP in Hungary but the leaders of the Volksbund did not think the time was ripe. They did agree to found a political party, with the name: Deutsche Volkspartie (German People’s Party) prior to the next election. But Teleki was not prepared to accept even the existence much less the pretensions of the Volksbund. Instead he supported the Bleyer organization with 450,000 Pengö in order to equalize their struggle with the Volksbund. In addition he assisted all German language newspapers opposed to the Volksbund including the Kirchenblatt of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran periodical Wehr und Waffe.
Shortly before leaving for a visit in Germany with Csáky, Teleki put a halt to the Bund’s school programme as they conflicted with the Law of 1879. All associations could have only one objective, i.e. cultural, religious, economic, social but not for any combination of these as espoused by the Bund. He also pointed out that the Bund could not sponsor private schools. It was outside of their mandate.
Basch now pushed for the establishment of a political party and the contesting of the next election. Ribbentrop communicated the dissatisfactions of the Volksbund in his talks with Teleki on April 29, 1939. He informed them, “The Führer judges a nation by the way it deals with its minorities.” An “agreement” was reached to deal with the school question and the election of three representatives of the ethnic German minority as members of the Hungarian parliament. After consultation with the Bund leaders Teleki accepted the agreement. It was reported that this was an indication of the kind of cooperation the Bund was capable of with the Hungarian government for the benefit of the rank and file members of the ethnic German minority.
In the elections of May 28-29, 1939 and the follow up voting on June 5-6, 1939 there were three Bund candidates of the governing party that ran for office: Dr. Heinrich Mühl of Bonyhád, Dr. Konrad Mischung of Mohács and Jakob Brandt of Bacs-Bodrog. Only Mischung was unsuccessful.
Outwardly Basch gave the impression he accepted that the Bund’s status was only that of an association with only a single mandate he was busy and active in making the Bund an independent party based on the Nazi ideology that would have control over all state affairs that affected the ethnic German minority in Hungary. His public stance was intended to allay any fears the Hungarian government might have about his aspirations and was also due to pressures from the Reich shortly before Germany dealt with the Polish problem. As the Polish situation developed Basch was instructed to lie low because the Reich was interested in preserving good relations with Hungary. The German ambassador Erdmannsdorf in Budapest in the past had always sided with the Hungarian government against the objectives of the Volksbund. He did a complete turn about when Hungary refused to allow passage to German troops through Hungary to attack Poland on September 10, 1939. Erdmannsdorff encouraged the two Bund members of parliament to leave the ruling party and sit as independents.
On October 6, 1939 Hitler shared his plans for the newly won territories in Poland before the German Reichstag and announced, “A new order in the ethnic composition through a resettlement of the nationalities” was now possible and feasible. His policy for the resettlement and transfer of populations did not come overnight. The direction had already been set shortly after being named Chancellor of Germany he declared, “The opening up of new living space in the East and its Germanization,” is now an absolute necessity.” In his speech to the Reichstag he propounded his biological-cultural-national ideology to the effect that such a high and worthy people as the Germans could not breed with lesser peoples nor be assimilated by them. He insisted that living space in the Southeast and the East must be determined on the basis of race and nationality. He gave the mandate to follow through with his plan to the SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler who on October 7th was to become the Reich Commissioner to fortify all Germandom.
That the Volksbund would understand and support this programme was a forgone conclusion. The idea of securing the west bank of the Danube for German resettlement appealed to them to serve as bridge between the Reich (Austria) and the south-eastern Swabian enclaves and settlements. The ethnic German minority in Hungary would only be involved to the extent that those who had assimilated would have to be resettled elsewhere from the viewpoint of the Volksbund leaders. That such an action could be undertaken in light of the present situation was considered difficult on the part of the leadership of the Bund and it would be necessary on their part to avoid creating conflict between Germany and Hungary if at all possible. Not only was there opposition to Hitler’s plan outside of the Reich but also within it as well, the Hungarian ambassador wrote, “a large part of the party membership is opposed to Hitler’s plan seeing it a betrayal of the ethnic Germans who are living outside of the Reich.”
The governments of the south-eastern European states saw in Hitler’s resettlement plans the possibility of getting rid of disloyal ethnic German populations. Horthy’s letter to Hitler dated November 3, 1939 does not come as a surprise in which he express gratitude for the proposed resettlement of the ethnic German population in Hungary. Horthy indicated he wanted to resettle Hungary with the Diaspora Magyars in the neighbouring states to take their place. Hitler’s plan he said met his own objectives. An article appeared in the newspaper in Mosonvármegye on February 9, 1941 reporting, “For so long the Magyars in America, Belgium, France and the Bukovina have been awaiting the call to return of their mother, the Magyar Motherland.”
This would only become a reality for the Csango from Moldavia and the Szekler from Bukovina who had been resettled in the Batschka after 1918 among the Serbs but were forced to flee like the Germans who had been resettled in the Warthegau in Poland. In order to bolster Horthy’s support of Hitler’s planned resettlement plans the Hungarian press reported on the resettlement of the ethnic Germans from the Baltic States and southern Tyrol. These were moves that upset the vast majority of the members of the ethnic German minority in Hungary. To allay their fears the Volksbund leadership issued a circular letter on November 20th, which said in part, “…there has never been any talk about the resettlement of the Swabians of Hungary.” Whether that was a lie or said tongue in check is still in dispute. The opponents of the Volksbund, above all the Social Democrats hoped that Hitler’s resettlement policy would weaken the support of the Volksbund and the Arrow Cross Party among the German minority and as a result carried out an active propaganda campaign in the German communities but were unsuccessful in their efforts.
It was the poorer people among the ethnic German minority that supported both the Volksbund and Hitler’s policy of resettlement. The rest of the ethnic German population by and large opposed it and also opposed the Volksbund. In the smaller villages of Tolna and Baranya County the Volksbund membership was never a majority, reaching 40% at the highest but in most places far less. Majós was the exception with 80%. In many villages there were literally none at all. In most cases the figures used by the Volksbund included all family members and those who attended any of their events even if they had not signed on as members of the organization. One researcher reported, “In the region around Pécs the ethnic German minority has great fear and apprehension about the proposed resettlement and is greatly opposed to it but they are devotees of Hitler and desired that Hitler come here or better said that the area be annexed to Germany.” The results of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg victories forced Teleki to make concessions to the Volksbund. Their proposed newspaper was allowed to begin publication in May of 1940 as a weekly with 16,000 subscribers compared to 7,000 readers of the UDV of Bleyer.
Basch was not placated by Teleki’s concessions and policies towards the ethnic German minority. In his letter to Faulstich in the Reich on May 18th he gave expression to his outrage that the Volksbund members who lived in the border villages alongside of the Reich were denied the right to serve in the German armed forces (!) or as workers in the Reich war industries. He indicated he had presented a petition to the Hungarian Prime Minister to further the aims and wishes of the Volksbund in this regard and others. In his petition he reported the police terror, miserable treatment of Swabians involved in the Levente (para-military organization) by the Levente leaders, the forced Magyarization of family names in the schools and military, the intimidation of parents on the order to re-organize the schools in order to eliminate German instruction, as well as the great anxiety and alarm over the resettlement of the Swabian population that was being broadcast among the population by the government press.
These charges indicate that Basch thought that the Hungarian government could be forced to comply with his demands because of the German victories and recognize the constitutional rights of the Folk Group. That was obviously a pipe dream (as most of his ideas were) once the German victories came to an end. It was a fatal error on his part.