Count Michael Károlyi – Fascismo, The Menace to World Peace

On February 1, 1930 The Harvard Crimson reported:

Count Michael Károlyi, first President of Hungary, who is to speak at the Ford Hall Forum tomorrow evening, at 7 o’clock, on “Fascismo–The Menace to World Peace” has, after a four-year period of exclusion, at last been given permission to enter America as an ordinary European visitor with a six months’ visa.

Károlyi spoke about the rise of fascism in Europe and warned about its consequences. Deja vu! His thoughts are just as relevant today.

Count Michael Károlyi in the United States.

Count Mihály (Michael) Károlyi was the first President of Hungary. As a wealthy aristocrat, and the largest landowner in the country, he did something Hungary’s ruling class never forgave him for. On February 23, 1919 Károlyi gave away his own land. A delegation traveled by train to Kál-Kápolna where Károlyi started to parcel out his land in the presence of Prime Minister Berinkey and several ministers of the Government.

In July of the same year Károlyi left Hungary, first settling in France, then later in England. In 1923 the Horthy regime convicted him for treason and took his land-holdings. Pro-Hitler Admiral Horthy hated Károlyi, just like the Orbán-regime does today.

Károlyi often visited the United States and always received a hero’s welcome from Hungarian Americans. In 1914 over 5,000 of them greeted him in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

5,000 greeted Károlyi in Connecticut

In the early 1920s Horthy surrogates started an anti-Károlyi campaign in the US. They claimed that the first President of Hungary was a “communist traitor” and called his wife ”the Red Countess.” In 1924 when Károlyi applied for a visa, the State Department imposed a gag order preventing him from giving political speeches. Later the Károlyis were denied entry without any reason given.

While Károlyi remained enormously popular in the US, he also had powerful enemies. Among them Horthy’s ambassador in Washington, Count László Széchenyi, who spared no time and money to prevent Károlyi’s visits. Széchenyi was well-connected due to his marriage to Gladys Vanderbilt, the daughter of the railroad magnate.

Ambassador László Széchenyi

Secretary of States Hughes and Kellogg denied him a visa for years but when President Hoover took over in 1928, the new Secretary of State, Mr. Henry Stimson flatly rejected these maneuvers and on October 28, 1929 the State Department granted entry to Károlyi.

The Ford Hall Forum in Boston is the oldest free public lecture series in the US and Károlyi spoke in the jam-packed auditorium. No other Hungarian has ever been invited to speak there.

György Lázár

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