Hungarian forced labour victims for justice
Brussels 17.11.2022 “The deportation of the Hungarians of Slovakia for forced labour 1946-1947” hearing took place in the European Parliament on November 16 under the chairmanship of the MEP Jordi Sole from the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party, Spain, belonging to the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.
“In order to understand the question of deportation of the Hungarian population of Slovakia towards the Czech countries some enlightenment is necessary”, said the keynote speaker Mikulas Krivansky, a Slovakian born Hungarian journalist, President of the Association of Victims of Deportations and their Descendants.
At the end of the Second World War the Czechoslovak leaders were deeply convinced that reconstituted Czechoslovakia had to become ethnically homogeneous.
The Conference of Potsdam accepted the evacuation of Germans but opposed the expatriation of Hungarians. As a consequence the Czechoslovak government asked the Peace Conference to compel Hungary to accept a Treaty on the exchange of populations, such a Treaty being signed on Febrary 27th 1946.
The Czechoslovak authorities decided to proceed to an unilateral and violent solution of this issue.
Instrumentalising the Law 88/1945 on general work liability (obligation) the displacement of the Hungarians towards the Czech country proceeded.
Comparing the Law itself and its application, in fact it has been used as a pretext to the displacement of the Hungarian population.
By virtue of such a law, in the case of an urgent and public interest work, it was foreseen, for a year at most, to impose the obligatory work on men aged from 16 to 55 and women from 18 to 45.
Those not to be constrained to work were gravid women and women with one child under 15, nor women having at least one dependent person. Married workers could only be called if the number of workers was not sufficient.
In spite of this, as early as November 19th 1946, forced transfers were executed, army and police troops encircled the Hungarian districts along the Danube.
The deportations produced many tragic victims and caused a lot of suffering; newborn babies at the breast and elderly people died, others suffered serious illnesses.
The displaced families were posted as rural servants or daily-workers for Czech big farmers and landowners.
Such a proceeding was contrary to the Czechoslovak laws, because the authorities had repeatedly violated the legislation in force.
According to the sources of the ministry of Social Affairs, in January 1948, 11 746 “economic units”, a term used to designate families, were deported, namely 44 129 persons.
The majority of the victims managed to go back to Slovakia after the communists took power in 1948.
Only after the change in 1989, did the victims express their claims, demanding justice to be served.
This is the reason why the Association of Victims of Deportations and their Descendants was founded. The Association represents 3 000 registered victims.
During the two mandates of Mr. Dzurinda’s Government ( 1998-2002 and 2002-2006 ) the Slovak Parliament voted for laws aiming to compensate certain victims of the past. These laws covered the 1939 to 1945 fascist period and the 1948 to 1990 communist period but excluded from any compensation the victims of the 1945 to 1948 period considered as a democratic one.
The exclusion of the victims of forced labour from all compensation is based on ethnicity and constitutes, in our opinion, a serious discrimination between the different groups of Slovak citizens.
Subsequently 1 500 members of our association have written personally a letter to the Prime Minister Mr. Dzurinda and to the European Commissioner Mr. Romano Prodi. The European Deputies mobilized in favour of the victims of forced labour. The question was put forward within various Parliamentary Committees: Nelly Maes, Miquel Mayol i Raynal, Bernat Joan i Marí travelled many times to Slovakia to attend the General Assembly of our Association.
Written questions were raised at the Commission and at the Commissioner for Enlargement Mr. Verheugen.
The MEP Erik Meijer confronted the latter four pertinent questions, but got only vague answers based on evasive generalities.
The Czech Government under Mr. Jiří Paroubek finally decided to make a humanitarian gesture towards the victims of the past. Thanks to the intervention of many European Deputies from a variety of political adherences, the Czech citizens of Hungarian origin, victims of forced labour, are now included in the Declaration of the Czech Government.
In the light of the preceding facts one is entitled to raise a question: has there then been indifference or complicity on behalf of the decision-making politicians?
To sum up the the main violations of legality incurred in by the state authorities are the following:
– Use of coercion and armed force
– Non-respect of the prescriptions of the law when being enforced
– Non-respect of salary related provisions in force
– Absence of proper housing and food as indicated by law
– Exploitation of child labour
– Denial to include in pension schemes the period of work
– Absence of all benefits issuing from social security coverage.
“We believe that all those who have been through these works, contributed to the reconstruction of the Republic caused by World War II, they deserve recognition for their dignifying effort. Many are those, among which are the MEPs, who feel there is a compelling need for legislation aimed at repairing prejudice caused to the Slovak citizens – victims of forced labour” Krivansky continued.
The recent role of the European Parliament and elected representatives in matters of forced labour is reflected in the decisions taken against companies resorting to these practices.
The EU ban of products from forced labour is an encouraging gesture for our struggle for justice.
Presentetion by Mr. Krivansky, President of the Association of Victims of Deportations and their Descendants – Slovakia, during the Public Hearing held by MEP Jordi SOLÉ in Brussel on Nov.16th 2022