Pál Teleki was Hungary’s Prime Minister from 1920 to 1921 and later from 1939 until his death in 1941. He committed suicide because he strongly opposed the country entering World War II, but Hungary let the German army march through the country to occupy Yugoslavia, although Hungary and Yugoslavia had just signed a pact about their “forever friendship” a few months prior. Now, a new suicide letter penned by the ex-Prime Minister has been found.
Teleki was also a famous expert in geography, a university professor, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and Chief Scout of the Hungarian Scout Association. The former PM is not only a controversial figure due to his effort to avoid entering the war but also because of his proposition and enaction of anti-Jewish laws.
We broke our word, – out of cowardice […] The nation feels it, and we have thrown away its honor. We have allied ourselves to scoundrels […] We will become body-snatchers! A nation of trash. I did not hold you back. I am guilty.”
This letter written to Miklós Horthy was discovered in the 1950s. Horthy served as Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary between World Wars I and II and throughout most of World War II. Some consider Teleki’s suicide an act of patriotism.
In reference to Teleki, Winston Churchill wrote:
His suicide was a sacrifice to absolve himself and his people from guilt in the German attack on Yugoslavia.”
Despite evidence of a suicide note, theories of foul play ran rampant. The “new” suicide note written to Péter Incze, Teleki’s personal assistant, refutes the speculations.
The “new” suicide note to Péter Incze. Photo: via Márton Mónus/MTI
In this note, Teleki dictates to Incze what kind of funeral he would like to have. He asks that only his assistant and a priest be present and requests a tomb without a name. In explanation, he tells of his growing dislike of people. At the letter’s end, he simply thanks Incze for his friendship.
Incze was more than a personal assistant; he also worked for Teleki’s illegal transborder propaganda institution TESZK. Though he primarily dealt with personal issues rather than political ones, he served as the personal secretary to several prime ministers, playing a vital role in history. According to MTA historian Balázs Ablonczy, Incze supported Teleki through periods of severe mood swings, depression and nervous break-downs.
The statue of PM Pál Teleki in Balatonboglár. Photo by mapio.net
The Incze family gave the suicide note to the Budapest City Archives (BFL) the night before the 78th anniversary of Teleki’s death.