Fact Check: Count Albert Apponyi Did NOT Tell Allied Powers Hungary Would Attend Their Funerals After WWI


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Fact Check: Count Albert Apponyi Did NOT Tell Allied Powers Hungary Would Attend Their Funerals After WWI Fake Quote

Did Count Albert Apponyi, the aristocrat who led Hungary's delegation to the 1919-20 Paris Peace Conference that dismembered his country after World War I, threateningly tell the victorious Allied powers that Hungary would attend their funerals? No, that's not true: Historians say there is no record of Apponyi making such a statement. Keyword searches reveal that the quote, misattributed to Apponyi, began appearing on social media as early as 2014, and went viral after it appeared in an article published by a Hungarian nationalist magazine in 2017.

The claim appeared in a Hungarian-language video (archived here) published on TikTok on July 2, 2023. The text read:

Count Albert Apponyi: 'You have now dug Hungary's grave, but Hungary will be there at the funeral of all those countries that here and now dug Hungary's grave.'

(All translations by Lead Stories.)

The post shows an illustration of French President Emmanuel Macron dashing away from rioters, implying that the violent protests that ravaged France in 2023 presaged the country's "funeral."

This is what it looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Jul 17 07:59:31 2023 UTC)

Hungary fought in World War I as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed in 1918 following its defeat by the Allied powers. On January 16, 1920, Apponyi addressed the Paris Peace Conference in an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the Allies from handing two-thirds of Hungary's prewar territory to neighboring countries. Hungary's fate was ultimately sealed at the signing of the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920.

There is no record of Apponyi telling his Western interlocutors that Hungary planned to attend their countries' funerals. As historian Máté Gali wrote in an article published on February 5, 2021:

The fake quote linked to Albert Apponyi primarily came to the attention of the community of internet users last year on the centenary of the signing of the Trianon Peace Dictate... Apponyi's speech [to the Paris conference] is available in its entirety from many places... Reading it all the way through, it becomes clear that the quote that is now spreading rapidly does not appear in the text. In his presentation, the Count relied on geographical, economic, security-policy and historical arguments to contend in favor of maintaining the unity of historical Hungary, and it certainly would have been contrary to his intentions had he started threatening those peace-conference representatives whom he was trying to win over to fairer peace terms. Not to mention that the coarse language [of the quote] was beneath Albert Apponyi, who was considered a master orator of his time.

Gali's finding was corroborated by fellow historian Balázs Ablonczy in his 2022 book, "Száz év múlva lejár? Újabb Trianon-legendák" ("It Expires After 100 Years? New Trianon Legends.")

So, where does the faux quote originate? Gali says he searched through digital databases of Hungarian historical sources and discovered that it first appeared in print on January 7, 2017, on the website of Magyar Tudat, a Hungarian nationalist magazine. The article did not cite a source.

Internet searches show that the quote had been popping up sporadically on social media before Magyar Tudat published its piece. Lead Stories performed a search on YouTube using the key phrase "Önök most megásták Magyarország sírját" ("You now have dug Hungary's grave") on July 18, 2023. It revealed that the quote featured on the channel of Andrea László, a Hungarian nationalist singer, on June 4, 2014 - the 94th anniversary of the Trianon Treaty. It appeared in another user's post on Facebook on June 4, 2015, a separate search also conducted on July 18, 2023, showed.

A Google search for the phrase reveals only a few online citations from January 1, 1990, to January 7, 2017, the day Magyar Tudat published its article. By contrast, more than 100 citations turned up between January 7, 2017, and July 18, 2023.

Trianon remains a matter of humiliation for many Hungarians a century after it was signed, and Apponyi's combative-sounding misquote is commonly cited as accurate in Hungarian nationalist circles. László Vegh, mayor of the city of Sümeg, misattributed it to Apponyi in a speech marking the 100th anniversary of Trianon on June 4, 2020. It even appears on a memorial to Apponyi in the town of Pécel.


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