ROME, ITALY – The first time Mindszenty probed American officials about the possibility of restoring the Holy Crown of St. Stephen to its rightful place occurred on or sometime after February 19th, 1946, the date he was escorted to Rome by Maj. General Key and ACC executive officer, Lawrence Hagy, for his official consecration ceremony as Cardinal and Prince Primate.
Of anyone, Mindszenty might have been the most interested in its return since the quasi-feudal laws governing Hungary until the Soviet occupation designated the Prince Primate as de facto head of state in the absence of a king, and despite the fact that the Hungarian monarchy had been legally abolished in the election that created the provisional government in November, the Cardinal had no intention of honoring that vote and resented any political leader who did not travel to the Archdiocese of Esztergom to consult with him on matters of national policy.
In 1947, he asked the Pope to intercede on Hungary’s behalf for the return of the precious crown, but no amount of influence-peddling could get the U.S. to release the prized possession, and indeed, would not do so for the next thirty years. After all, an object imbued with centuries of heavenly and earthly power was nothing to be trifled with, as coming events would soon reveal.
Negotiations with private Western interests in Hungary and the Soviet-backed provisional government had been deteriorating. Ongoing talks with Standard Electric, a subsidiary of the International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT) corporation, stalled after the U.S. Military blocked an agreement between the parties, in which ITT retained 100 percent of the shares in its subsidiary in exchange for its manufacturing licenses, which the Defense Department refused to hand over.
In November 1948, Paul Ruedemann of Standard Oil’s subsidiary MAORT was arrested over accusations of sabotage, in what was the start if a series of “show trials” put on by the leader of the Hungarian Worker’s Party’s (MDP), Mátyás Rákosi, who calculated that hanging the West’s dirty laundry out to dry could hasten the process of nationalization.
A day after Ruedemann’s detention, MPD’s Propaganda and Agitation Committee, identified Cardinal Mindszenty as an ideal target for political persecution and arrested his personal secretary of five years, Dr. András Zakar, who later that same evening would guide officers to a room in the basement of the archdiocese and point to a spot on the ground, where secret correspondence between Mindszenty and the Vatican was buried inside a metal box. Zakar’s quick cooperation with the secret police was attributed to his “frail constitution and health“.
Within weeks, Mindszenty himself would be jailed, accused of treason and of plotting the overthrow of the fledgling republic to establish a “Federal Central European Kingdom“, consisting of Hungary, Austria and Bavaria to be ruled under the investiture of the Holy Crown of St. Stephen by Otto von Hapsburg.
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