Volksbund. National Socialist organization of an ethnic group
or an emancipationist minority association?
In the government formed after the revolutions of 1919-18, Jakob Bleyer, leader of the Germans in Hungary was Minister of Nationalities. A supporter of the "unassailable Magyar supremacy", Bleyer was for a centralized and conservative form of government. The task of his ministry was not the elaboration of the future minority policy of the Hungarian government, but propaganda against the separation of Northern and Western Hungary, territories inhabited by Magyars. Thus the loss of Burgenland was regarded by the public as the personal failure of Bleyer, and his ministry was eventually dissolved.
In the wake of the shock of the Peace Treaty of Trianon, the Hungarian public, living in the heated atmosphere of the "conspiracy theory", according to which the disintegration of Hungary was the result of the undermining activities of the ethnic minorities, demanded the establishment of an ethnically unified and, therefore, "strong" Hungary as a necessary precondition of future revision. Accepting this, Bleyer acted accordingly. His thesis of "Deutschungar" ruled out "pan-German politics" and cooperation with the German minorities of neighbouring countries. This orientation was continued by the Ungarländischer Deutscher Volkbildungsverein.
According to the results of the elections of 1930, the proportion of Germans in the total population went down from 6.9% to 5.5%. This resulted in tensions in the leadership of the Verein. What is more, the new prime minister, Count Gyula Károlyi openly declared that permitting the Union to function had been an irreparable mistake, and he would not cooperate even with Bleyer. The situation was made more difficult when Gyula Gömbös became prime minister. After that Bleyer also looked to Berlin and to "pan-Germanism" for the saving of the German minority. Berlin, however, not embracing their cause for the time being, made it possible for the Hungarian government to take firm measures against the German minority leaders who wanted to vindicate national interests. After Bleyer's death, Franz Basch gradually moved to the foreground. Gömbös, who was for the complete suppression of the German minority movement, forfeited the last chance to put minority politics in Hungary on a new basis.
From 1937, Berlin increasingly tried to exploit the German minorities for its own foreign political ends. That is why the Volksbund was organized. However, since according to the intentions of the founders the organization should rather unite than polarize the Germans in Hungary, the Volksbund refused to be involved in partisan political activities. And although Berlin was in the background, the goals of the organization were less closely related to National Socialism than to the traditions of the protection of the minorities from the 1920s. At the same time, they regarded the power politics of the Third Reich as ethnopolitical ethnic group ideology. German imperial influence was increasing within the organization, reinforced by the weight of the ethnic Germans in recently reannexed Bácska. The politics of dissimilation that Berlin wanted to carry out naturally resulted in conflicts with the Hungarian government, but did not harmonize with the original ideas of the Volksbund either, the latter interpreting the protection of minority interests as defensive popular politics.