The two Hungarian signatories
After the end of World War I, the (Hungarian) peace treat(y was) signed at the Trianon Palace on the outskirts of Paris.
Count Apponyi Albert, head of the Hungarian peace delegation, the best orator of his time, delivered his speech in defense of the justice of Hungary’s cause in French, English and Italian. It was not his fault that it was unsuccessful.
Attending him were the two chief delegates, Count Bethlen István, the most outstanding politician of his time who later became Prime Minister, and the geographer (Count) Teleki Pál. Both were fully aware that we could fight against the peace terms only with geographic and ethnographic arguments.
Contrary to every accepted diplomatic practice, the members of the Hungarian peace delegation were treated like prisoners, which was not only degrading but also meant a tremendous disadvantage, since they could contact neither French politicians nor the press. Arguments may influence even a very biased person, but they would not even deign to speak with us. As a result, the peace delegation could only produce memoranda – they even took along a printing press for this purpose – but the documents were not even read by the French foreign office!
Although everyone in Hungary considered the peace terms to be horribly unjust, they knew that they could not refuse to sign, because that could lead to much worse consequences. The Hungarian government chose a unique way to show the world that it only yielded to raw force. The document was signed in Trianon on June 4th, 1920 by two totally insignificant persons entirely without power and holding no office who, neither before or after, played any role in Hungarian history. They were Drasche-Lázár Alfréd and Bernád Ágoston, who endorsed his signature with his signet ring. In his memoirs, Bernád relates that he had taken the penholder he used for the signing – they still wrote with a steel pen at the time – from his hotel, and threw it away afterwards so that no relic of this calamitous event would remain.
On the 10th anniversary of the signing, in 1930, Bernád Ágoston recalled the event thus:
“They received us in dead silence, and we took our places amidst general attention. President Millerand announced that the Hungarian delegates would now sign the peace accord. The master of ceremonies stepped to me first, and asked me to sign the peace. He courteously offered me a seat.
"I thanked him, and courteously declined the ceremonial pen. Standing, almost not even looking, I signed it in a perfunctory manner with a rusty, soft wood pen I had found on the hotel’s table which I had brought with me, then stamped it with my family signet ring. Then I left the pen on the table. Next, my fellow authorized representative, Drasche-Lázár Alfréd signed it. (Praznovszky Iván, later ambassador to Paris, Secretary-General of the Hungarian peace delegation, had offered me, back in the hotel, a rather ornate pen which they had sent from Budapest for this purpose. Interestingly they guard this pen in the War History Museum, with which we supposedly had signed the peace treaty, but I informed the head of the museum that I did not use that one!)
“I wanted to document, with my whole deportment that I, on my part, do not attribute further importance to the signature forced upon us, that personally, and primarily as regards my nation, I do not consider it a ceremonial act but a humiliating act that had been forced on us, and thus would not be binding.”