All posts by erikscollectables

The Hungarian WW2 army officers 1931M dress tunic (társasági zubbony)

The first type of dress tunic of the Hungarian army, after World War one, was the 1926 Model which was a classic atilla style tunic which was in use in many armies up to World War one.

This was replaced by a more modern but still typical Hungarian dress tunic in 1931, hence the model name 1931M. This model was in use until 1945 and was never changed in that period. Where the regular officers uniform changed the collar in 1939 this remained a standing collar.

thumb_IMG_6467_1024Some colour variations exist based on the branch of the army – this one is the infantry green version. General officers had a light blue one (like the WW1 hechtgrau colour), darker blue for the cavalry etc. This version is for a Lieutenant Colonel of the Infantry. The loops on the left breast are for medals, in this case 9 loops. The combination of rank and medals hint at an officer that already started his career in the first World War.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007
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Hungarian Air Force: pilot wings and cap badges

The Hungarian Air Force was built up in secret during the 1930s. Officially this was not allowed based on the Trianon treaty that was a result of World War 1. Also when the war started and they could openly built the Air Force further it remained rather small compared to other forces in the war making all insignia quite rare.

In most countries a pair of wings has become the standard symbol for an aviators qualification. In the Hungarian Air Force this was no different. What makes it a a bit more interesting is that almost the same design was used for cap badges. This leads to many mistakes by collectors, pilots wings are seen as cap badges and vice versa.

The distinction is actually quite easy. For the qualification badge the wings are straight and for the cap badges the wings are curved. Otherwise they are the same.

Pilot wings

There are basically two types of wings that were used in World War 2 by the Hungarian Air Force. One for the pilot and another for the observer (navigator). The only difference between these is that the pilot has a crown above the eagle and the observer not.

The wings are made of cloth with gold bullion stitching. There is no difference in rank visible in the badge – which makes it different from most Hungarian badges like on the cap badges we will discuss next.

The wings were worn (sewn on) on the right breast above the top pocket of the 1930M Air Force officers uniform (that I will discuss in another blog).

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thumb_IMG_6455_1024 Worn version of the pilot wings, front and back below

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Metal versions of these wings were also officially made but these seem to have only been given to non-Hungarian pilots as “exchange” badges.thumb_Schermafbeelding 2018-04-07 om 10.38.16_1024Metal version awarded to a german pilot (photo from the internet, not my collection)

The observer wings were introduced later in the war and were worn by the officer with this task in the crew of a bomber. These are very rare and also exist in metal for foreign observers but I have not found a photo of one being worn or a confirmed original.

IMG_6450        Lieutenant with the observer wings (photo from internet)

Cap badges

For the cap badges the story is interesting too as some more variations exist. The basis is again cloth with bullion stitching. Silver for ranks below officer and gold for officers. But more variations exist. A more ornate version on a red cloth background for general officers exists which is very rare. Also a version for officers in training. For use on the side cap for common soldiers a metal version was in use that later became standard for all ranks. All variations of course with the curved wings!

thumb_IMG_6473_1024NCO cap badge in silver bullion, top is worn, bottom one new old stock

thumb_IMG_6474_1024The NOS one even has the makers label still attached!

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Period overview of Air Force badges and ranks:

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The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

Another blog about a Hungarian tunic, this time the Air Force officers “front” version.

 

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The 1930M uniform was the standard Air Force officers uniform from 1930 until 1945. The only variations are in material and color. Green for regular use, white for the summer and black as the dress version. Within the green colour also many variations exist.  Officers could buy their own tailor made versions with more luxurious materials like gabardine in place of the regular wool version.

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Example of a flight officer wearing a tailor made version

This specific version is a coarse wool (poszto) version as was handed out by the Air Force. This variation is called the front version that has brown metal buttons in place of the regular gold coloured buttons and made of poszto.

thumb_IMG_6393_1024Example of a front version being worn by an Air Force lieutenant

Unlike on the army tunic the shoulder boards are detachable (which was also the case with the river forces). If the officer was an aviator the pilot wing would be worn on the right breast just above the top pocket.

This tunic like eg the German and English ones were also worn as part of the actual flight gear. Often with a leather coat over the tunic.

hun afPilots with flight jacket over the tunic (photo from internet)

The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 3: paperwork

The Austro-Hungarian army was well organized in its paperwork. Each request for a medal would go through the hierarchy and be kept in the personal record when awarded. It would depend on the level of the medal in which stage of the hierarchy the decision would finally be made.  For the Golden Bravery Medal a separate register was kept that still is available as a reference in the Vienna Military Archives. 

After the medal was awarded the person would receive  an award paper (Legitimation) confirming the award which should be worn on the person (to be able to proof the medals that were actually worn in the field). The standard place to keep these papers were the small ID capsules each person would wear. This made it necessary to make the documents very small. Here are some examples.

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Some units made more elaborate documents available for their men in a larger size. These are not standard and not official but relatively rare and desirable.

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Personal files were partially lost in the 2nd world war and also these were split between the different states that resulted from the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Honved related files are mostly in the Hungarian Military Archives in Budapest and most others in Vienna and some in the other states. Here an example of Bravery medal related request as found in these archives.

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More about the research on one person can be found in this earlier blog: Vitéz Horvath Janos winner of the Golden Medal for Bravery, WW1 Austro-Hungarian Army

An interesting secondary source for Hungarian WW1 bravery medals related info are the Vitezi rend yearbooks in which also medal lists are published. 

 

The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 2: exchange with the German Iron Cross

The German Iron Cross is probably the most iconic award in the world. As part of the same coalition an exchange agreement between Germany and Austro-Hungaria was made for their armies. Were the German award system is the same for all ranks this is not the case in the Austro-Hungarian (AH) award system were there are specific medals for officers and different medals for the nco ranks. For the Germans the Iron Cross was the most general medal for gallantry so a good basis for exchange. But this would not fit the AH system. Therefore the choice was made to make the German Iron Cross only available to the officers in the AH army. The 2nd class for troop officers and the 1st class only for high ranking officers which can be seen in the extreme low amounts awarded. This only began to change slightly in the last year of the war.

 

For the ranks below officer a different solution had to be found. This came in the form of the Prussian Warriors Merit Medal (Krieger Verdienstmedaille) that always had been intended for foreign soldiers of ranks below officer. It was worn on the same ribbon as the Iron Cross which made the distinction between officers and men a bit more tolerable.

 

The Iron Cross could be awarded to the lowest rank of officer (Fahnrich) and also to Officer replacements. Most officers that became an officer during the war had gone through the nco ranks as part of their officers training and often had been awarded medals for the nco ranks in that period. As soon as they were officers they would be eligable to receive the German Iron Cross. So in mixed groups (officers that had been a nco before) both officers and nco medals can be found. This often leeds to the misunderstanding that the German Iron Cross could be awarded the nco’s as well in the AH army which is not the case.

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The award criteria for gallantry medals are very different in each country as is the structure of the army and the processes to award medals. So a comparison of “level” is not possible. But a comparison of relative numbers of awards should be possible.

To do this I have taken some data from online sources and combined those. I have taken the number of men mobilized between 1914 and 1918. Further I have taken the number of awards per class and compared these with the number of mobilized men. Both as an percentage and as 1 decoration awarded per how many mobilized men.

There are several reasons why this comparison is not “fair”. The AH Bravery Medals were aimed at the men below the rank of officer. No other gallantry medals could be given to them. The German Iron Cross in the German army was open to all ranks. Next to this there were many other awards for gallantry/bravery from the different states within Imperial Germany. Those facts are not taken in account – it is a simple, straightforward comparison of numbers only!

Nevertheless I have made the comparison in numbers and found to my surprise that the total relative amount of Iron Crosses is way bigger than that of Bravery Medals. Even the “unpopular” Bronze Bravery Medal is relatively rarer than an Iron Cross 2nd Class. And the Silver Bravery Medal 1st class can be compared to the Iron Class 1st class in relative amounts.

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The last part of the statistics show the numbers I have taken from the reference below and state the amount of German Iron Crosses (IC) and Prussian Warriors Merit Medals (WMM) that were awarded to members of the Austro-Hungarian army.

All pictures are from my own collection.

Reference: Steiner, J.C. (2010) Heldenwerk 1914-1918. Vienna, Austria

Part one can be found here: https://erikscollectables.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/the-austro-hungarian-bravery-medals-in-ww1/

The Hungarian WW2 army uniform 1939M tunic (zubbony)

As most books regarding Hungary in WW2 regarding the history, uniforms and medals are in Hungarian I want to add a series of short descriptions in English in this blog.

The 1939M tunic (zubbony in Hungarian) was a modernization of the earlier 1926M version. The most notable difference being the collar which was a standing collar in the earlier version. The 1939M came with a so called stand and fall collar (so a collar that folds like on a shirt).

The same style of uniform was used both by officers and men. The basic material of the tunic is wool but many variations exist in both quality of the material and details. Most officers bought a private, tailor made version of the tunic in a fine quality of wool “kammgarn”.

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The officers version as seen above can be recognized by the details in gold: the buttons, the collar insignia “paroli” and the shoulder loops. The collar insignia give information about rank and branch. In this case a colonel of the infantry. The stars are made of bullion. The collar loops are the same for officers of all ranks and all branches of the army, a small loop of gold material.

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The ranks below officer had most often a tunic in coarser wool “poszto”. Most professional soldiers would also have a tailor made in a finer version of wool like the one above. The distinctive difference with officers is that the details are in silver, buttons and collar insignia and the shoulder loops are of cloth and give the branch of the army as do the collar insignia. In this case a sergeant of the Gendarmes. The stars for the rank are made out of solid aluminum.

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The arm of the officers tunic ends with three (non-functional) buttons which the lower ranks tunic does not have.

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The back of the tunic shows a minor difference again, a single split for the officer and a double for the NCO.

Normally medals were worn on the uniform, even in the field in the first years of the war. Later in the war most men wore ribbons only and sometimes not even those. The colonel is showing a ribbon series fitting his rank and a career spanning two wars. Behind the ribbons also the loops for medals can be seen. The sergeant is wearing three medals on loops, also spanning a period of two wars.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007
  • Video on youtube by Decker’s Militaria: https://youtu.be/QrlaTfwqG40

Dutch “Honorable Mention” to a Navy MD

The Dutch Honorable Mention

The Dutch Gallantry medals had, for a very long time in history, only one order for all different levels of Gallantry, the Military Order of William which was instituted in 1815.  For lesser deeds of Gallantry there was the “Eervolle Vermelding” which translates to “Honorable Mention” or for the Anglo-Saxon world a Mention in Dispatches also instituted in 1815. For this there was no visible display of the honor. By many in the forces this was felt as an omission in the military decoration system. An unofficial wreath was worn with several different medals to make the Honorable Mention visible. Only in 1879 this was changed by the use of a crown device to be worn on the “Expedition Cross” that had been instituted in 1869. For multiple awards the number (2 or 3) would be displayed below the crown.

During WW2 the crown was finally replaced by several new medals for Gallantry and only one more clasp was added to the Expedition Cross (Timor 1942).

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Multiple example of the crown device and to the left an example of the unofficial wreath. (not my collection!)

Bali 1849 – Honorable Mention for J.P ter Beek, MD for the Royal Dutch Navy

As mentioned before the Expedition Cross dates from 1869 and at that same moment 6 clasp were instituted going back to as early as 1846, the first Bali Expedition. All living participants of these 6 expeditions would get the medal with clasp and an award certificate. These first 6 clasps belong to the rarer ones but the award document even more so (as there were more clasps produced than actually handed out to living participants). The navy only had a small part in the total number of crosses awarded so is even rarer.

Medical Doctor Ter Beek of the Royal Dutch Navy participated in the 3rd Bali campaign in 1849 on board of the “Z. M. fregat Prins van Oranje”  (the flagship of the campaign).

Ter Beek retired from the Navy in 1859 and became a General Practitioner in the city of Kampen in the Netherlands. Ten years later, 20 years after the campaign, he received the Expedition cross with the Clasp Bali 1849 and the award certificate shown below.

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In 1879 the aforementioned Crown device for wear on the Expedition Cross was instituted and also handed out retrospectively to those who had earned the Crown in the period before its existence. As Ter Beek was also Honorably Mentioned in the same Bali campaign he would get the Crown device and the diploma in that year, 30 years after the campaign for which it was bestowed!

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Above the diploma for the Honorable Mention and below the accompanying letter and the Expedition Cross with clasp and crown device.

This combination of a rare clasp with Honorable Mention for the same campaign and all documents confirming this may very well be unique in its kind! Especially so a Navy version!

His son A.W.K. ter Beek also chose a life of service and joined the Dutch East Indies Army where he would be awarded a Military Order of William 4th class, Honor Sword and Honorable Mention. The related documents to that are in the hands of another collector!

 

Expedition cross for the 1942 Timor Ferry

The Dutch medal “Ereteken voor Belangrijke Krijgsverrigtingen” is commonly referred to as the Expedition Cross.  Where the medal and most of the 33 clasps are common some of the clasps are relatively rare. One of these is the last clasp, that of Timor 1942. The accompanying documents for these rare clasps are even harder to find.

This example is to one of the Navy participants (servant 1st class :)) that was was on board of the so called Timor-Ferry Hr. Ms Tjerk Hiddes.

A great article has been written on the subject of the Timor Campaign and can be found here:

http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/2830/Battle-for-Timor.htm?page=1

A small excerpt from that webarticle regarding this ship:

Possibly the Australian navy had underestimated the risks of an evacuation and drew the conclusion that it required a fast en well-armed ship to finish such exercise successfully. Because the Australian did not have such ship available at that moment, the Dutch Commander of the Navy, Rear-Admiral Coster, was called upon. Coster supported the plans to evacuate the guerillas from Timor and because Hr. Ms. Van Galen was at sea, he appointed Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes to carry out this dangerous mission. The commander of the Tjerk Hiddes, Lieutenant Commander J.W.Kruys, received secret orders to firstly sail to Port Darwin where they had to bunker oil and where two motor launches and eight collapsible boats had to be loaded. On December 5th, 1942, the modern destroyer left her base, Fremantle, West Australia. Apart from fuel and the launches, commander Kruys received extremely useful information from the RAAF in Darwin. Shortly before, the Australian Air Force had downed a few Japanese bombers which had enabled them to lay their hands on a flight schedule of Japanese air patrol activities between North Australia and Timor. Therefore Kruys had the availability of detailed data regarding the air routes and times of the Japanese reconnaissance flights. Experience thought him also that the Japanese would not quickly divert from their schedules.

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On the 9th of December, early at 5 in the morning, Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes left Port Darwin and headed for Timor by strait Dundas, between Melville Island and the Cobourg peninsula, after which the destroyer crossed the Timor Sea with a speed of thirty knots. For the first hours Australian Bristol Beaufighters accompanied them. It had been agreed with Captain-of-Infantry Breemouer that he would gather his men and other refugees on the beach at Betano, where they would ignite three large fires. By excellent navigating and timing Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes arrived exactly in time on the right spot. Commander Kruys and his navigation officer Lieutenant Keesom had used their artillery radar in order to sound out the coast line and the Asdic-installation to detect reefs and cliffs, which were very innovative methods.

The Tjerk Hiddes anchored 800 yards from the coast and at that time the motor launches and 4 of the foldable boats had been prepared to be lowered. Thereafter the remainder of the foldable boats were hung outside board. The motor launches tugged the eight foldable boats into the surf after which the men of the landing detachment of the Tjerk Hiddes rowed them ashore. The KNIL soldiers on the beach were excited to be evacuated by a Dutch ship. The motor launches and the folding boats had to repeat their trips twice in order to embark all evacuees on the Hiddes. At the same time several Australian commandos and supplies were put ashore as reinforcements of the guerillas. Even before 01:00 all refugees, 50 women and children, 50 sick and wounded and almost 300 Australian and Dutch soldiers were onboard and the launches, boats and climbing nets cleared and stowed inboard. A quarter of an hour later the Hiddes went anchor up to return to Australia with a speed of 30 knots, whereby the heavy monsoon rains provided appropriate cover after daylight. The whole of the operation could not have been carried out more efficiently by the very best trained commando troops.

Several days after its return in Port Darwin, on 14 December, Tjerk Hiddes again left towards midnight in order to pick up evacuees; again accompanied by Beaufighters. This time the agreed landing spot would be 8 miles east of Betano and it concerned mainly the 2nd Independent Company. Again by excellent navigation, around 22:00 the pick-up zone was reached and within five minutes the launches and folding boats were on their way with five tons of supplies for the troops of the 4th Independent Company. Towards 00:30 all persons to be evacuated, about 240 Australian commandos and 30 Portuguese clergymen were onboard and the destroyer ready to leave. Again under the cover of the monsoon storms, the Dutch vessel crossed the Timor Sea and was again escorted by the Beaufighters at the last stretch. After again an exemplary mission, the Tjerk Hiddes entered Port Darwin around 17:00 on 16 December 1942.

Already the next night Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes left for the third and last time for Timor. This time Portuguese colonists and Timorese civilians had to be collected at Aliambeta, on the south coast of Timor. Around 23:00 on December 18th, the first signals were exchanged with the people on the beach and half an hour later the disembarking of aid materials started and the boarding of the more than 310 evacuees and 4 tons of valuable rubber. Even before 01:00 the Dutch destroyer was again ready for departure. In the early hours of 19 December the Beaufighters appeared over the ship which docked around 11:00 in Port Darwin.

The Timor-operation by the Tjerk Hiddes was a complete success and the way it had been carried out was an example of effective military performance. During the three trips to and from Timor not a single Japanese plane had been spotted, which had not been due to fortune but to the clever avoidance of the Japanese reconnaissance flights by the intelligence about their flight schedules. The excellent maneuvering and the quick unloading and loading of the folding boats and motor launches made the success of the operation complete. In an article of February 1960, in the American magazine US Naval Institute Proceedings, the Timor operation of Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes was extensively analyzed and the vessel was called the Timor-ferry.

It is great to be the custodian of such an interesting historical document! These awarded documents are very rare but beware: a great number of blanks of these are on the market….

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Captain Varga of the Hungarian River Guard

Naval Forces of Hungary in WW2

In April 1919 the Hungarian government established the Naval Forces (Hadihajós csapat, literally “warship group”) under the authority of the Defence Ministry for the purpose of patrolling the Danube. It was replaced on 1 March 1921 by the civilian Royal Hungarian River Guard (Magyar Királyi Folyamőrség) under the Interior Ministry. Between March 1927 and May 1930 it expanded to about 1700 personnel, a number that held until the end of World War II. On 15 January 1939 the River Guard was renamed the Royal Hungarian Army River Forces (Magyar Királyi Honvéd Folyami Erők) and placed under the Defence Ministry. It used naval ranks until 1 July 1944, when it switched to army ranks. In April 1941 it took part in the annexation of Yugoslavia. From April 1944 on its minesweepers assisted the Kriegsmarine (German navy) in clearing the Danube of aerial mines.

Order of battle (1 April 1940)
  • Patrol Boat Regiment (Budapest)
    • I Group
    • II Group
  • River Security Regiment in Ujvidek/Novi Sad after April 1941)
    • 1 Battalion
    • 2 Battalion
    • 3 Battalion

The above was copied from Wikipedia

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Staff Captain Varga

The items shown here in photo’s come from the estate of Staff Captain (equivalent of Major in the army) Varga who emigrated to the US after WW2. Currently I have no photo’s or other info apart from what I will show below. The research has just started so I expect to update this page soon!

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From the ranklist of officers of the Hungarian forces the above picture. It shows he participated in the (re)annexation of Transylvania and Yugoslavia with his ship.

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And a copy (with thanks to the Hungarian Military Archives) of his basic information as stated in the Military Archives.

The generic Hungarian flag that was used on all boats of the River Guard. As there were few boats they are very rare today. Probably he took this from the last boat he was stationed on. I hope to find out which boat that was.

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Next to his flag also his parade belt with hangers for the Navy dagger has survived and a set of shoulder boards with his final rank of Captain.

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These items were part of the Otto Friedrich collection from Cleveland.

 

WW2 Hungarian Gendarme (Csendőr) tunic

The word Gendarme is an old word, used in slightly different versions (Csendőr in Hungarian) all over Europe and has a similar meaning in all those languages. It was a military styled police force that acted in the rural areas. In Hungary cities had the right to set up a local police force (which they also had to fund in that case). All other areas (including cities that did not choose to have their own police force) were served / regulated by the Csendőr that were state funded. They were somewhere in between the army and the city police forces and brought law and order to the more remote areas.

In Hungary they also used the same uniform as the regular army (Honved) but could be distinguished by the colour of the shoulder and collar tabs: red on a green basis. Next to this they wore a very distinctive black hat with a rooster feather.

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In times of war the Gendarme / Csendőr would also act as military police or more correctly as Field Gendarmes. Within regular army units there were also Military Police men but these were not regular Gendarme / Csendőr and did not have the same extensive level of specialized police training. Such MP men wore regular uniforms but could be distinguished by a special badge (period 1942/44) that was worn on the left breast pocket.

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During the war, as late as 1944 – when the Germans had taken over practical control of Hungary,  a German style gorget (metal plate hanging from a chain on the front of the uniform) was introduced to make it more visible that a person was a Gendarme. As these were used only late in the war only few photo’s of them being worn exist.

 

This tunic was probably made in the 1930s and altered after the introduction of the M1940 type of uniform where a different type of collar was used (stand and fall type as now seen on this tunic). The rank is that of sergeant and also the silver buttons indicate it is an NCO rank (gold buttons for officers). The 3 medals indicate that the man served also in WW1 and participated in of two of the three re-annexation campaigns of areas lost in the Trianon treaty.

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These items were part of the Otto Friedrich collection from Cleveland.