A New Digital Collection of the Blinken Open Society Archives

Ten years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (Blinken OSA) launched its public digital archives of newly acquired records related to the revolution, among them the records of the Columbia University Research Project on Hungary, which contained over 600 interviews conducted with Hungarian refugees in the US. In 2016, again with the generous support of the Blinken family, the archives extended the scope of its research to other archives in the United States that also possess relevant, still largely unexplored records on the 1956 Hungarian refugees. The Blinken OSA is now making these recently revealed and digitized records available online for scholars and the wider public in both Hungarian and English.

Throughout the year, researchers working on behalf of Blinken OSA conducted research at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC, specifically in the records of the US Department of State related to the problem of the 1956 Hungarian refugees. More than 900 original black and white photographs from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, the largest army base that received Hungarian refugees on American soil, were discovered among the files. The digitized copies of this lesser known photo collection will be continuously uploaded to the new website together with the related archival records.

We also conducted research in the records of the historical archive of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an American civil organization founded in 1933 to support refugees fleeing from dictatorial regimes in Europe and elsewhere. The historical records of IRC now belong to the holdings of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives at Stanford University, California. The IRC records comprise approximately 40 administrative files, summary reports and proposals from the period 1956 to 1963 that were directly related to the support of Hungarian refugees in European refugee camps and the furthering of their resettlement in the US. IRC provided assistance to several thousand Hungarian refugees: it offered financial support and English language courses, and helped them to find employment according to their profession and training. Many unaccompanied minors arrived in the US and were resettled with foster parents, received high school education and/or could continue their studies at universities with a stipend. The IRC records contain over 3,000 Hungarian case files that offer an exciting and detailed picture of the route, problems and difficulties of the resettlement and social integration of former Hungarian refugees in the US between 1956 and 1965. To date, the Blinken OSA has succeeded in digitizing 185 case files, which will be regularly uploaded to our new website. Under the terms of the agreement reached with IRC, the records will be anonymized to ensure the protection of personal data.

We wish to express our gratitude to our cooperating partners, the Hoover Institution Library and Archives, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the International Rescue Committee, for supporting the research and the publication of the records.

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