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Wed, 14 Oct 2015 17:59:32 EDT by webmaster, 26197 views
ELTE SEAS Library
History paper by Deák, Nóra (all papers)
Operation Mercy – Hungarian Refugee Resettlement Mission: Not Impossible
What lessons can be learnt from the refugee crisis of the Cold War, following the infamous crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolution and freedom fight by Soviet tanks? According to various sources, nearly 200,000 refugees fled Hungary to the West through Austria and Yugoslavia, for various reasons and different motivations. For the two neighboring countries – and the members of the United Nations –, the mission seemed almost impossible: provide temporary shelter/food, make interviews, process, register and resettle the masses of desperate refugees who crossed the borders illegally during that late-autumn and winter of 1956-57.
Despite the existing strict immigration quotas and the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, the United States received some 40,000 refugees until 1959. How was it possible? A series of legal, political, military and humanitarian steps were taken, decisions made, and UN Security Council Resolutions adopted – but not enforced - in order to fulfill this mission. Although there was no war officially declared, yet the scene was a former military camp used for embarkation and processing of US troops during WWII at Camp Kilmer, NJ; and the main characters were military personnel such as (retired) colonels, and reservist soldiers apart from c. 2,000 volunteers and 31,225 refugees who were all processed, interviewed and registered at the Army base, turned into a Reception Center. Contributions to the success both on a local and national level included, but not exclusively, financial and in-kind donations, job offers, even punch-card Remington Rand computers from IBM, while others served as sponsors, interpreters, typists, language teachers, and priests.
Brief Professional Bio:
Nóra Deák is pursuing PhD studies in American Studies at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. Her research topic is the reception of the 1956 Hungarian refugees in the United States. She graduated in English and Russian languages and literatures in 1990 in Debrecen, then received a LIS MA in 1997 in Budapest. She has been working as Head of the Library at the School of English and American Studies Library, ELTE, in Budapest, since 1995. Her research was supported by a Fulbright Visiting Research Scholarship at the American Hungarian Foundation, and by Rutgers University Libraries as a Visiting Research Student during 2014 and 2015 in New Brunswick, NJ.