136

 

Eugene Wigner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1963 for research in the mechanics and interaction of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. Another Hungarian-American scientist, Dennis Gábor, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1971 for the invention and development of holography. Holography is a system of lenseless three dimensional photography.

B. The Second World War and the Displaced Persons

       Hungarian-Americans were involved more extensively in the war effort during the Second World War than during the First World War. The first generation had resided in this country for several decades and most were citizens and property owners. Thousands of second generation Hungarian-Americans reached adulthood during the inter-war period. For these youths, America was the only homeland they knew; they were both eager and proud to serve in the armed forces of the United States.

       According to estimates, 50,000 Hungarian-Americans served in the military forces during the Second World War.64 In Cleveland alone, 1,300 enlisted during the first six months of United States involvement. Szabadság (Liberty) commemorated the Hungarian-American war dead by printing their name, rank and state of origin in a separate column on the front page of each issue. On the basis of this documentation alone, an average of 150 Hungarians died each month in 1945 while serving in the military forces of the United States. This amounts to a total of 1,800 lives lost throughout the entire year. By all calculations, however, this is a conservative estimate.

       National organizations, as well as countless local ones lent assistance in every way possible. The Verhovay Insurance Association and the American Hungarian Federation purchased ambulances for the American Red Cross. The

 


 

137

 

Conference of the American Hungarian Federation Chicago 1947

 

American-Hungarian aid sent to Hungary following World War II. The Humanitarian cargo was transported under the protection of the international Red Cross

 


 

138

 

purchase of Defense Bonds was tremendous. One organization, the Cleveland chapter of the King St. Stephen Catholic Hungarian Insurance Society, purchased $71,000. worth of U.S. Defense Bonds.65

       Concerted efforts were made to represent the interests of the Hungarian people. Hungarian-Americans realized only too well that the location of their homeland virtually negated any chance of non-alliance during the war. The American Hungarian Federation sent a declaration to the president before the United States entered the war on January 7, 1941.66 The purpose of the memorandum was to announce a movement for the preservation of an independent and free Hungary.

       The American Hungarian Federation repeatedly submitted memoranda to the president and the secretary of state during and after the war years. By 1949, ten of them had been submitted in an effort to safeguard the interests of their homeland. The federation was equally opposed to German nazism and Russian communism.67 It attempted, through the various contacts with the State Department, to represent the Hungarian people, who, in their opinion, were too overshadowed by both to maintain any semblance of neutrality.

       In 1945 Hungarian-Americans organized large-scale relief programs to help alleviate the sufferings of their countrymen in war-ravaged Hungary. The American Hungarian Relief Program, under the auspices of the American Hungarian Federation, collected and sent $1,216,167. in clothing, medicine, foodstuffs and money.68 In all, 200,000 care packages were sent by countless local and national groups. The greatest benefactors of the movement were: Mrs. László Széchényi (née Gladys Vanderbilt), Lajos Szánthó, president of the Virginia Kentucky Tobacco Company and Daniel Szantay, president of the Santay Corporation. Total estimated costs of the relief program exceeded three million dollars.

 


 

139

 

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

       Over 26,000 Hungarians were admitted to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 and the Refugee Relief Act of 1953.69 Generally, these refugees were educated and from the urban areas of Hungary. Their political views and background were considerably different from those who had come thirty or forty years earlier in search of economic betterment and opportunities.

       The newcomers were disadvantaged from the start. In order to immigrate they had to obtain a "Home and Job Assurance." This was a written guarantee, on the part of a U.S. citizen, that the immigrant would have a place to stay and employment in the United States. Since the majority of D.P.s had no relatives or friends among the Hungarian "old-timers," obtaining these assurances happened largely by chance. Church groups and other organizations lent some of the much needed assistance in the resettlement of these new immigrants.

       The post-war immigrants obtained work as factory hands, janitors and manual laborers until they could learn English and improve their positions. The adjustment proved to be exceedingly difficult for the older immigrants who were former journalists, educators, lawyers, military officers and elected officials. Often these unfortunate individuals spent the rest of their lives working in a factory, hoping to work long enough to at least obtain a minimum social security after retirement.

       The D.P.s left their homeland because of political and ideological beliefs, they intended to return to Hungary when the Russians left, and in these respects they were "emigrés." Their writings reflected their strong anti-communist sentiments and opposition to the Russian take-over and occupation of Hungary. This post-world war wave produced more writers and

 


 

140

 

published more books than any other wave of Hungarian immigrants (including the 1956 refugees).70

       The post-war Hungarians were particularly successful at maintaining and promoting their Hungarian heritage. They founded university extension programs and lecture series. They instilled a strong sense of cultural identity in their offspring through Saturday language school and summer school programs. They rendered new life to the gradually diminishing Hungarian communities by forming new and reviving old organizations. Many of the new organizations formed were cultural, educational, and/or political in nature. Several were formed to maintain traditions upheld in Hungary, particularly those traditions discontinued since the communist take-over. Some of these included the Hungarian Veterans and the Veteran Gendarmes. By far the most successful organization to be transplanted and reorganized in the United States was the Hungarian Scouts' Association.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

       The Hungarian Scout Association has been the most successful organization in preserving the language and culture of the second generation, the children of the post-war immigrants.71 Hungarian scouting offered a non-conventional approach to learning Hungarian history, literature, geography and folk art. It appealed to hundreds of second generation Hungarians seeking to identify meaningful experiences with their heritage. Through scouting, Hungarian-American youths meet others with similar backgrounds and bicultural experiences. In the 1970s nearly 6,000 scouts registered in eighty-four troops were reported in twelve countries worldwide.

       Founded in 1910, the Hungarian Scouting Movement quickly gained international respect and acclaim. Gödöllo, Hungary was chosen as the site of the fourth World Jamboree in 1933. Following the Second World War, the

 


 

141

 

Hungarian Scout Association was dissolved by the new communist government. Facilities owned by the association: parks, houses, air and water training bases were confiscated. The Hungarian Scout Association in Exile was founded and activities were renewed in Western Europe.

       Hungarian D.P. immigrants in Germany, Austria and Italy began the reorganizational work in 1946. By 1949, 3,118 boy and girl scouts (united in one association at this time) were registered in forty-one troops throughout Western Europe. In the early 1950s the headquarters of the association was transferred from Europe to Garfield, New Jersey. Organizational efforts also expanded to South America and Australia. The Hungarian Revolution in 1956 brought even more young people to the ranks of the movement.

       The various programs offered by Hungarian scouting have continued to attract young men and women. Leadership training camps, which are held annually on four continents, maintain high standards and require serious effort on the part of the candidate seeking a leadership role or an advanced leadership role in the organization. Over 6,700 scout leaders have earned their ranks through these leadership training programs. Members of the association have gained friendship and worldwide experience from ongoing exchange programs within the association. Leaders and scouts alike from Europe, North America, South America and Australia travel and visit troops on other continents. These visiting scouts assist and present lectures at summer camps and training courses.

       The Hungarian Scout Association operates and maintains nearly half of all the Hungarian language schools in the United States.72 In addition, the association publishes numerous educational texts and teaching aids as well as a Hungarian scout magazine and other materials relating to scouting. One

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS | HOME | NEXT TOPIC