Looking Back: AHF since 1906 -
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Hungary's 1956 Revolution marked the first tear in the Iron Curtain. Hungarians from all walks of life rose up against the mighty Soviet Union in a desperate fight for freedom. Thousands died, many others tortured and jailed, 200,000 would flee, bringing untold talents to the shores of many nations, some 38,000 coming to the U.S. in the first year alone.
AHF, member organizations and the entire community sprung into action. Building on its experience during WWII, AHF activated its second Hungarian Relief Program, raising over $525,000 (over $4.5 million in today's dollars) and, working closely with the International Rescue Committee, found beds and supplies to aid in the resettlement effort.
Elvis Presley was also affected by the plight of refugees. Known for his humantiarianism and never forgetting the struggles from his youth, Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show to sing in support Hungarian refugees. The song "Peace in the Valley" (Béke a Völgyben) was forbidden by the Janos Kadar regime, so many Hungarians are unaware of this piece of 1956 history. [Watch the video and subscribe to AHF's YouTube Channel]
The President of the International Rescue Committee, with whom the American Hungarian Federation was working closely to raise funds to help resettle Hungarian refugees, also appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Within 60 days, $2.5 million had been collected from the American public – $357,000 of it raised after the appearance by IRC president Cherne. AHF also held a fundraiser at Madison Square Garden where 10,000 people gathered to raise one million dollars for Hungarian relief.
Refugees admitted to the United States were flown to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where 31,869 Hungarians were aided in resettlement. New Jersey tapped AHF President George Haydu as Civilian Director [In 1957, George Haydu was shot in the leg during New York's Loyalty Parade under suspicious circumstances]. AHF and 7 other resettlement agencies fulfilled legal requirements by acting as sponsors and helped to resettle the refugees in new homes and jobs.
Within 48 hours after their arrival, many of the newcomers were being welcomed by communities in all parts of the United States. Some 3,000 refugee college students enrolled in American universities and continued their education with the help of various scholarship programs such as those funded by AHF's Coordinated Hungarian Relief. The National Academy of Sciences placed 1,081 Hungarian scientists. Some of these refugees would go on to win Nobel Prizes, lead Intel Corporation, develop Microsoft Office, and design NASA's Moon Rover. Bryan Dawson, AHF Vice President, has collected many "Nobel Prize Winners and Famous Hungarians" as seen on [www.famoushungarians.com]
Ever since, AHF and member organizations such as the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fighters' Federation, have been working to ensure the bitter lessons and the heroes of the noble fight for freedom are not forgotten. 2006 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. AHF worked with organizations nationwide to illuminate events using technology to improve coordination and cooperation, and helped raise over $200,000 for the New York's Memorial Committee and Carnegie Hall Celebration, ending the year with a Grand Gala in Washington, D.C. In 2007, AHF announced plans for a National Memorial in the Nation's Capital by renowned sculptor Gyuri Hollosy. These memorial plans were never realized due to lack of support.
"October 23, 1956, is a day that will live forever in the
annals of free men and nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and
triumph. No other day since history began has shown more clearly the eternal
unquenchability of man's desire to be free, whatever the odds against
success, whatever the sacrifice required."
AHF's 100 YEARS
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution was the first tear in the Iron Curtain. Hungarians from all walks of life rose up against insurmountable odds to fight the brutal Soviet installed Hungarian communist government. Thousands died fighting, others tortured and executed, while 200,000 were forced to flee. 2006 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution.
AHF's work regarding the tragic events nearly 50 years ago, dates back to the early days of the revolution and thereafter assisting tens of thousands of refugees. Get involved and help us continue our tradition of helping our community! Support Us!
Featured 1956 Video
"Five Days of Freedom in Budapest" - "Budapest is in revolt. With uncontrolled fury, crowds set fire to Russian flags... The impossible has happened. A handful of heroes has shaken the communist world to its foundations." (5.2 Mb)
[See more photos, audio and video files] on AHF's 1956 Portal
- AHF President Emeritus, Entrepreneur, Freedom Activist,
and 1959 US "Citizen of the Year," George K. Haydu, passed away
after long illness. The death of this great humanitarian and
leader is a major loss for the Hungarian-American community and to all
his many friends. Despite many death threats and being shot in the leg
during "Loyalty Day" parade in New York City, George was undeterred
in his efforts to bring freedom to Hungary and comfort to refugees.
Pongratz suffered a heart attack on Wednesday in the southern Hungarian
town of Kiskunmajsa where he lived, said Dezso Abraham, secretary general
of the World Council of Hungarian 56ers revolutionary veterans group.
During the revolution, Pongratz was commander of one of the key resistance
groups fighting the Soviet army. [read more].
Jeno Andras Szeredas, Hungarian political activist and Senator, 1956 Freedom Fighter, Founder of the Freedom Fighters Federation in the United States, poet and artist of rare talent died quietly in his sleep at his daughter's home in Connecticut on November 30. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday.
Born in Iglo, Hungary (now Slovakia) in 1914, Mr. Szeredas was both witness
to and active participant in the turmoil sweeping over Europe for the
balance of the 20th century. [more]
Memorials Dedicated to 1956
"October 23, 1956, is a day that will live forever in the annals
of free men and nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and triumph.
No other day since history began has shown more clearly the eternal unquenchability
of man's desire to be free, whatever the odds against success, whatever
the sacrifice required."- President John
Albert Camus' Stirring Letter to the World:
"The Blood of the Hungarians"
I am not one of those who wish to see the people of Hungary take up arms again in a rising certain to be crushed, under the eyes of the nations of the world, who would spare them neither applause nor pious tears, but who would go back at one to their slippers by the fireside like a football crowd on a Sunday evening after a cup final.
There are already too many dead on the field, and we cannot be generous with any but our own blood. The blood of Hungary has re-emerged too precious to Europe and to freedom for us not to be jealous of it to the last drop.
But I am not one of those who think that there can be a compromise, even one made with resignation, even provisional, with a regime of terror which has as much right to call itself socialist as the executioners of the Inquisition had to call themselves Christians.
And on this anniversary of liberty, I hope with all my heart that the silent resistance of the people of Hungary will endure, will grow stronger, and, reinforced by all the voices which we can raise on their behalf, will induce unanimous international opinion to boycott their oppressors.
And if world opinion is too feeble or egoistical to do justice to a martyred people, and if our voices also are too weak, I hope that Hungary’s resistance will endure until the counter-revolutionary State collapses everywhere in the East under the weight of its lies and contradictions.
Hungary conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice than any people for twenty years. But for this lesson to get through and convince those in the West who shut their eyes and ears, it was necessary, and it can be no comfort to us, for the people of Hungary to shed so much blood which is already drying in our memories.
In Europe’s isolation today, we have only one way of being true to Hungary, and that is never to betray, among ourselves and everywhere, what the Hungarian heroes died for, never to condone, among ourselves and everywhere, even indirectly, those who killed them.
It would indeed be difficult for us to be worthy of such sacrifices. But we can try to be so, in uniting Europe at last, in forgetting our quarrels, in correcting our own errors, in increasing our creativeness, and our solidarity. We have faith that there is on the march in the world, parallel with the forces of oppression and death which are darkening our history, a force of conviction and life, an immense movement of emancipation which is culture and which is born of freedom to create and of freedom to work.
Those Hungarian workers and intellectuals, beside whom we stand today with such impotent sorrow, understood this and have made us the better understand it. That is why, if their distress is ours, their hope is ours also. In spite of their misery, their chains, their exile, they have left us a glorious heritage which we must deserve: freedom, which they did not win, but which in one single day they gave back to us. (October 23, 1957)
AHF dedicates this work
- Read this in German, Hungarian, French, and Spanish on this AHF member site, the [American Hungarian Museum]
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