Teenage Hungarian Refugees of 1956 in the French Foreign Legion

Teenage Refugees of 1956 in the French Foreign Legion

This unique collection of overwhelmingly cold war historical resources were explored and produced by the donor, Béla Nóvé – a Hungarian historian and documentary film maker residing in Budapest – as a result of his extended oral history and archival research carried out in France and Hungary during the period of 2011-2017.  

The collection contains both private and corporate, digital and paper-based materials of the more than 4,000 Hungarians who joined the French Foreign Legion (FFL) following 1945 and 1956, including letters, diaries, memoirs, photographs, video and audio interviews, autobiographical surveys as well as some highly confidential documents of the French military and Hungarian counter intelligence services, the staff of Hungarian Red Cross and diplomatic bodies of the Communist era from the late 1940s until 1989. In addition, there are some paper clippings, trial documents, agent reports too, together with lists of Hungarian legionnaires (altogether about some 900 with personal data), as well as earlier records from the mid-19th century.

The collection contains 2900 files of archival photographs, films and newsreels about Hungary 1956, the refugee flood to the West, the Algerian war of 1954-1962, and the later missions of FFL, with altogether about 50 hours of unedited camera material, rough cuts and the final version of Béla Nóvé’s feature long documentary: ’Patria nostra: Minor Hungarians in the French Foreign Legion’ (Dunatáj Alapítvány 2016). In addition to the digital records, there are paper prints in five archival boxes – manuscripts and photocopies of personal and official documents –, altogether in forty folders, with detailed index and annotations attached to each.

The original language of the documents in most cases is Hungarian, however there are some English, French, and German language items too; some Hungarian records – e.g. personal staff lists of legionnaires of Hungarian origin, etc. – are translated into English. Similarly, the final version of Béla Nóvé’s documentary film ’Patria nostra’ (89 min.) is available with French and English subtitles, and the donor’s historical monograph with the same subject and title (’Patria nostra’, Balassi Kiadó, 2016, Budapest, 506 pp) contains résumés in both English and French detailing the background of the five year long research and shooting with Hungarian FFL veterans in Provence, Corsica, and their native land, Hungary.

The collection consists of two sub-units:

364-1 Documentary film and book project material

These records were created and produced by Béla Nóvé for his book and film project. In this sub-fonds there are seven series.

364-2 Archival sources and research material

These records were discovered and assembled by Nóvé during his research activities. In this sub-fonds there are ten series.

Extent and medium:

121 digital file folders -- 556 GB of video, photo and textual files. 5 archival boxes -- approx. 50 file folders with paper-based printed documents.

More details are available in Blinken OSA's online catalogue.