Historical Introduction

The independent Hungarian Jesuit Province seceding from the Austrian Province was formed in 1909. Between the two world wars it started to improve significantly and several new Houses and institutes were established all over the country. The status of the Province, however, changed notably due to the political events after World War II. Failure to create civilian democracy and the headway of the Communist Party leading to absolute power came hand in hand with taking actions against the religious institutions, pre-eminently the Roman Catholic Church. As a part of these, the operation of the various religious orders was gradually made impossible after 1945.
Taking actions against the clergy started as early as 1946, including the blackening of the Jesuits. In that year, József Vág SJ was sentenced to imprisonment in the Soviet Union. He was not the first captive, as two priests (Ferenc Kajdi SJ and Antal Laskay SJ) had been deported by the Soviets earlier, during the siege of Budapest. In the years 1947 and 1948 three other Jesuits were interned. The onset of the total attack against the clergy took place in December 1948 when Prince-Primate József Mindszenty, archbishop of Esztergom was arrested. In the autumn of the same year the communists occupied the House in Szeged making it impossible for the Jesuit scholastics to study there. Therefore, it was decided that young members of the Society should flee abroad. In the beginning of December 1948 Provincial Superior István Borbély SJ also left the country. Thus the Province became divided into two parts: Section I for the members of the Society in Hungary and Secton II for the ones in foreign countries. Until the 1989 reunion both Semi-Provinces were headed by Vice-Provincials although they were also called Provincials occasionally.
On 3rd December 1949 Elemér Reisz SJ was appointed as leader of Section II, i.e. the part of the Hungarian Province incorporating exile Jesuits. The Provincial Curia resided in Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) between 1950 and 1955, then beside the University of Fordham (New York, USA) until 1977, since the Vice-Provincials taught there. Between 1977 and 1986 the seat of Section II was located in Munich, West Germany, from then on in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) till the reunion of the two Sections. In these decades emigrant Hungarian Jesuits functioned in more than two dozen countries. They tried to maintain several Works of the former Hungarian Province (e.g. the journal called ‘Szív’) and they also launched a number of new projects.
The reunited Province started to operate in 1989/1990 after the collapse of the communist regime. At that time the archives of Section II were also delivered home, out of which institutional records of 1948–1957 are available online here. The collection illustrates the collapse of the Hungarian Province and contains reports about the blackening and persecution of its members who remained in the country. The documents also track the exile Jesuits’ quest for a way, the support of the Roman Central Curia and the leadership of the Society as well as interactions between dispersed Hungarian Jesuits and several other Provinces around the world. Through these resources one can also gain an insight into the organization and religious life of Hungarian emigrant communities abroad. The records uniquely represent the historical development of the exile Hungarian Catholic Church including the Society of Jesus.

The digitalization of the collection was supported by the National Cultural Fund (NKA) of Hungary. The documents were surveyed and listed by Géza Bikfalvi. The finalization of the detailed register and the digitalization process were carried out by Bálint Ternovácz whose digitalization work was assisted by Péter Kaffka and Orsolya Bodonyi. The database of the digitalized documents and the website were created by László Koprivanacz.