Collection of Hetényi Varga Károly
Throughout his life, Károly Hetényi Varga has searched for and collected the biographical information of clericals who suffered from persecution by the Nazis and communists. Thanks to his interest and devoted efforts, an impressive body of work has formed. Hetényi Varga didn’t study history at a university, however. He created a unique, specific research system, the results of which remain indispensable to us.
Kismaros Szuttai dűlő, Hungary 2623
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Name of collection
- Collection of Hetényi Varga Károly
Provenance and cultural activities
Károly Hetényi Varga was an independent researcher on the ecclesiastical victims of the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century, including those who resisted, were persecuted, and were robbed of their freedom. His collection (which is now private property) consists of the materials he collected during his research. He was a Hungarian-German teacher, and he pursued his research entirely at his own initiative. He never got any institutional/financial help nor even encouragement. On the subject of his interest in persecuted clericals, Hetényi Varga said: “At the end of the 1960s, I went to the concentration camp of Buchenwald and I saw a photograph of a former catholic prisoner and protestant preacher in an exhibition. (…) I thought that if in Germany many ecclesiastical people had been persecuted, my church might be not fascist. I decided to search for at least one clergyman who had confronted Nazism when I returned home. And I’ve found and written the story of Antal Uhl, priest of Baranyaszentgyörgy, (…) who saved many people from deportation.” Soon Károly Hetényi Varga discovered for himself that dictatorships persecute anyone who expresses an independent opinion against the regime.
Essentially, Károly Hetényi Varga did not want to create a separate collection. He only arranged the information according to his own system. He made separate registers on every person, and he collected facts and copied documents about every clergyman and kept them in separate units. By doing so, he founded his own collection of documents. His collection contains religious, ecclesiastical materials, because he tried to search for priests whose legacies were worth being remembered.
He pursued his research and strove to establish connections and collections according to the following method: When he found people who had suffered persecution, he sent them questionnaires, and he tried to find them in person and make recordings of their personal memories of their ordeals. He pursued research in libraries and archives with his wife. They tried to take advantage of every opportunity to do research, first in Hungary and then abroad. For example, they got a trade union referral to spend leisure time relaxing on Rózsadomb (a fancy neighbourhood in Budapest), but in reality they were pursuing research in archives and collecting documents.
In the 1980s, Károly Hetényi Varga pursued research on several separate occasions at the PAAA (Polisitches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes) in Bonn, at the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz, and at the archive of the concentration camp of Dachau, and he found important documents (for example 3,000 microfilms). He travelled with his wife through the area of the medieval kingdom of Hungary, i.e. the Carpathian Basin, including Délvidék (a region which today is in northern Serbia and Croatia), Transylvania, Sub-Carpathia, and what today is Slovakia. His wife played an active role in Hetényi Varga’s work. She not only ensured that her husband would have everything he needed in order to be able to focus on his work, but also helped him in his efforts collecting and processing the materials he gathered. She typed the audio materials and sorted the documents which were later edited by her husband. She was the first reader to correct the manuscripts.
For journeys to the West, Hetényi Varga got significant help, especially when he was able to reside in ecclesiastical institutes, where he did not have to pay for his lodging. Smuggling the cassettes and documents across the state border was dangerous in the 1980s, when Hetényi Varga collected facts about clericals in Transylvania and in other former territories of Hungary who had suffered various forms of persecution. Priests who had been persecuted themselves helped him, but the more collaborationist leaders of the Church never supported Hetényi Varga. They thought that his work was unnecessary. Leaders of other institutes had the same view. He pursued research on clericals, so he could not get the support of the state. He had to rely on the assistance of private individuals. Witnesses were also reluctant to tell their stories because they feared the consequences, and it was difficult to pursue research in ecclesiastical archives at the time, since such research was prohibited.
1989 created a new situation, but it took another decade for research to begin. Hetényi Varga tried to establish ties with professional organizations and establishments which represented persecuted people. Although he did considerable research himself and brought many important facts to light, he could not foster interest in the topic, since the activities and work of the Church under the dictatorship had been condemned to silence. Károly Hetényi Varga played an important role in breaking this silence.Currently, Károly Hetényi Varga’s collection is held in the church historical institute in the House of Cistercian Sisters in Kismaros. After the death of Károly Hetényi Varga, his wife offered the collection to Abess Ágnes Tímár, who bought it.
Description of content
Hetényi Varga Károly’s collection (approximately 22.1 linear meters) is the biggest bequest in the Cistercian Abbey of Kismaros. Basically, Károly Hetényi Varga didn’t want to create an independent collection. He just collected the information he had found in the course of his research according to a system he himself had created. He made separate registration cards for each individual and sorted them into separate dossiers, which include facts about a person with copies of documents. In doing so, he created his own collection. The material was sorted according to two methods. There are some special dossiers about clericals (mostly, but not only, diocesan priests) on whom Hetényi Varga collected a great deal of material.Károly Hetényi Varga worked at his home, where he kept dossiers on the individuals with copies of documents and his handwritten notes. With this material, he wrote and edited his books on the suffering of priests and monks, and he also published memoirs of some ecclesiastical figures who had shared their personal experiences with him. Hetényi Varga did interviews too when possible, and the typewritten texts of those interviews are also part of the collection. The total quantity of the oral history-material, which includes hundreds of tape recordings and negatives, is 17 linear meters. The tape-recorded interviews were digitalized, the systematization of the photographs is in progress. The other material in the collection was sorted piece by piece. It was put into dossiers according to diocese or by order, and in the dossiers, Hetényi Varga used the name list of the people.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- photos: 100-499
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 100-499
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Kismaros Szuttai dűlő, Hungary
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Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Pál, Zoltán
- Soós, Viktor Attila
Hetényi Varga Károly: Akiket üldöztek az igazságért. Papi sorsok a horogkereszt és a nyilaskereszt árnyékában. [Those who persecuted for the Truth. Clerical Fates in the Shadow of the Swastika and Arrow Cross.] Ecclesia Kiadó, Budapest, 1985.
Papi sorsok a horogkereszt és a vörös csillag árnyékában. I. kötet; Esztergom, Győr, Székesfehérvár, Szombathely, Vác, Veszprém, Munkács, Eperjes, Hajdúdorog. [Clerical Fates in the Shadow of the Swastika and the Red Star. Vol. I. Esztergom, Győr, Székesfehérvár, Szombathely, Vác, Veszprém, Munkács, Eperjes, Hajdúdorog] 1. kiadás, Lámpás Kiadó, Abaliget, 1992., 2. javított és bővített kiadás: Új Ember – Márton Áron Kiadó, Budapest, 2004.
Papi sorsok a horogkereszt és a vörös csillag árnyékában. II. kötet; Kalocsa-Bács, Csanád, Erdély, Nagyvárad. [Clerical Fates in the Shadow of the Swastika and the Red Star. Vol. II.; Kalocsa-Bács, Csanád, Erdély, Nagyvárad.] Lámpás Kiadó, Abaliget, 1994.
Papi sorsok a horogkereszt és a vörös csillag árnyékában. III. kötet; Eger, Kassa, Rozsnyó, Szatmár, Szepes, Nagyszombat, Besztercebánya, Nyitra. [Clerical Fates in the Shadow of the Swastika and the Red Star. Vol. II.; Eger, Kassa, Rozsnyó, Szatmár, Szepes, Nagyszombat, Besztercebánya, Nyitra] Lámpás Kiadó, Abaliget, 1996.
Szerzetesek a horogkereszt és a vörös csillag árnyékában. 1. kötet; Bazilita, Bencés, Ciszterci, Domonkos, Ferences és Irgalmas rend. [Monks in the Shadow of the Swastika and the Red Star. Vol. 1.; Basilian, Benedictine, Cistercian, Dominican, Franciscan and Hospitaller Order] 1. kiadás, Pro Domo, Pécs, 1999.; 2. javított és bővített kiadás: Márton Áron Kiadó, Budapest, 2000.
Szerzetesek a horogkereszt és a vörös csillag árnyékában. 2. kötet; Jezsuita, Kapucinus, Karmelita, Keresztény iskolatestvér közösség, Lazarista, Marianista, Marista, Mechitarista, Minorita, Piarista rend. [Monks in the Shadow of the Swastika and the Red Star. Vol. 2.; Jesuit, Capuchin, Carmelite, Christian School Brothers Congregation, Vincentian, Marianist, Marist, Mekhitarist, Minorite, Piarist Order] Lámpás Kiadó, Abaliget, 2002.