Collection of religious dissent in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security
Budapest Eötvös utca 7, Hungary 1067
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Name of collection
Collection of religious dissent in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security
Provenance and cultural activities
Since churches in Hungary were embedded strongly in society, their activities were closely monitored by the communist secret police. Almost every collection in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security (hereafter: Historical Archives or ÁBTL) has materials on the churches. The churches were enemies in the minds of the communist leaders in a number of ways. The repeatedly reorganized communist political police’s aim was always the same: eliminate religious life and dissolve the churches, but after a while, they realized that this was impossible. Their new strategy was to try to control the different ecclesiastical organizations by helping people who were willing to collaborate become leaders in the church hierarchy and by persecuting anyone who resisted the official socialist ecclesiastical policy.
According to a summary report from 1958, there were 13,649 informants who “worked” for the central and the local state authorities, 312 of whom watched the churches and 294 of whom were ecclesiastical persons. Thirty years later, in a statistical report about the number of people who were part of the national network under the Ministry of the Interior, of the 8152 agents, 504 were involved with the Church or the clergy. All in all, there were 1,799 persons in the operative registry according to the note of Division III/III of the Ministry of the Interior (1985).
Actions against the churches, and especially against the Catholic Church, was a special subsection of the activities of the political police. Comparing the numbers of individuals kept under surveillance, one can see that the Ministry of the Interior allocated the largest number of agents to this field. At the beginning of the Kádár era, there were very few agents from among the clergy, but in the 1960s the number of spies from the churches increased, especially among the leaders. In and around 1970, more than 60 percent of the Hungarian Episcopacy consisted of informers, and at least minimum 80 percent of the archbishops elected after 1969 were also a spies. The political police principally tried to recruit agents from the qualified clergymen who held senior positions, since they believed that by doing so, they would be able to dissolve the spiritual communities by spreading disinformation. One can read many reports from prospective or active bishops and other church leaders. The Ministry recruited teachers and directors of theological academies or seminars to serve as agents. In the reports, one finds information about the leaders of historical churches, but the documents also touch on other topics which were important to the state authorities (such as the “Bokor” base community movement of György Bulányi, the ’“Regnum Marianum” organization of priests, the Maria Legion, the Christian Youth Congregation, the separatist Adventists, illegal Zionist groups, etc.).
Generally, the secret police recruited members of the clergy in a slower step-by-step process after having kept the candidates under scrutiny for a longer period of time. In the 1950s and 1960s, the recruitment of members of the clergy occurred with the help of the combination of incriminating and compromising facts. After the end of the 1960s, the secret services attempted to recruit priests on the basis of “patriotism”.. When the case officers got the reports, they had to take into account the fact that their informants were members of the clergy, so they met with the agents mostly in “K” (conspire) and “T” (meeting) apartments, and not in public places.In 1997, seven years after the fall of the regime, the Hungarian Parliament set up the Historical Office, and in 2003, the Parliament founded the ÁBTL, where the documents which were created by the state security services about the Churches are now available.
Description of content
Many documents about the churches survived from the decades of state socialism, and almost every collection in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security has documents about religious organizations.
The archival material in the first section contains documents about the organizations and operations of the state security services. The sources which include reports on the social atmosphere from 1948 by the local services of the Hungarian State Police’s State Defence Department constitute a particularly important part of the materials. They contain information concerning the activities of the traditional churches, and they also include speeches from sessions and sermons from masses and pilgrimages. There are many reports about cardinal Mindszenty, including rumours about his arrest, and one also finds notes on confirmations, the activities of nuns and monks, episcopal circular letters, catechist conferences, organizations of spiritual choirs, the nationalization of church schools, and devotional events in the year of Virgin Mary. One can also find reports about Protestant churches, mainly the Calvinist church.
There is abundant information about measures and operative actions in the collection of the reorganized secret police, the Political Investigation Department, which existed between 1957 and 1962. After 1962, the reorganized Hungarian state security services created many more documents about the churches. Reports of the meetings of higher organs (deputy ministerial reports, reminders, etc.) are found in the archival material of the secretary of the deputy minister. These materials reveal which church organizations were in the focus of the state authority’s attention (the group led and organized by Pious monk György Bulányi, the “Regnum Marianum” community of priests, József Éliás, who criticized the leaders of Calvinist church, religious minorities, etc.).
This section includes documents which cannot be related to precise organs of the political police. It contains the register cards. The fifth fond contains sources about non-traditional restrictions of personal freedom (internments, deportations, relocations etc.). Many members of the clergy suffered because of these restrictions, especially after the dissolution of the monastic orders and the reprisals which were taken after the Revolution of 1956. The seventh fond includes the information reports, which were selected documents intended to provide information for the party and the state leadership (for example reports on the group led by György Bulányi, the youth meetings in Nagymaros, the separatist Adventists, etc.).
The material in this section comprises nearly two-thirds of the Archive’s collection (network, operative and investigation dossiers). The section has two parts: dossiers administered by the centre of the registration department of the political police and dossiers produced by the intelligence organs (for example the Main Division III/I. and its antecedents). Several dossiers (for example Neros, 1972–1982) contain documents on the Secretary of State of the Holy See by the intelligence agency. Unfortunately, many documents were lost or destroyed before the foundation of ÁBTL.
This section includes collections created according to themes. The first fond contains background materials used by the State Security Organizations. This is the so-called “A material.” “A material” means studies on cases discussed by the various state authorities, mainly specialized reports for the purpose of education, methodological guides or contemporary manuscripts, leaflets, samizdats, literature produced by the state authorities, etc. Many of them contain materials relating to the Church.Several police handbooks deal with the activities of the Churches. In 1963, police major István Berényi wrote a textbook on the operative work against the Churches and the detection of the hostile activities of the members of the clergy. Police colonel Sándor Geréb’s note about the operations of the Churches after 1945, which was published in 1972, dealt with the major cases, the relations between the Vatican and the Hungarian state, and the religious minorities. In 1987, police major Ferenc Tóth wrote a more particular study on the relationship between the state and the Church until the middle of the 1980s. He presented the methods of “clerical reaction” through a discussion of several case studies. Many books summarized the operative endeavours which were undertaken against the Churches.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Budapest Andrássy út 60, 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
- Vörös, Géza
Vörös Géza: Egyházak az állambiztonsági dokumentumokban. [Churches in the documents of State Security] Levéltári Szemle 59. (2009) 3. 20–45.
ÁBTL 1.11.10. Összesített statisztikák 1958. Országos hálózati összesítők. 1958. [Aggregated Statistics 1958. National Summaries of Networks. 1958.]
ÁBTL 1.11.10. Hálózati (éves, féléves) összesített hálózati statisztikák 1988. Összesített statisztika 1988. [Aggregated Statistics of Networks 1988. Aggregated Statistics 1988.]
ÁBTL 1.11.10. 11–6082/85. 3. dosszié. Feljegyzés az 1985. évi statisztikai jelentéshez. [Dossier 3. Memorandum to the Statiscical Report from 1985.]
Kőszeg Ferenc: Ügynöktörvény, rövid tanfolyam. [Law of Agency, a Short Course] In: Az egykori állambiztonsági szervek és azok iratai Németországban és Magyarországon. Az 1997. október 8–i konferencia jegyzőkönyve. [Organizations and Documents of the Former State Security Services in Germany and Hungary. Record of the Conference of 8th October 1997.] Szerk. [ed.] Hegedűs B. András. Budapest, 1956–os Intézet, 1998. 63–79.
1994. évi XXIII. törvény az egyes fontos tisztségeket betöltő személyek ellenőrzéséről [Act XXIII of 1994 of the monitoring of persons who are in important positions], 1996. évi LXVII. törvény az egyes fontos tisztségeket betöltő személyek ellenőrzéséről szóló 1994. évi XXIII. törvény módosításáról [Act LXVII of 1996 of the modificaton of Act XXIII of 1994 of the monitoring of persons who are in important positions].
Kónyáné Kutrucz Katalin: A Történeti Levéltár működésének jogi keretei és annak változásai [Legal Frames and it"s Changes of the Operation of the Historical Archive]. In: Betekintő 6. (2012) 3. http://www.betekinto.hu/sites/default/files/2012_3_kutrucz_0.pdf (utolsó letöltés dátuma: 2015. március 30.)
ÁBTL 1.2. Politikai hangulatjelentések [Reports about Political Atmosphere]. 781, 805, 891.
ÁBTL 1.2. Politikai hangulatjelentések [Reports about Political Atmosphere]. 891, 1192.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3036. Állambiztonsági értelmező kéziszótár [Hand Dictionary of State Authority]. Összeállította [ed.]: Gergely Attila. Budapest, 1980. 162.
ÁBTL 1.11.6. A III/III-1. Osztály iratai. Személyi lapok. [Documents of the Class III/III-1. Personal Files]
Bank Barbara: Az internálás és kitelepítés dokumentumai a Történeti Levéltárban [Documents about Deportation and Internment in the Historical Archive]. In: Trezor 3. Az átmenet évkönyve, 2003. [Tresor 3. Year Book of Transition, 2003.] Szerkesztette [ed.] Gyarmati György. Budapest, 2004. 107-130.
Müller Rolf: Belügyi információs jelentések, 1964–1990. [Internal Information Reports, 1964-1990.] In: Trezor 3. i. m. 147–163.
ÁBTL 2.7.1. „Varjak” fedőnéven összegyűjtött jelentéscsomó [Selected Reports of the Case Code Name 'Crows.']
ÁBTL 2.7.1. Heves–12/1/86. 1986. 05. 22.
ÁBTL 2.7.1. Nógrád–7/86. 1986. 03. 14.
ÁBTL 3.2.5. O–8–552/11-16. „Nérók" – Vatikáni Államtitkárság ['Neros.' Secretariat of State Vatican]
ÁBTL 3.2.3. Mt–764/1–9. „Amadeo.”
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3794. Berényi István: A klerikális reakció ellenséges tevékenysége népi demokratikus rendünk ellen. Az operatív munka sajátosságai és feladataink ezen a területen [The Hostile Operation of the Clerical Reaction against Our People's Democratical Regime. Specific Charactersitics of Operative Work and Our Tasks in that Field]. Budapest, 1963.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3829/15. Geréb Sándor: A klerikális reakció helyzete és tevékenysége [Situation and Operation of the Clerical Reaction]. Budapest, 1972.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3971. Tóth Ferenc: Ellenséges tevékenység egyházi területen [Hostile Operation in Clerical Field]. Budapest, 1987.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3016/30. Csillag György–Tóth Imre: A jelszó: "Alles in Ordung" - A jezsuita államellenes összeesküvés operatív feldolgozásának és vizsgálatának tapasztalatai [The Password: 'Alles in Ordung - Experiences of the Processing and Inspection about the Jesuit Conspiracy against the State]. Budapest, 1965.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3016/31. Kőnig Miklós: A "békétlenek" fedőnevű ügy. Emődi László és társai által vezetett illegális "Regnum Marianum" államellenes tevékenységének leírása, az operatív feldolgozó munka módszereinek, az ügy tanulságainak ismertetése [The Case Code Name 'Discorders.' Description of the Illegal 'Regnum Marianum Operation against State led by László Emődi and His Fellows, Presentation of the Methods about Operative Work and the Lessons of the Case]. Budapest, 1965.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3016/55. Geréb Sándor: Az illegális szerzetesrendek operatív ellenőrzésének tapasztalatai [Experiences about the Operative Monitoring of Illegal Orders]. Budapest, 1968.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3016/49. Molnár István–Sollich Endre: Egyházi gimnáziumokban végzett beszervezések tapasztalatai [Experiences about the Incorporation in Church Secondary Schools]. Budapest, 1967.
ÁBTL 4.1. A–3016/36. Csillag György–König Miklós: Dr. Vass Péter, volt piarista szerzetestanár izgatási bűnügyének operatív és vizsgálati tapasztalatai [The Operative and Investigational Experiences of the Provocation by former Pious Teacher Dr. Péter Vass]. Budapest, 1966.
Tabajdi Gábor - Ungváry Krisztián: Elhallgatott múlt. A pártállam és a belügy. A politikai rendőrség működése Magyarországon, 1956-1990. [Concealed Past. The Party State and the Internal Affairs. The Operation of the Political Police in Hungary, 1956-1990.] Budapest, 2008.
Kiss Réka – Soós Viktor Attila – Tabajdi Gábor: Hogyan üldözzünk egyházakat? Állambiztonsági tankönyv tartótiszteknek. [How We Persecute Churches? State Authorial Textbook for Case Officers]. Budapest, 2012.
Egyházüldözés és egyházüldözők a Kádár-korszakban. [Persecution of Churches and the Persecutors in the Kadar Period.] Szerkesztette [ed.]: Soós Viktor Attila – Szabó Csaba. Budapest, 2010.
Csapdában. Tanulmányok a katolikus egyház történetéből, 1945–1989. [In Trap. Studies from the History of the Catholich Church, 1945–1989.] Szerkesztette [ed.] Bánkúti Gábor – Gyarmati György. Budapest, 2010.
Egyházak a XX. században. Történelmi segédlet. [Churches in the XXth Century. A Historical Guide.] Szerkesztette [ed.]: Gianone András. Budapest, 2010.
Vörös, Géza, interview by Pál, Zoltán, . COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection