Collection of Ordass Lajos
Name of collection
- Collection of Ordass Lajos
Provenance and cultural activities
Under state socialism, Lutheran bishop Lajos Ordass became a symbol of deliberate, enduring resistance to the dictatorship. The Rákosi and the Kádár regimes both removed him from positions of leadership within the church: he was condemned in a show trial, sent to prison, and forced into retirement. Until his death (1978), he was considered the leader of the Lutheran resistance, whether he was in jail at the given moment or not. The fate of the Ordass legacy is also symbolic: it is fragmented, like his personal bequest. It is geographically scattered, because under socialism many Ordass collections existed all over the world, and many people aimed to save his spiritual legacy. This constituted a deliberate, active form of cultural resistance, because support for the “ecclesiastical path” of Ordass was “hostile” behaviour in the minds of the rulers of the party state.
The people who were the most active in keeping the Ordass-legacy alive outside of Hungary were Hungarian Lutheran priests in exile, who were former disciples and friends of Ordass at home. Gradually, an Ordass Archive emerged as the result of their activities. A foundation was created in the beginning of the 1980s to help this project. The International Foundation for Hungarian Theological Literature – Ordass Foundation was established in 1983, formally by a memorandum signed on 14 November 1985. Its initiator may have been László Terray, a Hungarian priest from Norway, who got the support of important people outside of Hungary. He later organized the operations of the foundations as secretary almost for 30 years, and he directed international research on Ordass and his legacy.
When the first Ordass manuscripts started to arrive from Hungary in the 1960s and 1970s, Orass himself was still alive. The collecting was begun with the purpose of saving manuscripts from the Hungarian state authorities and the threat of being destroyed or lost. For example, as László Terray affirmed, after Ordass’ death (1978) “a Danish evangelical priest [Jørgen Glenthøj] regularly travelled to Hungary, took photos of thousands of pages of documents kept by people preserved Ordass documents with the help of the Foundation. These photographs were either taken by Glenthøj to the Foundation [i.e. abroad] or they were sent out of the country with the help of ordinary tourist groups or diplomats.”
After the synopsis of the history of the Ordass Archive by István Rőzse, we can say that Ordass himself “tried to save his own legacy too.” He typed his manuscripts (writings and notes) himself, and he sometimes made copies. In the typewritten copies, he made some changes. This was a “defensive, tactical” solution, which was typical at the time, because according to law producing more than 10 copies of typed writing constituted public distribution, and copying without permission was a crime. Moreover, Ordass gave away many of his manuscripts. “These documents (or copied versions) were guarded by the owners or passed on to their children, grandchildren, or other relatives, understood their values.”
By the 1980s, the Ordass Archive was already of considerable size. In this period, collection most of the literature and journals about Ordass and the Hungarian Lutherans were available in a Western country (Norway). Some parts of the Ordass Foundation’s Archive became available for Hungarian researchers after 1989. The Ordass Foundation was stopped in its original from in 2002, and its holdings were transported to the Hungarian Ordass Lajos Foundation (established in 2010). This organization was founded by János Ittzés, the bishop of the West Transylvanian Lutheran Diocese, at the suggestion of the retired clergyman, secretary of the Ordass Foundation, László Terray. The Ordass Archive also “returned home.” László Terray submitted the documents (created between 1920 and 1995) in 73 boxes to the National Archive of Hungary.
With the members of the Ordass Foundation (Vilmos Vajta, László Terray), other members of the Hungarian Lutheran pastoral emigration – István Szépfalusi (Austria), György Pósfay (Venezuela, Switzerland), Róbert Pátkay (England), József Glatz (West-Germany), Béla Leskó (Argentina), Béla Bernhardt (Australia, USA), István Gémes (Brazil, West-Germany), Attila Szilas (Denmark), Olivér Joób (Sweden, Switzerland) – were also active in preserving the general Ordass heritage. Members of the pastoral emigration maintains ties with one another through active correspondence for decades. They discussed organizational questions of the conferences (for example the Conference of the Holy Week) and many questions about the Church and Church policy in letters. This correspondence, including within many writings and letters about Ordass, survived in some private collections (for example in the bequest of Vilmos Vajta).
The documents which had been collected abroad started to arrive in Hungary parallel with the gradual aging and death of the Lutheran pastoral emigration. The heritage of István Szépfalusi and the Archive of the International Ordass Foundation was moved to the National Archive of Hungary as a separate collection, and the bequests of László Terray (Norway), Béla Bernhard (USA), Róbert Pátkai (England), György Pósfay (Switzerland), and Vilmos Vajta (Sweden) were moved to the Lutheran Archives of Hungary.
The Hungarian Lutheran priests, who had lived most of their lives in the Western world in the second half of the Twentieth century, distrusted the Hungarian (state and Church) authorities. They had concerns about the Hungarian Lutheran archives. Finally, the Ordass Foundation decided to submit the Ordass Archive to the National Archive, instead of the Lutheran Archives.
Preserving documents concerning the heritage of the martyr bishop in socialist Hungary meant a totally different challenge. Such an act was considered hostile behaviour. The Ordass Lajos Circle of Friends formed on the first Sunday of Advent in 1988 (10 December) at the suggestion of István Herényi by 21 close friends of Ordass. The independent social organization, which later operated as an association, held its founding assembly on 18 March 1989. Until its termination in 2010, this society was the most important Hungarian organization safeguarding the spiritual legacy of Ordass. Lutheran clergyman István Rőzse wrote: “Diffusion of the documents (with the manuscripts) started while the bishop was still alive. (...) In 1948, under the first perquisition [23–24 August 1948], many documents were taken by the authorities and were never found again, so the bishop, especially after his release from jail, made several copies of his writings and gave them to his friends for safekeeping.” Both foreign and Hungarian priests and laymen took part in this. It was not possible to avoid the notice of the authorities entirely. Persecution was especially pronounced when people tried to take the manuscripts and documents out of the country.There was a new situation after the death of bishop Ordass (1978). His widow, Mrs. Lajos Ordass (born Irén Kirner), tried to “stop the total fragmentation of the bequest and tried to collect the manuscripts and documents.” The collecting and sorting work dynamized the foundation of the Lajos Ordass Circle of Friends in 1989. The common works directed by György Kendeh, foundation member and secretary of the Circle of Friends (1989–1998). In 1994, Kendeh started to organize the materials systematically at the request of Mrs. Ordass at the home of the Ordass family in Márvány street. The work went more slowly than had been anticipated, so Mrs. Ordass Lajos agreed with György Kendeh that Kendeh would take the collected material to his home, where he could continue sorting works under better conditions. After this György Kendeh had the materials in his possession. The next four years (1994–1998) constituted a shifting period in the life of the Ordass bequest. In 1998, Kendeh gave the final works to be sorted to István Rőzse, who enriched the Ordass collection with other documents and made a detailed register of the documents in 2002. Now the documents, which are held in 29 boxes, are available in the Lutheran Archives of Hungary.
Description of content
The Archive of the Ordass Foundation is both a record office and a library. The library, which provides important support for scholars of and researchers on Church history, preserves books by Ordass, issues of his theological, pastoral periodicals (Evangelical Theology, Pastor, Diaconia), Hungarian and foreign Church newspapers (Evangelical Life, Message – Venezuela, Our Faith – Argentina), periodicals of the World Federation of Lutherans (Lutherische Welt Information/LWI; Lutherische Rundschau/LR), almanacs (for example Evangelical Diary, yearbooks by Germans who left Hungary for the West, Suevia Pannonica), foreign ecclesiastical journals (for example Glaube in der 2. Welt – Switzerland, Religion in Communist Lands –England, Hungarian Church Press).
The record office, with its almost 15 meters of materials, is a rich collection of documents by and about Ordass. It contains correspondence with foreign (mainly Scandinavian) Church leaders dating back to the beginning of World War II. Moreover, the collection has the writings of Ordass, which survived in manuscript form and were published in Hungarian, German, or Norwegian before 1989. The most important item is his autobiography (Little Mirror of Great Times), which was published in the middle of the 1980s by editor István Szépfalusi, a Hungarian clergyman in Vienna. In the Archive of the Foundation, the bishop’s unpublished manuscript writings (pro memorias) and many of his translations are also researchable. Ordass knew English and German very well, and he also spoke Scandinavian languages,
Personal document bequests by clergymen who had a closer friendship with Ordass are also available in this archive. Vilmos Vajta, who is the director of the Oecumenical Research Institute of the World Federation of Lutherans in Strasbourg, donated part of his personal archive to the Foundation in 1981, when he moved to Sweden. The heritage of Mogens Zeuthen (Denmark), Paavo Viljanen (Finnland), and Béla Leskó (Argentina) were also placed in the Ordass Archive, which also contains many important pieces of samizdat about Hungarian political and ecclesiastical relations (the manuscripts of Árpád Fassang, István Botta, József Éliás, László Csengődy, Zoltán Dóka, etc.), many of which were copied by the Foundation in Norway before 1989.
There are many boxes of photocopies about László Terray’s research on the history of the Church, which Terray collected in different archives abroad (Basel, Geneva, Strasbourg, Uppsala, Ouli). The Archive also has many boxes which contain articles, books, and handwritten conference papers which were published in English, German, French, and Scandinavian-language periodicals.István Szépfalusi, a Hungarian clergyman in Vienna, played an important role in the caretaking of the Ordass legacy in the 1980s by publishing his books, the so-called purple books. These works are the autobiographical writings of the bishop. The manuscript was brought to the West in 1969. Szépfalusi published the original text and integrated many documents and footnotes, but he mangled the documents in some places.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
Date of founding
Place of founding
Show on map
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
László, Terray. "Ordass Lajos evangélikus püspök irathagyatéka. (Előadás a Magyarországi Egyházi Levéltárak Egyesülete közgyűlésén. Sopron, 1995. július 4–6.)." Keresztyén Igazság 34. (1997), 19-20.
EOL D. Archive of Lajos Ordass (DOLL), Description of István Rőzse, Budapest, 2002.
Author(s) of this page
- Mirák, Katalin
- Pál, Zoltán
Ordass Lajos: Önéletrajzi írások [Autobiographical Writings]. Válogatta, sajtó alá rendezte és az utószót írta [Selected, edited and the epilogue wrote by]: Szépfalusi István. Európai Protestáns Magyar Szabadegyetem, Bern, 1985.; Ordass Lajos: Önéletrajzi írások (folytatás). [Autobiographical Writings. Continuation.] Válogatta, sajtó alá rendezte és az utószót írta [Selected, edited and the epilogue wrote by]: Szépfalusi István. Európai Protestáns Magyar Szabadegyetem, Bern, 1987.
The International Foundation for Hungarian Theologocal Literature, The Ordass Foundation – Minutes of the meeting held in Oslo on May 9th, 1983. In: Minute Book The Ordass Foundation, 1983–2002. Manuscript. Document heritage of László Terray, Ordass Lajos Foundation.
Terray László: Ordass Lajos evangélikus püspök irathagyatéka. (Előadás a Magyarországi Egyházi Levéltárak Egyesülete közgyűlésén. Sopron, 1995. július 4–6.) [Document legacy of Evangelical Bishop Lajos Ordass. Lecture in the assembly of the Association of the Hungarian Ecclesiastical Archives.] Megjelent: Keresztyén Igazság, Új folyam [Christian Truth, New Series] (1997. nyár) 34. sz. 19–20.
Lóránd Boleratzky’s statement in Circural mail to the members of the OLBK. Budapest-Kelenföld, 18 April 1988. Manuscript, page 3.
Zászkaliczky Pál: Interview with György Kendeh. In: Nem voltam egyedül. Beszélgetések az evangélikus közelmúltról. I. kötet. [I was not alone. Conversations about the Evangelical recent past. Vol. I.] Ed. Mirák Katalin. Magyarországi Evangélikus Ifjúsági Szövetség, Bp., 1995. 147–172.
Nem nagyobb a szolga az ő uránál. Kendeh György lelkész élete és szolgálata [The servant isn’t greater than his master. The life and service of clergyman György Kendeh]. Ed. Béla Thurnay. Budapest–Kelenföldi Evangélikus Egyházközség, Bp. 2012.