"The more you search, the more you find."
Between October and November 2017, Ildikó Barna, who has a PhD in sociology and is associate professor at Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Social Sciences in Budapest, spent four weeks conducting research as an EHRI fellowship holder at the International Tracing Service (ITS).
What exactly did your research entail in the archive?
I continued my research on Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) from Hungary in order to analyze the archive documents with quantitative methods of social research. I work mainly with the files of the Care and Maintenance Programme of the International Refugee Organization (IRO) from Germany and Italy. People in the DP camps had to fill out questionnaires in order to receive support. The files from Germany and Italy are indexed beyond names, so I can filter the data by nationality and religion and find the information I need. I don't have any names, I'm looking for anyone who is Jewish and Hungarian.
What kind of information can you extract from the data?
This data is a basis for determining whether there are differences for example in the different age groups with regard to emigration destinations or how many of the DPs were men and how many were women. The CM/1 files are not like sociological questionnaires, but they are questionnaires which lend themselves well for analysis. At the same time, however, they are much more than that because people describe their persecution and their families. That is why I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to look behind the numbers. Numbers provide access regarding statistics, but they are not enough, because this is all about life.
So you will also analyze individual biographies?
Yes, I am preparing case studies. For example, I found a family with many children who survived because they were on the so-called Strasshof transport. Several thousand men, women and children were not deported to Auschwitz, but first of all to the transit camp near Vienna, because Eichmann had blackmailed large sums of money from the Jewish rescue committee in Budapest. "Goods for blood," he called it. The father of this family died in the concentration camp of Mauthausen, ten days before liberation. The children were later reunited with their mother and emigrated to the US. The ITS correspondence files also include requests from members of this family.
When was the first time you worked with documents from the ITS archive?
In 2014, I was lucky enough to attend a workshop on the ITS at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington. I literally fell in love with the archive. In 2015, as a fellow at the USHMM, I started my research project on Jewish-Hungarian DPs. Afterwards, I also worked at the Wiener Library with the ITS records and in Poland too. I am always overwhelmed by these interesting documents.
When and how will you publish your research results?
I already have a PhD and a habilitation, but to become a full professor in Hungary, it's practically mandatory to obtain a doctorate from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In order to achieve this, one has to submit a further scientific paper. It will take me another three or four years to finish. At the moment, I am writing articles and book chapters. In Bad Arolsen, I carried out research on Hungarian DPs in Italian camps, especially from Apulia. I will be looking at a total of about 2,000 CM/1 files referencing to approximately 5,000 to 6,000 persons. This is a huge amount of data, therefore I am taking it step by step. In addition, I am simultaneously involved in other projects such as contemporary anti-Semitism and Hungarian Jewry.
Was it difficult to obtain the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) fellowship?
No, it was a perfectly normal application procedure. EHRI enabled me to spend four weeks in Bad Arolsen and two weeks in London at the Wiener Library. I also received a three-year fellowship from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. I am very grateful for all these fellowships, it is the only way that research of this kind is possible. The time at the ITS was fantastic because I could immerse myself deeply. One week in this archive is far too short. Because the more you search, the more you find.