Two significant émigré collections have been added to Hoover’s already extensive Hungarian library and archival holdings: those of Hugo Sonyi and Bela Csejtey. The two have very different biographies: the first was a top Hungarian general, the other, an American-educated scientist. Their collections however are similar in focus: Hungary’s military efforts in the two world wars, which, despite the valiant sacrifice of many thousands of soldiers, ended in defeat.

General Hugo Sonyi commanded the Hungarian armed forces between September 1936 and March 1940. From 1945 until his death in 1958, Sonyi lived in exile in Germany. His papers contain the archives of the Hungarian community in Germany, especially that in the former British Zone. The collection includes material on social and political issues, as well some émigré press titles, but the bulk consists of correspondence, mostly from former officers and soldiers. Among those are letters to and from Admiral Miklos Horthy, Archduke Joseph August von Habsburg, and other monarchist and legitimist émigrés. The important achievement of general Sonyi’s exile years was reestablishment in 1953 of the Hungarian order of merit known as Vitéz, or Vitézi Rend in Hungarian. The Order of Vitéz, founded in 1678, revived in 1920, and abolished by the Soviet-imposed Communist government of Hungary in 1946, had been an important symbol of Hungary’s historic commitment to independence and territorial integrity.

Bela Csejtey Jr., who died in Palo Alto earlier this year, was a Hungarian-American geologist and historian. A refugee from Hungary following the revolution of 1956, Csejtey received his doctorate from Princeton and spent most of his life working as a geologist, first in Antartica, and later at the Alaskan branch of the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park. The US Board on Geographic Names recognized his distinguished service in Antartica by naming Mount Csejtey in the Geologists’ Range in his honor. Csejtey’s other passion was history, both family history and the history of the Hungarian forces on the front lines of World War I. His particular interest was the battle of the Piave River in the north of Italy, where the Austro-Hungarian offensive suffered a decisive defeat in the first days of the summer of 1918. Hungarian regiments, which were disproportionately used in the fighting, lost tens of thousands of men. Csejtey researched the literature and the archives and combed the fields along the Piave with a metal detector to discover remains of the battle, some of which accompanied his papers into the Hoover Archives. In addition to papers and artifacts, Csejty’s donation includes several dozen rare Hungarian regimental histories, military periodicals, and memoirs, some published nearly century ago, all of which were added to the Hoover Library holdings.

Maciej Siekierski, Senior Curator

overlay image