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Prestigious Recognition for the Vienna Delegation of the War History Archives

Szöveg: László Szűcs |  2017. március 31. 9:00

In 2016, the award “Foreign research center of the year” founded by the Hungarian Society for Family History Research was given to the Vienna delegation of the War History Archives of the MoD Institute and Museum of Military History (MoD IMMH). Two staff members of the delegation, Maj. Dr. Norbert Számvéber and Dr. Balázs Lázár received the award from the representatives of the society in the building of Collegium Hungaricum Wien in Vienna, on 28 March.


The Hungarian Society for Family History Research is an organization with a large membership, which primarily deals with family tree research. For years now, it has prepared a yearly ranking of Hungarian and foreign archives and research centers based on the extent to which they can help their work. The award founded by the society is a prestigious recognition for institutes.

In 2016, the Vienna delegation of the War History Archives of the MoD IMMH was given the award “Foreign research center of the year" for the second time after 2011. One the most important tasks of the delegation is to respond to requests coming from Hungary and abroad concerning Hungarian military history, and to provide data from the documents kept in the Kriegsarchiv Wien, the Vienna War Archives.


“Last year we received some 700 requests, with queries about more than 1000 persons. Our »discovery index« is close to 60 per cent, which means that last year we were able provide those turning to us with useful data about 600-650 persons", Maj. Norbert Számvéber told us. The head of the Vienna delegation added that since we are currently in the four-year period of the centenary of the First World War, most of the requests they receive are related to the Great War. Of course, it does not mean that they do not receive any queries concerning military events of earlier periods, especially the 18th and 19th centuries. For this reason, the Vienna delegation of the MoD IMMH has a staff of two: Dr. Balázs Lázár deals mainly with the period from the 1700s to 1849, whereas Maj. Számvéber with queries concerning the period between 1849 and 1918 – although they always process all incoming requests together, and try to respond to them collectively.

“In connection with the requests we received in the last period, it is noticeable that most enquirers know so little about their ancestors. For the most part, they only know the basic data, such as a person’s place and date of birth and the unit he was enlisted to. And it turns out many times, subsequently, that the person to be found displayed heroism or even made self-sacrifice, and received several war decorations", the major told us, adding that in some cases in their experience, it has turned out that the stories and memories of a family do not correspond to the facts. For example, the person looked for served with another unit, took part in other military events, or received other distinctions than the ones supposed by his descendants.


Speaking about the award, Norbert Számvéber told us that for the delegation and the whole MoD IMMH, it is “a huge moral recognition which strengthens our belief that our core mission – providing data about events in Hungarian military history – is an important activity, one which our society expects and appreciates".

The award was presented to the staff members of the MoD IMMH by a delegation of the Hungarian Society for Family History Research. The award ceremony offered the researchers visiting Vienna a good opportunity to learn about the institute, and to receive up-to-date information from the archivists about the documents kept by them and the epochs. It is less known that the documents kept in the Vienna War Archive cover only the period to the end of the First World War. Therefore, those wishing to get detailed information about the lives of their ancestors born after 1900 must submit their requests to some other institution, for instance, to the MoD IMMH Budapest War History Archives.


Photo: László Szinek