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Humanitarianism in the Alps: Hungarian Refugees in Tyrol 1956-57

Thu, November 10, 3:15 to 5:00pm CST (3:15 to 5:00pm CST), The Palmer House Hilton, Floor: 7th Floor, Sandburg 6


Austria’s role in aid for Hungarian refugees of 1956 was an indispensable humanitarian act that shaped the neutral country’s image in the West. The Austrian merits are commemorated until today, however, post-Cold War reassessments of the country’s migration history have also pointed to its flaws. An analysis beyond the first weeks of this crucial refugee moment reveals that public and political attitudes toward refugees took a negative turn. Against this background, the proposed paper analyzes the development of refugee reception in the Westernmost parts of Austria (especially the province Tyrol). The initial overburdening of Eastern Austria led to the internal resettlement of refugees all over Austria. A closer look at regional and local specifics in some geographical distance to the East-West divide of the continent will further diversify our knowledge of refugee reception in Cold War Austria. How were they welcomed in a mountainous region farther away from the Iron Curtain? What was the role of provincial authorities and civil society (including postwar Hungarian refugees) in handling the situation? How did refugees experience their time in a remote and alien setting? Which problems did occur and how did they differ from other places? The analysis covers regional reactions to events in Hungary 1956, the rather chaotic arrival of refugees, accommodation and care in camps, resettlement and integration processes, and not least the establishing of Hungarian schools in Tyrol.