March 8, 2011
His Excellency Dr. László Pordány
Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary
299 Waverley Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 0V9
Dear Dr. Pordány:
The Canadian Historical Association joins the ranks of historians and archivists from around the world in expressing our concern over the Hungarian Legislature’s preparation of a law which would destroy many of the records of Hungarian communist secret police, interior ministry, and state security apparatus currently held at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security in Budapest.
The Canadian Historical Association/Société historique du Canada (CHA/SHC) is the oldest and largest organization representing professional historians in Canada. Founded in 1922, the bilingual organization is dedicated to scholarship in all fields of history. It has a membership of about 1000, made up primarily of historians engaged as professionals from all regions of Canada and abroad.
As we write this letter to you we are also making an argument to our own Canadian federal court with respect to granting access to historical security files in our own archives. We do so because the files of state security agencies are amongst the most important held in any country’s archives. It is vital to the history and memory of the country and those citizens affected that the role of the state in monitoring and punishing its citizens be available and open. This is the only way that a country and indeed the world can know, how a state has lived up to, or violated its responsibilities to its people. It is the only way for some of the wronged to seek redress. Only though awareness of the fact and frank discussion of the painful periods of the past, can a country seek reconciliation and move forward.
The CHA/SHC rejects the argument that because these records were collected illegally by an immoral regime they should be destroyed. On the contrary, these are potentially the most valuable proof that the regime engaged in illegal activities. The loss of this massive archive of state surveillance will wipe out the memory of a key part of the communist regime.
The CHA/SHC believes that the security files currently held at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security have enduring value to Hungarians but also to the international community. We urge the government of Hungary to take all steps consistent with professional archival practice to preserve these unique and important records.
Mary Lynn Stewart
President, Canadian Historical Association
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