Refugee Registration Process
Subject: Operation Mercy
“We feel a solemn and responsible pride that in your time of need you have come to our shore” – These are some of the words from a letter by President Eisenhower, greeting Hungarian refugees at Camp Kilmer, NJ. The bilingual sign “Isten hozta Amerikában – Welcome to America” at the gate of the Reception Center symbolized the border between their old and new identities for these refugees. Between November 1956 and June 1957, when Camp Kilmer – a former World War II military base - was reactivated as a Reception Center under the name Operation Mercy, 32,000 refugees were processed, interviewed, supported, and resettled by government and other sponsoring agencies, volunteer organizations and individuals in the United States. The whole process resulted in 3 x 5” registration cards, located these days in 37 filing boxes at the Library of the American Hungarian Foundation. A project to catalog and digitize the cards will be presented, describing its advantages and disadvantages, the possibilities and obstacles along the way, options considered and solutions found, both in terms of technical and privacy issues. The database will eventually include the digitized copies of the cards, connected to a list of the refugees’ information on the cards, with a search capability for all individual data fields. CKRRD – hosted by Rutgers University repository – will complement the digital records of the President’s Committee for Hungarian Relief that are already in RUcore, in addition to be beneficial for genealogists and biographical researchers.