Historians Want Hungary’s Communist-Era Surveillance Reports Protected

The Jan. 7, 2005 file photo shows Hungarian State Security Archives researcher Laszlo Farkas archiving files containing documents from Hungary's communist past in Budapest, Hungary. People spied on by Hungary's communist-era secret police would gain the right to pull reports on the surveillance out of the state archives under an unprecedented government proposal that historians say would damage to the country's ability to know about its past. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

People spied on by Hungary’s communist-era secret police will have the right to destroy their surveillance reports under a government proposal historians say would damage the country’s ability to acknowledge its past.

The regime’s network of informants once kept as many as 1.6 million people under close scrutiny, with relatives and neighbors informing on each other and the secret services compiling over 12 miles worth of files.

The government says it is drafting legislation giving those spied upon the right to decide whether to save the original documents, keep them for their grandchildren or even destroy them.

“A state ruled by law cannot keep personal information collected through unconstitutional means, as these are immoral documents of an immoral regime,” the justice ministry said.

The plan has surprised experts as a highlight of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s first term was establishing a museum which exhibits the wrongdoings of fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in the country’s history.

Historians have said the right of those contained in the reports to decide their future would hinder further research of the communist regime that ruled the country between 1948 and 1990.

“Records that provide evidence of injustices hold accountable those responsible for abuses of trust and power,” the Association of Canadian Archivists said in a letter last week to Hungary’s ambassador in Ottawa.

Read the full article in the March 4, 2011 edition of the Democrat Herald.

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