___Hans Olink: Battling for the truth -1956- The Amsterdam cold civil war [Hans Olink: Harcban az igazsággal -1956-]___Back

Hans Olink

Battling for the truth. –1956–

The Amsterdam cold civil war





Foreword to the Hungarian edition
When matters become confused
The feelings are freed (let loose)
Tempers calm down
Cleaning up




Foreword to the Hungarian edition


Hans Olink's book tells of the effect of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the story of an effect that was much discussed in the years that followed. That story has been placed in a new light by 1989, the collapse of the Soviet-type regimes of Eastern Union, and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union. That turned '56 from one critical moment in the Cold War, one factor explaining the uniqueness of the post-Stalinist system in Hungary, into a herald of 1989, the "first domino", whose fall presaged the collapse of Soviet-type socialism itself. Olink's chronicle, however, really goes back to 1956. He promises no more and no less than to recall a moment-the moment when a West European society became aware of the events in Budapest and was shocked by the news of the Soviet invasion of November 4. The strain broke out and the widespread anger and bitterness against local agents of the superpower that was crushing the Hungarian Revolution (or from another point of view, the Dutch organizations of the international labour movement) degenerated into violence. For several days, the streets of Amsterdam, the Dutch press, and various political and public forums witnessed a veritable "cold civil war".
 The demonstrators and those who besieged the headquarters of the communist party shouted the words "Budapest" and "Hungarians". But the author wisely refrains from explaining what was happening in Budapest, what the Hungarians did, or what was done to the Hungarians. He is interested in the Dutch society that was observing Hungary, and naturally, in the midst of the maelstrom of Hungarian events, examining itself and the issues of the post-war world, society and public life. He tries to conjure up again the psychological state and the culture of the Cold War-in 1956, but as seen from the shores of the North Sea. He sets out to capture the stance of a small Western nation from the writings of journalists reporting on the Hungarian events. The storm caused by the Hungarian Revolution shook Dutch society, which (many years earlier than we did by the Danube) then stepped out of the grey Cold-War fifties into the brighter, more complex world of the sixties.
 Fifty-six decided the image of Hungary and the Hungarians held in the West for decades to come. We already know a lot about that-or at least so we think. But we know less about what debates it launched, what changes it brought, how it shaped the perception of the Cold War in the West. Hans Olink's account begins with the solidarity, but actually concerns a society's self-image. To our eyes this was an event specifically about Hungary, but the book's interest lies in its cool reflection on its own story.
Budapest, October 2006
János M. Rainer

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Copyright © 2000 National Széchényi Library 1956 Institute and Oral History Archive
Last updated:  Wednesday, 4-April-2007

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