The 200,000 Hungarians who fled their country after the crushing of the 1956 uprising were the first large group of refugees in Europe since World War II. Dozens of different countries worldwide offered them resettlement and a new home. However, some 8,000 stayed in Austria and were integrated there.
A small proportion of the refugees were able to stay in hotels or private accommodation, but initially the great majority were accommodated in camps. These were mostly former military barracks made of wood. Life in some of the camps was difficult, especially in winter, with poor insulation and outdoor toilets and washing facilities.
Gradually, the refugees who were not resettled began to lead a more 'normal' existence. Children attended schools and quickly learned German, while the adults found it relatively easy to find jobs as the Austrian economy was booming.
Using massive UNHCR funding, the Austrian authorities conducted a Camp Clearance Programme, building apartment blocks – and even entire new housing estates – for the refugees. For a while, UNHCR was the second largest builder in Austria.
More in Refugees Magazine Issue N° 144: Where Are They Now? The Hungarian Refugees, 50 Years On (published October 2006)