Marianne Szegedy-Maszák and her brothers were raised in Washington, D.C. after World War II within a close-knit circle of war survivors, her parents, and elderly relatives. Hanna, her mother, had come from a family of wealthy Hungarian industrialists, Enlightenment Jews who had converted to Christianity in the early twentieth century. Her father, Aladár, who came from a well-connected Christian family, had been a rising star in the Hungarian foreign ministry. When Hanna and Aladár fell in love in 1940, they could still go for long drives in the Hungarian countryside together, spending the hot summer months at Hanna’s family’s country estate, or going to nightclubs in Budapest. With the rise of Hitler, all that changed.
At first, Jewish access to schools and occupations became limited; before long, Jewish businesses had to be transferred to Christians. Finally, anyone with Jewish ancestry had to go into hiding or face deportation to death camps. As the Hungarian state Nazified, pro-Hungarian politicians were jailed, murdered, or, like Aladár, deported to Dachau or other camps. Hanna and her family, in hiding with various Christian friends and in-laws, were forced to trade legal ownership of their factories for exit visas. Ultimately, Hanna and Aladár survived the war. Hungary did not. For the Szegedy-Maszák family and countless other Hungarians of principle, the Soviet take-over of Hungary left them stateless and bereft. While Szegedy-Maszák’s account can be read as an absorbing family saga, it works brilliantly on another level, as a history of the struggle for a free Hungary in the twentieth century. Notes, photographs.
- A Guest in My Own Country: A Hungarian Life by George Konrad
- Kasztner’s Train: The True Story of an Unknown Hero of the Holocaust by Anna Porter
- One Must Also Be Hungarian by Adam Biro
- The Book of Fathers by Miklós Vámos
- The Invisible Bridg by Julie Orringer
Bettina Berch, author of the recent biography, From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezierska, teaches part-time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.