I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary

  • Review
By – May 13, 2013

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.

Relat­ed Content:

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.

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