Marianne Szegedy-Maszak's parents, Hanna and Aladar, met and fell in love in Budapest in 1940. He was a rising star in the foreign ministry--a vocal anti-Fascist who was in talks with the Allies when he was arrested and sent to Dachau. Read more...
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Marianne Szegedy-Maszak's parents, Hanna and Aladar, met and fell in love in Budapest in 1940. He was a rising star in the foreign ministry--a vocal anti-Fascist who was in talks with the Allies when he was arrested and sent to Dachau. She was the granddaughter of Manfred Weiss, the industrialist patriarch of an aristocratic Jewish family that owned factories, were patrons of intellectuals and artists, and entertained dignitaries at their baronial estates. Though many in the family had converted to Catholicism decades earlier, when the Germans invaded Hungary in March 1944, they were forced into hiding. In a secret and controversial deal brokered with Heinrich Himmler, the family turned over their vast holdings in exchange for their safe passage to Portugal.
Aladar survived Dachau, a fragile and anxious version of himself. After nearly two years without contact, he located Hanna and wrote her a letter that warned that he was not the man she'd last seen, but he was still in love with her. After months of waiting for visas and transit, she finally arrived in a devastated Budapest in December 1945, where at last they were wed.
Framed by a cache of letters written between 1940 and 1947, Szegedy-Maszak's family memoir tells the story, at once intimate and epic, of the complicated relationship Hungary had with its Jewish population--the moments of glorious humanism that stood apart from its history of anti-Semitism--and with the rest of the world. She resurrects in riveting detail a lost world of splendor and carefully limns the moral struggles that history exacted--from a country and its individuals.
Praise for "I Kiss Your Hands Many Times"
""I Kiss Your Hand Many Times" is the sweeping story of Marianne Szegedy-Maszak's family in pre- and post-World War II Europe, capturing the many ways the struggles of that period shaped her family for years to come. But most of all it is a beautiful love story, charting her parents' devotion in one of history's darkest hours."--Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, the Huffington Post Media Group
"In this panoramic and gripping narrative of a vanished world of great wealth and power, Marianne Szegedy-Maszak restores an important missing chapter of European, Hungarian, and Holocaust history."--Kati Marton, author of "Paris: A Love Story "and" Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America
"How many times can a heart be broken? Hungarians know, Marianne Szegedy-Maszak's family more than most. History has broken theirs again and again. This is the story of that violence, told by the daughter of an extraordinary man and extraordinary woman who refused to surrender to it. Every perfectly chosen word is as it happened. So brace yourself. Truth can break hearts, too."--Robert Sam Anson, author of "War News: A Young Reporter in Indochina
"This family memoir is everything you could wish for in the genre: the story of a fascinating family that illuminates the historical time it lived through. . . . Informative and fascinating in every way, "I Kiss Your Hands Many Times"] is a great introduction to World War II Hungary and a moving tale of personal relationships in a time of great duress."--"Booklist" (starred review)
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-05-13
- Reviewer: Staff
This tragic family history weaves together the lives of journalist Szegedy-Maszák’s parents and their extended families with the fate of their native Hungary during and after WWII. The author’s father, Aladár, was a Gentile civil servant in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, whereas her mother, Hanna, came from a family of Jewish industrialists who converted to Christianity. Aladár and Hanna’s romance blossoms under the shadows of war and anti-Semitism, and continues to grow even after Aladár is shipped off to the Dachau concentration camp for voicing his strong anti-Nazi opinions. Hanna and her family, meanwhile, strike a deal with Heinrich Himmler to trade most of the family’s holdings for passage out of Hungary. In the aftermath of the war, Aladár and Hanna are reunited, and the fragile Hungarian government names him minister to the U.S. Despite his best efforts, he is powerless to prevent the Communist ouster of the democratically elected Hungarian government. Through her parents’ correspondence and other sources, Szegedy-Maszák reveals a father who is by turns “luminous” and broken, a mother who is “hilariously funny and brilliant,” and a nation struggling to find its footing after decades of war and repression. Photos. Agent: Flip Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Aug.)
A family history revealed
Like most children, Marianne Szegedy-Maszák was vaguely familiar with her parents’ background as she was growing up, but didn’t know or understand many details. As in many immigrant homes, the adults discussed those details in what American-born Marianne regarded as “secret” languages—in her family’s case, mostly in Hungarian.
After her parents and other beloved older relatives died, Szegedy-Maszák decided to delve more deeply into the unknowns, aided by a cache of letters from her father to her mother during their difficult courtship. And what a rich story she tells in I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Aladár and Hanna Szegedy-Maszák and their families were people of extraordinary sophistication and stamina who survived persecution by both Nazis and Communists.
Hanna was a member of a hugely wealthy clan descended from pioneering Jewish industrialist Manfred Weiss, the Andrew Carnegie of Hungary. Most of the family converted to Christianity, but that didn’t help them with the Nazis and their vicious Hungarian allies. They survived, but in a way that aroused great resentment among fellow Hungarians: A Himmler aide forced them to sign over their fortune to the Nazis in exchange for being allowed to escape. Unwelcome in Hungary after the war, most went to the U.S., where they again thrived.
Aladár was a Christian, a highly regarded diplomat, who resisted Hungary’s alliance with Germany and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a separate peace with the Allies. When the Germans invaded, he was sent to Dachau. After liberation, he rose from concentration camp prisoner to Hungarian ambassador to the U.S. in an astonishingly short time. Then came the Communist coup in Hungary. Aladár tried mightily to persuade the U.S. to intervene, failed again, and spent the rest of his life in exile.
Their daughter tells their stories with beautiful sensitivity. She is loving but clear-eyed about their flaws and troubles. Her parents lived in middle-class comfort in Washington, D.C., but her father in particular was broken by his political and personal tragedies. Marianne grew up in a household darkened by his depression. Yet through it all, his deep love for his wife endured. Their daughter’s fine memoir highlights a largely forgotten chapter of the Holocaust and honors their memory.