A magnificent wartime love story about the forces that brought the author’s parents together and those that nearly drove them apart
Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s parents, Hanna and Aladár, 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.
Aladár 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-Maszák’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.
About The Author
Marianne Szegedy-Maszák is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, The New Republic, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Psychology Today, among others. She has worked as a reporter at the New York Post, an editor at Congressional Quarterly, a professor of journalism at American University, and as a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report. She has won the awards for her journalism from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the National Mental Health Association, and the American Psychoanalytic Association. The recipient of a Pulitzer Traveling fellowship and the Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship, Szegedy-Maszák has been an officer on the boards of the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism. This is her first book.