For many Americans—and I am one of them—in spite of years of American history class, the European struggle of World War II took place entirely on Western Front. That's where American troops largely fought and where American journalists made their base. We remember D-Day, the Allies marching through France, the blackouts in London, scarcely aware of the tremendous events going on in Eastern Europe at the same time. Readers of this fascinating memoir-history will quickly become aware of our huge deficit. Thanks go to Marianne Szegedy-Maszak for bring her audience into the vibrant and frequently tragic world of pre-war and wartime Hungary.
Using family letters, her father's unpublished papers and her own professional research, Szegedy-Maszak weaves together the story of two disparate families. In 1940, a rising star in the government and a Christian, young Aladár Szegedy-Maszak and Hanna Kornfeld, daughter of a wealthy Jewish industrialist family met and fell almost instantly in love. The romance flourished as gathering war shadows grew darker, but life and romance continued as if there were no threat. The worst could not happen, all were confident that the worst could not happen. But it did. Germany invaded bringing Hungary to its knees.
The invaders imprisoned the Christian Aladár in Dachau for his anti-Fascist pre-invasion positions; the Jewish (some converted Catholics) Kornfeld family traded their industrial empire for passage to freedom in Portugal. Neither Hanna nor Aladár knew if the other lived. Hard times.
Hard times indeed, but the couple survived, married, and built an American life for themselves and for Hanna's family. To tell more would mar the suspense. A beautiful and riveting story, a family memoir, and living history, I recommend it both for the history and the love story.
Freelance journalist Marianne Szegedy-Maszak's work has appeared in myriad publications including The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, and The New Republic. She received a Pulitzer Traveling fellowship and taught journalism at American University. This is her first book.
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