A Hungarian Love Story Set Against the Backdrop of Wartime

Journalist Discovers a Nobler Family Than She Imagined

Hungarian Rhapsodist: Journalist Marianne Szegedy-Maszák unearthed the saga of her Hungarian family for her new book.
Route 1 Multimedia
Hungarian Rhapsodist: Journalist Marianne Szegedy-Maszák unearthed the saga of her Hungarian family for her new book.

By Julia M. Klein

Published October 05, 2013, issue of October 11, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

● I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary
By Marianne Szegedy-Maszák
Spiegel & Grau, 370 pages, $27

World War II and the Holocaust extinguished so many millions of lives, so many hopes, that each reclaimed story seems like a precious work of salvage.

In “I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary,” Washington journalist Marianne Szegedy-Maszák painstakingly unearths the saga of her distinguished Hungarian family and its struggle for survival during the war.

At the center of the narrative is the love story of her parents, Hanna and Aladár, who turn out to be nobler, more passionate figures than she had ever imagined. Their personal history unwinds against the backdrop of Hungary’s failed attempts to maintain some semblance of nationhood, and national self-respect, during both the war and its aftermath. In many of these battles, Aladár played a central role, as a career diplomat and eventually as a postwar Hungarian ambassador to the United States.

In this stately, sometimes slow-moving memoir, grand aspirations and tragic denouements co-exist, and triumphs are inevitably tempered by defeat.

The heart of the book, its raison d’être, is a cache of letters from the 1940s, mostly from Aladár to Hanna; her wartime letters to him did not survive. Szegedy-Maszák’s title derives from the formal Hungarian expression Aladár often used to close his letters and attest to his continuing ardor.

Through the letters, her father’s memoir, other documents and extensive interviews with surviving relatives, Szegedy-Maszák re-creates with remarkable intimacy just how her parents (now deceased) fell in love, endured wartime separation and hardships and were finally reunited.

In prewar Hungary, the couple hailed from different but socially intersecting worlds. Aladár Szegedy-Maszák’s family was “Catholic, upper middle class, intellectual Hungarian gentry.” Hanna Kornfeld’s was “Jewish, cosmopolitan, well-traveled, multilingual, and wealthy.”

As the granddaughter of the industrial titan Manfred Weiss, Hanna belonged to one of the country’s richest and most influential clans — Jewish by background, but thoroughly assimilated and often intermarried. In fact, the Kornfelds had converted to Catholicism in the 1920s.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.