Interview with Małgorzata Mazurek--May 15, 2014

Interview with Małgorzata Mazurek, who was recently named the first Polish Studies Chair at Columbia University. Interview conducted in New York on May 15, 2014. Special thanks to Máté Rigó, Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, for preparing a time-stamped inventory of the interview.

Mazurek is the author of three monographs in Polish, including Waiting in Lines: On Experiences of Scarcity in Postwar Poland (2010), The Anthropology of Scarcity in the GDR and Poland, 1971-1989 (2010), and Socialist Factory: Workers in People's Poland and in the GDR on the Eve of the Sixties (2005). She has also written several reviews, contributions to edited volumes, and articles in English. To access the interview, click here.

Interview Themes

00:00 Family background, family politics 
03:00 No family connection to the opposition (Solidarity)
07:00 Family experience of WWII, ancestors represent all social groups of interwar Poland
13:00 Partial Jewish ancestry, peasant Catholic ancestry, Polish Jewish experience of WWI
15:00 Experiences of Jewish grandfather during and after WWII; land reform
16:20 Grandfather arrested when using a fake Polish identity; Mazurek is a Polish-sounding family name adopted during WWII
20:12 Postwar retribution
24:00 Grandfather becomes a journalist after the communist takeover
30:00 Grandfather gets a job at Metalexport as a translator
35:00 Experience of 1980s and 1990s as periods of constant change
40:00 Schooling, experience at a private school, interactions with students of liberal and anti-communist backgrounds
45:20 Parents are scientific researchers and academics, organic chemistry and geology; relationship to the Polish Communist Party; father’s fascination with banks, currency and economy
51:54 Elections of 1989
55:20 Jan Gross’s Neighbors as a radical censure in Polish intellectual life
1:00:20 Impact of Gross’s book, Positive phenomena in Polish-Jewish relations, confronting the past
1:04:50 Accidents in Polish history
1:08:20 Gross, Polish-Jewish relations as an institutionalized relationship
1:12:00 Experience at university; sociology, MA thesis
1:17:00 Trends within the new generation of Polish historiography; Move towards studying communist Poland within the context of European history and the legacy of WWII
1:19:00 Different perspectives on ECE history between different academic environments (USA, Poland, Germany, historical sociology)
1:23:00 Training in sociology, university experience; Sociology as an intellectually challenging course of study; Habitus of more traditional history students vs. sociology students in 1990s Poland
1:30:20 Columbia Chair of Polish History
1:34:00 Experience of switching between disciplines, importance of language skills
To access the interview, click here.


András Körner with his father, the modernist architect
József Körner (1907-1971) in Budapest, 1946
These interviews are the fourth in a series of extended profiles on the lives and work of participants in the New York Hungarian Table, which meets for lunch once a month in Morningside in New York City. This installment features two interviews with András Körner about his upbringing in Hungary and his work as an architect and as a historian of Hungarian Jewish everyday life.

Körner has written several books, including A Taste of the Past: The Daily Life and Cooking of a Nineteenth-Century Hungarian-Jewish Homemaker, a detailed and engaging description of domestic life in a Hungarian-Jewish household based on extensive interviews with his mother, his great-grandmother's recipe book (recipes included), and an array of other sources, as well as Körner's own illustrations. He has also written a biography (with audio recordings) of the Hungarian bauhaus artist and architect, Andor Weininger, titled The Stages of Andor Weininger from the Bauhaus to New York, as well as two books in Hungarian; A Reluctant Jew: Essays and Stories, and a social history of Hungarian Jewry, How Did They Live? The Everyday Life of Hungarian Jews, 1867-1940. He is currently at work on a second volume which will present additional aspects of the everyday lives of Hungarian Jews over the same period. 

The interviews were conducted at Körner's apartment in New York on March 11 and 25, 2014. Special thanks go to Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, Máté Rigó, for his assistance in cataloging the interviews. To download the interviews, click here

Körner's maternal great-
great-grandfather, Eduard

Baruch (Baruch Ede, 1812-

1886), self-fashioning in the

manner of the Hungarian 

revolutionary leader of 1848,

 Lajos Kossuth. The portrait was 

painted by the Viennese artist,
Berthold Fischer in 1852.
March 11, 2014

00:00 Family background, traces back family history to early 18th century, Bohemanin Jewish origins of the maternal side of the family
03:00 Bohemian Jewry
04:00 German-speaking ancestors
05:00 Family portraits, collection of family memorabilia, clothes, socks, paintings
08:20 Paternal side: family living in present-day Slovakia; Merchants, teachers; Ancestors move to Budapest; Maternal ancestors move from Körmend, then Moson, then Győr; Maternal grandmother moved to Budapest
Körner's maternal great-
grandmother, Therese
Berger (nee Baruch, 1851-
1938) in 1870
10:00 Father is modernist architect József Körner; Before-WWII he could not get commissions for public buildings 
11:30 Father wins international architecture competition in late 1930s, but wasn’t allowed to transfer money abroad, so he gave money to a diplomat who absconded with it
14:00 András Körner was born in Budapest in 1940
16:00 Experience of WWII; Family moves to a “Swiss” yellow star house; Mother deported in November 1944 to dig defense lines in Western Hungary
18:30 Mother fears she would not survive; Issues of collaboration
21:00 Relationship with mother
Körner with his mother, b. Katalin
Halasz (1910-1991) in St. Wolfgang,
Austria in front of the Weisses Rössl
Inn in 1987.
22:00 Ambivalent relationship to Jewish origins while growing up
25:00 Holocaust memories in Budapest ghetto
27:00 Mother tells him of the family’s religious past
29:00 Encounter with his future wife at the European Forum in Alpbach, Austria in 1965
31:00 Dilemmas of emigration in 1956, grandmother
32:00 Distance from Hungarian community in New York
33:00 Childhood: how parents changed during WWII
34:00 Father’s chronic illness and labor service
38:00 Holocaust nightmares, dreams
41:00 Parents speak German and Hungarian; family archives in German (recipe books in German)
43:00 Mother’s role during the Holocaust; Oral history project with his mother; 300-page oral history memoir; Minute details of everyday life at the turn of the century
Körner's drawing depicting how
his great-grandmother kept
her purse under her skirts (it also
shows her monogrammed socks).
The young girl in the drawing
is Körner's mother, who was 
raised in part by her grandmother.
46:00 Impact of the oral history with his mother on his life
47:00 letters of his great-grandmother from 1870s; Book of letters
48:00 Recipe collection of great-grandmother
49:00 Recipe collection becomes the basis of his first book
52:00 Antiquated Austrian German
55:00 Importance of religious past of his family
56:20 Connection to Budapest Jewish culture
1:00:00 Assimilation as a problematic concept; Social circle of parents consisted of assimilated Jews
1:02:30 Used to regard Jewish milieu as a “self-built ghetto”
1:03:00 Dating experience in 1950s Budapest
1:06:00 Jewish identity politics in 1950s
The monogrammed socks
1:08:00 The experience of 1945 as a radical break in Hungary
1:09:00 Leftist political orientation in the family; Father prosecuted in 1932 for attempting to organize and exhibition on Budapest slums
1:13:00 Father was social democrat, then communist party secretary
1:15:00 Father refused to reenter the party in 1956
1:17:00 1945 experience; rape
Körner in 1947 or 1948
from when he attended
the primary school on
Sziget utca (now Radnóti
Miklós utca) in Budapest. 
To access the interview, click here.

March 25, 2014 (NOTE: the recording incorrectly gives the date as March 24)

00:00 Left-leaning family’s reaction to the 1950s
04:00 1956, Petőfi circle
09:00 Fear of arrests in early 1950s, packed suitcase
11:00 1956 experience of revolution, refused a machine-gun
13:00 Shootings in 1956
15:00: Hopes in 1956
Liebermann's luggage store in Lansing, MI,
1970, designed by Körner (with the owner's
initial lit up in blue on the facade).
19:00 Dilemmas of emigration after the revolution, caught twice on the border
25:00 Encounter with future wife; Jewish attraction to Catholicism
29:00 McCarthy era firings
31:00 Started practicing in Budapest in early 1960s
32:00 Experience of Kádár era
35:00 First travel to the West in 1963
39:00 Western border of Hungary as a strong boundary
44:00 Career in architecture
45:00 Career as a corporate architect
48:00 Drawing
50:00 Career chances in second half of the 20th century; “crushing of the souls”
52:00 Limited possibilities foster conversations in early 1950s
56:00 Hungarian expat community in New York
58:00 Writing books
1:00:00 Hungarian Table in New York
1:04:00 Issues of ethnic identification
1:09:00 Intreviews with his mother
1:18:00 Lack of historical writing on middle class women
Andor Weininger (left) with Körner, New York 1984
1:19:00 Jewish renaissance in Hungary
1:24:00 Preservation of goods by family
1:25:00 Material way of approaching history, István Szabó’s Sunshine
1:27:00 Ending of Sunshine: discarding remnants of family past
1:31:00 Grandmother preserves family heritage when emigrating to the US in 1946; Discovery of family relics
1:32:00 History of material objects as part of “History”
1:37:00 Bauhaus; book on Andor Weininger
1:44:00 Goals when writing the books
To access the interview, click here.


Andrew Romay (Andor
Friedmann, b. 1922), high
school graduation, 1940
These interviews are the third in a series of extended profiles on the lives of participants in the New York Hungarian Table, which meets for lunch once a month in Morningside in New York City. It features two interviews with Andrew Romay about his experiences in Hungary from the interwar period through 1956.  

The interviews were conducted at Romay's apartment in New York on February 18 and 25, 2014. Special thanks go to Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, Máté Rigó, for his assistance in cataloging the interviews. To download the interviews, click here

February 18, 2014

Romay's parents, Margit Simon
(1885 [Miskolc]-1958), and Jenő
Friedmann (1884-1976)
0:00 Birth and Family
1:30 Family business, father is wholesale salesman 
3:10 Splendid childhood in Hungary
3:40  Mother
5:40 Father was more religious, kosher household
6:30 Miskolc Jewish community, numerus clausus, Jewish students in Catholic high school
8:30 Antisemitism, Hungarian identity
9:30 Yiddish
13:30 Family home
15:00 Brother, trip to Paris, bother accepted to the Sorbonne, Paris
17:30 WWII
18:40 Politics at home, Horthy
20:50 lack of WWI memory, Trianon
23:50 relatives in Oradea
27:50 WWII, Hungary’s participation
30:50 Accepted to the University to Economics in 1940. Family moves to Budapest 1940.
32:50 Studies economics in 1940s. School of economics similar to current classics. Initially wanted to study medicine

From right: Romay's paternal grandfather, József Friedmann,
cousin Lilian Friedmann (killed during the Holocaust),
young cousin, Andor Friedmann (Romay), cousin Károly 
Friedmann, and brother Zoltán Friedmann in Sátorjaújhely
(1935 or 1936)

33:50 Readings at university
39:50 politicized daily life, friendships,
42:50  Jewish-non-Jewish relations
44:50 1945 as a radical break
45:50 saved by university student status, deferred labor service till 1944
47:10 student status saved him from labor service for years
53:05 forced labor camp conditions, labor batallions
57:50 Protected houses
59:50 Rescue efforts by the Catholic church; refuses to convert to Catholicism, friend converts in his stead in summer 1944.
1:04:50 Arrow crossmen deport him to Mauthausen
1:05:50 Escapes from Mauthausen
The Minorita templom and Catholic high school 
(gimnázium) Romay attended in Miskolc
1:10:55 concentration camp memoir of Romay [published as "De Profundis: Memoir of an Inmate at Mauthausen Concentration Camp, March-May 1945," published in the Austian History Yearbook, Vol. XXVII (1996): 301-11, posted to this site.]
1:14:00 liberation of the camp by US soldiers; encounter of US soldiers with camp inmates, “apocalyptic scene.” Inmates naked for weeks before liberation.
1:17:50 US troops put him in a rehabilitation camp, on the site of the previous camp
1:18:15 health problems after liberation: couldn’t swallow as a result of starvation; many former inmates died after liberation
From left: Romay's father (Jenő Friedmann), maternal uncle
(Dr. Simon Miksa), and cousin Károly in  Gorombolytapolca
in 1936 or 1937
1:19:40 Could speak English with US soldiers
1:24:10 Anomalous relationship between camp inmates and survivors.
1:26:45 One-month recovery, then taken back by train to Budapest. Family survived in the ghetto. Brother survived in Miskolc
1:28:40 Encounter with parents. They didn’t talk about his camp experience.
1:31:10 Experience of returning to Budapest in 1945. Stayed in bed for months. Rumors about the total destruction of Budapest.
1:33:30 Parents returned to the same apartment as they lived in before
1:34:15 Shortages in Budapest.
To access the interview, click here:

February 25, 2014

00:00 Labor service in Western Hungary
04:20 Forced march into Germany, infections, chaotic march, saved by luck
08:00 SS killings of forced laborers in Eastern Austria
13:20 Massive death toll among laborers, starvation 
19:00 Jewish forced laborers forced in a crammed barge in winter 1945
23:00 Liberation by US troops, sent home after a month of recovery
28:00 Reuniting with family members in Budapest; everyone survived
33:00 Learns that luck saves him in 1945, as the SS kills sick laborers who stayed behind
35:30 Meets George Soros’ father Tivadar through the Hungarian Esperanto Society, presided over by Tivadar Soros
40:00 Tivadar Soros’ escape from Siberia in 1917
44:40 Tivadar Soros’ rescue efforts in 1944
45:00 Emigration decisions at the Soros family, 1945, 1956
48:00 Lack of a homogenous holocaust experience
55:00 Communist turn of most of Romay’s friends after 1945
1:00:00   Failed escape attempt from Hungary during Rákosi period in 1949. Captured at the same place where he did forced labor in 1945
1:01:00 Greeted at the Hungarian secret service headquarters as „stinking fascist” at 60 Andrássy út in Budapest.
1:05:00 Former inmates and Jewish survivors of Nazism who became communist did not help him when in prison
1:07:00 In prison for eight months as enemy of the people
1:08:00 Impossibility of finding a job as a ”capitalist” economist; gets job by denying his university education
1:09:00 Finds job at a foreign trade company
Young Romay with his girlfriend
of the time, Marian Lőwy (c. 1940)
1:10:00 New director of the company is fully informed of Romay past that he wanted to hide, as the director was working for the secret service (Á.V.H.) before. Director and Romay shared the same social background, both issued from Hungarian-Jewish middle class families. New director was hostile to Romay and suggests that he confesses everything to the party secretary about his past as “enemy of the people.”
1:17:00 No further discrimination against him at the company; directors of the company were fully incompetent, without education
1:18:00 Hungarian foreign trade handled badly and ineffectively due to the appointment of trustworthy party members
1:20:00 Works at the company till 1956
1:21:00 Former college friend becomes communist minister, who gets him a job as a laborer; experience of being deceived by Hungarian Jewish friends, once again
1:23:00 Appointed to work at a factory outside of Budapest before he got the foreign trading job; worked as a physical laborer at an aniline factory.
1:24:00 Works with a wheelbarrows
1:26:00 Gives up job at the factory due to health reasons
1:28:00 When visiting Hungary in 1970s, he questions former college friend who appoints him to a factory job why he did so.
To access the interview, click here: