EXTENDED PROFILE--The Life and Career of Professor Ivan Sanders

These interviews are the second in a series of extended profiles on the lives and careers of scholars who work on East-Central Europe. It features seven interviews with Ivan Sanders, who teaches Central European cultural history, literary translation, postwar East European cinema, and Hungarian literature at Columbia University. 

Sanders has translated many famous Hungarian authors into English. His translations include Milán Füst's The Story Of My Wife:The Reminiscences of Captain Störr, György Konrád's The City Builder, and Péter Nádas's A Book of Memories

The interviews were conducted at Prof. Sanders's home in New York on December 6, 2009, April 18, 2010, and October 6, 2013. Special thanks go to Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, Máté Rigó, for serving as co-interviewer and for his assistance in recording and cataloging the interviews.

Part 1 - December 6, 2009

00:00 Family origins
00:30 Born in January 1944 in Budapest
01:00 Father’s side of the family: grandfather moved to Budapest in 1890s from Galicia, spoke Yiddish and Hungarian; Set up a scrap iron business
04:00 Business success of grandparents until the end of interwar period; Grandfather sets up a prosperous lead pipe manufacturing business, and eventually bought several apartment buildings in Budapest
Ivan Sanders's mother, Ilona Ekstein  (1910-1995) 
(center), his grandfather, Márk Eckstein ([1868?]-1944), 
and grandmother Júlia Freund (1878-1940), 
photographed in Košice, early 1930s.
05:30 Modest and pious lifestyle despite affluence
09:00 Experience of numerus clausus law in the family
11:10 Family business in Józsefváros, Budapest; Grandparents never assimilated, despite wealth; Grandfather co-founded Tompa utca orthodox synagogue in Budapest in 1920s
14:20 1930s, prosperous business activity until the anti-Jewish laws
15:00 Family used front men to be able to stay in business until 1944
15:55 Polish Jewish refugees inform the family about massacres in Poland
16:40 Family sceptical about news of horrors in Poland; Finally persuaded to build a secret shelter
17:53 Grandfather compared success in Hungary to others’ success in America; Grandfather applied for Hungarian citizenship in 1915 to be able to vote to Hungarian-Jewish candidate Vilmos Vázsonyi; He felt himself at home in Hungary, and considered himself Hungarian
21:30 Mother’s side of family; Origins in Upper Hungary; Rabbi ancestors
23:00 Maternal grandfather went to Pozsony (Bratislava) yeshiva and settled in Kassa (Košice); Became the rabbi of the status quo denomination, though lived an orthodox life; Mother tongue was German/Western Yiddish; He wrote in standard German
26:00 Remained in Košice since 1944, until deportation; He had four daughters and one son;  Son left for Bologna, Italy to study medicine; Graduated from Alexandria, Egypt, and later moved to Palestine; Grandmother died in 1940, buried in Košice
33:00 Mother’s side of the family decimated in Holocaust; 80 members of the family perished; Aunt married to German Jew and survived the camps
34:20 Fathers family survived because they built a secret bunker in Budapest and were hiding there in 1944
Ivan Sanders's paternal family. His father, Imre Schmutz 
(1909-1998) is in the front row, third from the left. His
paternal grandparents Izsák Schmutz (1871-1945)
 and Berta Russ (1884-1952) are seated
behind the table. The photo was taken in the early 1920s.
36:00 Restructured the cellar to serve as a bunker in summer of 1944
38:00 Ivan Sanders was taken to a Christian, ethnic German village near Budapest; Jewish identity had to be kept secret; Pretended to be Catholics
43:00 Return to Budapest during German occupation; Difficulties of hiding with a baby in the bunker; Relations with Gentile benefactor during the persecution
49:00 1945 experienced as hopeful period by family; Moved to József Blvd. in Budapest
52:00 Expropriations
53:00 Two uncles decided to leave in 1949; Clandestine crossing to Austria through Czechoslovakia
56:00 Retaining middle class lifestyle during the Rákosi regime; Handed over truck of the family business to state-owned company in exchange for a job
To access interview, click here: http://hdl.handle.net/1813/36248

Part 2 - December 6, 2009

00:00 Experience of expropriation during the Rákosi regime, anti-communism of father
03:30 Daisy Birnbaum
04:00 Divergent political view of parents
05:00 Excellent education, music and language classes
06:00 Deportations to the countryside
07:00 Social mobility of the poor during the Rákosi regime
10:20 No personal experience of anti-Semitism in 1950s
15:00 Uncle imprisoned for selling a gold necklace in 1951
17:30 Children talk politics in school, Budapest 1950s
18:00 Holidays in Balatonfüred, where a kosher restaurant was operational in 1950s
19:00 Mother retains leftist views in the US
23:00 Suppressed memory of the Holocaust in family till mid-1950s
24:00 Péter Nádas’s short story
25:00 Resurgence of Holocaust memory in family as parents aged; changing understanding of the concept of “survivor”
32:00 Father lived in Palestine for three years in 1930s
35:00  Lifestyle of parents; Dunakorzó café
38:00 School life, Ludas Matyi, weekly satirical magazin
46:00 Jewish life in 1950s Budapest, Passover food
53:30 The experience of Stalin’s death in Budapest, a city in silence
To access interview, click here: http://hdl.handle.net/1813/36248

Part 3 - December 6, 2009
Ivan Sanders in 1956 at age 12

00:00 Memories of 1956
01:20 Excitement about events and fears
04:00 Negative reception of Ernő Gerő’s speech
06:00 Family goes hiding to the bunker again
07:00 Debates on emigrating to America
10:00 György Szepesi’s support of the anti-Nagy forces on the air
12:00 Dead bodies on the streets of Budapest; Köztársaság tér massacre
14:20 Visiting cousin from Nagyszeben/Sibiu in summer 1956; Even ÁVO officer relative invited
16:00 Evaluation of “popular violence”
17:00 No experience anti-Semitism in Budapest during the revolution
20:30 “revolutionaries” requisitioned apartment and vandalized it
27:00 Question: Jewish life and community organization during the Rákosi regime
29:2On the memorial service at the Dohány Street Synagogue for Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the State of Israel, who died in 1953
To access interview, click here: http://hdl.handle.net/1813/36248

Part 1 - April 18, 2010

00:00  November 3, 1956, the experience of fleeing Hungary, making a decision to emigrate
03:45 Hungarian Jewish emigration, Orthodox Jewish emigration from Hungary
5:40 Different perspectives on 1956 within the family; “We don’t have to go to America, this will be America”
11:00 Adjusting in America, first years in New York
15:00 Family scrap metal business in Hungary, 1940-1956; Reinventing middle class life after nationalization of family business, Teherfuvarozási Vállalat; The scrap metal business
19:00 Starting a new business in New York
21:00 The logistics of leaving Hungary in 1956; The risk of leaving by train; Leaving with the family Chevrolet truck
25:00 Long walk through the Austrian-Hungarian borderline
26:55 Accommodating attitude of Austrian population
29:40 Eating bananas in winter 1956
30:30 Uncles in Vienna; Family driven by cab to the Austrian capital
32:50 Eastern part of Austria experienced as prosperous land
35:00 Staying in Vienna for a month in winter 1956
To access interview, click here: http://hdl.handle.net/1813/36248

Part 2 - April 18, 2010

00:00 Vienna life in winter 1956; Gone with Wind shown for Hungarian refugees in the Viennese movies, while it was banned in Communist Hungary; Cinema full of Hungarians
3:00 Watching Fidelio in the Viennese Opera
4:00 Making a decision to go on to America; The receptive attitude of European countries
6:00 Experience of urban modernity in Vienna
8:57 December 18, 1956; Leaving for the USA; Encountering anti-Semitism among Hungarian refugees in Kaiserstattbruch military transit camp 
12:00 Gábor Vermes’s experience of anti-Semitism: later on Jewish and non-Jewish Hungarians had to be separated by Austrian authorities in Kaiserstattbruch camp
14:00 Contrast to moderate experience  of anti-Semitism during the 1956 revolution;
Scenic train ride from Vienna to Munich
16:00 Differences within Hungarian Jewry in Austria; Ultraorthodox, Hungarian-speaking Jews in the camp, waiting to leave for Brooklyn
20:24 Arrival at Munich, Germany; December 1956; Ivan Sanders’s family photographed by photographer of Paris Match
23:30 Arrival at Camp Kilmer, NJ. Hungarian-speaking American soldiers
27:00 First experience of New York City
28:00 HIAS (Hebrew International Aid Society), YMCA, YWCA helping Hungarian refugees
29:00 HIAS helped refugees to stay in hotels in Manhattan
31:00 Schooling in New York; Williamsburg Yeshiva and dormitory in Brooklyn
33:40 High school in Brooklyn; Hungarian-Jewish émigré students in high school; Cross-section of Hungarian-Jewish society with different religious and social backgrounds
To access interview, click here: http://hdl.handle.net/1813/36248

Part 1 - October 6, 2013

Cover of  Új Látóhatár from 1975
00:00 Ph.D. at NYU in Department of Comparative Literature
02:00 Péter Lax
06:40 Field of East-Central European studies
11:40 Jewish studies at Columbia University
16:30 Teaching at Columbia, 1970s
21:00 Hungarian community in New York (1956-1980s)
23:00 Sándor Püski in New York; Book store, presentation of Hungarian writers of all stripes
26:00 Politics among Hungarian emigrés
28:20 East-Central European studies at Columbia
29:50 George Soros and the sponsoring of dissidents; Columbia University as a sponsoring institution
32:50 György Konrád and other grantees
39:00 George Soros; István Rév
57:00 Jewish studies in Hungary 1980s; Article in Új Látóhatár journal; ”Tentative affenities” Jewishness and its relationship to Communism as sensitive topics
1:01:00 György Dalos
1:11:00 Péter Nádas
1:13:00 Jewish themes in Hungarian literature.
1:14:40 Imre Kertész
The cover of George Konrád's
The City Builder (2009), translated
by Ivan Sanders
1:18:10 YIVO encyclopedia. Inclusion of Hungarian writers
1:25:00 Zsidóság az 1944 utáni Magyarországon volume
To access interview, click here: http://hdl.handle.net/1813/36248

Part 2 - October 6, 2013

1:00 What is Jewish literature?
5:00 Hungarian literature, Dezső Kosztolányi
6:41 Translating Hungarian literature to English; Péter Nádas, Péter Esterházy
11:10 László Németh
12:31 Hungarian Jewish writers, translations to English
16:00 Language of Hungarian Jewish writers, Milán Füst
20:00 writers Imre Kertész, Sándor Márai
22:00 rediscovery of Márai
24:00 Imre Kertész back in Hungary
26:21 Translations from Hungarian to English; Krúdy; René Wellek
To access interview, click here: http://hdl.handle.net/1813/36248