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.