Extreme Hungary is on the menu when Theodore Grossman presents “Lady Luck on the Hungarian Archives Roller Coaster,” at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State, on Monday, June 8.
Grossman will talk about researching Jewish family history in Hungary and Slovakia, where his father was born and raised.
His father lived 15 years in what is now Slovakia. For nine years it was in Hungary and part of Czechoslovakia for six years. Neither his father nor the town moved – only the border!
Jews living outside Austria-Hungary proper but inside the empire – Slavs, Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians, Serbs, Croats, etc. – were subjects of a Hungarian government that demanded that they speak the Hungarian language and embrace Magyar culture. Many were thrilled to be rid of Hungary when the borders changed at the end of World War I. But there was no joy among Hungarian Jews, among them the members of his father’s family. They were super patriots who spoke only Hungarian, opposed the Zionist movement, and shared their countrymen’s contempt for the other ethnic groups within their borders. “We used to laugh at those who spoke Yiddish,” his father once told him, adding that he and his friends waved Hungarian flags and sang songs that disparaged the non-Hungarians. What a shock it would become when these super patriots were forced to watch many of their non-Jewish countrymen join with the Nazis and attempt to kill all of them.
This program is important for researchers whose quest takes them to more than one country and documents in several languages. Grossman knows some Hungarian so he could research there. In Slovakia, however, he needed help. His archival experiences differed according to the archivists he encountered and ranged from acts of kindness to the proverbial runaround.
A retired newspaper editor and publisher for three decades, his obsession then turned to his father’s family. For three years, he studied Hungarian in Seattle and New York, auditing Eastern European classes and researching in libraries. He traveled twice on extended visits to Hungary and Slovakia and wrote a paper, “Riding Lady Luck on Archive Roller Coaster.” (click here to read).
Fees: JGSWS members, free; others, $5. For more information, see the JGSWS site.