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I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls,…

I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary

by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I got this book free through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

I didn't like this book as much as I had hoped I would. Secondary Holocaust memoirs (that is, those written by the children or grandchildren of survivors) rarely do it for me. The author's mother was Jewish and her father, a gentile. Her mother went into hiding during the Holocaust and her father was imprisoned in Dachau.

This book I had a hard time finishing and probably would not have done if I didn't have to write a review. I think it was just too long for me; the post-war period in particular, after everything settled down, as covered in WAY too much detail. Nevertheless people interested in the Holocaust in Hungary might want to check it out. ( )
  meggyweg | Nov 24, 2013 |
One of the problems so many family history memoirs suffer from is a lack of framing and contextualization. Children or grandchildren find a cache of letters, through them together with some photo inserts, and -- POOF! -- a book.

"I Kiss Your Hands Many Times," thankfully, does not suffer from this problem. The author does an outstanding job of crafting an actual story out of the primary source materials. The tale she weaves is captivating and feels fresh compared to the countless other child-of-survivors books out there.

I am very pleaded to have received my copy through the First Reads program and recommend it to other readers with an interest in survivor stories, Central/Eastern European studies, and family history ( )
  JAshleyOdell | Nov 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Very well done. ( )
  lvmygrdn | Sep 10, 2013 |
This book tells the story of struggle and survival of a prominent family in Hungary during the holocaust. The author's family has one branch that is Jewish and one branch that is Catholic. They have members who are large business owners and also connected to the Hungarian government. This helps them to an extent as the Nazis have to be somewhat careful in the way they treat them. The author is very unbiased and matter of fact in the way she writes the story of her parents, grandparents and many extended family members. She uses information from diaries, personal papers, letters and government documents to present a very nice tribute to both her family and a large majority of the Hungarian people. ( )
  muddyboy | Aug 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is Szegedy-Maszak’s history/memoir of the Hungarian Kornfeld and Weiss families and the Szegedy-Maszak family, focusing on the courtship of Hanna Kornfeld and Aladar Szegedy-Maszak – Marianne’s parents. The Weiss family, formerly Jewish (but definitely not devout) were fabulously wealthy industrialists; Hanna’s mother was a Weiss and Hanna, her siblings and many cousins all grew up in luxury, in Budapest, Hungary. The Szegedy-Maszaks, on the other hand were devout Catholic, middle-class people who, for generations, worked, primarily for the Hungarian state.

Marianne focuses mostly on the 20th century and in particular the period running just prior to WWII through to the post-war period. The war is the event that crushed the Szegedy-Mazaks and displaced the Weiss/Kornfelds, costing them huge losses in money and property. Front and center in this story is the romance between Hanna Kornfeld and Aladar Szegedy-Maszak. Aladar, a Hungarian diplomat, working in Germany through much of the war, has to put his life – and their future – on hold for years. When the Germans finally take over things in Hungary – their reluctant ally - and everything comes crashing down, not only are a number of the Weiss/Kornfelds scooped up by the authorities and sent to various concentration camps, but Aladar, always a liberal in his politics, is also sent off to be held prisoner in a camp as well. It nearly kills him, but he survives and eventually makes it back to Budapest and a very different world. In some ways the Weiss/Kornfelds managed better than did the Szegedy-Maszak family, for the W/K family is able to parlay their great wealth and the greed of the Nazi, Kurt Becher, into a deal that saved them from extermination.

After the war – after his and Hanna’s reunion and eventual marriage – Aladar seems to be putting his life back together when the new Hungarian government sends him to the United States to head their mission there. It is a short-lived success, however, for the Communists take over Hungary and Aladar becomes a man without a country.

Marianne makes it plain that for most of her life she had no idea that her parents had had a great romance before the war. She was not able, because of all that they went through and the ways in which that experience affected them, to know the people they had once been. Aladar worked on his memoirs for years before his death, but he wrote in Hungarian – a language Marianne did not understand – and she had to hire a translator so that she could finally know her father.

I found this story just a tad slow-moving in the pre-war period, but overall, it was a good, though disheartening. Aladar is crushed by everything that he has to go through (including the loss of a child) and I had the impression that he is but half a person in the last decades of his life. A solid, though, (for me) somewhat depressing book. ( )
1 vote Fourpawz2 | Aug 28, 2013 |
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"The sweeping story of Marianne Szegedy-Maszak's family in pre- and post-World War II Europe, capturing the many ways the struggles of that period shaped her family for years to come"--Arianna Huffington.

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