EXTENDED PROFILE--The Life and Career of Professor Istvan Deak

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This is the first in a series of extended profiles on the lives and careers of scholars who work on East-Central Europe. It features several interviews with Istvan Deak (b. 1926), Seth Low Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. Deak is the author of several books, including: Weimar Germany's Left-wing Intellectuals (1968); The Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians, 1848-1849 (1979); Beyond Nationalism: A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1848-1918 (1990); Essays on Hitler's Europe (2001). He also co-edited, together with Jan Gross and Tony Judt, The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath (2000). The interviews were conducted at Prof. Deák's home in New York on December 5, 2009 and April 18, 2010. Special thanks go to Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, Máté Rigó, for his assistance in recording and cataloging the interviews.
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Interview Themes: FIRST INTERVIEW SERIES--Part 1 - December 5, 2009: (0:45) Family; (1:37) Jewish ancestors, Moravia, 18th century, Szekesfehervar free royal city, Jews with an “exception” who were allowed to reside within city limits; (3:00-4:55) Great-grandfather, Emmanuel, served in the Hungarian national guard; (4:56) Maternal side, Jewish family, one rabbi ancestor, listed in Revai nagy lexicona (entry at right); (6:20) Zipser family, reformed rabbi of Szekesfehervar, maternal great-grandfather of Deak; preached in Hungarian in the mid-19th century; (7:00) For his pro-Hungarian attitudes this rabbi ancestor entered into conflicts with more conservative Jews and had to move to Rohonc, Hungary; (7:46) Jewish laws, 1930s, social gap between priviliged and poor Jews in Horthy’s Hungary and during the Holocaust; 1938 Jewish Laws in Hungary favored Jews with long-standing origins in Hungary; (9:08) Chances of survival of his family during the Holocaust; (9:45) Original family name "Deutsch"; (11:00) No knowledge of Yiddish among his ancestors; Grandfather spoke high German; Some of his grandfather’s siblings lived in Germany during Nazi times; (12:00) Textile merchant grandfather with a store on the main square of Szakesfehervar, highly respected patrician of the city who went to his store in a carriage in 1930s; (13:00) Large textile store; (15:27) Grandfather born in 1852; (16:00) WWI; (16:08) His father [Istvan] attended Cistercian Gymnasium in Szekesfehervar; Half the class was Jewish, including Deak’s father; (17:07) No discrimination against Deak’s father and grandfather; His father never complained of anti-Semitism until WWII; (17:50) Deak’s father’s patriotic attitude towards Hungarian army till 1941; (18:20) Father attended Polytechnic University; Drafted into k.u.k. (Habsburg) army in 1914, fortress artillery; (19:00) Deak’s father’s experience on the Russian front, WWI; no tales of miseries, amusing anecdotes only; (19:51) General spotted and scolded Deak’s father because he did not grow a mustache; (22:17) Deak’s father sent to Montenegro; the only military victory of his unit; (23:00) Brusilov offensive; (23:40) Cossacks; (23:52) Deak’s father transferred to Vienna in 1916, then charged with managing an ammunition depot at the end of the war in northern Italy; (26:00) Bad situation of POWs during WWI due to malnutrition, about a third of them died; (27:24) Deak’s father blew up the ammunition depot when Austria-Hungary surrendered; (28:00) Ethnic composition of Deak’s father’s unit; All reserve officers were Budapest engineers; (29:00) Reunion of Deak’s father’s WWI unit commanders in 1970s in Budapest; (29:30) Journey back from the front; (31:00) Deak’s father stayed in the army after 1918 to support himself; (31:40) Deak’s father became a Red Army soldier then a White Army soldier; (32:40) 1920 - Demobilized; Well-to-do family members helped Deak’s father transition to civilian life; (34:00) 1920 - marriage of Deák’s parents; 1922 - Deák’s sister Éva is born; Deák’s father becomes a partner in a company; (35:00) 1926 - Family moved to Budapest; First apartment in Naphegy neighborhood in Buda; House overlooking the Danube; (36:00) Father’s brothers are wealthy merchants, with a car and trip to the Berlin Olympics; (36:30) Great Depression, collapse of Deak’s father’s company; Partner absconded to USA; (37:21) Deak’s grandfather and siblings pledge half a million pengő to save Deák’s father; (38:40) Father’s new job as chief engineer of BART bus company of Budapest; (39:00) Deak’s free entry to Palatinus bath on Margaret Island; (40:06) Father became chief secretary of the Association of Industrial Applied Arts in mid-1930s; He also rented and managed a garage for automobiles; (41:36) Italian balilla visited Budapest and parked their motorcycles in Deák’s father’s garage; (42:00) Why Fascism was attractive to young people; (43:09) Hitlerjugend; (44:00) Nazism as experience of modernity and; (45:00) egalitarianism; (45:40) German attack on Yugoslavia through Hungary; egalitarianism; (47:21) Deak’s father in the USA to oversee the closing of the Hungarian pavilion; Went back in 1940 with steamship Rex; (48:30) Family relations; (50:17) Jewish-Gentile family relations; (51:00) Deak’s mother, education, fluent in German Part 2 - December 5, 2009: (00:00) Deak’s mother [Anna Timar], homemaker; (00:49) A housewife’s daily routine; (3:45) Summer vacations every year in Austria in the 1930s; His father’s mother tongue was German; (5:00) Parents spoke German and French; (7:08) Assimilation in Deák’s family; Conversion of Deak’s father; (7:50) Istvan Deak born a Catholic; (8:15) Revelation of Jewish origins at the age of 12; Experience of being Jewish in the 1930s; (9:50) Strategies of his family in the face of rising anti-Semitism in the 1920s and 1930s; (11:30) Istvan Deak, Sr. as a practicing Catholic in the 1920s; (12:15) Catholic friends, the Hardis; (13:20) Experience of anti-Semitism as a teenager; (13:31) Application to high school, discrimination because of Jewish origins, rejection from the Piarist school; Accepted to Cistercian school as his father attended a Cistercian school; (15:40) Experience of discrimination in the scout movement; (17:00) Accepted to boy scout group due to his father’s bravery in WWI; (18:00) Anti-Semitic insult in the scout movement; (20:20) “Aryan” social world in Budapest, late 1930s, dilemmas; (23:10) Anti-Jewish law was not applied rigorously; (24:00) Hungarian economy functioned because of Jewish participation till 1944, Jews in Hungary during Jewish laws; (25:00) Deak’s father compared the situation of Jews in Hungary to that of blacks in America in the early 1940s; (29:00) Desire for a society without minorities in Hungary; (30:00) Changes of family names during WWII; (32:00) Anti-Swabian sentiment during WWII in Hungary; (34:00) Jewish origins of communist leaders during the Rakosi period; (34:30) [Meta-discussion about which parts of Deak’s life are worth discussing in the interview and why]; (37:00) The politics of Deak’s family members; (40:00) Trip to Northern Transylvania in 1941; (41:00) Apprenticeship at ceramic works in Korond, Northern Transylvania; (48:00) Hungarian army in Northern Transylvania Part 3 - December 5, 2009 (00:00) Political views, progressive Catholicism in 1930s, KALOT, trade unions, strikes, Arrow Cross men, Jesuits; (6:00) Political orientation, 1943-1944; (8:00) Bela Stollar; (9:11) Labor service, Father in Kistarcsa internment camp; (13:00) Hatvan, Zoldy, deportations, Jaszbereny; (19:40) Railway line construction, Northern Transylvania; (23:00) Miklos Horthy’s October 15, 1944 speech; (24:00) Bela Stollar helps Deak to hide; (25:00) Fake uniform during Arrow Cross rule; (26:00) Searching for grandmother in a death march, “the worst part of my life”; (27:00) Fate of his Jewish grandmother during the Holocaust; (30:00) Arrested by SS men in January 1945; (30:40) Set free by a Hungarian-German SS soldier; (32:00) Soviet occupation; (33:10) First contacts with communism; (36:00) Escape from Soviet captivity; (37:40) Post-1945 political parties, communists, Social Democratic Party; (40:00) Karoly Peyer, Bela Zsolt, Imre Kovacs; (41:00) One reason for leaving Hungary; (42:00) 1947 elections, father disqualified, fake ballots; (44:30) Passport, adventure of leaving Hungary, French visa; (46:50) Paris, trip to France from Hungary, Experience of the West; (49:10) Zürich; (50:00) “Rue Budapest” in Paris; (52:00) Life in Paris, second half of 1940s, bureaucratic issues, France as the main haven of stateless persons at the time, work experience in Paris; (1:00:00) Education in France; (1:01:20) London, England, Downing Street experience SECOND INTERVIEW SERIES Part 1 - April 18, 2010: (00:31) London; (3:00) Harvesting camp in England as university a student; (9:00) 11 Downing street, meeting Sir Stafford Cripps; (16:00) Paris; (21:00) University life in France, prospects in France, work at Combat; (26:00) Political situation in France, 1940s, 1950s; (30:00) Algeria, split in French society; (43:00) Work at Camus’s paper, Combat; (48:00) Arletty, Maurice Chevalier - post-WWII lustration in France; (50:00) Social life, networks in France; (52:00) Views on religion Part 2 - April 18, 2010: (00:00) Moving to Germany, the early 1950s; (02:40) Work at Radio Free Europe (RFE), 1951-1955, reviewed Hungarian newspapers, “mixed experience,” expulsion of parents from Budapest as a result; (05:00) privileges in Germany as RFE employee, life in Germany; (10:00) Politics at RFE, hiring part of the extreme right emigration by RFE; (11:12) Julian Borsanyi, Laszlo Bery - participation in the Holocaust; Nazis into liberals; (16:00) 1955-1956, American propaganda towards East-Central Europe; (19:00) Role of RFE in 1956; (26:00) Studies in Germany; (28:00) Expulsion of parents from Mese utca, Budapest to Korosnagyharsany; (33:12) 1956 - Expulsion ends; (34:00) Almost daily correspondence with parents during the Rakosi era; (43:11) German friends, Germany in the 1950s, 1970/-71; (49:00) September 1956, Arrival to USA, graduate life at Columbia University. THIRD INTERVIEW SERIES, Part 1 - October 6, 2013, (00:12) First visit to US, 1955, settled in 1956 in New York, before the Hungarian Revolution; (02:15) First job at a publishing house in New York; worked for an academic book donation program, for Eastern European Countries; student at Columbia University; (08:15) The experience of the 1956 Revolution in New York; (10:15) Imre Kovács, Hungarian Peasant Party; bought air ticket for Budapest for November 4, 1956; (12:15) Discussion of Budapest family about emigration; (15:15) Family politics after 1945; victims of communism, expelled from Budapest in 1955; Deák’s sister wants to stay after 1956; (17:15) Fluid administrative practices in Hungary, 1956; (24:15) Arrival of 56ers to New York; carrier between 1956-1962; (26:15) Different groups of post-1944 emigrants from Hungary; identified himself with 1948er group; Ferenc Nagy; (29:15) CIA sponsored the minority democratic fraction of Hungarian émigrés; lack of mass support for democratic leaders of Hungarian emigres among Hungarians in US; (31:15) Tibor Eckhart; (35:15) Overrepresentation of emigres among academics; East-Central European Institute at Columbia University; Henry Roberts; started out as a West-Europeanist; (39:15) Sputnik crisis provided funding for the study of East-Central European history; (40:15) Job offer at Columbia; Hungarian studies at Columbia; Halasi Kun, János Lotz; funding for building an extensive Hungarian library collection; (43:15) Received tenure in 1967; “Sputnik money” – temporary funding for East-Central European studies; (46:15) Establishment of institutes of study of East-Central European studies in US; setting up centers; (47:45) Academic job crisis in 1970s; (50:15) 1980s and resurgence of East-Central European studies; (53:15) Global history; (55:15) Significance of Sputnik crisis; (58:15) European vs. East-Central European history; book project on European history of collaboration; (59:15) Involved in taking the Crown of Saint Stephen back to Hungary; recollections on the trip with the Crown to Budapest; (1:05:15) Scandal around return of the Crown; rightist Hungarian-American demonstrated; member of the delegation that took back the Crown; (1:15:15) Celebrations in Budapest (1:17:15) Relationship to Hungary (1:22:15) Vision of a democratic Hungary, 1945; Hungarian politics, 1945-2013
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