Hungarian Prodigy to American Musician, Feminist, and Activist
160 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
160 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- 9781557539847 | Published: September 2020
- 9781557539854 | Published: September 2020 (Requires Adobe Digital Editions)
- 9781557539861 | Published: September 2020 (Requires Adobe Digital Editions)
Written shortly after the close of World War II, Escaping Extermination tells the poignant story of war, survival, and rebirth for a young, already acclaimed, Jewish Hungarian concert pianist, Agi Jambor. From the hell that was the siege of Budapest to a fresh start in America. Agi Jambor describes how she and her husband escaped the extermination of Hungary’s Jews through a combination of luck and wit.
As a child prodigy studying with the great musicians of Budapest and Berlin before the war, Agi played piano duets with Albert Einstein and won a prize in the 1937 International Chopin Piano Competition. Trapped with her husband, prominent physicist Imre Patai, after the Nazis overran Holland, they returned to the illusory safety of Hungary just before the roundup of Jews to be sent to Auschwitz was about to begin. Agi participated in the Resistance, often dressed as a prostitute in seductive clothes and heavy makeup, calling herself Maryushka. Under constant threat by the Gestapo and Hungarian collaborators, the couple was forced out of their flat after Agi gave birth to a baby who survived only a few days. They avoided arrest by seeking refuge in dwellings of friendly Hungarians, while knowing betrayal could come at any moment. Facing starvation, they saw the war end while crouching in a cellar with freezing water up to their knees.
After moving to America in 1947, Agi made a brilliant new career as a musician, feminist, political activist, professor, and role model for the younger generation. She played for President Harry Truman in the White House, performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and became a recording artist with Capitol Records. Unpublished until now but written in the immediacy of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, Escaping Extermination is a story of hope, resilience, and even humor in the fight against evil.
1. Childhood and Adolescence 1924–1942
2. War—Deportations—Escape—Return 1942–1945
3. Bratislava After the War 1945–1956
4. From Oppression to Freedom and Back Again 1956–1969
5. Normalization and Emigration 1969–1978
6. Exile 1978–1990
7. Returns 1990–1995
What Happened Next
Farewell to Agneša Kalinová
Appendix: Biographical Notes on Selected Individuals Mentioned
"As survivors of the Holocaust reach the end of their lives, memoirs like Escaping Extermination extend their experiences into public memory. Agi Jambor's compelling story reminds us of the ingenuity and luck required to escape transport to the death camps, as well as the bravery and fortitude that allowed survivors to reinvent full and hopeful lives." —Jill Dolan, Annan Professor in English, Princeton University
"The celebrated Hungarian concert pianist, Agi Jambor, grew up in the lap of central European artistic luxury and, along with her physicist husband, lived a terror-filled life during the war years, including (as one of her chapters refers to it) a 'peace almost worse than the war.' What truly distinguishes this elegantly straightforward memoir is that the thread of hope woven throughout is the love of music: the author's gifts as a pianist and the love of music that she shares with her rescuers on both sides of the Atlantic, and even, at times, with those who would have done her harm, were it not for the chance of having appreciated her talent at the piano." —Leonard Barkan, Class of 1943 University Professor, Princeton University
"This memoir is an extraordinary work of counterpoint, which gracefully intertwines sweetness and horror, loss and redemption, the gross and the sublime. Jambor writes of the vilest things with a disarming freshness of vision. Her humor and integrity make this historical record into a stirring testament to the survival of curiosity, music, and love in a time of unfathomable darkness." —Rachel Polonsky, author of Molotov's Magic Lantern: Travels in Russian History