Digging into her family’s past, she discovered a hidden legacy almost lost

by | Sep 15, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — When Linda Ambrus Broenniman was 27 years old, a family friend let slip that Broenniman’s father was Jewish.As one of seven children in a middle-class Buffalo, New York, family, she had grown up attending Catholic Mass each Sunday alongside her parents and siblings.
She knew her parents were born and raised in Hungary and came to the United States to escape communism and establish their careers as physicians. Why would her father conceal his Jewish past?
Broenniman gently asked but was rebuffed. Thirty-five years later, her mother received notification that the Israeli government was about to honor her as a Righteous Among the Nations, a designation recognizing non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Linda Ambrus Broenniman. Photo courtesy Broenniman
This time, Broenniman was determined to get answers. But her mother was already suffering from dementia and her father wouldn’t budge. Five years later, when her parents’ home caught fire, a rescued box with dog-eared files, photos, postcards and documents, mostly in Hungarian and German, set her on a seven-year journey to discover the truth of her family’s past.
“The Politzer Saga,” a book she wrote, tells the remarkable story of eight generations of prominent Hungarian Jews stretching back to the 18th century who went by the name Politzer. (One of her ancestors married into the better-known Hungarian-American Pulitzer family.)
On the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, as Jews around the world gather to wrestle with the questions, “Who have we been, and who will we be?” Broenniman has her answer. She is a Politzer, a descendant of a long line of doctors, lawyers, merchants, bankers, developers, art collectors and musicians.
Last week, Broenniman, who is 67 and lives in Great Falls, Virginia, returned from Hungary where a permanent exhibit of her family’s history was officially dedicated on the third floor of Budapest’s Moorish-styled Rumbach Street Synagogue. 
Broenniman traveled frequently to Hungary to do historical research for the book, working alongside a Hungarian lawyer and genealogist, Andras Gyekiczki, to whom she dedicated her book.
Her account of the Politzer family takes in 300 years of Hungarian-Jewish accomplishment, struggles and setbacks. The story culminates with the Holocaust, in which more than half a million Hungarian Jews were killed, including Broenniman’s grandfather, Sa …

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