Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

An Interview with Katalin Pecsi

Pecsi, Katalin
Thomas, Virginia
An Interview with Katalin Pecsi
Katalin Pecsi was born in Budapest to Communist parents and grew up knowing nothing of her Jewish heritage. Her father’s background was that of an assimilated Jew; her mother came from an Orthodox family, and her maternal aunts and uncles belonged to a Zionist youth organization, Hashomer Hacair, and had spent some time in Palestine. When she was young there was little discussion of family members killed, ostensibly as political prisoners, in the Nazi death camps. Her parents talked of politics but eschewed all religious beliefs, although St. Nicolas and Santa Claus both visited at Christma time, causing Katalin some confusion as to whether they were twins or one person making two visits. Pecsi discovered her Jewish background while at the university and has been exploring it ever since, in Hungary, in Germany, and in the United States. She feels that Judaism is “the most important part” of her identity. She is currently professor of literature at the Central European University in Budapest and director of education at the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center. She is also a founding member of Esther’s Bag, a group of Hungarian Jewish women seeking to promote research on the history of Jewish women and writing, holding discussions, and having exhibits about women in the Jewish community. Discursive Table of Contents: Family’s Judaism, Zionism and trip to Palestine—Parents’ Communism, father’s deportation to camp and escape—Mother’s work in anti-Nazi underground—Upbringing in ignorance of Jewish heritage—Discovery of Jewish heritage, meaning to Katalin—Marriage to non-Jew, travel as a student before marriage—Editorial work, PhD, children, travel to Germany and USA—Father’s suicide, discovery of Jewish music and Holocaust history—Jewish practices in USA, Jewish secrecy during Communism—Children and Judaism, political divisions in Hungary today
Subject area(s):
Community and Identity
Interview date(s):
Community and Identity - Individual Interviews
Oskicat record:
Pecsi, Katalin. "An Interview with Katalin Pecsi." Interview by Virginia Thomas in 2004. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2006.