In a moving memoir of faith in the face of suffering, two twin brothers born Jewish but raised Catholic are divided by the Holocaust, with one returning the Judaism and the other remaining Catholic. 17,500 first printing.
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Eugene L. Pogany is a practicing clinical psychologist in Boston. A frequent speaker on anti-Semitism and Jewish-Catholic relations, he has written for Cross Currents, Sh'ma, Jewishfamily.com, and the Jewish Advocate.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Praise for In My Brother’s Image
“This is not just another story of the Holocaust. It is a lesson in tolerance . . . and it is written in tears from deep within the soul.”
—Middlesex Jewish Star
“Moving . . . [Pogany] makes us understand the complexity—and feel the heartbreak—of his family’s one-of-a-kind history.”
—New York Post
“Profoundly riveting and morally compelling.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A tool . . . to help move Christians from . . . mere defensiveness to . . . moral ownership for the part that Christians played in the evil of the Shoah.”
—Father David C. Michael, The Pilot
“Remarkable . . . There is much to recommend about this book for anyone interested in World War II and the Holocaust. There is also much to recommend to any Jew or Christian who wishes to contemplate the complex relationship between faith and experience.”
—The Roanoke Times
“[Pogany’s] book is one of the most compelling personal narratives to come out of the Holocaust.”
“A memorable family story, full of vivid atmosphere and stirring incidents.”
“Eugene Pogany’s power-packed and poignant narrative of his father’s wartime years, his return to his Jewish faith while his brother became a Catholic priest is highly readable and deeply inspiring. I recommend it to all readers who wish to know more about what happened to European Jewry during the Holocaust.”
“In this powerful and searing memoir Eugene Pogany opens his heart to share the incredible story of his Jewish father and his Christian uncle, twin brothers whose lives were profoundly altered in the crucible of the Holocaust. In My Brother’s Image is a sensitive and overwhelming tale which constitutes a vital addition to the legacy of the Shoah.”
—Alan L. Berger, Raddock Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust Studies, Florida Atlantic University
“In My Brother’s Image is a very remarkable contribution to the Holocaust Literature. It is a riveting account of a very unusual familial conflict, caused by the conversion to Catholicism by some members of a Hungarian Jewish family. This fascinating conflict between two identical brothers echoes the schism between their separate religions. Reading the book turned me into a virtual witness to what happened, day by day, to the Jews of Hungary between World War I and the end of World War II. Eugene Pogany lovingly tries to understand and bring to life the struggles and soul searching of the generation before him. His book is a real page turner.”
—Edith Velmans, author of Edith’s Story
IN MY BROTHER’S IMAGE
Eugene L. Pogany is a practicing clinical psychologist in Boston. A frequent speaker on anti-Semitism and Jewish-Catholic relations, he has written for Cross Currents, Sh’ma, Jewishfamily.com, and the Jewish Advocate. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with his wife and two sons.
Twin Brothers Separated by
Faith After the Holocaust
And still it is not yet enough to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many and one must have the great patience to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—not till then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.
RAINER MARIA RILKE
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
“The moment one definitely commits oneself,” wrote Goethe, “all sorts of things occur, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” In addition to those individuals mentioned in the Author’s Note who helped with the factual content of this book, there are numerous others whose assistance and goodwill were invaluable in making it a reality. I wish to express my gratitude to Nancy Malone, O.S.U., the tireless and visionary former editor of Cross Currents: The Journal of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life. Along with her discerning coeditors, Joseph Cunneen and William Birmingham, Nancy introduced this story to the journal’s interfaith readership by featuring my essay, “In Each Other’s Likeness,” in its Spring 1995 issue (Vol. 45, No. 1). I have quoted briefly here from both that essay and my later piece, “Exile and Memory: Reflections on Tisha B’Av,” which appeared in the Winter 1995–96 issue of Cross Currents (Vol. 45, No. 4).
My friend Jürgen Manemann, of Westfälische Wilhelms University, Münster, Germany, further advanced the telling of the story by translating “In Each Other’s Likeness” into German and facilitating its publication in the Swiss Catholic periodical Orientierung, where it appeared in August 1997 (Volume 6, Number 15/16). Similarly, I wish to thank Professor Randolph L. Braham, preeminent scholar of the Hungarian Holocaust, who graciously recommended my essay to the distinguished Budapest Jewish quarterly, Múlt és Jövő [Past and Future], where it appeared in its 1997/2 issue.
From the very inception of this book project, I have been especially grateful for the friendship of Beverly Coyle. Her support and goodwill have helped to open doors, and her timely advice has familiarized me with the publishing world. My agent, Helen Rees, believed in this story and convinced me of its viability as a book, and her endless enthusiasm helped find the book a home with Viking. My editor at Viking, Jane von Mehren, steadily and decisively stewarded this project through the entire editorial process, from the initial board meeting to the crafting and shaping of the book through its various stages. I was blessed throughout by her skill, sensitivity, and unflagging good judgment, as well as by her gracious support. Jane’s assistant, Jessica Kipp, provided a literary ear and thorough professionalism well beyond her youthful years. Copy editor Carole McCurdy’s meticulous attention to detail and style, as well as her profound sensitivity to the story, helped to make this a better book than it otherwise would have been.
Abundant thanks, as well, to Joan Leegant and Ronnie Friedland for their generous editorial counsel during the early stages, and to Don Gropman and Sandi Gelles-Cole for their seasoned advice and adept assistance on the book proposal. My good friend Jeff Baker brought a keen and sophisticated sensibility to his reading of a first, voluminous draft of the manuscript. Charlie Puccia unselfishly did everything from arranging my travel to Italy to translating my uncle’s Italian letters.
I extend my appreciation to Professor John Clabeaux of St. John’s Seminary, in Brighton, Massachusetts, and Father Tom Kane, S.J., of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, in Cambridge, both of whom refined my understanding of Catholic ritual, liturgical practices, and Scriptural interpretation. I am responsible for whatever errors remain in the text.
I also wish to acknowledge the dear members of the Boston One Generation After writers’ group, in whose warm and supportive company I thought and wrote, read, and listened for more years than I have worked on this book. Special thanks also to Cynthia Ozick, whose incisive correspondence alternately blessed my efforts and impelled me to think deeply and clearly about the painful history between Catholics and Jews.
I am immensely grateful to Katharina Lamping for the many hours during which she shared stories and vignettes with me of her seventeen years of service to my uncle and his parish church. My brother, Peter, and sister, Ellen, were always in my thoughts, especially when I wrote of our early years together. Although people’s recollections of the same events can often vary widely, my siblings naturally served me as touchstones for those times. Thanks, as well, to Bob Buday, our long-lost relative, who also helped get this book off the ground. The excitement and love of the many extended-family members and personal friends who have watched me bring this story to life over the years, often in relative isolation, have been a source of ongoing comfort.
Although my father and mother are noted in numerous other places for the contributions they made to informing the content of this book, there is insufficient room to adequately thank them. I was initially afraid that they would tire of the many hours they spent with me during the past several years being recorded on audio, video, and notepad. I can only hope that they have been as enlivened by our encounters as I have been. I can now more confidently say that I truly know my parents—what they have lived and suffered and how their lives have influenced the person I have become. May what my father and mother learn about their son for his efforts at portraying them prove equally as precious to them.
Finally, my dear wife, Judy, prolific reader and no-nonsense critic, gave timely and insightful feedback and showed immense patience and forbearance as wife and mother throughout the years of this project. This book would not have been conceivable without her abiding and loving presence. Last but not least, our sons, Ben and Elias, must often have wondered what this complex story was all about and when it would actually be completed. Now that I can place the book into their hands, may the silences that pervaded our family’s life during my own childhood begin to be dispelled in theirs. I dedicate this book to them.
I began work on this book a few weeks after the death of my uncle, Monsignor George Pogany, in July 1993. It is a sad irony that I could not begin to tell the story of my Jewish father and his Catholic twin brother until after they were separated by death. When my uncle came to the United States in 1956, he promised my father that he would not bring up religious differences with his brother’s children. In the aftermath of the brothers’ nearly two-decades-long separation, however, they seemed to have little ability or willingness to discuss with each other the agonizing matters of grief, disappointment, and recrimination surrounding their mutual losses in the war and my formerly devout Catholic father’s return to Judaism after the Holocaust. Consequently, there was much silence growing up in their midst, interrupted by sometimes tense conversations about themselves and their family. Their sister’s only visit from Australia, in 1984, generated discussions among the three siblings that helped familiarize me with virtually all of the people in earlier generations of our family, as well as with some of the more poignant themes in their lives.
When my uncle died, my father broke the brothers’ vow of silence about religion and the war. In the process, he revealed a truly astounding memory for details, going back to the beginning of their lives. He shared facts, conversations, and impressions of the various characters, as well as hunches about their inner lives and motivations. We took two trips to Hungary together, which liberated his memory and immensely enhanced my understanding of my father’s origins.
As work on the book proceeded, my mother became equally engrossed in the project. She had always told dramatic and heart-wrenching tales of suffering, loss, and survival. Now, she provided necessary and gripping details, and courageously touched on closely guarded, painful stories of how her identity as a Jew had been threatened. These accounts only affirmed for me the resilience of the Jewish spirit, even after the Holocaust, and heightened my appreciation for my mother having so thoroughly instilled in her children a love of belonging to the Jewish people.
Partly through my uncle’s lifelong love and solicitude toward me as his nephew, I gained a realistic and direct sense of him as a person. After his death, Katharina Lamping, George’s devoted parish assistant and housekeeper of many years, provided invaluable insight into my uncle’s faith and religious vocation. Katharina’s reminiscences, coupled with the survival of a sizable collection of his homilies, as well as what my father eventually shared with me, helped me to form a picture of Father George’s life as a singularly devoted Roman Catholic priest. Although the conversations I recount between him and Katharina occurred more in my imagination than in actuality, they are based on everything I have learned about the relationship between them, on actual events in George’s life and statements he made, as well as on his psychological and spiritual sensibilities as evident in these sources.
In regard to my uncle’s life with Padre Pio, in Rome I met with Padre Pio Abresch, George’s former boyhood student of Greek (and chess) in San Giovanni Rotondo. Soon after, I journeyed to that town to visit the Our Lady of Grace friary, where I was graciously guided by Padre Joseph Pius Martin. Both of these very kind padres helped me gain a vivid appreciation of the years George spent in the service of the saintly Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
In addition, the Reverend C. Bernard Ruffin was exceedingly helpful for his superlative biography of Padre Pio, which includes an invaluable interview with my uncle. The Reverend Mr. Ruffin’s encouraging correspondence and phone conversation were also extremely informative. The most gentle and generous Father John A. Schug, Cap., who is also an eminent biographer of Padre Pio, shared with me the correspondence of Father Dominic Meyer, English and German secretary to Padre Pio from 1947 to 1959, relating to my uncle’s life among the Capuchian fathers of Our Lady of Grace. Mrs. Anna Zegna of Biella, Italy, wife of the late Albino Zegna, was also helpful in this area. Both husband and wife had been close personal friends of my uncle and devoted followers of Padre Pio. Mrs. Zegna, along with her daughter and son-in-law, Gianna and Roberto Borsetti, provided valuable correspondence—including many of my uncle’s letters—and precious insight into the nature of the lifesaving sanctuary Padre Pio offered my uncle as a Jewish-born Catholic priest in San Giovanni Rotondo during the years of the war. Ms. Maria Callandra, of the National Center for Padre Pio, in Barto, Pennsylvania, forthrightly shared her understanding of the inviolability of Padre Pio’s spiritual purity in the midst of danger to innocent life during World War II. I wrestled greatly with her comments.
Events occurring among family members, as narrated here, are based on history that I witnessed or that was personally conveyed to me. They are honest attempts at capturing the spirit and content of interactions, many of which I know to have taken place but for which I could not have actually been present. They serve to establish a more vividly realistic and textured portrayal of social and historical circumstances.
I especially agonized over in...
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