Chairman Bruce Slovin (left) with Kati Marton and Richard Holbrooke
YIVOKati Figures She Raised
Her Son Chris Right
Text and Photo by Tim Boxer
T WAS highly appropriate for Bruce Slovin, chairman of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, to honor journalist Kati Marton and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, at the organization’s 82nd annual dinner at the Center for Jewish History in New York.
"What YIVO does," Marton said, "I try to do, but on a smaller scale."
What she does is document the Holocaust through her books. Her first was Wallenberg in 1982. Her sixth, The Great Escape, out last year from Simon and Schuster, traces the path of nine Jews who escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary, reinvented themselves in America and changed the world.
Among them were Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson who practically invented photojournalism, Edward Teller the father of the hydrogen bomb, John von Neimann who pioneered game theory and the computer, and Michael Curtiz who produced Casablanca.
Marton said she fled Budapest with her parents for safety in the U.S. soon after Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian Revolution of October 1956.
For years Marton’s parents withheld knowledge of the Holocaust from her for her own protection. Only when she researched her book on Raoul Wallenberg did she learn that her grandparents "were among the first to be shoved into transports by Adolph Eichmann" bound for Auschwitz where they perished.
"That book," she said, "gave my life a whole different cast and meaning."
Marton didn’t look a bit exhausted although she’d just returned from India. Her son Chris Jennings, 23, whose father is the late ABC news anchor Peter Jennings, is working on land reform in a remote backward part of the country.
Chris told his mom that when he gets back to New York the first thing he’ll do is kiss the ground. The second thing is to get a bagel.
"I guess I raised him right," she said.