Issue 39 | October 7, 2020
Virtual Book Launch Event
Robert and his wife Eva, also a survivor from Hungary, previously delivered the Mitchell L. and Miriam Lewis Barnett Lecture as part of the 50th Annual Scholars' Conference in March of 2020. Eva, a UT Dallas alumna, introduced Robert during this live event, which was attended by people from around the world. Dr. Nils Roemer served as a moderator for the event, asking Robert questions about his life, memoir, and his motivation to tell his story.
From Darkness into Light is structured in five chronological chapters based on what Ratonyi describes as his "journeys." In the first chapter, "A Holocaust Childhood," Ratonyi narrates his family’s situation in Budapest in 1944 as they were navigating air raids, resettlements in ghettos and persecution by the anti-Semitic Hungarian government. As a six-year-old boy, Ratonyi did not understand the significance of the order to wear the Yellow Star but he was aware of his father’s absence after being conscripted into a labor battalion, and later missing his mother as she was marched on foot to Austria together with several thousand Jewish women.
In his second journey, Ratonyi discussed growing up in a working-class family under communism and how his mother has struggled to provide for him as single parent working in a factory. However, despite the harsh conditions of living under totalitarian dictatorship, Ratonyi talked about the positive impact of belonging to a loving family and of being surrounded with several influential characters such as his uncle Laci and his Rabbi, Dr. Kálmán. For Ratonyi’s bar mitzvath, Rabbi Kálmán wrote a heartwarming letter and addressed it to Reichmann Robert. The change of the last name from Reichmann to Ratonyi was motivated by the desire to “blend into my new society at the University without telling everyone that I am Jewish,” says Ratonyi.
As a young college student in Hungary, Ratonyi experienced his third journey, "The Hungarian Uprising of 1956." In December of that year, he made the life-changing decision to flee Hungary and he entered into his fourth journey, "The Escape." In his fifth and final journey, “Immigrant Years,” he discussed his search for a new home country, first in Canada and then finally in the United States. Ratonyi’s book is an intimate historical narrative of the Holocaust in Hungary, of growing up under communism, and of life as a Jewish immigrant in North America.
A Message from Robert Ratonyi
But history repeats itself and that is why it is important to teach these lessons. We are now in the 21st century and already there have been several genocides. Open the TV and all you hear about is the battle between socialist and Marxist ideologies against our democratic capitalist system.
I learned the importance of setting goals, taking risks, working hard, and delaying gratification to achieve those goals. I also learned that good luck, being at the right place at the right time, has a lot to do with success. Being an immigrant in Canada, and then in the US, I learned how to start out with no material possessions, not even speaking English, and end up as a highly educated, productive member of society in a few years.
These are the lessons I hoped to pass on to my children, grandchildren, and future generations of Ratonyis, and now to the general public with the publication of my book."
In Case You Missed It
The North Texas/Oklahoma Regional office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) covers the North Texas area (Dallas, Fort Worth, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland-Odessa, Temple, Waco, Tyler, Marshall) and all of Oklahoma.
This event is free of charge, but pre-registration is required by clicking here.
The event is free, but pre-registration is required by clicking here.
Film Screening and Discussion: The Silence of Others
This documentary reveals the epic struggle of victims of Spain's 40-year dictatorship under General Franco, who continue to seek justice to this day. Filmed over six years, the film follows the survivors as they organize the groundbreaking 'Argentine Lawsuit' and fight state-imposed amnesia of crimes against humanity, and explores a country still divided four decades into a democracy. Seven years in the making, The Silence of Others is the second documentary feature by Emmy-winning filmmakers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar.
This film will be available for screening free of charge from October 12-26, 2020. More information and the link will be posted on the Ackerman Center Upcoming Events webpage.
Click below to view the film's trailer
Panel Discussion: The Silence of Others
Thursday, Oct. 29th, 5:30pm
This is an online event.
2020 Annual Einspruch Lecture
All episodes are available for streaming online and can be found by clicking here.
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This issue was made possible by the following contributors:
Amal Shafek, Research Assistant