09 July 2008

California: The Hatschek Family of Hungary

Los Angeles film producer Tom Teicholz is an author and journalist who has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Interview and The Forward. He's written a great story about his research on his Hungarian family in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.
Read more about Teicholz's Hungarian research here.
Hatschek Bela.

The very sound of my great-grandfather's name brings a smile to my face.

In Hungarian, last names go first, so although Bela was his first name, he has always been Hatschek Bela to me -- all one name -- a legendary figure in our family, a celebrated forebear about whom my mother and grandmother told stories.

He was famous for being the first man in Hungary to own a car, and my grandmother kept a clipping from the Royal Hungarian Automobile Society with a picture of him seated at the controls of his Benz with a little girl on the rear rumble seat. Beneath the photo was the caption in Hungarian, German and French, proclaiming "Hatsek Bela le premier automobiliste Hongrois sur son voiture Benz en 1895."

The picture always fascinated me. My great-grandfather sits at the control of his open-air Benz looking, with his dark beard and mustache, like Sigmund Freud, smoking a cigar and wearing his homburg tilted at a rakish angle, as well as a suit -- perfectly tailored to show his starched white cuffs. I also loved looking at the little girl sitting at the rear of the vehicle, gazing at the camera like a little doll in her pinafore and large hat -- that was my grandmother, Adrienne, whom I only knew as an old woman.

Hatschek Bela had a Benz before Mercedes did. That was way cool.

He discusses documents, books, his 2003 visit and much more. His experiences might assist others searching in Hungary as well.

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