Szeged Synagogue in Szeged, Hungary.
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Book Review: “The Politzer Saga” by Linda Ambrus Broenniman

The strength, love, bravery, courage, resilience, and endurance of a Hungarian Jewish family that crosses generations forms the nucleus of The Politzer Saga, this utterly enthralling nonfiction work by Linda Ambrus Broenniman. In this book, the author interweaves painstaking genealogical research with historical narrative to share the story of her family, a vibrant mosaic of doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, artists and art collectors, researchers, musicians, writers, and philanthropists. The Politzer family experienced great success during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries…but they also endured incredible hardships. Hungarian sociologist András Gyekiczk (d. 2020) wrote, “I hardly know any non-fiction sagas to better exemplify Hungarian Jewish fate of the past 300 years as this Politzer story.”

Szeged Synagogue in Szeged, Hungary. This is where Julian and Clara Ambrus married in 1945. Their stories are shared in "The Politzer Saga".
Szeged Synagogue in Szeged, Hungary (Getty Images/Travel and Still Life Photography)


The author’s tale begins in the early 1980s. Through the slip of a tongue, Ambrus Broenniman learned of her father Julian’s Jewish upbringing, surprising for someone raised staunchly Catholic. This ignited in the young woman a desire to learn more. However, such information trickled down very slowly as her parents and grandmother, though loving and warm, kept the Jewish side of her father’s family hidden. Until, that is, Clara, the author’s mother, revealed that a box in their home yielded additional clues. “My quest for the truth about my family began at that moment,” Ambrus Broenniman writes.1Linda Ambrus Broenniman, The Pulitzer Saga (Glen Echo, MD: Bethesda Communications Group): 14. Decades later, the secrets finally revealed themselves.

In February 2011, a fire destroyed Julian and Clara’s home. Julian survived, but unfortunately, Clara sadly succumbed to her injuries after twelve days in a coma. The story could have ended here…had that certain box not been salvaged and discovered five years later by the author’s sister.

It arrived looking like any U-Haul moving box. I opened it nervously. Its musty odor reminded me of an attic closed off to fresh air for decades. It was filled with dog-eared files stuffed with papers and manila envelopes of photos. The documents were mostly in Hungarian or German. Most were dated from the 1930s and 1940s; some photos, postcards, and documents bore dates from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Amazingly, they had survived World War I, World War II, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the fire in my parents’ home.

Linda Ambrus Broenniman, The Pulitzer Saga (Glen Echo, MD: Bethesda Communications Group): 14.

Also tucked among the materials was a composition book entitled Our Family Tree. Most likely compiled by Julian’s cousin Gábor, it provided the foundation upon which Ambrus Broenniman built her research. The next few years saw her working with the aforementioned András Gyekiczk as well as digging through archival records, contacting museums and cultural heritage sites and organizations, and consulting secondary sources to build out her family story. The Politzer Saga serves as the culmination of her research and as a companion piece to The Politzer Saga exhibition at the Rumbach Synagogue in Budapest.


The Politzer Saga resonates with me on a number of levels. From a personal level, I empathize with the desire to uncover family secrets. I used AncestryDNA to locate my father and that side of my family about six years ago, having known almost nothing growing up. Finding new family and learning about a heretofore unknown identity elicits a myriad of emotions: joy, anxiety, worry of rejection, excitement. I can’t speak for Ambrus Broenniman, of course, but I’d imagine we shared similar emotions in embarking on our respective journeys.

From an educational level, The Politzer Saga enlightens readers on the experiences of the Hungarian Jewish experience through the eyes of those who lived it, including the author herself. I appreciated her sharing the different sources she used and the historiographies she consulted in her research. Genealogical and historical research can be daunting and dense, full of dead ends and lost leads. 

And yet, Ambrus Broenniman effortlessly balances stories about her family – of her ancestor Ádám Politzer and his illustrious medical career; the harrowing experiences of her great-grandmother Margit during the interwar period and World War II; how her relatives tried to thrive despite suffering due to antisemitism, economic upheavals, forced relocation, war, epidemics, and more – with historical asides.

Final Thoughts

The Politzer Saga is a rare piece of historical masterwork. Part historical biography, part memoir, and part informational narrative, Linda Ambrus Broenniman writes a book that respectfully details the modern Hungarian Jewish experience through her family’s perspective. But it’s more than that. The Politzer Saga celebrates human resilience and courage in the face of danger, prejudice, dehumanization, injustice. But even more importantly, this story serves as a tribute to her ancestors, the family she never knew. Ambrus Broenniman shares their memories and allows them to live on in all of her readers. It’s a story that will not easily be forgotten.

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and Meryl Moss Media Group for an advanced reader copy of this book! The Politzer Saga is available on September 12, 2023.

Book Summary

"The Politzer Saga" cover. The background is dark blue with a golden tree in the center. Golden accents border the title, the tree design, and the author's name.

Title: The Politzer Saga
Author: Linda Ambrus Broenniman
Publisher: Bethesda Communications Group
Publication Year: 2023
Page Count: 243pp

Featured image: Szeged Synagogue in Szeged, Hungary (Getty Images/Travel and Still Life Photography)

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