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  • Bela Kornitzer's Great American Heritage- A Journalist and Five Presidents

Drew University Library

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March 15-May 7, 2004

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Hungarian-born Bela Kornitzer achieved prominence in this country as a journalist and author of several highly acclaimed biographies. The Kornitzer archives, including typescripts, correspondence, photographs, and taped interviews, constitute a valuable resource for the study of mid-20th century political and social history.
Bela Kornitzer (1910-1964) left his native Hungary after fleeing first the Nazis and then the Communists. A political columnist for the Hungarian Parliament until the German occupation, he later held a position in the postwar Nagy government, but ousted from office when the Communists assumed power. Kornitzer arrived in the United States in 1947, learned English largely from going to the movies, and almost immediately began to write a series of magazine articles, based on interviews with leading public figures that would launch his career as an American political biographer.

Kornitzer interviewed the most prominent men of the time in politics, science, religion, and the arts, including Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Kornitzer's numerous articles and books based on these interviews focused specifically on the father-son relationship and its role in molding the characters of some of the most distinguished men of the time. He theorized that the essence of our democracy is reflected in the tolerant democratic attitudes prevailing in the typical American family.

In 1991, Bela Kornitzer's sister, Mrs. Alicia Karpati, donated the Drew University Library the archives of his work. In addition to copies of Kornitzer's articles and books, the archives contain roughly 240 cassette tapes and 35 phonodiscs of interviews; 34 boxes of correspondence, newspaper clippings, and typescripts, as well as notes, documents, and interviews supporting Kornitzer's research; 5 folio scrapbooks with clippings, photographs, transcripts of radio interviews with Kornitzer himself, publicity for and reviews of this books, and proof copies for the designs of dust jackets; and more than 40 signed or dedicated photographs of public figures, many inscribed to Kornitzer. Mrs. Karpati has also created an endowment for the Bela Kornitzer Award, which honors her brother and recognizes his achievements as a journalist and author in Hungary and the United States.
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