His story is of a man whose father headed a Transylvanian family that had achieved nobility through seven generations of distinguished military service in the Austro-Hungarian army. In World War I, Andor fought bravely and sustained a severe facial wound, but after the war he refused to continue the family tradition of career military service. Breaking with the family, he instead he pursued his deepest passion: theater.
|Pünkösti in 1942 in front of the Madách Theater|
Part of the reason for Andor’s break with his family was his marriage to Erzsébet Fodor, whose mother was Jewish. Such marriages were not permissible for noble military officers. Erzsébet's father, Janos, had been a wealthy industrialist, banker, and newspaper owner who had changed his family name from Fischer to Fodor during Hungary's Magyarization drive. He had married Berta von Auspitz, who came from a wealthy and prominent Jewish family in Brünn (now Brno in the Czech Republic).
Like Andor, Erzsébet was a highly educated intellectual who spoke many languages and worked as a journalist. Most notably, in the late 1920s through much of the 1930s, she was a special correspondent for the New York Times, whose by-line was “Elizabeth de Punkosti.” The couple lived in a large apartment in downtown Budapest that she had inherited from her father.
M.W. and Dorothy had met each other on March 1, 1921 in Budapest, soon after Dorothy had arrived to cover Central Europe and the Balkans for the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Fodor, a Hungarian citizen, had been the Manchester Guardian’s correspondent in the region for just over two years.
With both of them based in Vienna, covering the same territory for different papers, M.W. had assisted Dorothy with her first full-time job as a foreign correspondent; some suggest he was her mentor, at the least he was her guide as she began a career that would make her one of the most famous women in the United States. They became good friends and remained so for the almost forty years that had followed their first meeting.
|A 1925 painting of Pünkösti by Hugo Scheiber http://www.irodalmiradio.hu/femis/muveszetek|
In their March 12th discussion, they recalled many different people and events in their Vienna years. Among them were Andor de Pünkösti (whom they called Andrew von Pünkösti) and his wife Erzsébet, whom they called Erzi: 
|Pünkösti with actresses in front of the Madach Theater |
In addition to the websites, a Hungarian-language book has been written about his years as manager of the Madách Theater. Its title is A Madach Színház Pünkösti Andor igazgatása idején by Zsuzsanna Borsos, published in 1979. No English translation of the book is available. Drawing from the on-line biographical sketch and other Hungarian-language websites, the following is additional elements of the story of Andor Pünkösti.
He was born an Uzonyi-Pünkösti, described as “an ancient Transylvanian family,” in 1892. His birthplace was Koŝice, which is now in Slovakia, because his father, an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, was stationed there. While Andor was still a youngster, his father was transferred to Debrecen.
The direction of Andor’s life was foreshadowed by an event that occurred when he was nine. His parents took him to see a play, Shakespeare’s Richard III. He was hugely excited by it and, trying to figure out a way to enhance its presentation, he and a friend set a fire that burned down a wide swath of the Great Forest of Debrecen.
Andor went to high school in Budapest, but rebelled against his parent’s wish for him to study at Budapest University. Instead he went to Munich to study law. When the war broke out, he returned to take a commission in the Austro-Hungarian army, fighting on the front lines with an elite Cavalry unit.
As Denis Fodor wrote, he was wounded in 1915, a sword slashed his face and the cut required multiple surgeries, leaving his face with a deep scar. Also, according to the on-line biographical sketch, his injury inflicted deep psychological scars that made him subject to deep depressions. The experience might also have contributed to his later anti-war writings and leftist, anti-fascist, leanings.
Even as he had studied law and served in the military, Andor had kept up his interest in the theater, going when possible to plays and attending lectures. As he recovered from his wounds, he started writing about the theater and by 1918 had a job as a journalist for “Az újság” (“The Newspaper). By 1923, he was a well-known in Hungary as a leading theater critic.
The on-line biographical materials contain no information on his role in the opposition to Bela Kun and his short-lived communist regime in Hungary. However it is clear that near the end of the 1910s, he declined to become head of the noble Uzonyi-Punkosti family, which would have required that he have a career as a military officer. With this decision and his marriage to Erzsébet, whose mother who – as previously noted – was a Jew, he broke with his family to pursue a different direction in life.
|Picture of the cover of a book about|
Pünkösti and the Madách Theater http://www.antikvarkonyv.hu/szinhaz_
Leaving behind the family’s military legacy, he succeeded within a few year to become a highly respected critic. According to the biographical sketch, he was perceived as being “erudite, well-read, and well-informed”… “with a thorough knowledge of people,” plus a knowledge of many foreign languages. He wrote “unique, readable critiques” of theater productions that were witty and focused, but not demeaning. Also, he encouraged younger and novice playwrights. An opponent of kitsch in the theater, Andor supported modern, even avant-garde productions.
In the late 1920s, after a nearly decade as a theater critic, theorist, and educator, he was offered the opportunity to put his ideas about theater into practice as the dramaturg for a play by Ferenc Milnar. In 1929, he was for a half year the artistic director of both the Hungarian Theater and the National Chamber Theater. From then on, he took leading positions with prestigious theaters in Budapest, including director of the National Theater (1935), artistic director of the National Theater (1939), and from 1941 to 1944, director of the Madách Theater.
In addition to his newspaper journalism and theater work, Andor published a book of poetry titled Isten elzullot gyermeke. Versek (Elzullot God’s Child, Poetry), two anti-war novels (Bús Péter csodàlotos Kardja [Sad Peter, Beautiful Sword] and Bárczay Bella, a szeretőm [Bella Barczay, Love], plus numerous book chapters and magazine articles on theater. He also worked on films and is credited with writing screenplays for three films: Bünös vagyok! (I'm guilty!), 1942; Elkésett levél (Belated Letter), 1941; and Álomsárkány (Dragon's Dream), 1939. The last mentioned film, Álomsárkány (Dragon’s Dream), he also directed. For film credits, see: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0702559/?ref_=fn_al_nm_2
During his years as director of Madách Theater, Pünkösti offered modern plays and innovative productions. Also, he courageously – and probably foolhardily – staged plays that were understood to be anti-fascist or even anti-Hitler. One of the favorite productions at the theater was a play about Nero, written by Francis Felkei. It focused on the murderous rein of Nero, and audiences immediately understood it to be a historical parable about Hitler. For more information on this production, go to these website (and used Google translate): http://www.orkenyszinhaz.hu/index.php/2012-09-05-14-32-58/toertenet/2-magyar/szinhazunkrol/715-nero and http://www.orkenyszinhaz.hu/index.php/2012-09-05-14-32-58/toertenet/2-magyar/szinhazunkrol/714-a-madach-szinhaz-tortenete-1940-1944
|Pünkösti at his desk http://tbeck.beckground.hu/szinhaz/img/img/kepek_nagy/muller_3.jpg|
Andor’s life took a severely bad turn when Germany, fearing that Hungary would make a separate peace treaty with the Allies, invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944 and installed a Hungarian Nazi supporter to be prime minister. Pünkösti was removed as head of the theater in April. And even worse things were happening around him: from the middle of May until early July, 437,402 Jews were deported from Hungary (one-third of them were Hungarian citizens). All but 15,000 were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and 90 percent were immediately killed.
|Andor and Crew Work on the Play "Nero" |
These events, and others, left Pünkösti deeply depressed, and he decided to commit suicide. Two different stories are told about his suicide. One is the story of the Fodors, who likely heard it from Erzi. In this version, Pünkösti shot Arrow Cross secret agents who came for him, then shot himself.
Another version of the suicide, told in the on-line biographical sketch, is that on the night of July 9, he poisoned and gassed himself; his housekeeper found him unconscious the next morning. He died three days later, on July 12, in the hospital.
His will left everything to his wife. He requested that no one speak at his funeral, and his wish was honored. Andor was buried in an unmarked grave in the Farkasréti Cemetery. In 1957, the city erected a sculpture at the head of a tombstone to mark his burial place.
|Andor Pünkösti's Grave, Budapest http://www.agt.bme.hu/varga/foto/farkasreti/punkosti-a.html|
With the information I could access, I found no evidence that Pünkösti was or was not viewed -- as suggested by M.W. Fodor -- as a “patron saint” by the Communist Party of Hungary. This observation has credibility because it was made by a man who was not only Andor's brother-in-law but also was a close observer of Hungary as the editor of the Berlin edition of Die Neue Zeitung (America’s newspaper in Germany) from 1948 to 1955 and, after that, a Voice of America analyst based in Munich.
One thing is clear, Pünkösti was not forgotten after his death. As mentioned, his unmarked grave was provided with an elaborate headstone, and his memory is honored with a plaque in the Örkény István Theatre, which is the building that housed the Madách Theater from 1941 to 1944. Also, he left behind a substantial body of written work that keeps his memory alive among scholars of Hungarian theater.
Erzsébet Fodor (or Fischer) Pünkösti
Apparently, Erzsébet inherited her parent’s house in Budapest after their deaths in 1918 or 1919, which the family attribute to Bela Kun’s communist supporters. (Kun's Soviet Republic held power in Hungary from March 21 to August 1, 1919.) The house, located at 29 Eötvös Utca, is where Andor was living when he committed suicide and is the one referred to in both the Fodor-Thompson paragraph and Denis Fodor’s account of the lives of his aunt and uncle.
Likely, she and her husband had stimulating and intellectually rich lives between the two world wars and were, as Denis Fodor described, prominent along the Budapest intelligentsia. However, the rise of anti-Semitism had to have dampened the pleasures of journalism and theater as the 1930s progressed. And her life was in grave danger after the Germans invaded Hungary in March, 1944, and Adoph Eichmann came to Budapest to manage the murder of Jews. According to the on-line biographical sketch of Andor, Erzi hid out in Gödöllö under an assumed name and was able to escape deportation.
The life stories of Andor and Erzsébet remain largely untold, especially in English. This brief account of their lives suggests that they would be rich subjects for a researcher seeking to add texture to the history of Budapest’s inter-war period and to learn more about two prominent Hungarian families.