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John Cillag | Memory Project

John Cillag

Interview by Andrea Lauer Rice & Réka Pigniczky


John Cillag, 1956er

John Cillag was born in Paris in 1937. He was the son of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants who went to Paris to find work. He returned with his mother to Hungary in 1942, just narrowly escaping Nazi occupation and deportation to concentration camps. They survived WWII in Hungary by hiding and keeping their French identity, but after 1944 they lost 36 close relatives who never returned after the war.

Cillag was 19 in 1956, and although he didn't take part in street fighting, he witnessed much of the revolution up close, including the toppling of Stalin's statue. He fled to Austria in November of 1956 and was accepted into the U.S. in 1957.

He received an engineering degree in Michigan, and after that worked as an engineer and later a successful businessman in the high-tech field. He has led an active life in both the U.S. and Hungary, feeling connected to both cultures and societies. He was not an active member of the Hungarian community in any of the cities he lived in.

He talks about all this and more in this interview conducted by Réka Pigniczky for the Memory Project in Berkeley, California in February of 2016.

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