GEORGE STEFAN GROSSMAN

b. May 31, 1938, Poltár, Czechoslovakia
d. July 11, 2018, Portland, Oregon

Photo essay below.

George‘s mother was Hungarian, and his father was born in the United States and moved to his family’s hometown of Poltár.

After the 1939 German takeover of Slovakia, George and his parents relocated to his mother’s hometown of Mezőtúr, Hungary.

After the 1944 German occupation of Hungary, George and his parents were interned in a Hungarian camp for enemy aliens on the outskirts of Budapest. The camp was hit by Allied bombs. George and his parents were severely injured, but recovered and were moved to an internment center.

On December 31, 1944, the internment center was taken over by German troops. They executed the Jewish men, including George’s father, and took the Jewish women and children to the Budapest ghetto. George and his mother escaped from the ghetto and both survived. (For additional detail, see “The Holocaust in Hungary: A Child’s Perspective.”)

Following the war, George’s mother was unable to care for him, and he lived for three years in a number of children’s institutions around Hungary. In 1948, George’s mother remarried, and he spent the school year with his mother and stepfather in Budapest.

In September 1949, George, being a derivative U.S. citizen, was issued a U.S. passport, and he emigrated to the U.S. with the aid of the Jewish Community Service. He was placed in a relative’s foster home in the Buffalo suburb of Kenmore, New York, where he graduated from high school in 1956.

In 1956-57, he was employed by Bell Aircraft Corporation and attended evening school at the University of Buffalo. In 1957 he enrolled in the University of Chicago where he received a BA degree, with honors, in International Relations in 1960.

On the day of graduation, he married Susanna Herczeg, also a student at the University of Chicago, also from Buffalo, and also a childhood immigrant from Hungary. He spent 1960-62 as an editor at the American Bar Foundation and as a graduate student.

In 1962, their son, Zoltán, was born, Susanna graduated, and the young family moved to Palo Alto, where George secured a job as Administrative Assistant of the California Law Revision Commission.

In December 1962, George’s mother and half-brother, Gábor, arrived from Budapest. Both remained in California the rest of their lives. His mother passed in 1983.

In 1963, George enrolled in Stanford Law School, graduating and passing the California bar exam in 1966. During law school, George worked part-time in Stanford’s Law Library, and decided to become a law librarian.

He became Acquisitions Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania (1966-68), then Law Librarian and Professor of Law at the University of Utah (1968-73) and the University of Minnesota (1973-79).

At Utah, he also earned an MS degree in Library Science at Brigham Young University. He served a term as President and National Representative of the Utah Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent George and other attorneys to Wounded Knee in South Dakota. He also a member for several years of the ACLU’s Committee on Indian Rights.

At the University of Minnesota, George participated in the planning of a new law school building. The project received the annual joint award of the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association for library design. Subsequently, George served as consultant for the planning of more than thirty law libraries.

In 1979, George transferred to Northwestern University where he participated in the planning of a major extension of the law school’s facilities on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. He remained at Northwestern until 1993, when he transferred to the University of California, Davis, where a new law school building was expected, but after 12 years only an extension of the existing building was allowed. George retired in 2006.

He and Susanna lived in San Francisco until she died in 2008. He remained until 2012 when he moved to Ashland, Oregon, where he served as volunteer librarian of Temple Emek Shalom. In 2014, he became a resident of Willamette View, a retirement community in Portland, Oregon.

George’s publications include two anthologies: Legal Research: Historical Foundations of the Electronic Age (Oxford, 1994) and The Spirit of American Law (Westview, 2001). Throughout his career, he was an active member of the American Association of Law Libraries, the Association of American Law Schools, the American Bar Association, and other professional organizations.

George’s compassion and generosity touched many people, and influenced their lives. His warm kindness and sense of humor uplifted those who knew and loved him. His 48 years of marriage to Suzi provided a bedrock to them, and a model of happiness for those around them.

George is survived by his son, Zoltán, Professor of Geography and Indigenous Studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and by his daughter-in-law, Debra McNutt (1516 Thomas Street NW, Olympia WA 98502).

There will be a memorial for George on Saturday, August 11, at 2:00 pm, at Willamette View (13169 SE River Road, Milwaukie, Oregon). Park in the gravel lot (SE River Road and Silver Springs Road), walk down the hill to the Terrace building, and take elevator to the 4th floor auditorium. Download memorial flyer.

Photo Essay

Juraj was born in the home on the right in Poltár, Czechoslovakia, on May 31, 1938. His name was later hungarianized to György and anglicized to George.
He is held by his grandmother Julia Haas, with his mother Kató (or Katalin) Halász and father Jenő (or Jozef) Grossman.
George’s father (right) was born in New York, but his mother moved him back to his family’s hometown of Poltár. At the age of 18, he returned to the U.S. In Chicago he worked as a dishwasher at Palmer House Hotel, lived in this Uptown apartment building,  and took many photos of the city (including of the Northwestern University Law School). He moved back to Poltár, and in 1935 married Kató. After their first child died, George was born in 1938.
After the Germans took over Slovakia in 1939, George’s father was forced to work in a labor camp. He tried to get his family out of Europe, but he needed to renew his U.S. passport. The U.S. State Department insisted it could only be done in person at the U.S. Consulate in Prague, but Jews were no longer permitted to travel within Nazi territory.
George’s family fled to Hungary as refugees, but by then European ports were closed to foreign travel. They lived in his mother’s hometown of Mezőtúr, Hungary, with her relatives, who would be deported to Auschwitz after the Germans took over Hungary in March 1944.
Because George’s father was a U.S. citizen, his family was instead interned in a Hungarian camp for enemy aliens on the outskirts of Budapest, which was hit by Allied bombs in July 1944. His family was severely injured, but recovered and was moved to this Budapest school internment center. (It is one block from the Eastern Train Station in the background, a key flashpoint in the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis.)
German troops took over the internment center on December 31, 1944, and marched the Jewish men (including George’s father) to the Danube River to be executed. This memorial of brass shoes by the Danube commemorates the New Year’s Eve massacre.
A German Army officer ordered that the Jewish women and children in the internment center be spared. George and his mother were brought with other Jewish women and children to the Budapest Ghetto, near the Dohány Street Synagogue. But they later escaped (as she pretended to be the widow of a corpse being taken to burial), and both survived.
Following the war, George’s mother could not care for him, and he lived for three years in children’s homes or foster homes around Hungary. In 1948, George’s mother remarried, and George spent the school year with his mother and stepfather in Budapest. She decided to send him to the United States; this photo was taken just before he left.
In September 1949, George, being a derivative U.S. citizen, was issued a U.S. passport, and he emigrated to the U.S. with the aid of the Jewish Community Service.
At the age of 11, he sailed to the U.S. on the USS George Washington, the same ship that had carried his father to the U.S. (and President Wilson to Versailles).
He lived in a relative’s foster home in the Buffalo suburb of Kenmore, learned English, and was bar mitzvahed.
He graduated from high school, worked for Bell Aircraft, and was able to travel.
In Buffalo he met Zsuzsanna (Susanna) Herczeg, a Hungarian immigrant from a Catholic family. They moved to attend the University of Chicago, he in International Relations, and she in South Asian Studies.
On the same day that he graduated, June 11, 1960, George and Suzi were married, joined by her parents Imre and Karolina (left), and close friends.
On January 11, 1962, their son Zoltán was born. Suzi graduated that June, and the family moved to Palo Alto, California.
In December 1962, George’s mother and half-brother, Gábor, arrived from Budapest. Both remained in California the rest of their lives. (His mother passed in 1983, and Gábor in 2010.)
In 1963, George enrolled in Stanford Law School, graduating and passing the California bar exam in 1966. During law school, George worked part-time in Stanford’s Law Library, under Prof. J. Myron Jacobstein, and decided to become a law librarian.
He became Acquisitions Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania under Prof. Morris Cohen (1966-68), and the family lived in Ardmore.
George’s first Law Librarian position was at the University of Utah (1968-73). During that time he earned a Library Science degree at BYU, and headed the Utah Affiliate of the ACLU. The Utah Affiliate became involved in assisting American Indian Movement activists at Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973. He also was a member of the ACLU’s Committee on Indian Rights.
At the University of Minnesota (1973-79), George participated in the planning of a new law school building. The project received the annual joint award of the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association for library design. Subsequently, George served as consultant for the planning of more than thirty law libraries.
In 1979-93, George was Law Librarian at Northwestern University where he participated in the planning of a major extension of the law school’s facilities on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.
In 1993 he transferred to the University of California, Davis, where a new law school building was expected, but after 12 years only an extension of the existing building was allowed.
George and Suzi lived in Davis, but then she got an apartment in San Francisco and he joined her on weekends.
George reciting a Hungarian poem at Debi and Zoltán’s wedding in Alma, Wisconsin, in 2004 (after 20 years together). The wedding was at Buena Vista Park on a “tongue of rock” overlooking the Mississippi River.
The text of the poem “Wedding,” by László Nagy, was incredibly appropriate for the occasion (from the 1980 collection “Ocean at the Window”). He could still recite the poem by heart 14 years later.
After Zoltán and Debi were married in Wisconsin in 2004, George and Suzi visited Lake Superior with them.
Zoltán and Debi moved to Olympia, Washington, in 2005, so were able to visit more often. George retired in 2006, and then lived in San Francisco full-time.
Suzi passed in 2008, and Hungarian friends in San Francisco helped him immensely during that difficult time.
Zoli and Debi with George in San Francisco.
In 2009, George hosted a party to celebrate 60 years since his arrival in the U.S., and printed up a t-shirt with his first passport.
Also in 2009, George and Zoli visited Suzi’s relatives in her hometown of Kondorfa, Hungary.
In 2010, he brought two of Suzi’s cousins, Gábor and Éva, to tour the U.S.
In 2012, he moved to Ashland, Oregon, and had a beautiful view of the city from his home.
In 2014, he moved to Willamette View, a retirement community in Portland, Oregon, overlooking the Willamette River.
Halloween at Willamette View.
A mock painting at the Portland Art Museum.
77th birthday party at Willamette View, with banner that reads “Boldog Születésnapot”: Happy Birthday in Hungarian.
Showing Debi his photo albums.
George’s 80th birthday on May 31, 2018, with a cake that honored the “Octogenerian Hungarian Librarian.”