This website is about the creative process of researching, writing, and filming the story of my father, Paul Weidlinger. There are fantastic tales about him. He learned to read when he was four. He was an underground communist when he was fourteen. He was sentenced to death when he was 18. He slept rough, under bridges in Paris while apprenticed to the famous architect Le Corbusier. He almost got his fiancé arrested by the Gestapo. He became briefly, fabulously successful in Bolivia. He had and IQ of 154. He started a world-famous company just so he’d have enough money to pay the bills for the posh insane asylum where my mother was committed. He was a close friends with the real Dr. Strangelove. He helped protect the world from Nuclear Armageddon.
Skyscrapers, churches, embassies, and bridges are his legacy. Immigrating to United States in 1943, he collaborated as an engineer with the most important architects of the 20th Century. Picasso, Nagouchi, and Dubuffet utilized his elegant structural solutions in monumental sculptures. During the Cold War he worked on designing nuclear missile silos to withstand a Soviet first strike. He was one of the first to employ computers in building design.
He was also a man who spent most of his life hiding in plain sight, a Hungarian Jew who kept his true identity secret.
Uncovering my father’s story is a massive undertaking, involving translations of documents in five different languages, interviews with dozens of people, and retracing the physical itinerary of his life; childhood in pre-war Budapest; student days in Brno and Zurich; apprenticeships in London and Paris; war-time adventures in Bolivia, and then life in the United States, where he became famous in his field.
When I embarked on this project it was not to pay him tribute but to discover things I had not understood as a child – contradictory, ambiguous, and difficult things. From this process there emerge certain truths – truths that are common to many famous Hungarian Jews who left their native land to make their mark upon the world. Denial of Jewish roots, guilt over the fate of family during the Holocaust, a restlessness, brilliant achievement and tragedy are all part of the picture.
The products of this work are a book and documentary film. This website is devoted to the discovery that leads to them. I hope you’ll join me in this process.
Berkeley, California, August 2014