About the Book
Why do people keep deep secrets about their lives and ancestry? In Family Declassified, Katherine Fennelly applies her expertise as a social science researcher to answer this question regarding her maternal grandfather, a Jewish Hungarian immigrant who arrived in the US one hundred years ago. A Google search for ‘Francis Kalnay’ yields more than 54,000 results—the vast majority related to the children’s book, Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa, for which he won a Newbery Honor in 1959. Buried deep within the search results are a few references to his years at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—the precursor to the CIA. However, none describes how a foreign-born sailor overcame a childhood marked by tragedy and became the head of an elite espionage unit for the Allied Forces during World War II. At the OSS Kalnay was one of the few foreign-born Americans informed and ‘indoctrinated’ in what we now know as the ULTRA decrypts, the German Enigma messages that were used to capture or thwart almost all German offensive intelligence activity during the Second World War.
It took several years of reviewing previously unexamined government records and conducting personal interviews and genealogical searches to piece together the life of a man who hid his Jewish identity, the nature of his work as a spy, and the murder of his sister and nephew by Hungarian Nazis. The result is a manuscript that examines the nature of family myths and presents the gripping story of a man whose life was shaped by some of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century.
Office of Strategic Services (OSS)