Irene Farkas-Conn Ph.D.
Irene Farkas-Conn, Ph.D., a Hungarian refugee who helped thousands of fellow Hungarian Jews escape from the Holocaust in a self-rescue operation and later became a leading figure in information science in the United States, died Oct. 11 in Arlington. She was 89. During World War II, she and members of her family used the Glass House, the Budapest headquarters of the family glass business, to cram more than 3,000 Jews into all available space -- chairs, desktops, stairs, closets -- to shield them from the constant Nazi deportations to death camps. Meantime, the adjacent Swiss legation issued 7,500 protective passes (Schutzpasse) and as deportations accelerated, a second batch of 7,500 passes. But then the Swiss stopped issuing passes. With increasing pressure of deportations, volunteers and Jewish Glass House employees began working around the clock forging more protective passes. Many people used the passes to escape to Palestine, the future Israel, then a British mandate. While stories about the Glass House have emerged, easily accessed on the internet, many are filled with errors, Farkas-Conn said shortly before she died. "There was a strong tradition in our family that one does the right thing, privately and quietly. For this reason, neither of my two uncles who were instrumental in the success of this self-rescue operation, nor my mother, had written anything about it. Yet this is a story that should be told: of bravery, of Jews standing up under adversity and organizing an operation in a desperate attempt to save their people." In 1947, she emigrated to New York, where she graduated Barnard College, got her master's degree in chemistry from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and later earned her Ph.D. in library science from the University of Chicago. In 1977, Farkas-Conn won the prestigious Watson Davis Award from the American Society for Information Science (ASIS) "for continuous dedicated service to the membership of ASIS." She served on numerous ASIS committees as well as on information-science-related committees of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, (AIChE) where her husband, Arthur L. Conn, was a past president. She also traveled widely on information science projects including trips to Cuba, China, and Iran as well as to Europe and South America. After Arthur Conn died in 1995, she married Ira Rosenthal MD of Chicago. Farkas-Conn was a retired management consultant who was also a former adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Booth Business School. She was a former member of the boards of several organizations concerned with information management. Her funeral was on May 13 in Arlington. She is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth Ortmayer of Arlington, her son, Andrew Farkas MD of Detroit, Mich., a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Magnus PhD of Beloit, Wisc., two stepsons, Robert Conn of Winston-Salem, N.C. and Alex P. Conn Ph.D. of Boston, Mass., and numerous grandchildren: Abigail Ortmayer and Torin Ortmayer of Arlington, Jonathan Farkas of New York, Nissim Lieb Farkas and Raizel Leah Farkas of Edison, N.J., Naomi Magnus of Madison, Wisc., Julia Conn Espitia of Chester NJ and Nina Conn of Boston. Prepared by Robert Conn, APR, 336-777-1723, firstname.lastname@example.org
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