Harsanyi’s Sweater

Today is the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.  Here is a moving story from the  paper  about  John Harsanyi,  Harsanyi’s Sweater, by Robert J. Aumann.

It is 1944 in Budapest, and John is in his early twenties. He has been taken for deportation, with all that that implies. Arriving at the railroad station, he puts his knapsack down and wanders off a few yards, under the watchful eye of a guard. Then the guard is distracted for a moment, and John sees his chance to escape. But in the knapsack there is a beautiful, warm sweater, lovingly hand-knitted for John by his mother. John hesitates; should he — can he — abandon the sweater? After a moment, the urge to live takes over, and he slips away, taking refuge in a convent by previous arrangement. He survives the Holocaust to become the great thinker that he becomes. Hesitant, careful, open-minded, undogmatic — and in spite of that, or perhaps because of that — great.

Aumann himself  was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and fled at the age of eight to the United States with his family in, two weeks before the 1938 Kristallnacht.

I plan to mention this story in my game theory class this evening and also to mention five great game theorists named John.

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