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Hungarian Holocaust diarist to be named ‘Righteous Among the Nations’

A Hungarian doctor, whose account of sheltering Jews during World War II is at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, will be named “Righteous Among the Nations,” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance authority, her grandson said.

Maria Kiss Madi, who hid a Jewish friend and the friend’s nephew in her apartment as the Nazis took over Hungary, will receive the honor within the next few months, according to a letter Stephen Walton said he recently got from Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem honors as “Righteous Among the Nations” non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Madi, who died in Houston in 1970, at age 72, took in her best friend, Irene Lakos, and Lakos’s then 7-year-old nephew, Alfred “Fredi” Lakos, now 78, who lives in Waleska, Ga.

Madi, who was not Jewish but detested the Nazis and their oppression of Jews, risked her life to hide the two from prying eyes of neighbors and officials.

A British-educated, divorced physician, who held some negative views about Jews, Madi chronicled the effort in parts of a 16-volume diary she wrote in English for her daughter who had moved to the United States.

“I cried with happiness when I opened the letter,” Walton, of Amarillo, Texas, said in an email. Friday “But after a period of reflection, I wonder how I would respond if asked to do the same thing.”

Lakos, who was also notified of Madi’s honor, said in a telephone interview: "I was very, very pleased. She did tremendously.”

“You and I wouldn’t have this conversation today if she (didn’t) risk her own life by giving us refuge or shelter for five months, me and my aunt,” he said. “It just saved our lives.”

Had they been discovered, they would have likely have been sent to a concentration camp, and “she would have been shot,” he said. “She risked her life big time.”

The Holocaust — the slaughter of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis and their allies — came relatively late to Hungary, which was allied with Germany.

But by the end of the war, more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews had been slain, many of them in the gas chambers at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, historians have said.

Alfred Lakos’s father, Laszlo, was sent to a labor camp, from which he escaped, and survived. His mother, Rosza, was sent to Auschwitz, where she was killed.

Madi, then in her mid-40s, lived alone and was unaccustomed to children. She described Fredi Lakos as “the poor little worm” during the almost four months he spent cooped up in her apartment.

“The child is all the time talking, irritating, making noises and trouble,” she wrote on Jan. 7, 1945.

Two weeks later, she wrote: “It is with the utmost self control, I can tolerate the boy here in my flat.”

Yet she soothed him when gunfire frightened him, vowed to stay with him when he was in bed with chicken pox, she wrote, and he came to be affectionate with her.

The diary was donated to the Washington museum by Walton in 2013.


 Source: The Washington Post

By: Michael E. Ruane