A selection of yellow-star house rescue stories from the Yad Vashem museum’s online database of Righteous Among the Nations.
Ottó Gyürk, a resident of Budapest, was in love with a young Jewish woman named Éva Seidner. The two first met in a ballroom in 1942. After Gyürk was drafted into the Hungarian army in 1943, the couple kept in touch by mail, but they were only able to meet sporadically, when Ottó got leave. Ottó’s father, Árpád Gyürk, knew the Seidner family, as did his mother Margit. After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, Éva and the rest of the Seidner family were forced to relocate to a yellow-star house. Their cousins the Wachtels, moved to the yellow-star house as well. The fathers of both families were drafted into a labor-service company. When the Arrow Cross party came to power in October, Gyürk deserted from his Hungarian unit and returned to Budapest, where he began to search for his beloved Éva. He discovered that Seidner and her cousin Klára Wachtel had been taken from the yellow-star house and had been assigned to a forced-labor unit to dig trenches. Afterwards, the unit was sent on a death march. Gyürk followed the march, located Seidner and Wachtel, and gave them food to sustain them on the journey. He also delivered letters, written by the two women, to their families in Budapest. He delivered messages for many other women in the unit as well. The commander of the unit in which Seidner and Wachtel were working heard about the murders that had taken place in labor units in the nearby city of Vecsés. The commander decided to turn the unit back in the direction of Budapest. Gyürk came to the unit in uniform, and used false orders to try to get Seidner and Wachtel released, but security in the unit was too tight, and he was unsuccessful. When the unit arrived at the outskirts of Budapest, the women were housed in a school building. Gyürk managed to smuggle the two women out. He took them to the home of his parents, who received them warmly, and agreed to hide them in spite of the danger. After a few weeks, Gyürk, with the help of a friend, managed to procure Aryan papers for Wachtel. This same friend helped Gyürk find Wachtel an alternate hiding place. In the meantime, Seidner remained hidden in Gyürk’s parents’ apartment until the liberation. At one point, Seidner barely escaped death at the hands of the Arrow Cross. In January 1945, on a tip from informers that Jews might be hiding in the building, Arrow Cross men came and searched the bomb shelter in the building’s basement. They killed eight people who had been hiding in the shelter on the spot. Seidner, however, had never gone down to the shelter with the Gyürk family, not even when battles were raging over Budapest. Because she remained hidden in the apartment, her life was saved. After the war, Seidner’s mother returned from Mauthausen. Seidner’s father perished, as had Wachtel’s parents and sister. In 1946, Gyürk and Seidner were married.
On January 26, 1998, Yad Vashem recognized Ottó Gyürk and his parents, Árpád and Margit Gyürk.
Dr. György Jobbágyi, a resident of Budapest, worked in the maternity ward of Rókus Hospital. His wife, Éva Ángyán, was considered Jewish according to the Hungarian racial laws, which had been in effect since 1941. After the German invasion of Hungary, the Jews of Budapest were forced to move into yellow-star houses. Jobbágyi’s own building was made into a yellow-star house, and in the summer of 1944, about 60 Jews moved there, crowding into the apartments formerly occupied by Aryan tenants. Although Jobbágyi was not Jewish, he did not leave the building, but continued to live there with his wife, Éva, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Sándor Salamon, and Mrs. Károly Ángyán, his mother-in-law. Jobbágyi hung a sign on the door of his apartment that read, “Jews don’t live here.” In reality, however, his apartment served as a hiding place for Jews. After the Arrow Cross party came to power on October 1944, the situation for Budapest’s Jews deteriorated drastically. During this period, Jobbágyi hid his friend Béla Székely in his apartment, along with his wife and their daughter, Mária. He also hid László Holzer, a lawyer, and his family. Pál Szabados, a Jew who had escaped from a forced-labor unit, also found shelter in Jobbágyi’s apartment. In December 1944, stories began to circulate about the liquidation of the yellow-star houses, and the murder of their inhabitants on the banks of the Danube, and it was clear that a similar fate awaited the Jewish inhabitants of Jobbágyi’s building. Jobbágyi, who, in addition to being a doctor, served in the Hungarian army, put on his army uniform, and went to the Arrow Cross party headquarters, nearby. When he asked who was in charge he discovered that the commander was one of his patients, on whom he had successfully operated a number of years earlier. The commander was also an acquaintance of Béla Székely, one of the Jews being hidden in Jobbágyi’s apartment. This commander confirmed that the inhabitants of his building were to be taken out and killed, like all the other Jews. The doctor challenged him: “You will kill me, my family, and Székely Béla as well?” he asked. “Of course not,” answered the officer. Immediately, he gave the order to remove Jobbágyi’s house from the list of those to be liquidated. The order was obeyed, and the building’s inhabitants lived there safely until the city was liberated.
On January 7, 1998, Yad Vashem recognized György Jobbágyi as Righteous Among the Nations.
István Mózer, a resident of Budapest, had worked for many years at the Neumann bakery, in the city’s tenth district. He had begun as an apprentice to Mr. István Neumann, the bakery’s Jewish owner, and was eventually promoted to the position of head baker. After the German invasion of Hungary on March 1944, the building that housed the bakery was made into a yellow-star house. The Neumanns, as well as their relatives from the Frank, Erdős, Breuer and Schwarcz families, worked in the bakery in the yard of the house. By doing so, they continued to make a living and to support their families who remained without property and without income, following confiscation of Jewish property by the Hungarian government. When the Arrow Cross party rose to power in October 1944, life for Jews in the city became considerably more dangerous. Roundups of Jews living in the yellow-star houses took place regularly, and the murder of Jews in the street was a common occurrence. Those who were not killed were taken on death marches to the German Reich. In the month of November, Mózer decided to save the Neumann family. He prepared a hiding place in the basement of the bakery, in a tiny room – no more than a crawlspace, really – measuring three by eight meters, and only about one meter in height. The crawlspace, which was accessible from the bakery by a ladder, was unknown to all the bakery employees except for him. Mózer hid 13 people in this hiding place – members of the Neumann and Schwarcz families, their relatives, Emil Stern, a Jewish bakery worker, and Károly Kovács, another bakery employee – then camouflaged the entrance with a heavy roll-making machine. The fugitives remained in the hiding place all day, and only dared to come out at night, when they climbed the ladder into the bakery. Mózer provided them with food and all their other needs. Informers alerted the Arrow Cross party to the fact that Jews might be hidden in the bakery. However, although members of the Arrow Cross searched every centimeter of the premises, and even knocked on walls to see if there were empty spaces where Jews could hide, they never discovered the hiding place where Mózer had hidden 13 individuals. The fugitives escaped detection and lived to see the liberation, on January 10, 1945. Of those Jews saved by Mózer, Emil Stern immigrated to Israel after the war. Katalin Schwarcz discovered after the war that her husband had perished in a labor company on the Russian front in 1943. In 1946, she married István Mózer, the man who had rescued her and her family.
On July 26, 1998, Yad Vashem recognized István Mózer as Righteous Among the Nations.
In 1944, György Bobály was a police sergeant who was living at no. 40 Népszínház Street. On October 16, 1944, a day after the Szálasi take-over, the leftist population of the Népszínház Street neighborhood clashed with Arrow Cross men. During this event, Arrow Cross men together with policemen searched the yellow-star houses on Népszínház Street and herded the Jews outside. Some were shot immediately, while the rest were taken away. Nine Jews, including some young boys and girls, from the yellow-star house of no. 40 Népszínház Street, were able to hide in the storeroom in the back of Ferenc Wildstein’s grocer’s shop, which was in the same building. However, the shop’s Christian employee discovered them in the afternoon of the same day. Right away, he reported them to Police Sergeant Bobály, who was in charge of searching the house. Bobály, instead of bringing them out into the open, hid them in his own apartment. He further ordered the concierge of the building to bring them food. When the Jews wanted to reward Bobály, he refused. He claimed that it was his human duty to act the way he did. From among those who György saved, only six survived the Holocaust: Mrs. Géza Rottenberg, the widow, Mrs. Lipót Teichner, Miksa Storch and his wife and Ferenc Wildstein and his wife. In 1995, Bobály received the Golden Cross of Distinction of the Hungarian Republic for his action.
On August 2, 2000, Yad Vashem recognized György Bobály as Righteous Among the Nations.
Mrs. Béla Lajtai was a Jewish woman who operated a school of modern dance in Budapest. Elza Brandeisz was one of her students, who later became a teacher in the school as well as one of Lajtai’s close friends. During the aryanization of the Jewish businesses in the city, the school was registered under Brandeisz’s name so that the school would not be confiscated. Both Lajtai and Brandeisz continued to teach at the school until the city’s Jews were forced to leave their homes and relocate to specially designated yellow-star houses. When Lajtai entered the yellow-star house, Brandeisz helped her as much as she could, bringing her food, and even arranging a letter of protection through the Portuguese embassy, which she hoped would protect Lajtai from deportation. In the meantime, Brandeisz helped another Jew, Judit Baló, who was one of the students at the school. After the German invasion, Brandeisz arranged to have Baló hidden by a friend in the city of Győr. But Baló couldn’t stay there after the neighbors’ suspicions were aroused. Brandeisz hid Baló for many months in a summer house she owned in Balatonalmádi, near Lake Balaton. Through Baló, Brandeisz met Bözsi Soros, another Jewish woman from Budapest. As the danger to Budapest's Jews increased, Soros also came to Almádi and found refuge in Brandeisz’s summer house. In the meantime, Baló had moved on to another hiding place. Because Soros had forged papers identifying her as an Aryan, she was able to work as a clerk for the German army. Eventually, however, she aroused suspicion and was forced to flee. Brandeisz fled together with her and helped her for a number of months until the liberation. Brandeisz risked her life by helping Jews. She received no compensation for her activities. Soros’s son György, who for a short period also hid in Balatonalmádi, later wrote: “Brandeisz came from a believing Christian family, and it was her religious faith that motivated her to save Jews.” The survivors stayed in touch with Brandeisz for many years.
On November 12, 1995, Yad Vashem recognized Elza Brandeisz as Righteous Among the Nations.
After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, Illés Golopencza was served as an air-raid warden in charge of civil defense of a yellow-star house in Budapest. He treated the Jews in the building well, allowing them to leave the building beyond the designated hours, and turning a blind eye to those who managed to flee. After escapes, he even falsified the list of Jewish residents so that the authorities would not pursue the fugitives. After the Arrow Cross party rose to power in October 1944, gangs and police went from one yellow-star house to the next, arresting women and men of working age, and sending them on a death march to the German Reich. Golopencza allowed Jews to hide in the basement of the building, or in the International Red Cross hospital that was situated on the building’s first floor. In fact the hospital was no more than a sign on the door, but it provided a measure of security against those Arrow Cross members who believed the sign that the building belonged to the Red Cross. He refused to let Arrow Cross members conduct additional searches in order to transfer any remaining Jews to the central ghetto. He stood his ground, even when they threatened him by firing in the air. One of the Jews saved by Golopencza was Tamás Weisz, who was 11 years old at the time. He was hidden by Golopencza in the basement of the building between crates, under a large straw basket. During a search by the Arrow Cross, Golopencza sat on the basket, all the time coolly insisting that all the Jews were gone. Golopencza knew a young Jewish woman who had been taken from his building to the death march to the border. He followed the march and located this woman in Gönyű. He then helped her escape to Budapest and hid her in his home. After the war, they were married. Of the 260 Jews who lived in the building, 150 were saved thanks to Golopencza’s bravery.
On March 5, 1989, Yad Vashem recognized Illés Golopencza as Righteous Among the Nations.
Valéria Pál (Steiner) lived with her family in the city of Munkács. In February 1944, she traveled to Budapest to visit her sick brother, and in March 1944, the German army occupied Hungary. Pál could not return to Munkács, because it was forbidden for Jews to travel without special permits. All the members of her family in Munkács were sent to Auschwitz. Her brother died in Budapest some time after the beginning of the occupation. In the summer of 1944, Pál moved into a Yellow-Star House. She stayed there until a few weeks after the Arrow Cross Party came to power, when she was sent on a death march to the German Reich with other men and women of working age. Together with a group of Jews who had Swedish letters of protection, she returned to Budapest, and obtained false Aryan papers claiming that she was a refugee from Transylvania who had fled the advance of the Red Army. While in Budapest, Pál met Anna Kérői-Nagy. She gave Pál the address of her friends the Irsay family. Although the Irsays had never met Pál previously, Kérői-Nagy asked them if they would be willing to help her. Imre Irsay and his wife agreed to give Pál a place to hide for a few days. The family allowed Pál to stay on for a longer period however, because they understood the fate that awaited her if she attempted to survive on her own. The Irsays’ son, György, was an officer in the Hungarian army. He knew that his parents were harboring a Jew, and in order to reduce the chances of Pál being discovered, he hung a sign on the entrance door of their apartment, which read: “Here lives the first lieutenant of the Hussar unit in the Imperial Hungarian Army Irsay György de Irsa”. To Arrow Cross members who might be looking for hidden Jews, this sign would immediately indicate that the residents of the apartment were above suspicion, because the Irsays were a well-known aristocratic family, and the Hussars were the elite of the Hungarian army. The Irsay family hid Pál for more than three months. After the liberation of Buda in the middle of February, she returned to Munkács. Out of all the members of her family, only her son, and her daughter Zsuzsanna, returned from Auschwitz. After the war, György Irsay moved to Venezuela.
On January 31, 1994, Yad Vashem recognized Imre Irsay, his wife, and their son György, as Righteous Among the Nations.
Pál Lengyel was a policeman, who worked as a driver for the Budapest police force. After the Arrow Cross party rose to power, on October 1944, Lengyel used his uniform and his vehicle to save the lives of Jews, both those he had known previously, and others. István Grauer was a Jewish man and an acquaintance of Lengyel who had been drafted into a forced labor unit. When Grauer discovered that his wife and son had been taken from a yellow-star house to the Óbuda brickyard in preparation for deportation, he asked Lengyel for help. Wearing his police uniform and driving an official vehicle, Lengyel travelled to the brickyard and used false claims to have Mrs. Grauer and the son released. He then took them to a vehicle repair workshop in Sváb Hill, where Mr. Grauer’s unit was working. The wife and son were hidden in one of the workshop’s empty halls and their lives were saved. Lengyel also smuggled the father- and mother-in-law of Pál Lőrincz out of Budapest’s well-guarded main ghetto. In a police uniform, he took the couple out of the ghetto and brought them to a safe place. Ernő Vida was another Jew who was about to be sent to Germany. He managed to make contact with Lengyel, who arrived to “arrest” him and to “take him for investigation in police headquarters”. In fact, he smuggled Vida to a hiding place in Kispest, where his life was saved. Vida later recalled that the Lengyel was fearless and a man of daring.
On March 20, 1994, Yad Vashem recognized Pál Lengyel as Righteous Among the Nations.
Ferenc Lajos Szabó and Andor Szécsény were students at the Arany János Presbyterian Gymnasium in the provincial city of Nagykőrös. At the end of the 1930s, they were classmates of two Jewish girls, Erzsébet and Katalin Fodor. By 1943 the Fodor sisters had left Nagykőrös and were living in Budapest, where they renewed contact with their old classmates Szabó and Szécsény. During this period, Szécsény was a medical student. After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, Szabó was drafted into the army and was appointed economic director of the military hospital in the provincial city of Baja. The Fodor sisters were forced to move into a yellow-star house, but Szécsény, who had finished his studies and become a doctor, kept up the contact with them. When the Arrow Cross came to power in October 1944, the situation for Jews in the city took a drastic turn for the worse. Fearing for their lives, Katalin Fodor approached Szécsény and asked him to help her and her sister avoid deportation. Szécsény agreed, and smuggled the Fodor sisters out of the yellow-star house. With the help of his roommates, he transferred the two Jewish women secretly to his apartment through a window so as not to arouse suspicion. This was particularly dangerous because the apartment was located in Buda, near the king’s castle and the German embassy. When Szécsény received a draft notice, he was forced to find an alternative hiding place for the Fodor sisters. Wearing his army uniform, he accompanied the sisters to the train station and boarded the train with them, after receiving permission from the station commander to take “his fiancée” and her sister in the car designated for officers. Sitting in the officers’ car helped save the sisters’ lives, because if they had been checked by officials on the train it would have been discovered that they carried no identity documents. Szécsény traveled with the sisters to the provincial city of Szekszárd, where he arranged a hiding place for them in the gynecology department of a hospital where one of his good friends could be trusted to keep the secret. Thanks to this man, one of the Fodor sisters was admitted to the institution as a “patient.” The other was allowed to stay there to look after her “sick” sister. Eventually, suspicions arose as to the true identity of the sisters, and they were forced to leave. Without any advance notice, and carrying no documents, the two traveled to Baja and arrived on the doorstep of Szabó, their former classmate. Szabó took them in without hesitation, presenting them to the neighbors as relatives who had escaped from the approaching Soviet army. Szabó rented a room for the sisters and took care of all their needs, risking his own life, until the hospital in which he worked was evacuated from the area, two days before the liberation. After the war, Szécsény and Szabó renewed their contact with the Fodor sisters, and they remained in touch for many years. Szécsény went on to become a very well known surgeon.
On June 20, 1995, Yad Vashem recognized Andor Szécsény and Ferenc Lajos Szabó as Righteous Among the Nations.