Besides working like a madman to get ready for the start of the new year with a clean slate, and occasionally making it to Chanukah or Christmas markets to indulge myself with mulled wine or a few bites selected from various cuisine of the most various cultures, a totally unexpected and a, most likely, life-altering experience happened to me…
I was recently invited to Join the family of my very best friend, Balázs (who made some beautiful photos on M&H website), for a very special event. For quite some time, Balázs’ mother had been secretly working on bringing the story of her parents as a present for the entire family. Balázs was not at all aware of it. Knowing my obsession with culture, history and Budapest stories, she invited me to share this experience with them. And I am most grateful for, honoured and touched by it.
The late grandparents of Balázs were recognized as Righteous Gentiles for having taken risks to help Jews during the Holocaust. Their names were added to the Wall of Honour in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Here is the text from the Yad Vashem – Righteous among the Nations booklet:
Saviors: Károly Debreczeni and wife Klára Sladsky
Saved: István Füredy MD and wife; daughters Zsuzsa (Drexler Susan) and Sarolta; Miksa Füredy
István Füredy MD regarded himself to be a Jewish Hungarian. Károly Debreczeni was a practicing catholic, who lived next door to the Füredys, but there was no deep friendship between the two families. Deep down in his heart Debreczeni truly disagreed with the Jewish Laws, and he offered the Füredy family to hide in their home. So happened that the doctor and his family found a refuge in the maid’s room of their neighbors. Klára Sladsky gave her papers to Mrs. Füredy, and she managed to get false papers to Zsuzsa. Then mother and daughter were taken to the city of Pécs on the countryside and introduced as the survivals of the bomb attacks from Budapest. Károly Debreczeni later took the parents to their home as well. Being afraid that the two women would be captured in Pécs, he brought them back to Budapest, and hid them in the same flat a few days later. Due to the act of Károly Debreczeni and Klára Sladsky they all survived the Holocaust.
The award was given to 17 families, to Zsuzsa, the daughter of Károly and Klára by Her Excellency Aliza Bin-Noun, the Ambassador of Israel to Hungary, and by Dr. Sándor Pintér Minister of the Interior of Hungary on a very beautiful celebration, followed by a concert by the Budafok Dohnányi Orchestra and Sharon Rostorf opera singer from Israel.
The whole evening was breathtaking and very emotional, with some of the survivors coming back after so many years to celebrate together with the saviours. There were great personalities and interesting stories all around. But later as we were alone with the Debreczeni family, the mother told us the story; How she learned about it from Susan Drexler, who proposed the parents to the award, and also how she came across old photos and memoirs that now made sense, in their real, full context. I read the original diary that Klára Sladsky was writing in an air raid shelter during the bombing (that lasted over 100 days), with careful words referring to some guests over Christmas, food portions tricks, lying when the raids by Arrow Cross party and German troops came.
No words can describe that period. My words are surely too simple to describe the emotions, the surprise and the greatness that was shared… And, of course, the question if we would have done the same had we been in their place…
Thanks to Csaba for sharing this moving experience with us!