"We didn’t do anything ... God did"

Ferenc & Teresa Bankuti
Cecilia Schindele

Hungary

Ferenc Bánkuti was the owner of a men’s clothing store in Budapest. Bánkuti had business connections with the Fränkel family, who owned a textile factory in Munkács. Hani Fränkel, her husband and son were living as refugees in Budapest  when the Germans invaded Hungary in March 1944. They turned to Bánkuti for help, and he promised to find them a place to hide through a friend. However, Hani never arrived at the meeting with Bánkuti and his friend. Three months later, when the Jews of Budapest were forced into houses marked with yellow stars and the threat of deportation hung over them, Fränkel approached Bánkuti again. Bánkuti and his wife Teréz took Fränkel to the home of his mother, Cecília Schindele. Schindele lived in Mór, a small town some 100 km away from Budapest. Bánkuti told his mother the truth about Fränkel’s Jewish identity, but he felt that he couldn’t trust his father, who had a tendency to drink, with the secret. Bánkuti therefore told his father, as well as the other members of the family, that Fränkel was a distant relative whose husband was a Hungarian soldier serving at the front. Schindele hid Fränkel in her home from June 1944 until the end of December 1944. It was not easy to hide a Jew in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, and where a new face immediately aroused curiosity. Hiding Fränkel was especially dangerous in light of the fact that most of the town’s residents were ardent supporters of the Nazis. The Bánkutis visited frequently from Budapest, bringing food and offering encouragement. In December 1944 Fränkel returned to Budapest. During the difficult period until the liberation of Pest in January 1945, Fränkel always found a hiding place with the Bánkutis when she needed a place to stay for a day or two. The Bánkutis refused to take any payment for their efforts. According to later testimony, they didn’t even want to be thanked, saying “We didn’t do anything - we didn’t help you, God did.”

On February 10, 1983, Yad Vashem recognized Ferenc and Teréz Bánkuti, and Celia Schindele as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

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Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.