The Maid Who Became A Rescuer

Erzsebet Fajo

Hungary

Erzsebet FajoErzsebet Fajo
Additional pictures

This is the story of Erzsebet Fajo who worked as a nursemaid for a Jewish family – a young woman of very modest circumstances, who, when the tides changed and the Jews became victims of brutal persecution, decided to fight for the survival of her employers, and demonstrated enormous courage and resourcefulness.

Erzsebet Fajo from Bekescsaba was only 13 years old when she had to leave school and go to work for the Abonyi family as a live-in nursemaid. Laszlo Abonyi owned a pharmacy, but was forced by the anti-Jewish measures of 1941 to sell his business and move to Budapest. Erzsi went along with the family.

After the German occupation in March 1944, the Abonyi family decided that it would be safer for Erzsi to live apart. Erzsi, however, continued to visit her employers, to help them, encourage them and instill them with hope. In order to prevent their valuables from falling into German hands, she moved their belongings to one of their relatives who was married to a Christian. When Lazslo Abonyi learned that his brother who had been conscripted into the labor battalions had disappeared on the Russian front, Erzsi became a source of encouragement and didn't allow the family to slip into despair.

A difficult moment was when the Jews of Budapest were ordered to wear a yellow star. Erzsi insisted to accompany the family whenever they stepped out of their home and insisted on purchasing all the necessities for them. She defied danger and despite the rumors of the imminent deportation of Budapest’s Jews, decided to move back in with the family. She obtained protective papers for them, and when Jews were being rounded up in order to march them to the Austrian border, she managed to smuggle the Abonyis out of their home, past the German and Hungarian guards. Her resolution to help her former employers didn't wane even in face of the brutal terror of the Arrow Cross. She continuously made sure that the family was secure, and when necessary, moved them to safer places.

Zsuzsanna Abonyi told Yad Vashem:

"Driven by the desire to save us, Erzsi defied the Germans. She saved us from death, saved my brother and me from becoming orphans and my parents from the worst anguish that can befall people – the loss of their children. It was her strength and heroism that gave us life, allowed us to grow up and eventually have children of our own."

After the war the Abonyis adopted Erzsi. They sent her to school so that she could complete her education and made sure that she got a third of their estate. Following the Hungarian revolution of 1956, Zsuzsanna left Hungary with her husband. They eventually settled in the United States, but maintained warm ties with Erzsi.

In 1986 Erzsebet Fajo was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

 

This online story was made possible with the support of:

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.