From the testimony of Zsuzsanna (Abonyi) Ozsvath, July 1985
Back in 1944 I had a big family. My mother had four sisters and one brother - all of whom were killed during the Holocaust. Her brother's son too was killed, but his daughter survived and has been living for the last thirty years in Israel. Also my father's brother and sister were killed. He in Russia, she in Bergen Belsen. Our family, my father Laszlo Abonyi, mother Margit nee Nagy, brother Ivan and I were rescued by Erzsi.....
Erzsi came to us as a thirteen-year-old nursemaid in October 1931. I was three months old, my brother two and a half years older. My parents left Yugoslavia in a hurry, wishing to rescue their capital from the Bank of Yugoslavia, a capital that was rumored to be confiscated since my parents were Hungarian nationals. At this point, in 1931, they purchased a pharmacy in Hungary in a small town Bekescsaba. Looking for someone to play with us my mother found Erzsi. As her parents were poor and needed her earnings, they wished her to drop out of school. She did so and moved in with us. We loved her deeply. As we grew older, my parents decided that we must learn German. Since they didn't want to let Erzsi go somewhere else, they placed her in our pharmacy. At the same time they employed a governess to teach us German. With the governess’ arrival, however, an ongoing battle ensued between us and our parents; Ivan and I were determined to get the governess out and Erzsi back again. This battle developed into a four year war; finally my parents gave in, and Erzsi came back to live with us as she did before. Soon after this, in 1941, my father felt compelled to sell his pharmacy....We sold it for half its price and moved to Budapest. Erzsi moved with us. Although she had her family living in Bekescsaba, she did not want to live without us, nor did we want to live without her. From September 1941 until March 19, 1944, Erzsi lived with us in Budapest XIV...during this time she worked in a bicycle shop that my father bought with the capital he got for the pharmacy.
With the Germans invading Hungary on March 19, 1944, my father decided that for the sake of all of us, Erzsi should leave our apartment. Indeed on this day she moved to one of her very best friends. But she visited us every day, vowing again and again that she would not let us be killed, that she would, no mater what it takes, rescue us. At this point my father felt already completely paralyzed by the disappearance of his only brother on the Russian front and the heart-rending rumors about Jewish fate in general. He was depressed to such degree that when I proposed suicide for the whole family, he did not oppose me. Erzsi, however, did. Talking incessantly about her rescue operation, she started to infuse my parents with hope. First of all, she decided that our things must not be stolen by the Germans (at this point we had to prepare long inventories of the things we owned - radios, jewelry, money and other valuables as well as our clothes, bathroom towels, and bed linen). While she hid our jewelry and money, she packed and mailed 15 huge boxes full with our valuables to my aunt (my uncle's wife who was a Christian). Of course it was a terribly dangerous task to get those boxes out of the house. We lived on the third floor of an apartment house, where the neighbors, three on each floor, knew both her and her relationship to us. Furthermore, she had to pass in front of the caretaker's apartment, a person who was in no mood to cover up for anything. Being a Nazi herself, she felt not only that Jews were dangerous, but also that it was her responsibility to unmask their activities. In addition, many people lived and worked in the street who might have found her conspicuous with her carrying packages during the daytime, while at night the streets were specked with Germans. Yet she was not afraid; she outsmarted the neighbors, bribed the caretaker, and defied the Nazis, showing my parents that she is determined to save us, a conviction that helped my father to overcome his horrible depression.
On April 5, 1944, as the decree promulgating the yellow star came into effect, she decided that we may not go without her anywhere. Indeed, from this day until the last days of the war she came with us whenever we had to leave the house. But I must say this didn't happen too often: she brought us food and everything else we needed, including books and music, games and toys, things she thought we might enjoy. Also, she spent much time with us, trying to figure out what do next. Fortunately our house did become a Jewish house in May 1944, so that we did not have to move. In fact, a family of four people moved in with us, and Erzsi helped both us and them to arrange things in the apartment. Also, it was during the month of May that she got us false papers. At the time she worked on a plan to place us with a family living in a small town near Budapest. In the last minute, however, this plan could not be realized. With other plans failing as well, the impending deportation on July 2, 1944, seemed suddenly unavoidable. As more plans collapsed, she arrived on July 1 in our house, determined to be deported with us. Although my parents violently opposed this plan, she stayed there for the day, just the same. I still can hear her cry: 'I don't want to live without you! If I cannot share life with you, I will share death!'. But then, we were not deported.… As you perhaps know, the Jews of Budapest were not deported to Auschwitz. In fact the situation changed a bit: it turned to the better during the summer of 1944 in Budapest. Of course it still was dangerous to stand in line, or be on the streetcar, or just walk on the streets; people were constantly apprehended by the Germans. We almost never went out. Erzsi came to us every day, bringing food and everything else that was necessary. She also kept our spirit alive by bringing good news and promising my parents every day that she would not let us be snatched by the Germans, that she would save us, live or die with us.
As the Russians arrived in East Hungary in early October 1944, we thought that we shall be rescued soon. But we were not. As you know, after Horthy's capitulation, the Hungarian National Socialists took over and the massacres started again. Rounding up my father on October 19, they marched him to a camp near Budapest. A few days later Erzsi managed to get him a letter of protection from the Red Cross. The letter reached him, he returned for a few days, but then he had to go back. In the meantime Erzsi, visiting us every day, started to accumulate canned goods for us for she was afraid of the blockage of Budapest, a state that, in fact, hit the city in December. (While we did not use those cans until our liberation, without them, we could not have survived during the months of January and February 1945, for we were sick having typhus, etc.) In the early November days the concentration camp where my father was got dissolved, its prisoners marched to Western Hungary and from there to Austria, a march on which most of the trekkers died. My father escaped and came back to our apartment on the Abonyi Street. (We still lived there, visited by Erzsi every day). We were together no longer than for a few days, when we noticed from the window that the Nazis started to evacuate the Jews from Abonyi street 8, the neighbor house. Also we saw that they started to gather in front of our house. I still don't know how it happened, but Erzsi appeared, fighting her way through throngs of people, getting to us, and managing somehow to drag us away from the house. It was November 17, 1944. The streets were replete with posts, guards, soldiers, Nazis, Germans demanding that people show their identification papers. If Jews were caught, they were either marched to Jewish groups rounded up in the Jewish houses, or, in many cases, shot on sight. Running with us from house to house, she found a deserted pharmacy whose owner allowed us to spend the night there. During the course of the next day she managed to get a letter of protection, this time from the Vatican legation. While she stood in line there, however, Germans came and shot into the crowds, killing and wounding many people; in addition, many were arrested. Erzsi stood in line; she wouldn’t budge. And the Germans never got to her. With the letter in hand, she took us to a so-called Vatican House that was located on the corner of Abonyi and Arena streets. In spite of the deadly danger she was confronted with, here too, she visited us every day, bringing whatever she could. By this time she moved back to our apartment on Abonyi Street, becoming even more available to us.
On December 3, 1944, however, the Vatican House was dissolved. My brother and I were taken to the ghetto. Erzsi, who appeared immediately as the Nazis started to evacuate the house, found out that it is better if my parents let us go for we will be taken to the ghetto, while my father, unless he managed to stay in bed and gain a few hours was in the building, will be marched to Western Hungary. 'And as you know, from there not too many people will come home', the kind and warm-hearted policeman told Erzsi. It was the same policeman who allowed my mother to stay there with my father. They stayed, we left. During the next few hours Erzsi managed to get my father a Swedish passport and take him to a Swedish protected house, and my mother to her cousin. (The Nazis came back that night and shot every Jew they found in the house.) Two days later she entered the ghetto. Running from house to house she located me and Ivan, and with false papers in her hand, she got us through all the posts guarding the ghetto. Had she been caught, she would have been executed.
During the fall and winter of 1944 the Hungarian National Socialists and the Germans ran amok in the streets of Budapest, beating, plundering, and killing thousands of people publicly. Yet from the time she rescued us from the ghetto, December 5 until December 23, Erzsi took me to five different places, four of which I had to leave in panic: I was in a Red Cross children’s home (suddenly dissolved), in a convent (with false papers, but then becoming suspect as I started to speak about my experiences in the ghetto), in a Swedish House (dissolved), in an apartment house on the riverside (a place where I was left by myself for days; its owner left for Germany after having accepted a diamond bracelet from Erzsi). On December 23, she came to get me and take me to the Red Cross Hospital, where my parents hid. Founding the right connections, she obtained the appropriate papers for me. During this time period (December 5-23) she moved my parents twice and my brother three times. In addition she visited us as often as she could.
As we were miles and miles apart from each other, and she from all of us, and Budapest was under a complete siege, shelled and bombed for 24 hours a day, without public transportation, she usually came on foot, in snow or freezing rain, running from house to house, seeking protection from the incessant bombardment. On December 23 she took Ivan to live with her to our former apartment and me to the Hospital in the Kisfaludy Street. Ivan, however, was recognized by the caretaker on January 2, 1945, so that Erzsi felt she had to take him away from there immediately. Getting papers for him, she took Ivan to the same Hospital where I and our parents hid. On this day, Budapest was under its most severe bombardment. Ivan and Erzsi ran, crawled and groped their way there, starting out at 8:00 in the morning and arriving at 8:00 at night. Had they been caught, Ivan's identity could have been clarified in a moment. They would have been shot, both of them, on sight....As they arrived on January 2 in the Kisfaludy Street, her hands were trembling, and I noticed, to my greatest consternation, that she was terribly sick. During this night she did not return to the Abonyi Street. She stayed there with us at the Red Cross Hosptial; for the first time in months, the family was together....The next day she went home. On January 17 we were liberated. Since we were very sick, it took us a whole day to get home. As we arrived, she was waiting for us outside. Although our apartment was not destroyed, we were crying in Erzsi's arms for months, and I still am crying there since that time.
Driven by the desire to save us, Erzsi defied the Germans. She rescued us from death, rescued my brother and me from becoming orphans and my parents from the worst anguish that can befall people from losing their children. It was her strength and heroism that gave us life, allowed us to grow up, and eventually, to have children on our own.
It was her love that has contributed to Jewish life on earth.
I believe that Erzsi is a true hero of the Holocaust.