In the summer of 1944, protection documents were issued to Budapest Jews by diplomatic personnel working out of the embassies of Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Vatican, and the International Red Cross. In theory, these documents--letters and passports--protected the holder from deportation. Faked documents were also produced in great number by private individuals. This document asserts that the holder, Dr Gabriel Wiesel, is working for the International Red Cross Hungarian delegation, and is therefore protected by the IRC Committee.
Description: In the summer of 1944, protection documents were issued to Budapest Jews by diplomatic personnel working out of the embassies of Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Vatican, and the International Red Cross. In theory, these documents--letters and passports--protected the holder from deportation. Faked documents were also produced in great number by private individuals. This document asserts that the holder, Dr Gabriel Wiesel, is working for the International Red Cross Hungarian delegation, and is therefore protected by the IRC Committee.
Story: Mrs. I. Lóránt, interviewed in 2004 for the Centropa Archive, on the yellow-star house where she lived at István Road 20, in Budapest's 7th district.
"In June 1944, we moved from Munkás Street to the yellow-star house. We had to leave our apartment by 10 pm. Whoever couldn’t find a place to live, the congregation tried to find them a place in one of the yellow-star houses, in other words an apartment. We got up at dawn, got dressed, and then a car came for us, and then we came here, to the yellow-star house at István Road 20, on the fourth floor, no. 50-51. I should also mention our concierge, a lady around 57 years of age, she was a fragile woman who took on a 5-story house with 60 apartments during the war years, and so she had lots to do as concierge. It is thanks to her, Auntie Margit Keszte, that the affairs of the entire house were sorted out, and so we never had any problems, and there were so many of us living there. Lots of families lived in those 60 apartments, at least 300 of us. There were many old people and families too.
I am amazed that this fragile little woman managed to do so much, and led the house in such a smart way, at the price of numerous battles. It wasn’t enough for Auntie Margit to look after us, she also had to conceal one of the residents, who was an actual baron, and who produced protection letters on the quiet. They lived on the third floor. He produced them there, there were people hanging off the door-handle, you couldn’t even close the door before the next person arrived. He produced these protection passports and letters not only for the residents, but for others outside the house too. The blinds were pulled down, and all the decent left-wing people met there, that’s where they held meetings. The baron belonged to Wallenberg’s group, and after the war, he had to leave Hungary immediately, without his family, otherwise they would have taken him away. So a few months after we came home in 1945, he left without his family. Auntie Margit’s son Lajos, who was a cabinet-maker, made a large three-door wardrobe. You could go through a wallpapered attic door into the fifth-floor apartment. And that’s where they placed the large, heavy, three-door wardrobe. They stuffed heavy rags underneath it, and Lajos fixed it so the back panel could be opened. So you could go through the wardrobe. He opened the wardrobe, at the back they removed the panel, so food could be handed over. That’s where we hid when the Arrow Cross came. The children in the house really loved Auntie Margit, and we always hung around her apartment. We had to accompany residents up the stairs so that the elevator wouldn’t break down. We were all given tasks. In 1944, I already had an elevator operator’s certificate, because Auntie Margit taught us how to work the elevator so that we wouldn’t have to call the mechanic out so often. We accompanied everyone upstairs and then called the elevator down. But Auntie Margit herself was given orders when the Arrow Cross came, when she looked around and said, children, into the elevator. Underneath the elevator was a 1.5 meter high box which went down into the elevator shaft. The back of the box had been taken out so we children could be sat in there. They said: this elevator is moving slow. We were suffocating but shut our mouths so that nobody noticed anything. I have to say, you didn’t have to think, for the whole time there you just acted on instinct. There was always a young Wehrmacht soldier standing at the front gate, whom we called Matyi. He just stood there, not admitting any strangers, I don’t know what his orders were. When we came back, we looked for him and were told that soon after we were taken away, he had to leave too, and he fell in the siege of Budapest. I was really sorry for him, because he was only 21. And he was such a nice boy. Diligently, he came to work every day and stood there from morning until night, and no Arrow Cross people could enter."
From the Centropa archive.