RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

GLOBAL MURAL PROJECT

Tibor Baranski, Clara Ambrus, and Sister Margit Slachta

our local heros

Tibor Baranski, Clara Ambrus, and Sister Margit Slachta – each honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations – will be honored in the new outdoor mural this month at Roswell Park. All three of these heroes, settled in WNY after risking their lives to save Hungarian Jews from Nazi murderers during the Holocaust.

Global Mural Project - Tibor Baranski

Tibor Baranski

Tibor Baranski is credited with saving more than 3,000 Jewish lives as a young seminary student with the help of Monsignor Angelo Rotta, Hungary’s Papal Nuncio. In 1944 Tibor was a young theology student studying for the priesthood. The 22-year-old Budapest cleric saw it as his religious duty to aid Jews being persecuted and killed by the Nazis in his homeland. Driving to roundups in the Papal Nuncio’s Rolls Royce, the young rebel pretended to be a direct representative of the Pope, bluffing his way past guards, and flashing official-looking papers, and pulling Jews from Nazi execution lines and trains heading for death camps. He also helped set up safe houses and printed fake documents for Jews that enabled them to flee the country. Tibor continued his rescue work to the end of the war, even delivering fake documents to Jews on death marches. He dedicated and risked his life, after which he barely survived a death march after being captured by Soviets in 1945. He then fled Hungary for Italy during the 1956 revolution, where he eventually left the priesthood and married his wife, Katalin. Together they moved to the US, settling in Buffalo where Katalin was a researcher and doctor at Roswell Park. On January 11, 1979, The State of Israel through Yad Vashem recognized Tibor Baranski as Righteous Among the Nation for risking his life to save thousands of Jews. Tibor lived in Buffalo until his death in 2019.

Global Mural Project - Clara Ambrus

Clara Ambrus

During her first year of medical school in Hungary, Clara Ambrus bribed guards at both camps and ghettos in Nazi occupied Hungary to release Jewish prisoners who were hidden and cared for by her family until the end of WWII. She received the Courage of Care Award from the Anti-Defamation League in 2008. She was declared a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Science in Hungary and was named by the Pope as a Lady Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. For her bravery during the Holocaust, Clara was named Righteous Among the Nations by The State of Israel on January 29, 2006.

On October 15, 1944, the Arrow Cross Fascist movement seized power and instituted a reign of terror in Budapest. Hundreds of Jews were shot in the streets and on the banks of the Danube; others were drafted for brutal forced labor. It was during this period that Clara and Alexander Szirmai, two young Christian medical students at the Budapest university, joined forces to save Jews. Eva Klein (Fisher) and Clara had been friends since they were teenagers. When her friend turned to her, Clara did not hesitate and hid her in her home. She then gave Eva her identity card so that she would be able to leave Budapest, but Eva did not want to leave her family behind. Eventually Clara hid Eva’s entire family in the attic and cellar of a factory building with the aid of Alexander Szirmai. Other Jews found refuge in the same place and the two rescuers helped all of them with hideouts and false papers. That year, Clara married Julian, a fellow medical student. In the mid 1950’s the couple emigrated to the United States and settled in Buffalo. Dr. Clara Ambrus was a professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Buffalo and received many professional honors. Both Julian and Clara were celebrated physicians at Roswell Park, Juian as the longtime director of cancer research. Clara and Julian Ambrus were married for 70 years before both passed away in Buffalo; Clara died in a house fire in 2011 (age 86) and Julian died in 2020 (age 95).

Global Mural Project - Sister Margit

Sister Margit Slachta

Sister Margit Slachta, a champion of human rights, formed the Union of Catholic Women and the Sisters of Social Services which was well-known all over Hungary for nursing, midwifery, and orphanage services. When the first anti-Jewish laws were passed in Hungary in 1938, Sister Slachta published articles opposing anti-Jewish measures in her newspaper, The Voice of Spirit. She worked tirelessly to spare Jews from deportation, sent food and supplies for the Jewish ghettos and sheltered people in convents. Through her efforts with the Church, it is estimated that she helped to rescue more than 2,000 Hungarian Jews.

Margit Slachta was born in Kassa, Hungary in 1884. As a young woman she earned a secondary education degree in German and French languages from a Catholic training school in Budapest. There she met a Hungarian activist, who instilled in her a concern for the condition of working women and children. Margit then formed the Union of Catholic Women that promoted the female franchise. In 1920, Slachta was the first woman to be elected to the Hungarian Parliament where most of her speeches focused on the condition of women and children. Widely known throughout Hungary for her political successes, her broadly based sympathies placed her on the left of the political spectrum, particularly during the war. Self-confident and strong, she relied not only on her community, but also on Hungarian women in high places to accomplish her objectives. Margit’s political activism, however, was inspired by a desire for spiritual growth and to serve the greater glory of God, rather than political power. She joined the Society of the Social Mission and under her leadership became the Sisters of Social Service in Budapest.

In 1944, the Nazis invaded and occupied Hungary, deporting and murdering more than half of the Hungarian Jews. At that time, Sister Margit was a young Hungarian nun and political activist. Leading the Sisters of the Social Service, she rejected anti-Jewish edicts and hid Jewish women and children in her convent. She dressed the women in standard gray habits, equipped them with fake documents, and put them to work at various jobs so as not to arouse suspicion. After the war, Sister Margit emigrated to the US and called WNY home until she died in 1974. One individual whom Sister Margit saved, Dr. Gabor Markus, also ended up in Buffalo and was a doctor and researcher at Roswell Park. On February 18, 1969, The State of Israel through Yad Vashem awarded Sister Margit Slachta as Righteous Among the Nations.

Location

The mural is located on the eastern wall of the Research Studies Center Auditorium at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. This location was chosen because of its street view and proximity to the main entrance of Roswell, and because Katalin Baranski (Tibor’s wife) and Clara and Julian Ambrus were researchers at Roswell.

artists

Young muralist, TakerOne, from Budapest painted the mural. The selection of a Hungarian artist is an important connection for our project.

COMMUNITY PARTNERS and Generous Donors:

  • Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • SENATOR TIM KENNEDY
  • AMBRUS FAMILY
  • BARANSKI/FORGACH FAMILY
  • BUFFALO JEWISH FEDERATION

TIMELINE:

Installation was completed at the end of April.
The mural ribbon cutting took place on Sunday, May 5 in conjunction with the Yom HaShoah Commemoration.

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Contact

E-mail:
lauren@buffalojewishfederation.org
Phone:
716-463-5072
Address:
338 Harris Hill Road, Suite 108B
Williamsville, NY 14221