‘Be Careful You Don’t Get Dirty’

The Fellowship  |  August 14, 2019

Father Jacob Raile
Father Jacob Raile

Jacob Raile


A Hungarian Christian, Jacob Raile became a Jesuit even before the First World War, long running a monastery in Budapest. So when the Nazi-aligned fascist group The Arrow Cross began rounding up and deporting Hungarian Jews during World War II, Father Raile was able to act, and quick to do so.

Father Jacob used his monastery as a hiding place for at least 150 Hungarian Jews who faced certain death. And during the time he sheltered them, the kindly man was a father figure for them, as well.

Gangs of Arrow Cross fascists routinely came to the door of the monastery, sure that they would find Jews hidden inside. Father Jacob would stand in the doorway, arguing with the Nazi sympathizers, until the Jews inside had time to hide. Once, when the thugs indeed entered the holy building, Father Jacob led them around, at last entering the coal cellar where Jews were hiding on top of the monastery’s heating coal and hidden under a blanket. The Jesuit remained calm, however, flipping off the light and warning the fascists, “There is only coal here, be careful you don’t get dirty.

The Jews inside Father Jacob’s monastery weren’t the only ones he helped. He also sheltered those who refused to join the Arrow Cross, as well as those Jews who were unable to escape the Budapest ghetto where they were held until deportation and execution. Father Jacob would sneak into the ghetto, not just giving the Jews inside food and medicine, but giving them baptism certificates which would allow them to escape. Even as the city came under constant bombardment, Father Jacob could be seen in the streets, scavenging for food to feed his hidden Jews.

But even when the Nazis and their ilk were defeated, Budapest did not become safe. The Communists took over Hungary, which led Father Jacob to move to the United States, where he taught German at a Boston high school. Sadly, this Righteous Gentile was killed in a car accident in the U.S. But his actions did not go unnoticed — Father Jacob Raile was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1991, an honor that was also added to his gravestone.