A Champion Swimmer, an Artist, and a Righteous Gentile

The Fellowship  |  February 16, 2021

Margit Mallasz
Margit Mallasz

Born in Yugoslavia to Hungarian parents, Margit Mallasz studied art in Budapest. There, she also excelled as a swimmer. The Hungarian champion at the backstroke in 1926, Margit also won a gold medal in the 4×100 freestyle relay at the 1931 European Championships.

An Artist and Friend of the Jewish People

But her talent as an artist put Margit Mallasz in the position to save lives. In 1943, before the Nazis had invaded Hungary, Margit joined an art studio run by three Jewish artists, Lili Strausz, Hanna Dallos, and Hannah’s husband, Joseph Kreutzer. The next year, as the Germans occupied the country, their art and happy lives came to an end.

The Nazis arrested Joseph, who they never saw again. Margit Mallasz met a priest who hid Jewish women in a workshop that sewed military uniforms. Margit agreed to run the workshop, and brought her friends Lili and Hanna along.

A Workshop of Freedom

The workshop employed Jewish women, saving their lives in the process. Margit also sneaked others – including the women’s children – into the workshop, saving their lives, as well.

Later in 1944, the dreaded Arrow Cross took over the anti-Jewish activities in Hungary, killing Jews in the streets and making the workshop an even more dangerous place.

The Arrow Cross invaded the workshop one time. Margit delayed their search, letting some of the women escape. Those caught were freed thanks to the kindly priest’s help.

But the Nazis’ killers stormed the building a second time. Margit had made a small hole in a wall ahead of time, and she argued with the murderers long enough that all but 16 of the women crawled out to safety. Sadly, two of those caught and murdered included Margit’s friends, Hanna and Lili. One of the women survived Ravensbruck concentration camp and helped Yad Vashem learn of Margit’s heroism, for which she earned the title Righteous Among the Nations.

Margit Mallasz moved to France in 1960, where she lived until the age of 85, a true Righteous Gentile and friend of the Jewish people.