While the Nazis wiped out much of European Jewry early on during World War II, the horrors of the Holocaust arrived in Hungary quite late, in 1944. As the Nazis and their collaborators rounded up, deported, and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, there were those who risked everything to save their Jewish brothers and sisters. One of these brave souls was a Lutheran minister, Dr. Gabor Sztehlo.
Dr. Sztehlo ran 32 “Good Shepherd” residences in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. These homes were meant to provide protection for Protestand children, but Dr. Sztehlo used them to help others. He opened the homes up as places of refuge for Jewish children and adults.
Each of the residences were in private homes where the owners had agreed to help the Red Cross. Dr. Sztehlo oversaw each of these homes — including his own home which sheltered 33 Jews — helping finance them and helping protect the people sheltered in them.
Protection was key, as Nazis and Hungarian Arrow Cross thugs routinely searched the homes looking for hidden Jews. Dr. Sztehlo himself heroically saved many during these invasive searches. He also provided Jewish children with falsified Aryan identification papers and had them act the part.
In December of 1944, many of the children were rounded up and taken to the city’s main ghetto. Dr. Sztehlo then snuck into the ghetto and smuggled the children back out, saving their lives.
Even after the liberation of Hungary, Dr. Sztehlo continued to help the Jewish children who had been left with nothing. He took care of them until family could be found or they were taken in by Jewish refugee groups.
Gabor Sztehlo died in 1974 in Switzerland, after Yad Vashem had named him Righteous Among the Nations two years earlier, in 1972. But his legacy lives on, as the children he saved established the Children of Sztehlo organization to honor the memory of this man who not only saved their lives, but their faith in mankind, as well.Tags: Advocates and Allies