The Holocaust ensured that generations of Jewish families that might have been, never would be. Yet some did survive against monumental odds, often with the help of selfless individuals who risked their own lives to save others. One such story is told through many voices in Marta Fuchs' haunting new memoir, Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute. The book is a poignant yet uplifting tribute to the bravery of Jews like her parents as well as a man named Zoltán Kubinyi, a Seventh Day Adventist and Hungarian army officer who saved over 100 Jewish men - including Fuchs' father, Morton (Miksa) Fuchs - under his command in a forced labor battalion during World War II.
As the Germans were retreating towards the end of the war, Kubinyi was ordered to send his men from the Briansk Forest in Russia to a concentration camp in Germany. Defying this order, he marched them back into Hungary, arranging to have them hidden in farmhouses along the way. Although he succeeded in rescuing those men, he himself was taken as a POW by the liberating Russian Army. He died a year later from typhus in a Siberian labor camp, leaving behind a young wife and infant son in Budapest.
The compelling testimonies relayed in Legacy of Rescue include:
Morton Fuchs' personal accounts of his dangerous experiences as a forced laborer, his dramatic escape and his attempts to rebuild a shattered life devoid of family
First-person accounts of the author's mother and aunts who were deported to Auschwitz (their parents sent directly to the gas chambers)
The courageous efforts of Zoltán Kubinyi to save his Jewish battalion from the Nazis, at great personal risk
The posthumous honoring of Kubinyi in 1990 as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem
How the story of the rescue came full circle in 2011, when the author and her brother took their children back to Hungary to meet the rescuer's family
Three generations' voices enriching the narrative and illustrating the intergenerational impact of one man's selfless heroism
Born in Hungary, after the war, into the remnants of the virtually destroyed Hungarian Jewish community, Fuchs escaped to America at age 6-1/2 with her family in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Her childhood recollections of the escape are included in the book, as are her father's.
"My father, who died in 2000, was such a wonderful man," says Fuchs. "Despite all he lived through, he wasn't bitter. He was a devout religious man saved by another devout religious man. Everyone gravitated to my father throughout his life. This book is a testament to both him and his rescuer, men cut from the same cloth of goodness."
She adds, "People ask me how there can be an uplifting book about the Holocaust. My stories speak from the heart, celebrating kindness, courage, and doing the right thing. All of us can make a difference in everyday life. There are lessons to be learned from the past that are relevant today."
Marta Fuchs, MLS, MFT was born in Hungary, and escaped to America at age 6-1/2 with her family after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. She holds a BA in Linguistics and an MA in Library Science, both from UC Berkeley, and an MA in Clinical Psychology from JFK University. She is Director of Library Services at Drew School in San Francisco, CA and a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Albany, CA. With her brother Henry, she co-authored the multigenerational extended family memoir, Fragments of a Family: Remembering Hungary, the Holocaust, and Emigration to a New World.
Fuchs speaks publicly about her family's Holocaust experiences, has been featured in newspapers and on television, and has published numerous articles in national and international journals. She has also provided clinical training in workshops and conferences to other health care providers working with Holocaust survivors and their families.
Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute
Author: Marta Fuchs
Question: Why was it important you write this tribute?
Marta Fuchs: I wrote the book in honor of what would have been my father's 100th birthday, in order to express my gratitude to him and his rescuer, two men cut from the same cloth of goodness. My father was the sole survivor of his family; his three older siblings and all their children killed in Auschwitz. He, along with over 100 other Jewish men, would not have survived had it not been for the compassion and courage of Zoltán Kubinyi, who died in captivity in Siberia and was buried in an unmarked grave.
I feel that it's important to honor those who have risked their lives to save others. They are models who show us and inspire us to find our own courage to do the right thing, especially when it may not be popular.
Question: What research did you do on Zoltán Kubinyi?
Marta Fuchs: It was a combination of interviews with my father, reading the correspondence he later had with the rescuer's son once I was able to locate him through researching phone books in Hungary with the help of a friend. I also did library research in the city of Balassagyarmát, where my father and his labor battalion were liberated by the Russian Army, and spoke with the local historian who had written a book about the history of the city's Jews and their fate.
Most moving was meeting and talking extensively with the rescuer's son in Hungary on two occasions. He was just an infant when his father went off to war. What he knew about his father was from my father and a few other labor camp men. On our last visit with him in 2011, my brother and I took our children so they, too, could meet him and his family, including his granddaughters - the great-grandchildren of Zoltán Kubinyi. Sadly, the son passed away a few months ago, having had a hard life as a fatherless child, working from age 14 to support both his mother and himself. She had passed away a couple years before we found him, praying 'til the end of her days for her husband to return despite hearing word of his death a year after being taken as a POW by the Russians.
Question: Was it difficult writing down the experiences?
Marta Fuchs: I was incredibly fortunate that my father was so forthcoming with all the details. Against the backdrop of brutality and devastating losses, the story of Zoltán Kubinyi was a respite for me. He embodies the goodness that I need to latch on to in order to mitigate knowing about the suffering and tragedy that befell my family and the near destruction of European Jewry. He is the light amidst devastating darkness and I hold him in my heart along with my father, who passed away in 2000.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute?
Marta Fuchs: Each one of us can make a difference in everyday life.
It's important to recognise and honor the integrity and humanity of others.
We must find our own courage to speak up for what we believe.
We are all one, regardless of differences, and we all have a responsibility to each other, to counter apathy and indifference with courage to act to help one another.
"The time is always right to do what is right." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Question: Are you working on another novel?
Marta Fuchs: Yes, I'd like to share additional stories of survival and acts of kindness from my immediate and extended family. My brother and I were lucky to have had a chance to interview them in the 1990s before they passed away.
I'm also planning to pursue a film project based on Legacy of Rescue. I've already cast it in my dreams! Ralph Fiennes as my father's rescuer, Martin Landau as my father, and Rachel Weisz or Julianna Margulies as me. Both, I've recently discovered, actually come from Hungarian Jewish families.
Interview by Brooke Hunter