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Mari Sved testimony

  • Mari Sved

I and many members of my family owe our lives to your uncle. My parents, grandmother, aunt and cousin were amongst those collected from Ulloi utca on the night of 7 January 1945 and brought back from a house near the Danube through the help of his office. My uncle, Laszló Kelemen (he is mentioned in a letter, dated 8 December 1944, from Raoul Wallenberg to Kalman Lauer) was working in the office and was not among those taken. Irén, his wife, who was born a Catholic but converted to Judaism in 1942 in order to marry him, stepped out of the line with me on her arm and was allowed to go and present her Christian papers to a commandant. She and I got back to the house eventually, but later than the cohort – all the family were, by then, worried sick about us.

In 1948 my mother died and László Kelemen and Irén legally adopted me. We left the country together in 1956. Unlike many survivors, Irén spoke constantly, right up to her death in 2002, of the holocaust and ‘Wallenberg’ was to me the name of a legendary hero. She never let us forget what a debt of gratitude we owed him.

It was only as I grew older that I realised that he was a real person, a young man of extraordinary compassion and bravery, and began to appreciate what his family must have suffered since his disappearance.

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