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Diary of Maria Madi

Madi Medical Care
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Hungary aligned itself closely with Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The Hungarian state benefited from the Nazi regime's territorial aggressions during the late 1930s and early 1940s, gaining lands at the expense of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Hungary officially joined the Axis alliance in 1940, and Hungarian troops participated in the German-led invasions of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1941.1 

Between 1938 and 1941, the Hungarian government enacted antisemitic racial policies based on Nazi Germany's Nuremberg Laws. These laws defined Hungarian Jews along racial lines, banned marriages between Jewish and non-Jewish Hungarians, excluded Jews from the Hungarian civil service, and restricted Jews' professional opportunities. Forced labor battalions under the authority of the Hungarian military drafted Jewish men for physical labor in dangerous and often deadly conditions.2

These pages from the diary of Dr. Maria Madi describe her internal struggle with her response to the persecution of a Jewish colleague at a clinic in Budapest.3 Madi, a non-Jewish Hungarian doctor, was disturbed by the plight of her many Jewish acquaintances, colleagues, and friends. The situation of Hungarian Jews dramatically deteriorated after Germany invaded the country in March 1944 and organized, together with Hungarian authorities, mass deportations to Auschwitz and other camps.4 

The month after the German invasion, Madi was assigned to work in an outpatient clinic operated by the Hungarian National Social Security Institute (Országos Társadalombiztosító Intézet, or OTI). One of the ward's two physicians had been drafted into the Hungarian military, and she was appointed to act as his temporary replacement. Two months later, however, the Jewish female doctor working with her was summarily removed from her post, and Madi became the only doctor working in the ward. 

When her non-Jewish male colleague returned from military service in October 1944, Madi suddenly found herself filling the vacant position left by the removal of her Jewish colleague. In these pages from her diary, she records her internal struggles with the issue. She seems to rationalize her situation by observing that the community needed a physician and she herself needed a job. On the other hand, she worries about becoming complicit in the persecution of Jews by personally benefiting from the situation. Although Madi began to realize that she was witnessing the attempted annihilation of Hungarian Jewry, in this segment of the diary she tells herself that her Jewish colleague will simply resume her post when she returns.5 

Weeks later, Madi began to hide a Jewish friend, Irene Lakos, and her young nephew, Alfred. Although her diary entries reveal her impatience with Alfred and occasionally display evidence of antisemitic prejudice, she risked her life in order to protect them. They all survived the war, and Madi immigrated to the United States, where she worked as a psychiatrist. She was posthumously named "Righteous Among Nations" by Yad Vashem in 2015 for her part in rescuing the Lakos family.

For more on Hungarian foreign policy and World War II, see Deborah S. Cornelius, Hungary in World War II: Caught in the Cauldron (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011).

For more on Hungarian Jewish forced labor battalions in Experiencing History: Holocaust Sources in Context, see the Page from the Wartime Album of George Byfield. For more on antisemitic Hungarian legislation and the Holocaust in Hungary, see Randolph Braham, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press).

Madi began keeping her diary in December 1941 after American entry into the war prevented her from writing directly to her daughter, Hilda, who was living in the United States. She had planned to immigrate to the US to join Hilda and her family before the war interrupted her plans. Madi did not think her American grandchildren should learn Hungarian, so she wrote her diary in English so they would be able to read it. For more on Maria Madi and her unique diary, see the short video I Am Going to Be a Witness: Maria Madi's Diary. To view the entire diary online, see the Maria Madi diaries in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Within months, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were forced into ghettos and deported, mostly to Auschwitz. For more on the Holocaust in Hungary, see Ernő Munkácsi, How It Happened: Documenting the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry, edited by Nina Munk and translated by Péter Balikó Lengyel (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018); Zoltán Vági, László Csosz and Gábor Kádár, The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2013); and The Holocaust in Hungary: Seventy Years Later, edited by Randolph L. Braham and András Kovács (Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2016).

For more information on the persecution of Hungarian Jews, watch the short video The Holocaust in Hungary: An Introduction

Országos Társadalombiztosító Intézet, or Hungarian National Social Security Institute.

Tanya is Hungarian for farm.

Zsámbék is a small town to the west of Budapest.

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Oct 3. Tuesday.

Since yesterday no passenger trains. It came as a surprise, so many people are trapped far from their homes, no refugees can come any more, as it is going to last for 8-9 days, it is believed.

65.

Last night Ila, Marcoi’s sister called me up, she has fled with her family from Hódmezővásárhely and as all refugees, are both she and Pali, looking for a living here. I am going to meet her this morning.

The afternoon. I do not like to tell you disagreeable news, but still, this is a chronicle of my days spent here, so it is to be told too. You know, I am working at the Oti1 since April 28, acting for a colleague, called up for military service. Two months later my other colleague there, a Jewess, was dismissed and I had the whole outpatients ordination service alone, until a few days ago, when the military colleague turned up. But there is still the vacant place of the Jewess. With her I have agreed cleared before, I do not wrong hurt her interests in staying there, at present she could not return anyway, later, when Jewish restrictions will be annihilated anulled [sic], she will have her rights just the same. So you see, I was correct and Oti needed me badly, as there was a shortage in medical crafts physicians. This morning I got a telephon [sic] call from the Oti central office, I must not go to the ordination any more and they are going to give me something else instead

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of this one, etc. As the job is rather convenient with regards my present health, I decided, I am not going to give it up so smoothly and went to see Miklós Majthényi, president of the Oti, whom I happened to know years before, just as social society acquaintance. from society. The thing is not settled yet, we shall see tomorrow. I hate to ask other people’s help and it is ridiculous, for such a nothing, a work, poorly paid badly. But refugees are pouring in, they will accept anything, just for food and board, so there will be a shortage of work in no time. It is bad enough, to live partly on your help, but I refuse to live entirely on you, as long as I can do some work.

Ila’s husband, Pali told me a story he witnessed himself. At the outskirts of Hódmezővásárhely on a farm (tanya)2 Russian troups [sic] arrived. There was a son, got home the day before on military leave. As soon the Russians noticed him (there was nothing of resistance), they took him under a tree and shot him. Pali did the post-mortem work, so this is 

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real information.

It is cold, a bad weather instead of a promising sunshine in the morning. Raining, a cold wind, very unfriendly. In intervals I am brushing the flors [sic] with unusual fervour, to get warm. 

Did you ever notice, how hot one feels, when angry? This morning after the Oti message, I went into my cold bath with such a gusto, as on the hottest summer days.

Miklós Majthényi, president of the Oti, is a pronouncedly right-side man, this was a reason, why I did not like to ask his help and why I did not go to him before, though he could have helped me on other occasions. But unlike other right-side men, he is an honest one. Very simple in manner, with a marvellous [sic] memory (he remembered me at the first words on the phone, though we met last time, when you have been at Zsámbék!).3 His hobby is, he is acting as president in a blue linen (or canvas?) denim coat, the same, as Oti manservants laborers wear, as a uniform

On the next side I enclose Aunt Margit’s last letter. It almost a last fare-well, who knows, whether we meet again or can go on with correspondence. She is very philosophic...

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2013.264.1
Date Created
October 3, 1944
Page(s) 3
Author / Creator
Maria Madi
Language(s)
English
Location
Budapest, Hungary
Document Type Diary
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