Agnes Mandl

Agnes Mandl

Born: October 26, 1918

Budapest, Hungary

When Agnes was a teenager, she attended Budapest's prestigious Baar Madas private school, run by the Hungarian Reformed Church. Although she was the only Jewish student there, Agnes' parents believed that the superior education at the school was important for their daughter. Agnes' father, a textile importer, encouraged his daughter to think for herself.

1933-39: In 1936 Agnes studied educational techniques with Signora Maria Montessori in Italy and earned a diploma so she could teach. Hoping to improve her French, Agnes traveled to Switzerland in 1939. On September 9, while swimming with friends at Lake Geneva, she met some Polish Jews attending a Zionist Congress. Suddenly, news blared that Germany had overrun Poland. Frightened and still in swimsuits, the Poles ran to try to call their families.

1940-44: In Budapest in 1944 Agnes worked for Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat working to save Jews. That December, the fascists ordered Jews executed at the banks of the Danube River. The Jews were tied in groups of three, and the person in the center was shot so all three fell in and drowned. Wallenberg asked his staff, "Who can swim?" Agnes said that she could. They rushed to the water's edge, and when a group fell in they would plunge into the icy river. They rescued 50 people. Later, Agnes got sick and fell into a coma for a day and a half.

After the war, Agnes went to Sweden and Australia, and moved to America in 1951. Later, she dedicated herself to writing and teaching about Wallenberg and his actions.