Oral History

Agnes Mandl Adachi describes rescue activity on the banks of the Danube River and the role of Raoul Wallenberg

Agnes was in Switzerland in 1939 to study French. She returned to Budapest in 1940. After the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, Agnes was given refuge in the Swedish embassy. She then began to work for Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in his efforts to save the Jews of Budapest, including the distribution of protective passes (Schutzpaesse). When the Soviets entered Budapest, Agnes decided to go to Romania. After the war, she went to Sweden and Australia before moving to the United States.


Budapest is uh, two cities, and in the middle is the so-called Blue Danube, for me it is the Red Danube, but that's what it was, and they took people down there, the Hungarian Nazis, and they roped three people together, and they shot the middle one, so they all fell in. And if they saw a movement, they shot again so they'd be sure. But many people by themselves somehow got out. But it was a terribly cold winter, as I said, and the Danube was frozen with big slabs of ice. So Raoul came home the third night, and there was no moonlight, no stars, just cold and dark. And he turned to us the first time, usually he only talked to the men and the Red Cross, and "How many of you can swim?" I have a big mouth, I put up my hand, I said, "Best swimmer in school." He says, "Let's go." And as you saw me coming in like a teddy bear, that's how I was dressed, and a hat and a glove. And we went down on the other side, the Hungarians didn't even hear us coming because they were so busy roping and shooting, and we stood on the left, way over, we had doctors and nurses in the cars and then we had people outside to pull us out. Four of us, three men and me, we jumped and thanks to the icicles, the the ropes hang on to it, and we saved people out, but only fifty, and then we were so frozen that we couldn't do it anymore. But without Raoul Wallenberg, we wouldn't have saved even one single person.


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