Madeline was born into a middle class family in an area of Czechoslovakia that was annexed by Hungary in 1938-1939. Her father worked out of their home and her mother was a homemaker. Madeline attended high school. In April 1944 her family was forced into a Hungarian ghetto. The family lived in the ghetto for two weeks before being transported to Auschwitz. Madeline and her mother were separated from her father and older brother. Neither her father nor brother survived the war. A week after arriving in Auschwitz, Madeline and her mother were sent to work in an ammunition factory in Breslau. They were in the Peterswaldau subcamp of Gross-Rosen for one year until liberation by Soviet forces in May 1945. Madeline and her mother lived in a displaced persons camp in Munich while awaiting visas to the United States. They arrived in New York in March 1949.
And when I first started to date I would go with, uh, with a young man, maybe to a movie and then to a restaurant. And when we were in the restaurant, I had to excuse myself several times to go to the bathroom because I had to throw up because I had such a horribly, nervous stomach, because I was still a petrified little girl. So then finally, I think about 19...uh...57, I met this young man. And, uh, I seemed...I really liked him a lot and he seemed to like me and we started to date and by that time I was a little bit better as far as being so scared and nervous and all that. And he kept talking to me that I should go back to school. At first I wouldn't hear of it. Again because I was still seeing school like it was. But then he talked and talked and talked and he said, "I'll go with you and I'll sit with you in the classes for a while. Just try to go back." So I was working five days a week in this factory, and then I went to school. I signed up because I didn't have any papers that I went to school...high school. All those things were lost. I had nothing left from my home. So I started to go back...I went back to school. And at first he was coming with me, and then little by little I was calm enough that I was beginning to learn to the point where I did full four years of high school in two years at night. So I would get home from work about 6:30 in the evening and my mother would have dinner ready because where she worked in this nursing home and hospital, she would start at 7 o'clock so she would get home about...uh...3:30, 4 o'clock. So she did some shopping on the way home and then she cooked dinner. So I had almost a half an hour in which I was able to have dinner and grab my books, walk two blocks to the first bus stop, then take that bus to a second bus stop, and took the second bus to the school. And this was in New York, the Theodore Roosevelt evening high school, right across the street from Fordham University.