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.
Little by little, it became just worse and worse. But within weeks...it was...as a matter of weeks. We were in April...it was the beginning of April. I think we were invaded around the end of March, and, uh, in April already we were in the ghetto. And what was the ghetto? Now what happened here was the German SS in cooperation, with total cooperation of the Hungarian police and the Hungarian gendarmes came to our homes very early in the morning at dawn and knocking real hard, and "Jews, get out of your house. Get out and line up in front of the house." We couldn't imagine what was happening. I mean it was just a horrible, horrible thing. The children were screaming, and all of us were...were afraid. We didn't know what was happening and what was to come. And then we were told that we'll be allowed back to the house for just a few minutes to get a little suitcase or a little handbag in which we could put a...a change of clothing and maybe some food, just dry food like a piece of bread or something that we had, and then we were to come out again and line up in front of the...our homes. So we each got a little bag and put just the bare minimum in there. And then we were being marched down the streets where there was the small ghetto.