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.
My mother was an...an astonishing woman. She was 43 years old. I can thank her my survival because I didn't know when she took that piece of bread from me to...for safekeeping for the day, to give me a piece, you know, every few hours to sort of sustain me through all this, that not only did she give me the piece of bread that I was given, she was giving me a piece of her bread without me knowing so that I would have a little bit more food, so I could go on and survive. We didn't know for how long or what, or what's going to hap...to happen the very next day or the next hour. But she was giving me part of her bread, which I only found out later after the war was over what she was doing. She gave the last whatever she could come...she would protect me, she would cover me when we were marching, rain, snow, cold. All we had was...was this one grey dress.