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Agnes Mandl

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 I studied educational techniques with Signora Maria Montessori in Italy and earned a diploma so I could teach. Hoping to improve my French, I traveled to Switzerland in 1939. On September 9, while swimming with friends at Lake Geneva, I 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 I 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?" I said that I could. We rushed to the water's edge, and when a group fell in we'd plunge into the icy river. We rescued 50 people. Later, I 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.

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