Charles Fenyvesi writes movingly of Raoul Wallenberg and five ordinary Hungarian citizens who defied the laws of the Nazis and Hungary’s Arrow Cross and rescued Jews despite the constant threat to their own lives. Jews spoke of these Gentile rescuers as “angels,” men and women who seemed invested with a force greater than themselves. The young Fenyvesi, his mother and father, and members of his extended family were on the receiving end of the courageous acts of these “righteous gentiles.” Their origins, beliefs and characters differed, ranging from the Swedish patrician Wallenberg to a Mr. Kanalas, the disreputable janitor of the apartment house the Fenyvesis lived in in Budapest; to Erzebet David, a conscientious official of the state (and friend of the author’s mother) who provided many Jews with false identity papers; to the Lutheran Pastor Gabor Sztehlo who set up orphanages supposedly for Christian children — “I did what I had to do almost unconsciously,” he later wrote; to Levente Thury, a gentile uncle by marriage who took part in the anti-Nazi resistance.
“A beautiful book – beautiful in its portrayal of heroic gentiles during the Holocaust and beautiful for the elegance of its language. Its account of five men and women who rescued Jews during the German occupation of Hungary, the ‘angels’ of the title, cannot fail to move any reader fortunate enough to acquire this book. . . . Fenyvesi acknowledges that the number of Jews saved by these gentiles is minuscule given the six million who perished. Yet his guiding principle, the talmudic statement, ‘He who saves one life it is as if he has saved an entire world,’ makes clear why he felt compelled to write this memoir, a unique blend of passionate engagement and level-headed analysis of a brief, dark period in Hungary’s history, a book laced through with gratitude and compassion.”
— Curt Leviant, The Times.
Charles Fenyvesi is the author of books on exiled royalty, botany, and his own family’s history, When the World Was Whole. A former staff writer for The Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report, he now edits an electronic newsletter on human rights, Bigotry Monitor. He lives on a farm in Maryland with his wife and tends their garden and goats.