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By: Thomas Komoly

Orphans of the Holocaust

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Orphans of the Holocaust tells the remarkable true story of Ottó Komoly, a Hungarian-Jewish engineer and Zionist leader who helped save thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust. As head of the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee, Komoly worked tirelessly to assist Polish and Slovakian Jews to escape and hide in Hungary. After German troops entered Hungary in March 1944, Komoly helped organize ‘Department A’ of the International Red Cross in Budapest. As its director, he oversaw the setting up of shelters and orphanages for some 5,500 Jewish children who lost their parents during the Nazi siege of Budapest and supported the ghetto and Jewish hospitals with food and medication.

The book chronicles Komoly’s lifesaving rescue campaign through his personal diary from 1944, providing a raw, firsthand perspective of his tireless efforts organizing and aiding Hungary’s Jews despite the mortal danger he faced. Despite having the opportunity to escape, Komoly chose to remain in Budapest to carry out his life-saving work until his arrest and presumed death at the hands of Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross in January 1945. Orphans of the Holocaust sheds light on this selfless hero who risked everything for the sake of humanity.

Tributes:

“I have to highlight what an extraordinary man Ottó Komoly was. He was a model of calm and determination in the worst of times. He came to me looking for assistance, and I am happy to have worked with him. An idea is always best understood through people. I am not competent to talk about Zionism, it is up to those who are entitled to talk about it. For me, this idea has acquired beauty and greatness since I got to know Ottó Komoly. His wisdom and goodness has awakened in me the feeling that it must be a great idea to have such leading personalities.”

– Albert Bereczky, protestant bishop and Hungarian Secretary of State, in March 1946.

“… Ottó Komoly was a Zionist: he planted his feet firmly in the midst of the deluge of ordinances, and dared to say: we must initiate resistance, we must rescue, we must gain time and lives. He had no special exemptions from the German authorities, he did not bribe the nyilas leaders - his Zionist consciousness gave him courage and strength to oppose the ruling regime. … He placed his efforts of resistance and rescue under a single authority: the International Red Cross. But the power did not come from that authority, but from the person of Otto Komoly - from his radiant determination, from his ability to instil security in his voluntary partners. That was what gave power to the authority.”

– One of his co-workers, László Szamosi, in 1975.

“A man of irreproachable character, Komoly played a prominent, though unfortunately not a decisively important, role during the catastrophe of Hungarian Jewry. …He was practically the only person that all Zionist factional leaders looked upon without rancour or malice. He was a pacifier and unifier by nature and did everything possible to put an end to the perennial conflicts within and among the various Zionist groups and organizations.”

– Randolph Braham in The Politics of Genocide (1981).

Thomas Komoly was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1936 where he lived and survived the Holocaust. His studies in engineering post-war were interrupted by the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, which enabled him to escape from behind the Iron Curtain. As a refugee in Austria, he obtained a scholarship to study in Britain, and received a master’s degree, leading to research in academia and a career in the chemical industry. He retired in 1998 and became a consultant in the design of laboratories, publishing a book on this topic, subsequently engaged very actively in Holocaust education delivering his own testimony, for which he was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) by the late Queen. He and his wife live in Cheshire.

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