Éva Pusztai-Fahidi (22 October 1925 – 11 September 2023) was a Hungarian author and Holocaust survivor. Born into an upper-class Hungarian-Jewish family in Debrecen, she and her family were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1944. Her life was a testament to resilience and the power of bearing witness to history.
Éva Fahidi was raised in an affluent Hungarian-Jewish household in Debrecen. Her family converted to Catholicism in 1936. On April 29, 1944, Éva, along with her parents Irma and Dezső Fahidi, and her sister Gilike, were arrested by the Hungarian gendarmerie, in collaboration with the Eichmann commando. They were confined in a newly built prison ghetto along with other Jews from the city.
The Holocaust Experience
On May 14, 1944, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her mother and sister were selected for the gas chambers by SS doctor Josef Mengele and subsequently died. Her father died due to inhumane prison conditions. After six weeks, Éva was transferred to Münchmühle, a satellite camp of Buchenwald, where she worked 12-hour shifts at the Allendorf and Herrenwald explosives plants. She escaped during a death march at the end of World War II.
After wandering for months, Fahidi returned to Debrecen on November 4, 1945, only to find her parents’ home occupied by others. She joined the Hungarian communists and began working as an industrial employee, eventually becoming an external representative for the Hungarian steel combine. Despite her experiences, she continued to read works by German authors but avoided speaking the German language.
Witness to the Shoah
In 1989, the administration of Stadtallendorf, formerly known as Allendorf, published an advertisement seeking former prisoners of Münchmühle. Fahidi took up the role of a translator and began visiting the site regularly, giving lectures, interviews, and guiding school tours. In 2003, she also visited the memorials at Auschwitz and began speaking openly about her experiences.
Publications and Legal Actions
Her memoir, Anima rerum, was first published in German in 2004 and reprinted in 2011. She testified as a co-plaintiff in criminal trials against former camp guards Hans Lipschis and Johann Breyer in 2011, and against Oskar Gröning in 2015.
In 2015, she also appeared in a dance theatre play titled “Sea Lavender”, which was about her life. In 2019, the German Resistance Memorial Center dedicated an exhibition to her.
Honors and Legacy
Éva Fahidi-Pusztai was made an honorary citizen of the city of Weimar on April 11, 2020. She passed away in Budapest on September 11, 2023, at the age of 97. She left behind a powerful legacy, advocating for the remembrance of the Holocaust through various mediums, ensuring that “It must not and cannot happen again.”