Monday, November 22, 2010

(NEWS) Malvina Burstein, 97, Helped Save 1,500 Fellow Jews During WWII

"Malvina Burstein, 97, who helped obtain identification papers that she hoped would save 1,500 fellow Jews in Budapest during World War II, died Oct. 18 at the Ring House retirement community in Rockville. She had dysphagia, a swallowing disorder.

Mrs. Burstein's home town of Trebisov, Czechoslovakia, fell under Nazi occupation early in the war. After closing her millinery shop and hiding for a year in a basement, Malvin Grunfeld, as she was then known, fled to Budapest in 1942 and hid under a false identity.

'A Jew could exist in Hungary at that time,' she told The Washington Post in 1981. 'I had illegal papers and no visa, but I got along. You had to keep well-dressed, look clean and neat, with nail polish and everything.'

She said that every day she saw Jews being beaten and knocked to the pavement. Bodies were strewn in the street.

Knowing it was dangerous, she yearned for company and met other Jews weekly at a local park. She said one man in the group came up with the idea to protect other Jews in hiding by phoning the Hungarian national printing office for 500 identification cards that would allow the Jews to pass as gentile.

The man called the printing office claiming to be a factory owner in need of work papers and Mrs. Burstein pretended to be the assistant going to pick them up.

In The Post interview, she said no one questioned her. She said she made two more trips, obtaining 1,000 more cards, and gave them to others to distribute.

After the war, she found no one she knew back in Trebisov. She managed to find her way to New York, where a brother had been living for years.

She moved to the Washington region in 1951 and not long after met her future husband, Max Burstein. He died in 1988 after 36 years of marriage. Survivors include two daughters and three grandchildren.

She was a longtime Silver Spring resident. Her memberships included the old Temple Israel in Silver Spring, Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women.

In 1981, with the help of the American Jewish Congress, Mrs. Burstein and her family flew to Israel hoping to find some of the 1,500 Jews she tried to save in Hungary.

'My friends say most of those people, the 1,500, got out of Hungary and came to Israel,' she told The Post. 'I didn't see them when I was there, but you can imagine how I felt to know that they are alive.'" (source)

Want alerts for new videos?
Like us on Facebook.