It was with great sadness that we learned that Éva Fahidi-Pusztai passed away this morning in Budapest after a long illness. With her, we lose a close friend who has supported the Buchenwald Memorial with great commitment for decades. Her voice, full of elegant wisdom and warmth, will be missed by us and other actors in remembrance work all over Europe.
Éva Fahidi was born on 22 October 1925 in Debrecen/Hungary as the daughter of the upper middle-class timber merchant Desiderius Fahidi and Irma Fahidi. In 1933 her sister Gilike was born, and in 1936 the Jewish family converted to Catholicism. Éva and her sister attended the convent school. At the end of the 1930s, increasingly strict anti-Semitic laws were introduced in Hungary, which increasingly excluded the Jewish population from society.
Folowing the occupation of Hungary by the German Wehrmacht in spring 1944, the Fahidi family had to move to the ghetto. At the end of June, the Jewish population was rounded up in a brick factory and deported to Auschwitz in several transports led by Adolf Eichmann. The Fahidi family was among the last transport to Auschwitz/Birkenau, on 27 June 1944. Upon arrival, Éva Fahidi was separated from her mother and sister, who were both murdered in the gas chambers. Her father died a short time later as a result of the poor living conditions in the camp. Almost her entire extended family, 49 people in all, fell victim to the Shoa.
Éva Fahidi, herself selected as "fit for work", was transported with 999 other Hungarian Jewish women to a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp for forced labour in mid-August 1944. In Münchmühle, near Allendorf in Hesse, she had to work in grenade production for an IG Farben company.
After her liberation by American troops on a death march in March 1945, Éva Fahidi returned to Hungary. Due to the consequences of the hard labour, she was unable to realise her dream of becoming a pianist and worked in foreign trade in Budapest. After 1989, she founded a company and exported handicrafts. She chose "Gili" as the brand name in memory of her little sister, and a little dancing girl with pigtails as the logo. "If Gili lived somewhere and happened to come across such a handicraft, she would realise that it was a message addressed to her. Because you don't forget your name," Éva Fahidi-Pusztai wrote in her book "The Soul of Things".
59 years after her deportation, she visited the memorial in Auschwitz for the first time in 2003. Only then did she break her silence.
In her cooperation with the Buchenwald Memorial, Éva Fahidi-Pusztai was committed, among other things, to ensuring that the fate of Jewish women was not forgotten. Particularly in view of current social and political developments she campaigned against the reinterpretation of the extermination of Hungarian Jews and for the sentencing of the last living perpetrators from the National Socialist concentration and extermination camps.
She was a member of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Prisoners' Advisory Board at the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and the Buchenwald-Dora and Kommandos International Committee. In 2012, she was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon. In 2014 she became an honorary citizen of Stadtallendorf, and in 2020 of Weimar.
On the occasion of the memorial hour for the victims of National Socialism on 27 January 2014, she said in the following words in the Thuringian parliament:
"We are grandparents and the fate of our grandchildren is the most important thing to us. With four grandchildren, I myself am very interested in the future. The best thing I can wish for them - no matter how utopian it sounds - is that they create a life without fear. That they build themselves a democratic society where institutional hatred is unknown."