The Righteous Among The Nations
Komáromy (Szőnyi), Jolán
Triznya (Szőnyi), Zsuzsa
István Szőnyi was an internationally known artist, who was considered one of Hungary’s foremost painters between the two World Wars. He had a studio located in Budapest, and was a professor and teacher at the city’s Academy of Arts. In 1943, one of his students, Miklós Rozenberg-Róbert, was arrested and tried for hiding Jewish refugees from Austria. These refugees were his own sister and his brother-in-law, who Róbert hid in his apartment for two years. When Szőnyi was made aware of his student’s plight, he immediately got involved, using his power and influence to have Rozenberg released from prison. At Szőnyi’s request, Rozenberg’s imprisonment was postponed. After the German occupation, Róbert was imprisoned in a jail located on Mosonyi Street in Budapest. Because he had been sentenced to stay in jail for a specific period of time, he was not deported to Auschwitz together with the other prisoners. When he was released, he went into hiding with Szőnyi, whose studio served as a hiding place for eight Jews. The studio also operated as a center for the creation and distribution of forged documents. Szőnyi’s wife, Melinda, and his three children, Jolán, Zsuzsa and Péter, were full partners in the rescue process. One of the Jews saved by the Szőnyi family was Zsuzsa Bíró. Péter Szőnyi traveled to Nagyvárad / Oradea (today Romania) and smuggled Bíró out of the local ghetto with the help of his sister’s identity papers. He then accompanied Bíró to Budapest by train and brought her to his parents’ apartment, where she hid until the liberation. The Szőnyis’ daughter Jolán was a chemist by profession. She used her skills to forge documents, using a chemical solution to wash the original names off certificates, and then filling in other details. Jolán also actively helped distribute these papers to persecuted Jews, including Magda Rejtő, among others. During the Arrow Cross period, a Jew by the name of Moshe Markowitz, who had left his forced-labor unit, was caught and arrested as an army deserter. The Szőnyis’ younger daughter, Zsuzsa, accompanied by a Hungarian soldier who was a friend of the family, approached the official at the prison who was in charge of the prosecution. Although it put her at great personal risk, Zsuzsa managed to convince the official to dismiss the charges, saying that Markowitz was not a deserter, but had received leave from his unit commander. After his release, Markowitz was hidden in the studio of the Szőnyi family and his life was saved. He later immigrated to Israel. Melinda Szőnyi, in addition to feeding her own family, took on the responsibility for providing food for all the hidden Jews – no simple feat in Budapest during the siege. After the war, some of the survivors left Hungary. However, they stayed in contact and remained grateful to the Szőnyi family who had risked their lives to save them.
On October 2, 1984, Yad Vashem recognized István and Melinda Szőnyi and their children, Zsuzsa (Triznya), Jolán (Komáromy) and Péter, as Righteous Among the Nations.