TORONTO (Sep. 27)
A 74-year-old resident of a Toronto suburb, Tibor Almasy, was honored at the Israeli Consulate here. He will receive Israel’s highest award, enrollment of his name in the Yad Vashem roll of Righteous Among Nations, for saving the lives of nearly 400 Jews when he was a junior officer in the Royal Hungarian Army during the final weeks of World War II.
With the Red Army closing in March 1945, Almasy took command of 2,000 men at a military base after their officers fled to Austria, to organize resistance against the German occupation forces and their Hungarian collaborators. He destroyed an order for the “liquidation” of inmates of a Jewish labor camp who had been turned over to the retreating Hungarian soldiers.
Almasy instructed the Jews to remove their yellow Stars of David and provided them with Hungarian army uniforms to conceal their identity. In so doing, he risked his own life. He says two other officers aided him and also deserve credit.
Almasy never mentioned the episode until recently when he reminisced with a Jewish friend living near Toronto. He explained that he saved the Jews because he never subscribed to the anti Semitic policies in Hungary and as a schoolboy had Jewish friends.
After the liberation of Hungary, he and the rescued Jews marched five days to a prisoner-of-war camp where he became ill. He served in the Hungarian army until 1948. During the Stalinist regime he spent 58 months in a prison camp as a “danger to the security of the state.”