Saturday, January 26, 2019


Tibor and son Peter

We have had a wonderful Rabbi here this past week on retreat from Arizona.  He shared with us a fascinating story of a friend who died  on January 20 at the age of 96. We were so touched by this story that we had a small display with the photo of  TIBOR BARANSKI. When the Rabbi saw the display he wept and took a photo to send to Tibor’s family.

Tibor was credited with saving thousands of Jewish women, men and children from the Nazis  and in 1979 he was named as "Righteous among the Nations" at  Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance
Center in Israel. Reading of  this courageous man makes me think how many men and women helped saved lives during these horrid years- so many we have never heard of.

Just before he died his son prayed the rosary with him. Tibor's last act was to reach out and touch the beads. His whole life  was built around the Mass and his Catholic faith and his love for the Blessed Mother.

Our Rabbi friend tells the story of Tibor's adopted son, Peter Forgach, an eye surgeon adopted as a child years ago after his family fled Communist Hungary. Tibor married Peter's mother, Katalin, who died in 2011.

Tibor Baranski was raised in Budapest. In 1944, at 22, he returned home from studying in a Catholic monastery to a city under tight control of German forces.
An aunt of Tibor’s ask him to find a way to save some Jewish friends from Nazi control, especially their baby Gabor. Tibor was able  to have an interview with Monsignor Angelo Rotta, the Catholic papal nuncio. Msgr Rotta was so impressed by this young man he recruited him to help with  saving other Jews in immediate danger of being sent to concentration camps. Tibor became executive secretary of what was called the Jewish Protection Movement. In that role, he often spoke with Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat also credited with saving thousands of lives before his mysterious death in Soviet custody. (One of our friends and benefactors is a cousin of Raoul, so we have felt a connection there of years).

Msgr. Rotta provided the papers and Tibor did the work of hiding the Jews, often disguised as a priest and using every ploy he could think of. One mistake would have meant his own death. Roughly 3,000 Jews were saved in a protected sector of apartment complexes.

Understanding the Nazi mentality, he borrowed the Papal Nuncio’s impressive-looking diplomatic vehicle, a Rolls Royce, and using a combination of bluster, bravado, theatrics and abusive language, he outwitted  the Nazi soldiers and anti-Semitic Arrow Cross members.

In 1945, the Soviets captured the city.  Raoul Wallenberg vanished and Tibor too was apprehended by the Soviets.  Speaking of the meeting with Raoul he said: "We knew in a second we shared the same opinion … the same recklessness, the same determination, all through," His motivation was "divinely human love."

Tibor nearly died on what amounted to a death march toward Russia, but a guard took pity on him and turned him over to a local hospital. In Budapest, he would be imprisoned again for five more years by the Communists, before he finally went to Rome in 1953,  where he sought aid for the Hungarian revolution.

When that revolt failed, it was not safe for him at home. He met Katalin, who was doing cancer research, in Italy. They traveled to Canada and eventually settled in Buffalo.

Tibor was an educator, a teacher  who understood the depths of human nature and survival.  Over the years  he had a close and life-changing impact on hundreds of students from Eastern Europe who saw him as a mentor as they studied at Catholic universities in the Buffalo area.

Gabor Szekeres, the Hungarian infant who touched off his lifesaving work in Budapest, grew into an adult who worked as a physician in California. He was like family to Tibor until Gabor's death.

Tibor's family spoke of his fierce and unshakable Catholic faith, how it served as a lighthouse during times when pain, sickness or terror might have broken many spirits. People would ask Tibor how he could believe in God after all he witnessed.

"These things happened, and there has to be a God to bring justice," he would respond.

Tibor received many awards for his bravery and work, but was humble to the end saying:
"I don't need any compliments. God gave me the idea of what to do, and I thank God they didn't kill me."

Many years later, Tibor's son Dr. Peter was to save the life of the wife of our Rabbi friend, when she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor behind her eye.

(Information:  Rabbi John Linder and Sean Kirst, The Buffalo News).

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful and inspiring... our world need more selfless love demonstrated, There probably are many examples its just that we don’t hear about them.. one can only hope. Thank you for posting this.