It was an memorable time of life that spring and summer of 1944 for Clara Ambrus, a young Catholic girl from Budapest, only nineteen at the time. She and the love of her life, Julian, were married early in the year and were both beginning medical school in Budapest. All of that changed on October 15th when the Arrow Cross Fascist movement seized power. Suddenly Jews were being shot by the thousand on the banks of the Danube, their bodies simply dumped into the river. Others were being rounded up for forced deportation marches in the bitter cold.
Julian joined the Hungarian Resistance, fighting both the Germans and Soviets and was eventually caught and sent to a POW camp. Clara hid her friend, Eva Klein, in the attic of her home and gave her her own identity card to aid her escape, but Eva didn’t want to leave her family. So Clara joined forces with another medical student, Alexander Szirmai, and created a secret rescue mission, which ultimately saved the lives of several hundred Jews including Eva’s family.
When the war ended in 1945, Julian was miraculously alive, and he and Clara resumed their studies at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. In 1950, they emigrated to the U.S., where they both became renowned professors at the University of Buffalo. Clara and Julian devoted themselves to helping others through distinguished medical careers and generous philanthropy.
In January of 2006, Yad Vashem recognized Clara Ambrus and her friend Alexander Szirmai as Righteous Among the Nations. In her acceptance, Clara Ambrus said, "I didn't want to get praised for what I did. I took it for normal that somebody saves people's lives." She received many prestigious honors, among them a resolution by the New York State Senate, which stated, "Clara Ambrus exemplified the preservation of human values during the darkest period in the civilization of mankind; she will forever be a shining example of humanity at its very best and bravest and an enduring source of hope and inspiration."
Drs. Julian and Clara Ambrus, 1945