Humanity of one woman saved a family of eight

Living in a tiny room, Klein family sticking together survived the hardest time. Mária Speváková and her husband Ján Spevák received the Righteous Among the Nations award for providing shelter and helping the Klein family.

Mária Speváková.Mária Speváková.

Mária Speváková and her husband Ján Spevák were awarded the Righteous Among the Nations award in September 2022.

During the war, the Kleins lived in Revúca; an exemption saved them from deportations in 1942.

Due to Slovak National Uprising in October 1944, German troops entered the country from Hungary (which had been under German military occupation since March). At that time, Revúca was situated at the Slovak - Hungarian borders and was not a safe place for Jews; therefore, the Kleins decided to leave for Banská Bystrica (Declared by partisans to be "another Stalingrad". It would never fall to the Nazis).

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When Hitler's troops were approaching Banská Bystrica, almost the entire remnant of Slovakian Jewry - about ten thousand people living there at the time had prepared bunkers and hiding places in the woods. However, they were reluctant to take the big Klein family consisting of two adults and six children, scared their three babies might cry and reveal their hiding place in the woods. Finally, in a desperate situation, Reb Avraham Wintner from Sečovce helped the Kleins by arranging a small flat in the village of Riečka for them and even hired a carriage to take them there.

No food for Jews

They stayed in a building consisting of three dwellings: two non-Jew families lived on the sides, and the Kleins were lodged in the middle. Officially, the family was presented as Protestant refugees who had fled from another town. However, the villagers knew the truth. When playing together, the village children used to call the Kleins' children "Žid"(Jew).

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At the time, food was available only with a ration card. Each family had such a card, but not the Kleins, since, as Jews, they had been deprived of citizenship and had no proper identification documents. Local villagers (including the mayor's wife) were mainly anti-Nazis. They took pity on the family and, at night, would place food - potatoes, fruit, and meat - at their doorstep.

When the Germans conquered Banská Bystrica, together with the Hlinka Guards, they went from house to house in all the towns and villages, looking for partisans, weapons, and Jews; hiding them would mean the death penalty.

Meeting Mrs. Speváková

The property owner, Mrs. Spišiaková, asked the Kleins to leave the house immediately. Rosalie Klein went from house to house trying to find a place to live, but everyone rejected her. Finally, she approached one woman with three vacant rooms and began to cry and beg for help, but to no avail. A neighbor, who was there and heard her crying, said, "Why don't you let her stay when you have three vacant rooms?" She then turned to Mrs. Klein, saying, "Let me tell you, even though you are Jews, you are human beings, come and live at my place".

This kind woman, Mrs. Speváková, took the Kleins in and gave them a heated room while she and her husband, who was ill, moved into an unheated room. The room was tiny, about two meters by two and a half. Three Kleins' babies slept in the carriages, and three older children with the parents on straw mats placed on the floor. The Spevák family also allowed them to use their kitchen, even though it was not adjacent to the room. The rental fee was set at ten crowns per day, and when the Kleins offered to pay more, Mrs. Speváková would dismiss it immediately, saying, "While you are refugees on the run, I don't feel like taking more from you".

After some time, the Kleins spent all their money and had to sell Rabbi's winter coat, the blankets, and all the possessions to purchase food. Once Mrs. Speváková became aware of their situation, she went to a nearby village, Tajov, and organized a money collection for "some refugees".

The Kleins remained with the Spevák family until the liberation by Romanian Army; then, they returned to Revúca, which was securely in Russian hands. After returning, they learned that their beloved son and brother Yehudah (sent to a family in the Hungarian town of Balkany to be educated in yeshiva) had been deported and killed in a concentration camp. Eventually, the family decided to leave for the United States. After the war, Avraham and Rosalie had three more children: Esther, Mendy, and Faigy. All the rescued children except for the oldest daughter Suri who died 20 years ago and Moishe, who passed away last year, are still alive.

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