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Deadly Carousel: A singer’s story of the Second World War

By Monica Porter

The German occupation of their unwilling ally Hungary in 1944 brought an end to normal life for the people of this small central European country.

The Jews, who had hitherto been largely protected under the moderate regime of Regent Horthy, were rounded up and deported to the death camps. Desperately, they sought foreign diplomatic protection, false identity papers and hiding places.

Vali Rácz was a successful singer and film actress, the darling of the Hungarian public. She was young, beautiful and Aryan. Although the Nazis represented no particular threat to her, she was greatly disturbed by the persecution of the Jews, many of whom had been friends, mentors and colleagues. She risked her life by turning her elegant villa in a residential area of Buda into a secret refuge for Jewish friends.

In 1991 the Jewish people’s highest expression of gratitude was conferred upon Vali Rácz in Jerusalem: the title of ‘Righteous among the Nations’.

With a gift for narrative and an elegant, readable style Monica Porter traces both the life of her remarkable and courageous mother and a fascinating period in Hungarian history, encompassing such events as the 1944 coup d’etat, the Siege of Budapest and the rise to power of the Communists.

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