Oskar Schindler had his list. Clara Ambrus-Baer and her family had their home in Budapest, and a nearby vacant textile factory.
The Baers, like the German industrialist, provided a safe haven for Jews during the Holocaust - saving some 50 people targeted by the Germans, including the future chief rabbi of Vienna. On Friday, the Israeli government honored Clara Ambrus-Baer for her life-saving efforts more than six decades ago.
"I never expected this," said Ambrus-Baer, now 81 and living in Buffalo. "I didn't want to get praised for what I did. I took it for normal that somebody saves people's lives."
Ambrus-Baer received a "Righteous Among the Nations" award, presented to people who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. It is the highest honor bestowed on non-Jews by the state of Israel, with 21,310 recipients as of January 2006.
Ambrus-Baer was 19 when the Germans invaded Budapest in 1944. Her family turned its home into a safe haven for Jews hiding from the Nazis, and also provided elaborate hideouts in a vacant textile factory that her parents once managed.
She recalled the times when the Germans came and banged on the front door of her home, when the discovery of the hidden Jews would have led to the death of her own family.
"We had a couple of dogs," Ambrus-Baer said. "And whenever anybody came to the door, then I always told them the dogs were very vicious - which wasn't true - and I had to put them away.
"It gave everybody some time to hide."
Ayre Mekel, Israeli consul general in New York, said the heroism of Ambrus-Baer and her family was verified by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
"The Jewish state has a long memory," said Mekel. "We remember our enemies. We don't easily forgive. But we remember our friends, too, particularly those who saved Jews during the Holocaust."
Julian Ambrus, Clara's husband of 60 years, said his wife also bribed German guards to free imprisoned Jews and provided the ex-prisoners with a hideaway. "She saved several hundred," he said.
After the war, Clara and Julius moved to Switzerland _ where they became friendly with Oskar Schindler's brother. Schindler was renowned for saving more than 1,000 Jews by insisting their work was essential to keeping his factory in Poland open.
"We became very close friends," Julius Ambrus said. "We had dinner every week."
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