Olga Lengyel (19 October 1908 – 15 April 2001) was a Hungarian prisoner at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, who later wrote about her experiences in her book Five Chimneys. She was the only member of her family to survive.
Life and career
Lengyel was a trained surgical assistant in Kolozsvár, Hungary (now Cluj-Napoca, Romania), working in the hospital where her husband, Dr Mikw Louis, was director. In 1944, she was deported with her husband, parents and two children to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp; she was the only member of her family to survive. She wrote about her experiences in a memoir, Five Chimneys: The Story of Auschwitz, first published in France in 1946 as Souvenirs de l'au-delà. (A later American paperback edition was entitled I Survived Hitler's Ovens; more recent editions have used the title Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor's True Story of Auschwitz.)
Her children died in the gas chamber. "I cannot acquit myself of the charge that I am, in part, responsible for the destruction of my own parents and of my two young sons. The world understands that I could not have known, but in my heart the terrible feeling persists that I could have, I might have, saved them." After the war, she emigrated to the United States where she founded the Memorial Library chartered by the University of the State of New York. "The Library, headquartered in her elegant residence, is Olga’s legacy, carrying on her mission of actively educating future generations about the Holocaust, other genocides, and the importance of human rights." She died on 15 April 2001 at the age of 92.
In 2006, the Memorial Library began the Holocaust Educator Network, a national program for teachers committed to Holocaust education, especially in rural schools and small towns, in partnership with the National Writing Project's Rural Sites Network. The program is directed by Sondra Perl, author of On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate.