OLGA LENGYEL

Olga Lengyel, the founder of the Memorial Library, was born in Romania in 1908. Having survived Auschwitz, Olga dedicated her life to honoring the memory of the men, women, and children who died as a result of World War II.

In 1944, Olga was herded, along with her mother, father, husband, and two sons, into a cattle car and taken to Auschwitz where, in a short time, she lost her entire family. A trained physician's assistant, Olga was assigned to work in the Auschwitz infirmary where she found ways to assist a French underground cell in the demolition of a crematory oven. In January, 1945, as the Russian army approached Auschwitz, Olga escaped, making her way to Odessa and to freedom.

Arriving a few years later in the United States, Olga fulfilled her desire to tell the story of the horrors of Nazi persecution by publishing one of the earliest survivor testimonies, Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor's True Story of Auschwitz. Her memoir, originally published in French, is considered one of the most graphic exposés of life in the death camp and was among the testimonies that both informed and haunted William Styron when he created Sophie's Choice.

In the United States, Olga began life anew, meeting and marrying a Mexican businessman. The couple settled in Havana, but Castro's communist revolution forced them to flee and to leave behind most of their assets. Upon her return to New York, Olga founded the Memorial Library, chartered by the University of the State of New York. The Memorial Library, an elegant residence where Olga spent many years, now embraces her goal to educate future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides.