Olga Lengyel

Olga Lengyel was born in 1908 in Cluj, the capital of Transylvania  (now in Romania) to a Jewish family.  She studied medicine in Cluj, where she met her husband, Dr Miklós Lengyel. They had two children. Together they opened a medical sanitorium, headed by her husband. In May, 1944, she and her parents, husband, and two sons were forced into a cattle car and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp. Olga was the only member of her family to survive.

We have to prevent similar atrocities from happening again. People should come together the moment there is danger. Endangering one group means endangering all of us.”

– Olga Lengyel

Following liberation, Olga headed to New York, by way of Odessa and France. In  1947, her book, Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz, was published,  one of the earliest testimonies to depict the atrocities of Auschwitz. Thirty years later, her vivid exposé of the death camp became one of the haunting testimonies that inspired William Styron’s award-winning novel, Sophie’s Choice.

Olga eventually remarried and moved to Havana with her new husband, Gustav Aguire, only to be ousted by Castro’s communist revolution. New York beckoned once again. Here, Olga founded the Memorial Library and Art Collection of Second World War, chartered by the University of the State of New York. The Olga Lengyel Institute, headquartered in her elegant residence, is part of Olga’s legacy, carrying on her mission of actively educating future generations about the Holocaust, other genocides, and the importance of human rights.

Olga died in 2001.

Olga Lengyel Shoah Foundation Interview

Olga Lengyel made it her mission to let the world know about the atrocities of Auschwitz in the hopes that such horrors would never befall other societies again. In this excerpt from her University of Southern California Shoah Foundation interview, Olga speaks frankly about her guilt surrounding the fate of her family, and her driving need to begin work on her autobiography, Five Chimneys, while living in Paris after the end of World War II.


Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz

Olga Lengyel’s Tale of Survival


For more information about The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), please contact info@tolinstitute.org

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