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Marietta Marcus

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
January 1948
Interview number:


Dr Jana Buresova

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Marietta Marcus (nee Kalotai) was born in August 1929 in Sopron, Hungary, to Pali (Paul, b.4 September 1898) and Eugenie (Jenny, nee Schoszberger, b.16 July 1902). Baptized aged 9 in order to attend a ‘good school’, Marietta considers herself neither Jewish nor Catholic.  


Her father [given as a chemical engineer, though referred to during the interview as ‘book-keeper’ in a factory and lucky to have a job during Hungary’s economic downturn], was conscripted by the Nazis for forced labour, but survived. After returning to Budapest, mother and daughter ultimately hid in a flat ostensibly protected by the Papal Nuncio, then in the large coal cellar along with some 70 others – ‘non Jews’ who ‘did not want them there’ during the siege of Budapest [1944]. When the Russians liberated Hungary [1945] they were feared for their ill-treatment of people, but Pali got on well with them and the family lived in the private flat above the factory [he became the new Director]. Nevertheless, ‘it was a difficult time.’ According to her son, Robert, Mariette emigrated to Britain in January 1948, with a 12-month visa [however, she mentioned flying via Prague in 1949], staying for a time in Amersham with relatives, the Farago family [see separate interview, 22 June 2018].  


The interviewee had a close relationship with Hungarian author George Mikes, ‘who was great fun’ and best known for his humorous book, How to be an Alien. Divorced, she has had two husbands [in the interview she ‘had many’]: naturalized German, Walter Oscar Heller, a pianist interned during WWII and sent to Australia by ship. He later endured electric shock treatment for depression. Then in 1953/4, Marietta married Hans Herbert Marcus, a lawyer [in partnership ‘for many years’ with Andrew Kaufman]. The interviewee has two sons, Robert and Thomas, and feels ‘both British and Hungarian’. She ‘is not bitter’ about her life experiences – ‘it was a great adventure – we survived’.


Additional Comments: The interview was requested by Robert Marcus but his mother, Marietta, was not keen and affected by dementia, hence the memory lapses. Nevertheless, it provides a personal memento, and is an example of a baptized Jewish child, who was later hidden in a coal cellar during WWII. It also includes her close relationship with Hungarian author George Mikes. Further details and references can be obtained from Marietta Marcus’s autobiography, ‘Survival’, published by, 17 April 2014.


Key words:   Andrew; Doti; Eugenie; Farago; George, Hans, Heller, Kalotai; Kaufman; Marcus; Marietta; Mikes; Oscar; Pali (Paul); Robert; Schoszberger; Thomas; Walter. Amersham; baptized; Budapest; Catholic; coal cellar; Hungary; Jewish; London; Russians; Sapron, siege.


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