Szalai, Pal (1915-1994)

High Hungarian Police and Arrow Cross Official

Through a friend, a Hungarian employee of the Swedish embassy, Szalai befriended Raoul Wallenberg and provided him with crucial German documents and advance information of German and Hungarian plans. He alerted Wallenberg to Eichmann’s plan of massacring the Ghetto’s inhabitants.  Wallenberg immediately sent a note through Szalai to General Schmiedhuber, commander of SS forces in beleaguered Budapest informing him that he would bear personal responsibility because the Ghetto is in his area of jurisdiction and under his command and that he would be hanged as a war criminal should harm come to the Ghetto. Eichmann’s plan was averted in the last minute. Szalai, although an ardent Arrow-Cross member, did not subscribe to the brutal street behavior of his party. His post-war trial revealed his close cooperation with Wallenberg and his aid and clandestine support he rendered to Jewish operatives. Miksa Domonkos, the early Ghetto commander, among others testified on his behalf. He was found not guilty, almost alone among former high ranking Arrow-Cross and police officials and released. In 1956 he left Hungary and settled in New Jersey and later California, where he changed his name to Paul Sterling. He died in Los Angeles in 1994, aged seventy-nine.


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