F'ville resident tracks down US diplomat who saved her parents

Unsung WWII hero honored 71 years later

Had it not been for a sympathetic clerk at the US Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, Elizabeth and Zoltan Roth's lives might have come to a premature and tragic end.

On the eve of World War II, the young Jewish couple went to the American Embassy to apply for student visas to continue their medical studies through post-graduate work. But because of a technicality, Elizabeth's application was denied. After the initial shock wore off, they returned to the embassy and were greeted by a different employee, Harry Francis Cunningham, Jr., who was willing to bend the rules and allow the couple entry to the United States.

"[Cunningham] clearly saved their lives, and the lives of so many others," said Fayetteville resident Deborah Shulman of her parents' savior. Others rescued included the Gabor sisters, Eva and Magda, and their mother Zsoli, with whom the Shulmans were acquainted.

In 2009, Shulman's daughter Allison made a friend in the State Department who was able to find their parents' rescuer's full name; up to this point, the family had only known him as the heroic Cunningham.

Manlius resident and SU librarian Abby Kasowitz-Scheer aided in locating his family.

"Within 24 hours, we received a copy of H. Francis Cunningham, Jr.'s illustrious foreign service career and learned that, at the age of 25, Budapest had been his very first post," Shulman said.

Barry Shulman made initial contact with the family to convey their gratitude and learned from Cunningham's oldest son that his father had passed away 10 years before. As a further token of their heartfelt appreciation, the Shulman family endowed an interfaith lecture series and scholarship program at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, an institution with which the Cunningham family has been associated for generations. Dr. Alan Berger, founder of the Jewish Studies Program at SU participated, giving a lecture entitled, "Am I My Brother's/Sister's Keeper? Moral Courage During the Holocaust."

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