They Found Love Out of the Tragedy of Auschwitz

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Some couples meet in the most unlikely places. We love to hear heartwarming stories of accidental meetings, nearly missed moment when fate shoves two people together because they belong together, forever. How many couples can claim a Nazi concentration camp as the place responsible for their first meeting?


Auschwitz concentration camp was used by the Nazis in World War II to exterminate Jews and other undesirables. This love story involves a Hungarian Jew who survived her imprisonment at Auschwitz, and a handsome Scottish soldier, who helped save her, but couldn’t strike up the nerve to ask her to dance. In 2017, this dynamic, meant-to-be couple is celebrated their 71st Valentine’s Day.

Edith Steiner, known as Eci, was an inmate at Auschwitz for six weeks in the summer of 1944. Luckily, she was rescued by British commandoes who came upon them during a prison transfer. Eci and her mother, Hungarian Jews, had been selected for a work crew. However, the rest of the family was exterminated in the horrific gas chambers at the prison.
The Third Reich was falling to heroic efforts of the allied forces, but Eci and the other prisoners did not know that as they were being moved to Bergen-Belsen and were rescued by British forces.

John Mackay was no stranger to harsh life as a POW. He escaped an Italian prison camp by dressing in Italian uniforms. He and a friend evaded capture for 18 months. Despite the ordeal, he kept fighting and was a part of the team that rescued Eci the Auschwitz prisoners en route to another prison. To celebrate the liberation, a dance was held and that’s where John saw Eci for the first time. However, he was shy and had a friend ask her to dance with John.

Eci refused the friend, insisting that John ask for himself. That must have been some dance. Deeply in love, John, Eci and her mother went to John’s homeland in Scotland. They married on July 17, 1946.

Pitlochry is a small burgh with a population today of under 3.000 people. It is located in the county of Perthshire, Scotland, lying on the exotic River Tummel. John and Eci did their part in raising the town’s population. The couple have two children and seven grandchildren, as well as five great-grandchildren. They owned the Atholl Arms Hotel in Pitclochry until their retirement.

Still together and by all accounts devoted to one another, they now live in a care home in Broughty Ferry, Dundee. Happy pictures show them kissing and embracing, surrounded by family, and celebrating 71 years of life. After once being so close to death, John and Eci are 96 and 92, respectively, and show no sign of slowing down in their love of love and each other.