The village of Nagyrev in Hungary was a very dangerous place to live early in the twentieth century, if you were seen as no longer needed!
Mrs. Zsuzanna Fazekas was a middle aged midwife who arrived in the village in 1911, without her husband (no one knows what happened to him).
Between that year and 1921, she was imprisoned ten times for illegal abortions, but was always acquitted by judges sympathetic towards abortion. She soon found an assistant, Susi Olah, who was going to be her supportive helper in her new vocation.
In Hungarian society at that time, the teenaged bride would have her husband selected for her by her family and would be forced to accept that choice. Divorce was never an option, even if the husband was abusive or an alcoholic.
During WWI, all the able bodied men were sent off to fight in the Austria-Hungary war, and rural Nagyrev became an ideal location for Allied prisoners of war. They were allowed a lot of freedom within the village and many of the local women took a prisoner, sometimes more than one, as a lover, while their husbands were away fighting in the war.
When the war was over and the husbands returned, they rejected their wives’ affairs and wanted to reclaim their wives. It was at this time that Zsuzanna, along with Susi, started plotting to help the unhappy wives of the village. She was boiling flypaper and skimming off the residue, which was a very effective, deadly poison. This poison was then sold to the wives with instructions as to how to dispose of their unwanted husbands, with the words, ”Why put up with them?”
Sometimes not just the husband, but other unwanted relatives were also poisoned to free the way for the wife to live her life as she wanted, and also to gain her inheritance.
By the mid 1920’s, Nagyrev had earned the nickname, the ‘Murder District.’ Zsuzanna was a busy lady and it helped that her cousin was the clerk who filed all the death certificates. Between them, they would put down causes of death such as drowning, illnesses, etc., to cover up the truth.
The murders became public in 1929 when the editor of a small local newspaper received a letter accusing the women from the Tiszazug region of poisoning members of their families. Eventually, the authorities exhumed dozens of bodies and found the large majority had been poisoned. Over thirty local women and one man were arrested.
Zsuzanna could not face conviction and poisoned herself before she could be taken away by the police. Eventually, 26 women were tried. including ‘Auntie Susi’, as she came to be known, who was executed, along with one other woman. Twelve other women received prison sentences.
The authorities decided that all the local village women had been gripped by madness for many years, brought on by their promiscuity. This was the only explanation that they could come up with.
What an amazing story and I have decided to include it in my new ‘Bad Girls’ book, due out later this year, titled Female Serial Killers. It is a scary book!