The Story of the Poisoners Known As the “Angel Makers of Nagyrev”

In central Hungary lies the village of Nagyrév, a small farming town southeast of Budapest with a sparse community of about 800 people. Like many small villages in the early 1900s, it was a quiet and unobtrusive place. What it lacked, however, was a doctor. For those who were sick or injured, their options were limited. That all changed in 1911 when a woman named Zsuzsanna Fazekas came to town. Within 15 years, she would become one of Europe’s most famous women, the self-styled leader of a group of women who were accused of murdering close to 50 people by poisoning. They became known as the "Angel Makers of Nagyrév.” After the war, some of Nagyrév’s men returned to the village deeply changed by their experiences on the battlefront. PTSD was not yet officially recognized, and many men became the polar opposite of who they were when they left for the war. The women, feeling overburdened by their husbands, turned to Fazekas for advice. They lamented life with their returned husbands and Fazekas offered a unique remedy: arsenic. It was made by boiling flypaper and skimming off the poisonous residue. Fazekas began secretly persuading women to poison their husbands, promising them that her arsenic solutions were untraceable in the body. Word spread fast among the community and soon the bodies began piling up. There were an estimated 45-50 murders over the 18 years that Fazekas lived in Nagyrév. It's unclear how the so-called Angel Makers were eventually detected, but when the bodies were exhumed, it was discovered that they all contained massive traces of arsenic. When police went to arrest Fazekas, she was already dead, having taken some of her own poison. Eventually, 26 women stood trial for the murders. Of the Angel Makers of Nagyrév, 8 were sentenced to death, though only 2 were executed. The others received long prison sentences.