During the Holocaust, the Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz
Carl Lutz was the Swiss Vice-Consul in Budapest, Hungary from 1942 until the end of World War II. He helped save tens of thousands of Jews from deportation to Nazi Extermination camps during the Holocaust. He is credited with saving over 62,000 Jews...
helped Jews in Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...
in many ways, including protection at the legendary Glass House
). At one time, about 3,000 Jews found refuge at the Glass House and in a neighboring building from large numbers of Hungarian fascist, antisemitic murderers and the German Nazis. The Glass House also had a broader impact because it was used as a headquarters by the Jewish youth underground which saved many lives.
The building, that had once been a glass factory, is located at 29 Vadász Street, not far from the large and well known Saint Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen's Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica in Budapest, Hungary. It is named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary , whose mummified fist is housed in the reliquary.-Architecture:...
and Hungary's Parliament
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, one of Europe's oldest legislative buildings, a notable landmark of Hungary and a popular tourist destination of Budapest. It lies in Lajos Kossuth Square, on the bank of the Danube, in Budapest...
Carl Lutz is credited with saving the lives of 62,000 Jews from the Holocaust by issuing “letters of protection,” a life-saving diplomatic device of his own invention. In addition, he helped 10,000 Jewish children emigrate to Palestine after he became head of Switzerland’s foreign interests section in Budapest in 1942. By 1944, Lutz represented 12 countries in addition to Switzerland, including the United States.
Born in Switzerland in 1895, Lutz emigrated at the age of 18 to the United States, where he was to remain for more than 20 years. Appointed in 1942 as Swiss vice-consul in Budapest, Hungary, Lutz soon began cooperating with the Jewish Agency for Palestine, issuing Swiss safe-conduct documents enabling Jewish children to emigrate.
Once the Nazis took over Budapest in 1944 and began deporting Jews to the death camps, Lutz negotiated a special deal with the Hungarian government and the Nazis: he had permission to issue protective letters to 8,000 Hungarian Jews for emigration to Palestine.
Lutz then deliberately misinterpreted his permission for 8,000 as applying to families rather than individuals, and proceeded to issue tens of thousands of additional protective letters, all of them bearing a number between one and 8,000. He also set up some 76 safe houses around Budapest, declaring them annexes of the Swiss legation. Among the safe houses the most famous one was the Glass House, where over 3,000 Jews found refuge and protection from their persecutors.
After the war, Lutz was initially reprimanded for having gone too far in his efforts, but was vindicated and honored by the Swiss government in 1957. He retired from the Swiss consular service in 1961.
For risking his life to help Jews during the Holocaust, Lutz in 1964 became the first Swiss national named “Righteous Among the Nations
Righteous among the Nations of the world's nations"), also translated as Righteous Gentiles is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis....
” by Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament....
, the Holocaust memorial authority in Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...
Lutz died in Bern, Switzerland, in 1975.
The Glass House is now open for visitors as a museum that documents the history of Carl Lutz and his activities.
At the entrance to the old Budapest ghetto, a wall-monument was erected to him in 1991. Although more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, 125,000 survived, half of them thanks to the efforts of Carl Lutz.
Source: Hungarian Embassy, FDFA Switzerland