The Story
     
Home Page

The Story

Photo Page

Visas for Life

Events

Books and Documentaries

Press Echo

Dokumentation Deutsch

Magyar szoeveg

Links

 

The laws of life are stronger, than man-made regulations


Vice-Consul Carl Lutz arrived in Budapest in early 1942. As chief of the Swiss Legation's Department of Foreign Interests in Budapest he was in charge of the interests of 14 nations at war, among them the United States and Great Britain. His main offices were situated in the American Legation at Szabadsàg tér in Pest. He cared among his duties he cared for 300 Americans, 300 English nationals, 2000 Romanians and 3000 Yugoslavs who were stranded in Hungary.

When the Germans occupied Hungary, March 19, 1944 persecution of the Jews grew very severe. Thousands seeking his protection besieged his offices every day. As an engaged Christian, Charles Lutz felt, he had to protect these people. At that time he had already helped 10'000 Jewish children and young people to emigrate to Palestine. He cared for refugee Jews who had come to Hungary from many nations and for Hungarian Jews who were within British and Palestine jurisdiction.

On May 15, when deportations the Auschwitz began, Lutz decided to place the staff of the Jewish Council for Palestine under his diplomatic protection an to rename it the "Department of Emigration of the Swiss Legation". For this stupendous task a special relief organisation had to be created. With the aid of volunteers Lutz increased his staff from 15 to 150.

  Taking advantage of the fact that neither Edmund Veesenmayer, Hitlers proconsul in Hungary, nor the Sztojay government had formally challenged the right of 8000 people to emigrate to Palestine, Lutz kept "negotiating" with the German and Hungarian authorities. In the process he changed his objective. He wanted to save as many Jewish lives as possible. As a ruse he and his staff started to issue tens of thousands of additional "protective letters", even thought these were no more backed by any Palestine Certificates. In order to hide the new approach, Lutz was careful of always using numbers 1 to 8000 and never to go beyond these. Each 1000 names were grouped together into one Swiss Collective Passport. This meant that the applicants stood under formal Swiss protection.

The queues in front of the "Glass House" were often very long.
  As the Hungarian athorities insisted on concentrating all remaining Budapest Jews in one large getto, Lutz established 76 Swiss protected houses. The inhabitants of these houses were precariously fed and helped out of the Consultes meager financial and material resources. Meanwhile the young Jewish Chalutzim (pioneers) provided communication with the Jewish Community and the underground.

In 1941 about 742'800 Jews lived in Hungary. In Budapest about 150'000 survived. Between May 15 and July 9 437 402 people died in Auschwitz. Carl Lutz helped 62'000 Jews to survive..

"Official" Switzerland did not acknowledge his valor for a long time. Carl Lutz was accused to having exceeded his competence, and he even had problems in continuing his diplomatic career. Carl Lutz died on March 30, 1975 at the age of 80 in Berne.

Carl Lutz was one of the first to receive the "Righteous among the Nations" medal from Yad Vashem, his name was entered in the Golden Book of the Jewish National Fund. In Jaffa (Israel) and Berne (Switzerland) a street is named after him. Budapest honoured him by a statue and 1999 Switzerland by issuing a postage stamp

Swiss stamp honoring Carl Lutz (1999).