The ‘Schutz-Letter’ of Swiss Diplomat Carl Lutz

At the Museum Of Tolerance (MOT), in Los Angeles, California, it is very likely that one will hear stories about the Holocaust that take you by surprise. This evening it was no different when they told the compelling story of Carl Lutz who, under diplomatic protection, saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews’ lives.

The book about Carl Lutz is: ‘Under Swiss Protection: Jewish Eyewitness Accounts from Wartime Budapest’.

Book cover: 'Under Swiss Protection-Jewish Eyewitness Accounts from Wartime Budapest'
Book cover: ‘Under Swiss Protection-Jewish Eyewitness Accounts from Wartime Budapest’

The book retraces Carl Lutz’s successful diplomatic wartime rescue efforts in Budapest, Hungary, through the lens of testimonies of Jewish eyewitness. It is estimated Mr. Lutz and his team of rescuers issued more than 50,000 lifesaving letters of protection-Schutzbriefe and placed persecuted Jews in 76 safe houses – annexes of the Swiss Legation. Based on interviews with Holocaust survivors the eyewitnesses’ stories shine a light on the extraordinary scope and scale of Carl Lutz’s humanitarian work. It was a response to Hitler’s Final Plan for the Jewish Nation.

Authors:

Agnes Hirschi, born in London shortly before World War II broke out, spent her first ten years in Budapest and the last two months of the war together with the Lutz family in the bomb shelter of the former British Legation in Budapest.

Charlotte Schallié is an associate professor of Germanic studies at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – UVic; #HolocaustEducation, #VisualStorytelling, #NarrativeArt, #HumanRights – every day is Chutzpah Day. Her research interests include post-1945 German literature and film, transcultural studies, Jewish identity in contemporary cultural discourse, and Holocaust education.

Agnes Hirschi [R] and Charlotte Schallié [L] on stage telling the Carl Lutz story
Agnes Hirschi [R] and Charlotte Schallié [L] on stage telling the Carl Lutz story

Righteous Among Nations

Mr. Lutz served as the head of Swiss immigration legation to Palestine which allowed him to ostentatiously continue this work from Budapest, where he was stationed during WWII.

During the years 1942-to-1944, with Carl Lutz’s assistance, Hungarian, Slovak and Polish Jewish children were able to travel to British Mandate Palestine. Between the years 1944-to-1945 Carl Lutz, under his Swiss diplomatic protection, performed the greatest civilian rescue operation known as the ‘Glass House’.

For Carl, in the years when the Nazis occupied Hungary, the mission was clear, save life, save life, save more life.

For the Swiss government, the actions by Carl Lutz were indefensibility of diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. For years the Swiss government did not recognize Mr. Lutz’s efforts in saving lives. They buried the story and in fact after the war Mr. Lutz was reprimanded by the Swiss Foreign Ministry, his employer, and his diplomatic career suffered a great deal.

However, when the world community started to investigate the money and other most valuable properties the Nazis confiscated from Jews and hid in collaborating Swiss banks, the Swiss government had to show its better face during WWII and thus the Carl Lutz’s story surfaced and the people he saved and their stories about how he saved them started to pop up everywhere.

It is worth noting that Raoul Wallenberg who came to Budapest to help saving Jews, learned the ‘save the Jew craft‘ from Mr. Lutz and so did other diplomats who were stationed in Budapest. Under the constant sniffing noses of the Nazis, they all saved as many Jews’ lives as they could. While Mr. Lutz issued ‘Schutzbriefe-Letters of Protection’ to anyone, Wallenberg issued ‘Protection Passports’ to Jews who had some sort of Swedish connection.

The Event

This evening Agnes Hirschi arrived from Switzerland to accept the Mensch Award for her stepfather, Carl Lutz, who saved thousands of Jews from being murdered by the Nazis. She and her mother were saved by Carl Lutz who adopted the two as his own..

Carl Lutz event -Swiss Consul General[ opens the evening
Carl Lutz event -Thomas Schneider, Swiss Consul General opening remarks
The Mensch International Foundation, headed by Steven Geiger, partnered with the Swiss Consulate of Los Angeles for the event. Thomas Schneider, Swiss Consul General made opening remarks, to present a program in which Carl Lutz was posthumously honored with the prestigious “Mensch Award.”

The current news has been about the massacre of Jews praying on a Sabbath in their Pittsburgh synagogue’s sanctuary.

On Monday, October 29th, the news has been about the saving of Jews from being murdered by Hungarian & German Nazis, in 1944 Nazi-occupied Budapest.

Agnes Hirschi receives the Mensch Foundation's Mensch Award from Steven Geiger
Agnes Hirschi receives the Mensch Foundation’s ‘Mensch Award’ on behalf of Carl Lutz from Steven Geiger

If anyone reading this story has anyone in their family who told them he or she was saved by some “Swiss man” while living in Budapest and they seek heart-felt closure, please contact me, the writer. I will make the connection with the appropriate people who may be able to give them a good ending to their family member’s story of how he or she survived the Holocaust.

During the 2006 second Lebanon War, Nurit Greenger, referenced then as the “Accidental Reporter” felt compelled to become an activist. Being an ‘out-of-the-box thinker, Nurit is a passionately committed advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States, and the Free World in general. From Southern California, Nurit serves as a “one-woman Hasbarah army” for Israel who believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.
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