Sztehlo Gábor

religious tolerance, saving children

The Lutheran Church in Deák Square (built 1799-1808, plans by Mihály Pollack) has numerous memorial plaques on its wall. One of these mentions the decree of Joseph II on religious tolerance (1781), which stated that the members of Unitarian, Calvinist, Lutheran and Orthodox denominations should suffer no negative discrimination. The decree was motivated by the need for tolerance and creating cohesion among the peoples of the Empire. The same year saw the settlement of the status of 83000 Hungarian Jews and the transfer of censorship authority from the church to the state. However, on his deathbed, Joseph II annulled his decrees, with the exception of 3 – one of which was the one on religious tolerance.

Facing the church building stands the statue of Lutheran minister Gábor Sztehlo (1909-1974, created by sculptor Tamás Vigh in 2009). He was the organiser of the Folk College system in Hungary, following the Finnish model (1937). During the war he was saving the prosecuted, mostly children. He set up PAX, a home for prosecuted children and several other institutions.

In 1945 he set up Gaudiopolis, ‚The City of Joy‘, a ‚republic of children‘ in Budapest, whose citizens had a library of their own, a choir, celebrated special days together and worked for the benefit of the whole community. They had their own constitution and law code, their own currency, the Gapo Dollar and a humorous periodical. They only received financial support from the International Red Cross.

„After 1945 the surviving parents took their children with them – the orphans were left there…“
– Mátyás Sárközi

Gaudiopolis functioned until 1950, inspiring Géza Radványi to make his gripping film, Somewhere in Europe. Gábor Sztehlo was the first Hungarian citizen to receive the title Righteous Among the Nations and the Jad Vashem medal.

Question: Why do you think only the International Red Cross supported Gaudiopolis, but neither the Hungarian state, nor the church?

Recreation spots: Deák Square, the cafés and and restaurants nearby.

Public transport
M1, M2 and M3 Deák Ferenc Square
Tram 47 and 49 Deák Ferenc Square
Bus 9, 16 Deák Ferenc Square
Time to the next peace trail station
8 minutes