The Swiss model bureaucrat who saved tens of thousands of people rather than 8000
Carl Lutz (1895 – 1975) a Swiss diplomat was stationed in Budapest in 1942. Apart from Switzerland he represented diplomatically Great Britain and the US as well. In the darkest of times he issued collective passports and after the arrow cross takeover protection passes and saved thousands by getting them into protected houses. With his contribution 76 housing blocks got protected status under Swiss colours in Budapest. One of these in the Glass House, located at 29 Vadász Street (today home to a Carl Lutz Memorial Room), where about 3000 Jews found refuge at the time. With an agreement with the Hungarian state, he had the right to issue protection documents for 8000 individuals, yet he deliberately misinterpreted the instruction and issued documents for 8000 families, saving tens of thousands of people.
“We discovered what was going on all by ourselves!”
– Gertrud, Carl Lutz’s wife
By certain estimates, the number of people they saved can be about 60 thousand. He would go to the brick factory in Óbuda (a forced labour site for Jews), the bank of the Danube where groups of Jews were regularly taken for execution and also intercepted the ‘death marches’ taken towards the Western border to get out whoever he could. He worked in cooperation with members of other diplomatic missions, such as Raoul Wallenberg, Angelo Rota and Friedrich Born, representing the international committee of Red Cross.
He was awarded the title ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ in 1965. He died in 1975 in his homeland, without any publicity, in an old people’s home in Bern. If we walk from Gábol Sztehlo’s statue (Location XI) to the park along Rumbach Sebestyén, in front to No. 7 we encounter a small copper plaque embedded in the asphalt. It’s a stumbling block or Stolperstein and it bears the engraving, ‘Here lived József Schreiber, born 1915, killed in Nagycenk as a forced labourer in 1945’. Budapest as well as other European cities are home to several stumbling blocks, which is part of the oeuvre of German sculptor Gunter Demnig, who wishes to call people’s attention to those deported and killed in World War 2 – let’s give them respect.
Question: What do you think decides whether we commemorate someone (and even make a hero of them) or forget them completely?
Recreation spots: Madách Square, the cafés and bars of Dob Street and the Gozsdu udvar courtyard complex.