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Carl Lutz

The Swiss diplomat who saved thousands of Jews

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Carl Lutz was a Swiss diplomat in Budapest during the Second World War. After the Nazis invaded Hungary, a new film highlights Lutz’s efforts to save the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

From 1942 on as the second in charge at the Swiss embassy in Budapest, Lutz ran the department of foreign affairs. This is how he became the great hope for many Hungarian Jews that wanted to leave for Palestine.

After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, Jews in Budapest were persecuted and deported to Auschwitz. Lutz refused to remain inactive and called on Hitler’s representative in Budapest, SS lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann.

His initiative was successful. From Hitler’s main quarters Lutz was granted a contingent of 8000 so-called units. He knew this would not be enough so he solved the dilemma by inventing a system of collective passports for up to 1000 people and individual protection papers. In this way Lutz managed to save over 60,000 lives.

After the war, his return to Switzerland was a disappointment. He was given another desk job and told that he had overstepped the boundaries. Unlike in Germany, where he received the  Federal Cross of Merit.

It was only in 1995 – 20 years after his death – that Switzerland finally recognized his humanitarian act.