Lutz, Karl and Gertrude

Swiss Vice Consul in Budapest

Karl Lutz was the first neutral diplomat that initiated actions of saving Jews. He invented the Schutzpässe, documents of protection, and issued them to over sixty thousand to Jews in Budapest. He planted the Swiss flag on over seventy-five Schutzhäuser, assuring protection from attack, for its dwellers. He expedited people out of the country, searching and opening escape routes. 

He was an early collaborator and a member of the top diplomatic life-saving quartet with Raoul Wallenberg, the Swede, Angelo Rotta, the Papal Nuncio, and Friedrich Born, the head of the IRK. They were constantly devising means and methods and life saving instruments He and his wife Gertrude, devoted every waking moment to discover, deliver, and extract Jews from the Hungarian and German persecutors. Parked on a street, he would leave the doors of his official car open, for anyone in danger and in need of instant haven. He would take people out of the deportation depots, from the forced marches. In his negotiations with the authorities, German and Hungarian, he would issue threats, insist and demand beyond the extension of his diplomatic rights despite his running battle with his superiors in Bern who forbade his activities, warning him that he was infringing on his diplomatic immunity. Gertrude and Karl Lutz paid no heed, except to what they felt that had to be done, right in front of their eyes – to lend support, help and save lives. They saved over sixty thousand lives.

Lutz went to the US as a teenager and lived in Illinois. He attended college at Central Wesleyan in Warrenton, MO, and at George Washington University in St. Louis, MO. After serving as Chancellor at the Swiss Consulates in Philadelphia and St, Louis and after twenty years in the US, he was assigned as vice-consul to the Swiss Consulate General in Jaffa, Palestine. He arrived in Budapest in 1942 and immediacy started his involvement in helping Jews leave the country.  He helped ten thousand children and young adults to immigrate to Palestine. In charge of the foreign interest sections of countries at war with the Axis, he represented twelve countries including the US.

Upon return to Switzerland he was sharply reprimanded and demoted. For some time he was shunned and for punishment relegated to meaningless jobs in the administrative wilderness. Vindicated in 1957, he retired in 1961. In 1964, he became the first Swiss to be honored as a ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Israel. A remarkable man and an altruist in his actions, he and his wife lived in Bern, where he died in 1975, aged eighty.

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