A little Girl and a Diplomat in Wartime Hungary 1944

In the shadows: These are the memories Agnes Hirschi summons when reflecting on the Second World War. For two months, she endured the hardships of being a young girl in a Budapest air raid shelter. As the offspring of Jewish parents, she faced persecution, but against the odds, she survived and now shares her compelling narrative. Girl Diplomat Wartime Hungary

At the age of six, Agnes Hirschi witnessed the Nazis entering her hometown of Budapest. Being both the daughter of Jewish parents and a British citizen, she confronted the dual threat of deportation and murder. Out of the more than 740,000 Hungarian Jews, only 120,000 emerged from the Holocaust alive.

A family photograph dated autumn 1949 of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, his new wife Magda Grausz and stepdaughter Agnes Hirschi in Bern, Switzerland. Photo credit: Archives of Contemporary History in Zurich.
A family photograph dated autumn 1949 of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, his new wife Magda Grausz and stepdaughter Agnes Hirschi in Bern, Switzerland. Photo credit: Archives of Contemporary History in Zurich.

Agnes Hirschi stands among them, one of the last Holocaust survivors in Switzerland. Similar to tens of thousands of others, her survival can be attributed to the efforts of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz. Serving as vice consul in Budapest during that time, Lutz championed the cause of Jews by issuing “protective letters,” surpassing the authorized quota by a significant margin.

The tale of Agnes Hirschi and Carl Lutz unfolds against the backdrop of the greatest crime in history. Yet, it is also a narrative woven with threads of love: post-war, Lutz and Hirschi’s mother, Magda, wed, solidifying Lutz’s role as the stepfather to young Agnes. At the age of 85, Hirschi persists in her quest for the recognition she believes Carl Lutz rightfully deserves. Girl Diplomat Wartime Hungary

During a discussion with Urs Gredig, Agnes Hirschi discusses her recollections of persecution, her dedication to combating collective memory lapses. And her perspectives on the conflict in the Middle East and the increasing occurrences of global anti-Semitism.

Girl Diplomat Wartime Hungary
➡️ Click the picture to see the full German interview with Agnes Hirschi, Nov 2023

Visit the Carl Lutz Society to learn more about the life and work of a remarkable, righteous man.

Dear Agnes, your interview was truly remarkable. Every time I hear you speak, I gain new insights, despite our longstanding acquaintance. Your archives of knowledge are extensive, and undoubtedly, Carl Lutz would take pride in your efforts to bring recognition to his name and actions on a global scale. Well done, dear Agnes. Warm regards, Tom


Get together with Agnes Hirschi
Escaping the Holocaust in Budapest


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FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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