Under Swiss Protection – Accounts from Wartime

Under Swiss Protection – Jewish Eyewitness Accounts from Wartime Budapest. Carl Lutz’s diplomatic wartime rescue efforts in Budapest is the topic of this book of 400 pages. Written by Agnes Hirschi (Stepdaughter of Carl Lutz) and Charlotte Schalliè (Associate Professor in Germanic Studies at UVic). The book covers 36 stories/testimonies of survivors, which includes the one of Agnes Hirschi as well. “The man who changed my life is her story.

Under Swiss Protection

As an expert on passports and their history, protection letters/passes were always included in my research. I own and have seen many such documents from righteous diplomats, not only those issued by Carls Lutz but also such from Born, Langlet, Rotta, Wallenberg etc. The interested document collector will learn about these documents more in detail, which indeed was a “life-saving paper” in German occupied Budapest in 1944.

“The movement began to provide us with false documents” says the testimony of Mordechai Laszlo Kremer, which is for me very interesting, as he describes his experience when he visited the office of the movement, where they issued fake documents. Mordechai had also one personal connection with Lutz in 1970. Lutz wrote a letter to him stating:

“…I feel sorry that I could not save more of my fellow beings, but it was a most dangerous and difficult task to negotiate with SS Eichmann as I did and with the Hungarian Nyilas government, as I did and successfully.”

The chapter “Context and Milestones of the Rescue Activities of Carl Lutz and His Team” gives a comprehensive overview of neutral powers involved in issuing protective documents in Budapest, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Holy See, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Turkey had also a legation in Budapest, but played only a minor role. It had no safe houses, for instance.

“Every moment, every slip of paper meant human life”
– David Gur, Ramat Gan (Israel) –

David Gur, born Endre Gròsz joined Hashomer Hatzair Zionist Youth Movement in Budapest. He was recruited to the “Workshop team”. His testimony is most interesting as we learn about the underground production of forged documents in more details.

“Diplomats are not expected to be heroes taking risks”
– Michael Vertes, Weston, CT (USA) –

Above statement is absolutely correct. That a Swiss diplomat in a foreign country, occupied by Nazi Germany takes a stand for humanity by risking his own life, not once but several times was outstanding brave! Michael Vertes was then eight years old and then known as Miklos Weisz. “I did not personally meet Carl Lutz, but I was a beneficiary of his rescue efforts and I am forever grateful to him”.

Miklos Weisz

Some of the survivors still have their protection letter and so does Michael.

Another testimony comes from Englishman Prof.Geoffrey Leonard Tier who also wrote a letter to Lutz in May 1945. As Chief of the Department of Foreign Interests of the Swiss legation, Lutz represented the interests also of the U.S., Great Britain and twelve other countries that had severed formal relations with Hungary because of its alliance with Nazi Germany. Tier wrote:

“My dear Mr. Lutz, it is a difficult matter for me adequately to express the debt of gratitude which my wife and I owe you and to Mrs. Lutz for the kindness shown to us during the time you have been good enough to shelter us”
– Prof. Geoffrey Leonard Tier, Budapest 1945 –

Tier and his wife received a spot in the basement at Lutz’s residence in Jan 1945 – where around 30 people were staying at the time. The Tiers remained there until the liberation of Buda in mid-Feb 1945.

If you want to learn more about Carl Lutz and those he saved with his rescue actions from 1942 to 1944 by issuing protection letters/passes and establishing several safe houses for those in need, then I truly recommend you this book which is also available in a Kindle version.

Carl Lutz was indeed a “forgotten hero” but books like this will refresh his history and will bring his brave actions back on the surface. He will not be forgotten anymore! Well done!

Under Swiss Protection – Jewish Eyewitness Accounts from Wartime Budapest

The life-saving documents

Letter of Protection (Schutzbrief)

Lutz drew the document up on his own initiative, which was legally and diplomatically on shaky grounds, they stated – on the letter head of the Swiss Embassy in Budapest and carrying its stamp (but no signature) – that the bearer stands under the protection of the Swiss Confederation for a later departure for Palestine. These personalized Letters of Protection were carried by its bearers and presented in case of controls and raids. In such situations this document was of live saving importance. The Swiss Letter of Protection was later copied by other countries and individuals and became immediately some of the most desired documents in the Hungarian capital, a straw  to cling to for survival. Nowadays these documents are rare to find.

Weisz Hermann, Swiss Schutzpass 1372/xx 1944

Collective Passport (Kollektiv-Pass)

Each person was registered twice, in the above Letter of Protection and then in this Collective Passport – an invention by Lutz for which he will later reprimanded by his superiors in Bern. Collective passports are thick binders, each containing the personal information and photos of one thousand persons. When eight of this binders are full and thus the number of 8000, as agreed upon with the Nazis, is reached, Lutz and his co-workers simply start over with another binder number 1. Two Collective Passports are in the Swiss Federal Archive.

Swiss collective passport No 1

Protective Passport (Schutzpass)

From 1942 onward, Lutz and his staff, about 20 strong, issued 300 to 400 protective passports to US and British citizens, both Jews and non-Jews, and subsequently distributed 1000 such papers to Yugoslav citizens. Very rare to find nowadays!

Schutzpass (protective passport) no.48 to KARDOSS JOSEPH
Schutzpass (protective passport) No.48 to KARDOSS JOSEPH

Comment: Researching this topic for 15+ years I never saw a protective passport issued to Yugoslav citizen myself, but I had/have 2-3 of US and British citizens.

You can download this article HERE

Under Swiss Protection – Jewish Eyewitness Accounts from Wartime Budapest

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    1. Hello Paul, I am glad you like my article. Thank you for your kind feedback. I am sure you will find this book most instructive. Best regards, Tom

  1. Very well done, dear Tom. You really understood the dimension of the rescue activity
    of my stepfather Carl Lutz. I am very grateful you made this publication!
    Thanks! Agnes

    1. Dear Agnes. Thank you very much for your kind feedback. The book was for me most instructive. I have to thank you and Charlotte that you both took the efforts to publish such a great book which covers the topic most comprehensive. Best regards. Tom

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