Swiss Protection Letter – Escaping The Holocaust In Budapest

Swiss Protection Letter Holocaust
The Nazis took over Budapest in 1944 and wanted to deport finally as many as possible Jews to death camps in the East. Mostly to Auschwitz  – the largest Nazi facility for systematic mass murder.

Carl Lutz

But there was one man, a Swiss man – Vice-Consul Carl Lutz, who negotiated a special deal with the Hungarian government and the Nazis. He gained permission to issue protective letters to 8,000 Hungarian Jews for emigration to Palestine.

Carl LutzLutz deliberately used his permission for 8,000 as applying to families rather than individuals, and proceeded to issue tens of thousands of additional protective letters, all of them bearing a number between one and 8,000. He also set up some 76 “safe houses” around Budapest, declaring them annexes of the Swiss legation and thus off-limits to Hungarian forces or Nazi soldiers.

Safe House

Among the safe houses was the now well-known “Glass House” (Üvegház) at Vadász Street 29. About 3,000 Hungarian Jews found refuge at the Glass House and in a neighboring building. (I do highly recommend a visit to the Glass House!) Swiss Protection Letter Holocaust

Lutz worked relentlessly for many months to prevent the planned deaths of innocent people. He and his colleagues dodged the actions of their German and Hungarian counterparts. Thanks to his diplomatic skills, Lutz succeeded in persuading Hungarian and Nazi-German officials, among them Adolf Eichmann, to tolerate, at least in part, his formal protection of Hungarian Jews.

Lutz’s efforts to undermine the Nazi death machine were so bold and so extensive that, in November 1944, Proconsul Edmund Veesenmayer, the German representative in Hungary, asked permission to assassinate the Swiss Consul; Berlin never answered.

Carl Lutz met Adolf Eichmann a few times for negotiations in Budapest. Lutz's diary has some remarkable notes on these meetings...

“Eichmann was surprised at our meeting that somebody confronted him the first time directly with the “Jewish question”. Our first meeting was life-threatening for me! Eichmann compared me with Moses, who tried to save his people. Eichmann, surprised by my direct approach & demand on the amount of Jewish people to bring to Palestine, said he will discuss this issue with Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler direct.” Swiss Protection Letter Holocaust

Himmler later told in an interview shortly before his death that he also denied the responsibility from Lutz and then asked Hitler’s headquarters. They confirmed Lutz’s responsibilities and honored his “excellent service” when Lutz was serving the Germans in the Consulate in Palestine back in 1935.

CARL LUTZ – A HERO ON A DIFFERENT KIND OF BATTLEFIELD DURING WWII!

Due to Lutz’s actions, half of the Jewish population of Budapest survived and was not deported to Nazi extermination camps during the Holocaust. He was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. 

THE PROTECTION LETTER

Is a document with letterhead or the SWISS CONSULATE in Budapest, Hungary. Issued 23 October 1944. The red Swiss Coat of Arms (COA) is on the letterhead. They read Swiss LEGATION (Consulate) stamp at the lower margin. Those letters are never signed. It’s estimated that CARL LUTZ saved approximately 62,000 Jews from the extermination camps and so from certain death.

Newer research results define the numbers of protection letters to 50,000. Around 10,000 were fake ones.

BUT HOW MANY OF SUCH PROTECTION LETTERS SURVIVED AFTER 75 YEARS?
Definitely, not many, as they are most rare to find – even at Holocaust Museums (and I have visited several)! Swiss Protection Letter Holocaust

Schutzpass Carl Lutz
Protection letter, Swiss Legation, October 1944

An original document not only of the HOLOCAUST but also of one of only a few “RIGHTEOUS DIPLOMATS” who acted selflessly to do the RIGHT THING even at such very difficult times. Swiss Protection Letter Holocaust

 

FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, 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...