- Charles (Carl) Lutz (1895-1975), the Swiss Vice Consul in Budapest who is credited with saving more than 62,000 Jews who were living in Budapest between 1942 and 1945. Born in Walzenhausen, Switzerland, Lutz moved to the United States in 1913 at the age of 18. While studying at the George Washington University, he joined the Swiss diplomatic service and became chancellor at the Swiss legation in Washington, D.C. In 1935 Lutz was sent to Palestine, where he was appointed Vice Consul at the Swiss consulate in Jaffa. During his six years in Palestine he came into contact with many Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. On January 2, 1942 Lutz was reassigned to the Swiss consulate in Budapest, where he was appointed Chief of the Department of Foreign Interests of the Swiss legation. There he represented the interests of the U.S., Great Britain and twelve other countries that had severed formal relations with Hungary because of its alliance with Nazi Germany. In his capacity as neutral Swiss representative of British interests in Hungary, Lutz organized the issuing of Palestine certificates (endorsed by the British authorities), to Jews seeking to escape from Hungary. This mission helped more than 10,000 Jewish children and youth reach Palestine by March 1944. In his efforts to shield Hungarian Jewry from persecution, Lutz also pioneered the use of the Schutzbrief, an official letter issued by the legation to protect the young emigrants from being drafted into the Hungarian labor service and later from deportation while they awaited passage to Palestine. The use of the Schutzbriefe or Schutzpasse was later adopted by the Swedish, Portuguese and Spanish consular offices in Budapest to protect Jews from deportation. Soon after the German takeover of Hungary in March 1944, Lutz received word about the planned deportation of Hungarian Jewry. Immediately, Lutz and Maximilian Jaeger, the head of the Swiss legation, organized the neutral legations in Budapest in an effort to thwart the German plan, but to no avail. When the deportations began, Lutz placed the staff of the Jewish Council for Palestine in Budapest under his diplomatic protection and renamed it the Department of Emigration of the Swiss Legation. This department was soon moved to the Glass House on Vadasz Street and ultimately became a refuge for more than 4,000 Budapest Jews. At this time Lutz also began to issue tens of thousands of new Schutzbriefe (eventually numbering more than 50,000), in addition to the 8,000 already issued to Jews waiting to leave for Palestine. Lutz was careful to always repeat numbers 1 to 8,000 and never to issue a higher number. Each 1,000 names were grouped together into one collective Swiss passport that was intended to be legal proof that the named individuals were under Swiss protection. Late in 1944 Lutz attempted to secure a safe have in Switzerland for more than 200,000 Hungarian Jews but was unsuccessful. When Hungarian and German authorities initiated the ghettoization of Budapest Jewry, Lutz established 76 safe houses in the Saint Stephen ghetto and put them under his diplomatic protection. More than 30,000 Jews were sheltered in these buildings. Though they came under repeated attacks by the Arrow Cross in the final months of the war, nearly all survived. In addition to being repeatedly compelled to rush out to stop Arrow Cross bands from raiding his safe houses, Lutz was called upon on several occasions to drive to the Obuda brickyards concentration camp to rescue Jews who were about to be deported. In November 1944 he was responsible for liberating an entire column of 1,000 Jews who had been dispatched on a death march from Budapest to the Austrian border. After the war Lutz received a letter of reprimand from authorities in Switzerland for overstepping his authority in helping the Jews of Budapest. Lutz divorced his first wife, Gertrud in the late 1940s, and in 1949 married Maria Magdalena Grausz (Magda), one of the Hungarian Jewish women he protected during the war. He also adopted her daughter, Agnes. Lutz retired from the diplomatic service in 1961. Four years later, in 1965, Lutz was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
[Source: Saul, Eric. "Visas for Life" exhibition, February 2000]