May 13, 2005

Swiss diplomat who saved thousands during the Holocaust remembered in New York

Swisspeaks ’05, The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and Park East Synagogue commemorated yesterday the 30th anniversary of Carl Lutz’s death.

New York May 12, 2005,. The life and deeds of Swiss Righteous Carl Lutz, a diplomat saved 62,000 Jews in Budapest in 1944 were celebrated at Park East Synagogue, with over 200 diplomats, survivors and other guests.

Mrs. Agnes Hirschi, Lutz’s daughter, who came from Switzerland especially for the occasion. Jewish leaders and Diplomatic Representatives of Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Sweden, Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil and Ecuador, among many others, were among the guests. Several Holocaust Survivors saved by Carl Lutz were present, including Mr. Michael Vertes who shared his memories of Budapest with the audience. Andrew Simon and Michael Furst, who used to live in the same Swiss protected house reunited during the commemoration after years of not knowing anything about each other.

Baruch Tenembaum and Ambassador Raymond Loretan, Consul General of Switzerland in New York.

Rabbi Uri Goldstein, of Park East Synagogue, opened the celebration with a reading from the book ”Time for heroes”. Raymond Loretan, Consul General of Switzerland, gave a historical overview of Carl Lutz’s deeds and of the role of Switzerland. Official Switzerland did not acknowledge Lutz’s valor for many years. Carl Lutz was accused to having exceeded his competence, and he even had problems in continuing his diplomatic career. ”But today the Swiss have done their homework” the consul said. He continued encouraging people to be brave and think the way Carl Lutz did: ”keep our mind open looking for new solutions” and he named Lutz as an idol for the future.

During the Music Intermezzo, Liszt Funerals played by pianist Sebastian Forster, the guests had time to ponder upon the harrowing words from Mrs. Agnes Hirschi who has given some personal insights of her memories to her father and the horror of WWII. Abigail Tenembaum, Vice President of the international Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, announced a new educational program to teach Carl Lutz’s legacy in schools him to be implemented by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and a campaign to name schools, streets and public spaces after.

Mr. Michael Vertes seemed to speak for all the others attending survivors and their children and grandchildren. He was telling how it is to live a life that has been affected forever by such a heroic deed.

An exhibition on Carl Lutz provided by Pro Helvetia, Arts Council of Switzerland, was on display during the ceremony. Carl Lutz helped 62,000 Jews to survive. In his function as chief of the Swiss Legation’s Department of Foreign Interests in Budapest, he issued tens of thousands of ”protection letters” and offered many Jewish refugees a shelter in houses under Swiss Protection. As an engaged Christian, Carl Lutz felt he had to protect these people. Between May 15 and July 9 1944, Hungarian Jews from the countryside were deported, of them 437,402 people died in Auschwitz. For more information on Carl Lutz’s heroic deeds, please visit our Carl Lutz section.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is a non-profit organization, aimed at promoting peace among nations and people, as well as developing educational projects based on concepts of solidarity, dialogue and understanding while rendering homage, promoting the message and remembering the actions of all those Heroes of the Holocaust, who like Raoul Wallenberg, risked their lives to save persecuted people during World War II.