May 13, 2005

Michael Vertes’s speech

Carl Lutz’s 30th Anniversary of Death Commemoration
Park East Synagogue
May 11, 2005

My name is Michael Vertes. In 1944 in Budapest I was 8 years old and known as Miklos Weisz. I did not personally meet Carl Lutz but I was a beneficiary of his rescue effort and I am forever grateful to him.

I remember that grey day on October 23rd, 1944. Word came around the apartment building that Jews could obtain Swiss protective papers at the so called Glass House which, we learned, was used as Swiss consular offices. My mother quickly dressed me and we walked (no public transport available to Jews) to this building. By the time we arrived the narrow street in front of the building was jam-packed with Jews, all desperately clamoring for protective papers.

This is when we got lucky. A man working for the office stepped out of the building. His name was Mihaly Salamon, a cousin to my father. My mother recognized him and asked him to help us get the protective passes, which he did.

This rescue effort went on with the personal encouragement of Carl Lutz. He documented the scene with his camera, so we know he was nearby. Many years later Mrs. Hirschi, Carl Lutz daughter who is here in this audience, allowed us to look through her personal collection of photographs. In one of the crowd pictures my mother is clearly identifiable and the little 8 year old next to her is now speaking to you.

Our family kept the protective passes after the war. I found them among my mother’s documents when she passed away in 2000. I still have them and I brought along some copies.

Diplomats are not expected to be heroes taking risks. Carl Lutz was compelled by his conscience to use his office beyond its authorized limits at great risk to his career and even at some risk to his personal safety to save total strangers who were subject to persecution. For this he will forever be my hero.