Swiss Diplomat saved 62,000 Hungarian Jews

The George Washington University awards the President’s Medal to Swiss Diplomat Carl Lutz.

Carl Lutz as Vice Consul in front of the Swiss Embassy in Budapest.

Carl Lutz as Vice Consul in front of the Swiss Embassy in Budapest.

Carl Lutz (1895-1975) graduated from The George Washington University´s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 1924. He entered the Swiss diplomatic service and was sent to serve as Vice Consul of the Swiss Embassy in Budapest in early 1942. By issuing tens of thousands of “letters of protection,” Carl Lutz rescued Jews in Budapest from deportation to Nazi death camps during World War II. GWU honors outstanding graduates with the President´s Medal. President Steven Knapp will honor Carl Lutz with The President’s Medal on March 3, 2014, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

As the fascist Arrow Cross militiamen fired on a group of Jewish people, a woman survived. The bullet did not kill her, but she fell, wounded, into the freezing waters of the Danube. The men advanced on the dock to watch her drown slowly. Instead, they saw a distinguished tall man jump into the river. With water up to his chest and covering his suit, he swam back to the bank with her and asked to speak to the Hungarian officer in charge of the firing squad. Quoting international covenants, he declared the wounded woman a foreign citizen protected by Switzerland. In front of the stunned fascists, he brought her back to his car and left quietly.

Vice Consul Carl Lutz arrived in Budapest in early 1942. As chief of the Swiss Legation’s Department of Foreign Interests, he launched the largest rescue operation of World War II, issuing Swiss safe-conducts and letters of protection that enabled Jewish men, women and children to emigrate.

A photo exhibition illustrating Carl Lutz´s work in Hungary will be on display at the GWU for a short time. Check our events calendar for details.

His story will be told in the upcoming Hollywood movie Walking with the Enemy.
Watch the trailer

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