‘Swiss Schindler’ saved tens of thousands from the Holocaust

A little-known Swiss diplomat has been credited with leading the largest civilian rescue operation of the Second World War.

Carl Lutz, the Swiss Vice-Consul to Budapest, is thought to have saved more than 62,000 Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis.

Lutz is said to have been motivated by his strong Christian values, which he learned from his Methodist parents.

Letters of protection

His story was told at the end of last year, as Switzerland chaired the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Lutz was posted in German-occupied Hungary during the latter stages of World War Two, when the Hungarian Government was being pressed to deport Jews to concentration camps like Auschwitz.

Lutz managed to persuade the Germans to let him issue 8,000 diplomatic letters of protection which he then put to good use.

Instead of applying the letters to individuals as expected, Lutz used them to cover entire families. In this way, he is estimated to have saved as many as 62,000 people.

The move irritated the Nazis so much they sought to assassinate him, but this was never carried out.

Safe houses

When it became clear that Germany would lose the war, persecution of Jews became even worse.

Rather than deporting Jewish families, the Nazis lined them up on the banks of the river Danube and shot them.

In response, Carl Lutz established a network of safe houses, which were able to cater for thousands of people.


Agnes Hirschi, a child at the time, was sheltered by Lutz in the Swiss consulate.

She describes him as “a very nice man” saying, “He had some chocolate for me, which he had saved.”

Little-known in his native Switzerland, Lutz recieved greater recognition abroad.

He was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize and declared to be one of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Israel in 1964.


Holocaust expert Charlotte Schallié has drawn a parallel between Carl Lutz and Oskar Schindler.

German businessman Schindler rescued 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factories. His story was famously portrayed in a harrowing film by Stephen Spielberg. Schindler was also recognised by Israel.