Daughter of Legendary Holocaust Hero to Speak at Holocaust Museum Houston

HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 28, 2011) – The daughter of a Swiss diplomat who is credited with saving tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust will discuss his valiant efforts and a new exhibition honoring his work during a free public lecture at Holocaust Museum Houston this March.

Cultural Bridges, an outreach program of HMH, and the Consulate of Switzerland will present an evening with Agnes Hirschi, daughter of Carl Lutz, the Swiss vice-consul in Budapest, Hungary from 1942 until the end of World War II, beginning at 7 p.m. Monday, March 28, 2011, in the Museum’s Albert and Ethel Herzstein Theater at the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. Admission is free, but seating is limited and advance registration is required. Visit http://www.hmh.org/RegisterEvent.aspx to RSVP online.

Hirschi will speak about her father, who is credited with rescuing tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps by sheltering them in safe houses throughout the city and issuing exit visas. The most famous of the 76 safe houses, a former glass factory that become known as “the Glass House,” sheltered 3,000 Jews. Today, the house is under the auspices of the Carl Lutz Foundation, established in 2004 to preserve the memory of Lutz and the Zionist Halutz Youth, a Hungarian resistance organization that assisted Lutz in his efforts to save Jews.

The “Glass House Exhibition” tells the story of a Budapest house that was a safe haven in 1944 for thousands of people. It served as their sanctuary, a place for their potential survival. Their story is of one episode during the worldwide cataclysm, saving a few thousand lives against the hundreds of thousands who were dragged away for extermination.

Lutz, who was in charge of foreign interests and visas from 1942 to 1945, issued thousands of schutzbriefe, or protective letters, to Hungarian Jews. These were reluctantly accepted by Nazi officials, according to the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. As the Nazi regime tried to liquidate the Jewish community during the war’s closing months, Lutz entered into “tough negotiations” with them and the Hungarian government, obtaining permission to issue 8,000 protective letters allowing Jews to immigrate to Palestine.

By interpreting the 8,000 as families and not as individuals, Lutz and his staff issued tens of thousands of additional letters. He and his wife, Gertrud, liberated Jews from deportation centers and death marches.

Lutz himself was awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, in 1965.

Hirschi was born in London, shortly before World War II broke out. She spent her early youth in Budapest. Although she was only a little girl of six years old during the last and worse time of the war in the Hungarian capital, she remembers wartime vividly. She spent the last two months of the war together with the Lutz family in the bomb shelter of the former British Legation in Budapest, together with 30 other persons – personnel of the Swiss Legation as well as Hungarian policemen and British and American citizens whose houses had been bombed. The Legation building was hit by 25 fire bombs and completely burned down over their heads. 

Since 1949, Hirschi has lived in Switzerland. She has many personal memories of Lutz, who married her mother Magda in 1949 and raised her as a father. She has worked as a journalist for a daily newspaper and as a judge. She has been with the “Visas for Life” (VFL) program since 1998. Her activity as European coordinator of the VFL exhibit honoring diplomats has become an important part of her life.

This presentation is made possible thanks to the Consulate of Hungary, the Consulate of Switzerland, the Carl Lutz Foundation and the Glass House Exhibition, with special thanks to United Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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