Karl Lutz-Personal biography

Karl Lutz was born on March 30, 1895 in Walzenhasen, Switzerland, in the Appenzell canton. Nothing in his biography hinted that this Swiss civil servant, a seemingly drab diplomat, would one day become a Righteous Gentile, credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews.

1910-1913     Studies and apprenticeship at a textile mill in St. Margrethen.

1913               Moved to the United States

1913-1918     Worked in Granite City, Illinois USA

1918-1920     Studied at Central Wesleyan College in Missouri USA

1920               Worked in the Swiss embassy in Washington, DC

1920-1926     Worked in the Swiss consul corps at the Swiss embassy

1924               B.A., George Washington University, Washington DC

1926-1934     Swiss consul in Philadelphia and St. Louis

1935-1941     Vice-consul in Jaffa and in charge of representing Germany’s interests in Tel Aviv.

Lutz’s position as vice-consul in Jaffa (in British Mandate Palestine) served – as we now know today – as excellent preparation for his next appointment. On the one hand, he gained first-hand knowledge of the Jews, and on the other hand, he succeeded in earning the trust of the Germans – which would be very beneficial later on. Lutz was serving in Eretz Israel when World War II erupted. At the time, a few Germans were living in Eretz Israel – Templars who lived in Wilhelma and Sarona. Most of them were Nazi supporters and the British regime treated them as such. Switzerland represented the interests of Nazi Germany, such that Lutz found himself taking care of their diplomatic needs. He managed the negotiations for their exile from Eretz Israel, and the Germans were grateful to him for that.

In 1942 Lutz was sent to Budapest, to be the vice-consul there. When he found himself handling the interests of Britain in Budapest, he obtained the cooperation of the Nazis, who appreciated his work in Palestine. From his position in Budapest, Lutz was also able to help the Jews. Such are the strange paths of fate.

Lutz related that when he left for his post in Palestine, his mother told him, “Take care of my home, Israel.”

The Swiss government was not enthused, to put it mildly, by Lutz’s actions, which digressed from Switzerland’s official policy of neutrality, and following WWII he was assigned to minor positions until his retirement in 1961.

In 1964 Lutz was among the first to be awarded the title Righteous Gentile.

He died on February 13, 1975 in Bern, Switzerland.


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