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Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Hungary

6th September 2011

People in a Glass House

Last week I visited the House of Glass, close to the Embassy. It contains a small museum, to the memory of Carl Lutz. He was a Swiss diplomat and – like his Swedish counterpart Raoul Wallenberg [link] – saved many Jews in Budapest during the Second World War from the Nazis by providing them with necessary documentation. (Those helped included the director of the Carl Lutz Foundation in Budapest, who showed me around the museum.) The building was a glass factory and provided a hiding place for up to 3000 people at various times.

Carl Lutz also helped look after British diplomatic interests during this period, from the building at Number 1, Tancsics Mihaly street, next door to the Hilton Hotel in the Castle District, which was the British Mission (as the Embassy was then called) between the two Wars. It now houses the National Heritage Office. When I first worked in Budapest in 1989 as a First Secretary, we lived next door at Number 3, in a flat rented by the Embassy for several generations of British diplomats.

Unlike Wallenberg, Lutz survived the Second World War by many years. There is a welcome idea that there should be a plaque to commemorate his work at Number 1. He is a inspiration to diplomats everywhere. It would be quite something if we could all aspire to rise to the challenge as he once did, when the moment of crisis came and at considerable personal risk – as Wallenberg’s tragic example shows.