Saturday, December 9, 2023 -
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Hiding your Jewishness

One of the benefits of being a “Swiss living abroad” is that I receive the quarterly Swiss Review, a magazine oriented for non-resident Swiss.

Agnes Hirschi, Carl Lutz’s stepdaughter, took this picture of Jewish refugees outside the Glass House in Budapest, 1944. (Wikimedia Commons)

The most recent issue included an intriguing article about Agnes Hirschi, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor.

A small child in 1944, she was given refuge in the “Glass House,” a Budapest safehouse run by a local Jew, Moshe Krausz, with the Swiss vice consul Carl Lutz, who facilitated these refugees’ escape.

For his heroism, Lutz was besmirched by his country, and he wasn’t the only one. Switzerland has an extremely uncomfortable relationship with its past as it relates to the Holocaust, and it has sadly trickled down to the survivors, too.

It never made sense to me how few survivors were present in Swiss Jewish life — a stark contrast to Denver, for example. But as Hirschi relates, she hid her Jewishness, which many survivors who stayed in Europe did.

What shocked me about the article, however, was that Hirschi turned out to be Lutz’s stepdaughter. At first I thought I had misread. But following a divorce, Lutz married Hirschi’s mother, who had been a servant in his Budapest residence.

The whole story made me utterly sad — that Lutz died embittered, that Hirschi for most of her life hid her Jewish identity, that she’s part of a book called The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors, which in a different environment might be uplifting, but in the Swiss context seems more of a last-ditch effort, highlighting the vacuum that has existed in Switzerland, its failure to recognize its survivors over the past 78 years.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected].

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