Tuesday, November 28, 2017 10:54 AM
“The laws of life are stronger than the rules made by human beings. That is what my father believed, and that is how he acted.” - Agnes Hirschi
A scenic lookout in memory of Carl Lutz, a Swiss diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, was dedicated in Switzerland Forest, which is located near Tiberias.
“We have gathered here today to honor one of the most prominent Righteous Among the Nations known to humanity,” said KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar. “He will be remembered forever as a hero who risked his own and his family’s lives and as a man who acted nobly as the worst atrocities were taking place.”
Carl Lutz, who served as vice consul in the Swiss Embassy in Budapest during World War II, saved more than 60,000 Jews with the safe-conduct documents that he issued and the safe houses where he placed them. Given the title Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1964, he was one of the first to receive it.
The scenic lookout that was built in Lutz’s memory provides visitors with a breathtaking view of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. Switzerland Forest spreads out around the mountains in its rich, green beauty, with the city of Tiberias nestled at its foot. “We stand here facing this spectacular landscape in a place that symbolizes solidarity, courage, and humanity, said Yossi Ben David, the mayor of Tiberias.
Agnes Hirschi, Carl Lutz’s daughter, came especially from Switzerland to attend the ceremony. She said that the beautiful view reminded her of her father’s home in Switzerland. “The laws of life are stronger than the rules made by human beings. That is what my father believed, and that is how he acted,” she said. “Although he was not born a hero, he would not tolerate the persecution and murder of Jews.”
Switzerland Forest, which spreads out over approximately 3,000 dunams (approx. 740 acres), combines trees planted by human hands with native Israeli trees. With the help of its friends in Switzerland, KKL-JNF has developed hiking and bicycle paths in the forest as well as rest areas, scenic lookouts, picnic areas, and playgrounds. Unlike most KKL-JNF forests, Switzerland Forest had not originally been planted for recreation and leisure purposes, but in order to protect the residents of Tiberias by holding the soil in place with tree roots, thereby preventing landslides.
“When I look from here at the view of the Sea of Galilee and the Galilee, I am filled with certainty that there is no better place to tell the story of Carl Lutz to the many visitors who will be visiting the overlook,” said Arthur Plotke, President of KKL Switzerland. “It is a story that demonstrates how a person who keeps his humanity can change history.”
Jean-Daniel Ruch, the Swiss ambassador to Israel, said that Lutz’s actions make him wonder how he himself would behave in a similar situation. “At a time when crimes and injustice are being perpetrated, people who dare to disobey them are the ones who save humanity,” he said.
The ceremony was held in partnership with the B’nai B’rith organization, with its representative, Arthur Braunschweig, in attendance. “Carl Lutz died without ever having received the recognition he deserved, and we are honoring him two generations later,” he said. He added that B’nai B’rith intended to develop educational materials for young people on the topic of civil courage. “Groups of young people who visit Israel will be able to study these materials in depth when they visit the scenic lookout,” he said.
Schmuel Kahn from Basel, who represented the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, said, “As members of the young generation, we have a duty to visit this place and ask ourselves what such courage means today for each one of us.”
The students from the pre-military academy in Tiberias, who took part in the event, proved that the message has already begun reaching the members of the young generation.
KKL-JNF Public Relations Director Elisha Mizrahi, who emceed the ceremony, quoted from the 23rd Psalm: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” The Lorenzen Duo played for the guests on keyboards and violin.
Three survivors who had been rescued by Carl Lutz stood up to tell their stories. Esther Kaufman, 87, had arrived at the safe house in Budapest, which was known as the “Glass House”, at the age of fourteen, together with her mother and brother. “A long line of Jews, awaiting the visas that would save their lives, stretched out from the entrance building, and my brother and I helped to hand out those visas,” she said. “The conditions in the building were hard - there was overcrowding and little food - but despite that, we were glad to be protected.”
Thanks to Lutz, Kaufman survived the Holocaust, immigrated to Israel, and raised a family. She has two children, nine grandchildren, and 26 great-grandchildren.
Uzi Palgi read a letter written by his mother, Miriam Palgi, which read, in part, “The optimism of young people and a comradely atmosphere reigned in the Glass House.”
“Carl Lutz was sent by Heaven to rescue Jews who were about to be deported to the death camps at the risk of his own life,” said Mordechai Neumann. “I was saved from hell thanks to his courage, and today I can express my gratitude to him in the names of all the survivors.”