The man who saved 62,000 people during the Holocaust: The power of anonymous courage

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The man who saved 62,000 people during the Holocaust: The power of anonymous courage

January 27, 2020 - Jim Denison, PhD

Category Culture

Carl Lutz was responsible for the largest civilian rescue mission of the entire Holocaust. And yet his story is unknown to most of us.

Lutz was head of the Section for Foreign Interests in the Swiss Embassy in Hungary. When the Nazis invaded in 1944, forcing nearly 438,000 Jews onto trains bound for Auschwitz, Lutz knew he had to do something.

As a young man, he had hoped to become a minister or a missionary. However, he realized that his poor speaking skills would be a hindrance, so he chose a diplomatic career.

Three decades later, he issued protective documents that extended Swiss protection to Jews and exempted them from deportation. He also placed seventy-six buildings under Swiss diplomatic protection, where he was able to house thousands of Hungarian Jews who had lost their homes and property.

In a 1949 report, Lutz summarized the motivations behinds his rescue efforts, writing that he did not consider himself a “Christian in name only” and thus found it a “matter of conscience” to rescue Hungarian Jews “condemned to die.”

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that he saved approximately sixty-two thousand people. Carl Lutz was therefore responsible for the largest civilian rescue mission of the Holocaust.

The power of anonymous courage

Most of us have not heard his name, but think of the people whose lives he changed. Think of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are alive because of his heroism.

Now consider the fact that every act of courageous service is significant whether the culture recognizes it or not.

Consider Abraham’s unnamed servant whose faithfulness was instrumental in finding Rebekah, the woman who became Isaac’s wife and the mother of Jacob (Genesis 24). Or Hathach, the servant of Esther who faithfully and courageously transmitted messages between her and Mordecai that led to the eventual salvation of the Jewish people (Esther 4).

I could go on at length naming women and men of anonymous courage “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38). Their acts of faithfulness are seldom recognized in our culture, but they were used by our sovereign Lord to shape the trajectory of Scripture and human history.

What step of anonymous courage is your Lord asking you to take today?

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