The Righteous Gentiles of World War II, July 16

“Lord of the Exodus, who delivers your people with a strong hand and a mighty arm: Strengthen your Church with the examples of the righteous Gentiles of World War II to defy oppression for the rescue of the innocent; through Jesus Christ.” —Collect of the day: The Righteous Gentiles, July 16, in Holy Women, Holy Men, Celebrating the Saints (Church Publishing, 2019).

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Holy Women, Holy Men was a trial expanded calendar of commemorations of saints authorized by the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church that includes many modern people of faith and apostolic action. The people remembered on July 16 are the thousands of Christians and people of faith who saved Jews from the Holocaust. One of them was Carl Lutz, an Evangelical Christian who was a Swiss Vice-Council in Budapest. Lutz negotiated with the Nazis for the deportation of more than 60,000 Jews to Palestine, probably saving more lives than any other person.

Lutz had gained permission to issue emigration papers for 8,000 Jews to Palestine. He interpreted it as applicable for 8,000 families, saving thousands more. There is a 2014 American film, Walking with the Enemy, that tells of Lutz’s work with Pinchas Rosenbaum in Budapest during the German occupation of Hungry. Lutz also established seventy-six safe houses in which to hide Jews in Budapest, including the now famous Glass House, all of which the diplomat declared as Swiss territory.

There is another documentary about Lutz called The Forgotten Hero. I honestly believe each of us is given many moments in which to make a difference in the lives of others. The challenges may not be as dangerous or risky as Lutz’s on the international scene; but in our own environment they may still demand courage. It is good for us to see how people who came before us were creative in making changes and finding loopholes when there seemed to be no way out—as they worked around systems that were awful beyond words. I can only believe this was the work of the Holy Spirit in the worst of times. I know that same Holy Spirit is working in us today.

[See Carl Lutz, International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation,]