In Ungarn wurden Zehntausende Juden vor dem Holocaust gerettet, die in sog. Safe Houses Zuflucht fanden, versehen mit Zertifikaten der Schweizer und der Schwedischen Botschaft, organisiert von dem bis heute so gut wie unbekannt gebliebenen Juden Moshe Kraus, der es längst verdient hätte, neben dem an der Rettungsaktion ebenfalls beteiligten Schweizer Diplomaten Carl Lutz sowie dem Schweden Raoul Wallenberg, der wahrscheinlich vom russischen Geheimdienst als „Doppelagent“ ermordet wurde, gewürdigt zu werden.
Aus Israel Hayom
Newsletter Sunday April 27, 2014
The Holocaust’s foremost unsung hero
By Emily Amrousi
Moshe Kraus was behind one of the largest rescue operations of the Holocaust • Using his wits, initiative and unparalleled courage, Kraus saved between 40,000 and 100,000 of Budapest’s Jews • So why has no one ever heard of him?
In 1986, a 78-year-old man named Moshe Kraus died in Jerusalem. You probably don’t recognize the name. He was never commemorated in any way. He is not mentioned in any Holocaust encyclopedias. But Moshe Kraus is responsible for the largest rescue operation during the Holocaust, on a huge scale. German industrialist Oskar Schindler, with his resourcefulness and courage, managed to save 1,200 Jews; Kraus saved tens of thousands.
Historians are divided on the exact number, but the most conservative estimate talks about at least 40,000 people, and some estimates are even as high as 100,000 Jews who escaped the Nazis in Hungary thanks to this daring man.
The year is 1944. The Nazis are stepping up the pace and sending more and more Jews to their deaths in efforts to quickly complete the extermination of Hungary’s Jewry. A spacious glass factory located at 29 Vadasz Street in Budapest is granted extraterritorial status under the auspices of Switzerland. Some 3,000 Jews barricade themselves inside this building, dubbed the Glass House, for three months.
More and more homes in Budapest are turned into Swiss „safe houses,“ barring entry to Germans and the local complicit Hungarian authorities, and housing thousands of Jews. The Swiss embassy grants 40,000 Jews certificates making them foreign Swiss nationals. Tens of thousands of additional documents are forged while the Swiss turn a blind eye. Young, brave Jews disguised as Nazi officers roam the streets handing out these documents to Jews, and all of this is orchestrated by Kraus.
Among the Glass House survivors are many prominent Jews, including Moshe Shkedi, the father of former commander of the Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi. „My father lived because of the Glass House,“ Shkedi says. „His parents and all his brothers were murdered. The important message is that not only Christians saved Jews during the Holocaust. Jews also managed to save thousands.“
The story of the Glass House is one of the most fascinating historical events of that era. Much like the man behind the operation, Kraus, this event has somehow evaded public attention and never received the recognition it deserved. The Beit Haedut museum in Nir Galim has recently built a replica of the Glass House, in efforts to right this historical wrong. The forgotten story is now beginning to shed its anonymity thanks to the initiative of Ariel Bariach, the head of the museum. Bariach is not a European Jew, in fact his parents hail from Tunis. „Some people at other Holocaust remembrance facilities didn’t like it that someone of Mizrahi descent was running a Holocaust museum, but the Holocaust happened to Jews, and I’m a Jew.“
A mathematical trick
For Hungary’s Jews, the Holocaust started long after Europe’s skies became saturated with smoke from crematoriums. Some 20,000 Jews who fled the Nazis in occupied countries sought refuge in Budapest, which was considered safe. But in March 1944, after the German invasion of Hungary, the Nazis began sending Jews from outlying Hungarian towns to extermination camps in Poland. Within the span of eight weeks, about half a million Jews from the Hungarian periphery were sent to their deaths, at a pace of about 12,000 per day. Entire communities were wiped out, one after another.
In April 1944, two Slovakian Jewish prisoners managed to escape from Auschwitz. Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler met with the head of the Slovak Jewish Council, Oscar Krasniansky, and gave him a detailed account of what was happening at the death camp. Krasniansky translated their account and compiled a 32-page report (the Auschwitz Protocols) providing, for the first time, accurate and detailed information on the methods and dimensions of the Nazi extermination efforts. Vrba and Wetzler said that at that point 1.75 million people had been killed at Auschwitz, and that the camp was preparing for the arrival of 800,000 Hungarian Jews, slated to be killed.
By the end of May that year, Moshe (Miklush) Kraus had gotten his hands on the Vrba and Wetzler’s report. Kraus was one of the heads of the Zionist movement in Hungary and he directed the Palestine Office in Budapest. He added his own report to the Auschwitz Protocols detailing the transport and extermination of the Jews in the outlying Hungarian towns. The report named every individual from every city and district. He then did everything in his power to disseminate the two reports.
These documents made their way to the regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, Miklos Horthy, and to all the important political figures in Hungary. An international news agency picked up the story and distributed it, and the reports created quite a stir in Switzerland. Swiss public opinion applied enormous pressure on Horthy. The pope, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Swedish King Gustaf the fifth all sent letters of protest to Budapest. Roosevelt’s letter to Horthy included a military threat. As a result, Horthy put a stop to the deportation of Jews.
Between July and October of that year, before Horthy was deposed and the Arrow Cross Party rose to power, Kraus gave his all to try to include as many Jews as possible in the mathematical trick he had devised with the help of the Swiss. How did so many thousands of Jews manage to evade the Nazis‘ awareness? At the core, it was a feat of bureaucratic sleight of hand on a massive scale.
At the time, a British-issued immigration certificate, simply referred to as a „certificate,“ granting entry to Palestine, was viewed as a protective shield. Anyone in possession of such a certificate was considered a British citizen protected by the Swiss legation in Hungary, because Switzerland represented Britain’s diplomatic interests in Hungary at the time. At the end of 1943, the Hungarian government recognized the rights of 1,500 holders of such certificates.
Kraus, together with other Palestine Office workers, approached Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, who was stationed in Budapest as vice-consul and headed the office that represented British interests. Lutz was sympathetic to the Jews, having served in the Swiss consulate in Jaffa. He and Kraus had the idea to turn the 1,500 individual certificates into family certificates, including the families of 1,500 Jews in these protective documents — 7,800 people in all.
A month and a half after the Nazi occupation, when ghettos were at their peak in the outlying towns, Kraus and Lutz, with the help of anti-Nazi Hungarian foreign office workers, thought up yet another manipulation: They turned the 7,800 certificates back into individual documents, applying them to families as well, allowing them to save about 40,000 people, all of whom now possessed immigration documents issued by Switzerland. The International Red Cross, Britain and Switzerland recognized the 40,000 documents. The Nazis officially recognized only 7,800, but Kraus continued his efforts to get Nazi recognition for the full 40,000.