Protocol Nr. 3619
The person in question has given us the following information: The institution of Vadász Street was initiated by the Zionist movements. The secretary of the Palestine Office Miklós Krausz had been in contact with the Swiss Embassy for a long time. It was the Embassy that took the responsibility to represent the countries that were in war with Hungary, including England. The Swiss Embassy conceded to giving protection to an office whose future job was to register those who applied for a certificate for Palestine. There were 7,800 of these certificates, or rather, the Palestine Office was told that 7,800 of these documents could be used as soon as the exit permits were issued. The objective was then to register these 7,800 names and to start negotiations regarding the exit permits. As we know, in these days when the office of the Embassy in Vadász Street was opened, the Lakatos government, which had already slackened the presence of fascism in Hungary, was ready to negotiate regarding these permits. The agreement was to issue a collective passport – I think for 1,500 people – what the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior would approve, thereafter also the Germans would give the exit permit if we meet certain conditions. The approval of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior indeed arrived, but the case was obstructed by the Germans for a long time, and there was no chance to achieve anything. Meanwhile we intensely worked in Vadász Street. These were times when a ray of hope would soon become certainty. Hundreds, thousands of people were applying for registration and the limit of 7,800 was soon surpassed, even the number of 10,000. Masses of little photos were glued on the files and the one who managed to fill in the form was a happy person who felt his or her fate secured. It was anyway typical of people of that time to sustain hopes and beliefs without difficulties, to catch at a straw, since there was no firm ground to stand on. It appeared to us that the first transport could successfully depart soon, however, all attempts failed. Germans did not know how to proceed. It was not only the lack of interest to save a few thousand Jews that mattered but also their great worry that people who knew the story of their misdeeds could get to neutral, or even inimical territories. At the beginning of October, in the last days of the Lakatos government also the office in Vadász Street got calmer, since we now hoped that the war would finish soon and nothing serious would happen to Jews in the future. October the 16th is a day to never forget. A few of us went to the office of Vadász Street in the morning and found an empty, deserted place. No one had the courage to come to a place which was Budapest-wide known to be the gathering point of Jews. Everyone was convinced that Vadász Street would be treated the same way as the Jewish houses that had been locked, and the people inside or nearby would be arrested and taken away. The owner of the house Arthur Weisz (later taken away and shot by the Arrow Cross) did not want to let us enter the building as he knew we lived in illegality and was worried he could also get into trouble if they find us there. We had to break in the door and enter by force. The office in Vadász Street served us, who worked in the rescue team, often as a place where those issues could be resolved or activities be carried out that we could not do in the street or in a private flat. We were prepared (although we knew that to a certain point we took a risk) to provide people with forged documents or to negotiate with smugglers and with members of the resistance movement. Naturally, the heads of the office were not happy about it, and this led to several arguments but at the end it never gave reason for troubles. Also now, on the 16th of October a few of us came in and decided to carry on working. In the following few days gradually a part of those people joined us who had an exemption from wearing the star (as officers of the Swiss Embassy or for other reasons) and thanks to the extraterritorial status of the building it was here where they stayed during the day. Slowly, people started also to move in since the Embassy let its officers to live there. Naturally, this became soon known to others and no one could stop the avalanche of those who wanted to live in the building. Brothers, parents, friends, acquaintances, Zionists and non- Zionists came pleading and crying and the house got full illegally. The Embassy, especially ambassador Lutz later always acknowledged and approved that the number of people grew. Circumstances became tougher: the space narrower, the supply more difficult, sanitation worse, outdoor activities more dangerous. Once detectives of the Arrow Cross came but had to leave the premises furiously since they could not offend the right of the Swiss for extraterritoriality. To a certain point the whole thing was only a bluff at the end, as nothing would have happened if one day they had just taken away all the inhabitants of the building. But somehow they did not have the courage to do so. The chance that the emigration could happen became in fact really thin by now. As a consequence the Embassy appeared ready to give letters of protection to the 7,800 registered people holding a certificate. It was only now that Vadász Street became really besieged. This news spread like fire. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people were queuing up in front of 29 Vadász Street - sometimes occupying the whole street and blocking the traffic - in order to receive letters of protection. In fact, a lot of them, or most of them risked their lives because they were there at the gate when Jews could not go out, many without a star. But for some reason the raids of the police and the Arrow Cross avoided this street, and nothing happened. On the other hand the office had connections to the police station in Vadász Street, which sent cordons of police every day. They sent policemen on horses who kept order using the baton because people risked breaking in the walls of the glass house. I got some batters, too, when I was hurrying through the crowd although I had a special card to enter the building. As I had no moral inhibitions and felt no scruples towards the Nazis it was natural that it right away came to my mind that we could also produce Schutzpasses. We immediately had a seal made and stole forms from the Embassy to start preparing letters of protection. Unfortunately, the letter “I” was left out of the word "suisse" on our seal because of a mistake, so there was the danger that police would immediately find out that these were fake. Later, they indeed realised it in some cases. However, when distributing the Schutzpasses we did not tell the people that these were forged documents partly because we were afraid of betrayal and partly because it would have decreased their self- confidence and they would have lost their composure. Therefore, we carried the fake documents to the Embassy and distributed them there to the people who were not on the list of 7,800 or could not get hold of it in another way. This was later not sufficient and we were forced to play the greatest bluff. We set up a completely fictitious embassy in 4 Perczell Mór Street, where we distributed now good fakes to those who applied for them. Very often there were masses waiting also there, fighting for the Schutzpasses which often meant salvation for them. Interestingly enough, not only Jews but a great number of non-Jew policemen, soldiers, and clerks applied for Schutzpasses claiming that it would save them in front of the Russians. It happened that we indeed issued it for them, partly because we were convinced that it would not help them, partly because this way we could always extort some form of benefit, or privilege from a high officer. The number of Schuztpasses increased this way maybe even to 100,000. Naturally, to some extent we let people cherish illusions, but still these letters of protection saved the life of innumerable people. A great number of labour service companies were saved by bringing them a letter of protection that addressed collectively a whole company. In November-December Jews could hardly appear in the streets. This was the time when they set up the so-called Swiss houses where the Schutzpass-owners lived. This was the so-called foreign ghetto in Pozsonyi road. Conditions in Vadász Street became almost unbearable. There were already more than 2,000 people living in a single building, in the cellar, in the attic, filling all holes, sleeping and lying on tables, on the ground, on shelves, in constant dread that the Germans or the Arrow Cross was going to disrespect extraterritorial rights and take revenge on them when they see that the war is about to finish. Day by day sanitation became worse, food supply more difficult to provide. Also the Arrow Cross became more interested in us. Still people kept trying to get into this "Paradise". Although it was difficult to refute anyone, very often we had to get them to leave because of the interests of the community. The spies of the police also managed to get in so the police was perfectly well-informed about everything. There were weapons hid in the building, especially the young Zionists kept them who lived in the cellar, and who were prone to defend the house with arms in case it was attacked. In the last weeks I did not go in any more, for almost every day a detective came to fetch me, a person who knew my name and had an exact description of my appearance. Nevertheless, I still occasionally slinked into the building in the evening, or kept in touch with them in another way. The people who lived in were hungry of news about the outside world and were always in need of something. Once the Arrow Cross came by cars and forced everyone of Vadász Street to move out in front of the house without a coat or a hat. Almost everyone was out when the news arrived to Wekerle Sándor Street where there was another similar building of the Embassy. We were afraid the end came, the catastrophe arrived. The telephone started to work, we called everybody from the city military headquarters to the police headquarters, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we called everyone, we tried to threaten them saying that we would immediately inform the Swiss government through a short- wave broadcasting station and with similar bluffs, which some believed because of benevolence, some because of cowardice, and some because they had been bribed. In few minutes cars of the city military headquarters and of the police headquarters appeared with soldiers and policemen to get the Arrow Cross withdraw. By this time there was a bad relationship anyway between the Arrow Cross the soldiers and the police which led now almost to a fight between them. But apparently it was not worth fighting because of Jews, so the men of the Arrow Cross withdrew. The result of this attack was the death of three people and another person seriously wounded. They were shot when the Arrow Cross came in and someone raised his voice saying it was an extraterritorial premise. Although there were no similar cases later on they could happen any minute and the nerves of the people were infinitely strained. I want to speak about another tragic case. The Embassy had two cars for resolving problems in the country. One was driven by my friend, one of the heads of our movement Simcha Hunwald. This boy came back only recently from Ukraine after three years of labour service and immediately started working in Vadász Street with great zeal. This was where the half of the immense quantity of work was done. When we were distributing the Schutzpasses there were days when the leadership did not close their eyes as there was so much to do; while the impatient, disquiet, and upset masses had to be controlled and kept in order. I remember that another friend of mine Sándor Grossmann, who is known by many, did not sleep for weeks to manage the work of the officers and to get the greatest possible results. But I come back to Simcha Hunwald. Once, when he arrived home by car he found one of the couriers of the building, a young Jewish boy dead in front of the gate. The Arrow Cross killed him a few minutes before when he left the house. Simcha Hunwald, although from the inside he was warned to come in straight away he went to the boy and looked at him. He cried up: "Who dared to do it?" In this moment two of the Arrow Cross went to him from the other side and took him away and also the car. We have not seen him since then. Only a few more words! On the day of the liberation the hiding place in Vadász Street was occupied by a mentally and physically destroyed mass. Not to mention the damages caused by the Arrow Cross, the air raid shelter of the building was not big enough as the cellars were anyway full. It is a miracle that only a grenade hit the building wounding no one despite the severe bombing of the neighbourhood. Nervous-wrecks but saved people left the building and ran away from the dirt, lice and the already burdensome community. The mass, mostly made up of intelligent people fell in such a degraded, debased state that community life became impossible.