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Library exhibit honors man who saved Jews in WWII

By TRACI HASTINGS

Chronicle Staff Writer

CHAPLIN — An exhibit commemorating the humanitarian work of a diplomat during World War II opened in Chaplin Friday night by another diplomat.

“Carl Lutz and the Glass House Holocaust Education Exhibit” will run through Jan. 12 at the Chaplin Public Library, funded by the Carl Lutz Foundation and the Mensch Foundation International.

Presiding over a ribbon-cutting ceremony were librarian Sandra Horning and Cesar Beltran, a retired U.S. diplomat who is currently on the board of directors for the Mensch Foundation.

Beltran also presented a letter from U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who thanked the Chaplin community for keeping Lutz’s memory alive.

Lutz was a Swiss diplomat assigned as vice-consult to Budapest, Hungary in 1942.

He saved about 62,000 Jews from Nazi atrocities, intentionally exceeding the bounds of his duties — actions for which he was later reprimanded, and then, still later, honored.

Lutz extended protective visas intended for individuals to entire families and he arranged the transport of more than 10,000 children to the safety of Palestine.

He also offered diplomatic protection in safe houses around the city, including the so-called Glass House, a former glass factory, where hundreds of Jews crammed into every available space from attic to cellar.

As a member of the Mensch Found-ation, Beltran is responsible for ensuring that the exhibit travels to east coast universities.

This exhibit has traveled to the Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C., to the United Nations, and to Eastern Connecticut State University.

This month, it was supposed to be on display in California, but the widespread wildfires halted its unveiling there, so Beltran made arrangements with Horning to find it a temporary home in this small community.

“This town is the perfect place for it,” said Beltran.

“You have all kinds of Poles and Hungarians here and so many students nearby.”

Beltran himself has lived in Chaplin for many years, having married a Chaplin native, Victoria Northrup, and serves on several local agencies.

He has lived all over the world during his diplomatic service, including the Dominican Republic, Poland, Russia, Spain and Venezuela.

“I never expected to feel so much at home here,” he said of little Chaplin.

The Glass House exhibit has special meaning to Beltran.

Some of his friends met through the diplomatic service bore tattoos from concentration camps, or were the children of those who suffered at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

As an adjunct professor, currently at ECSU and formerly at McDaniel College in Budapest, Beltran takes groups of students to visit Auschwitz.

Beltran’s father was a Korean soldier who became a Japanese prisoner-of-war.

“I learned from him that evil can be stopped, if you work at it,” Beltran said. “I’m committed to helping people learn about the Holocaust.”

Both groups and individuals are invited to see the exhibit and learn more about Lutz.

For tours and library hours, call Horning at 860-455-9424.

 

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