Haaretz reports on the circumstances that brought José Arturo Castellanos and George Mantello together, a pair that would later work to keep thousands of Jews out of Auschwitz.
After Mantello moved to Switzerland in 1942, Castellanos – by now the Salvadoran consul general – created a new title for him: first secretary of the Geneva consulate. Together, they took it upon themselves to create a new “official” document: A certificate of Salvadoran citizenship, which they proceeded to distribute to Jews in a number of countries in Europe, including France and other occupied countries. Both the position of first secretary and the citizenship certificate were ad hoc creations cooked up by Castellanos and Mantello…
By the time the Russians liberated Budapest in early 1945, the Germans had deposed Horthy and resumed the arrests of Jews. Nonetheless, thanks in large part to the Salvadoran papers, there were still some 145,000 Jews alive in the capital, out of some 250,000 Hungarian Jewish survivors.
There are no precise figures for the numbers of people whose lives were saved by the efforts of Castellanos and Mantello. Many sources suggest 20,000 to 40,000. Dr. Joel Zisenwine, director of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations department, prefers to stick to the more conservative “thousands.”