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The Salvadoran Who Saved 25,000 Jews

Jose Arturo Castellanos, a Salvadoran consul who saved 25,000 Jews during the Holocaust (Photo: youtube screenshot)

Each week we try to bring you a different advocate and ally of the Jewish people. So many of them have been "Righteous Gentiles" who risked everything to save Jews during the Holocaust. That so many Gentiles did so is heartening. This week, The Times of Israel brings us the story of Jose Arturo Castellanos who as Salvadoran consul during World War II saved at least 25,000 Jewish people from certain death at the hands of the Nazis:

While in Switzerland during World War II, Castellanos befriended George Mandel, a Hungarian-Jewish businessman. Castellanos appointed his friend, who adopted the more Spanish- or Italian-sounding name of George Mandel-Mantello, to serve as the consulate’s first secretary, a fictitious title.

They issued passports or visas identifying thousands of European Jews as citizens of El Salvador to save the holders from the Nazis. In 1944, this relatively small-scale distribution of Salvadoran documents became almost a mass production.

Eventually Castellanos realized that he could not issue the documents quickly enough to save most Jews. So he and Mandel-Mantello secretly distributed more than 13,000 “certificates of Salvadoran citizenship” to Central European Jews, which allowed them to receive the protection of the International Red Cross and eventually the Swiss consul in Budapest. Due to these efforts, now called the “El Salvador Action,” at least 25,000 Jews were saved.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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