The Spanish Angel of Budapest

Stand for Israel  |  September 29, 2021

Spanish Ambassador Angel Sanz Briz
(Photo: Rob Mieremet/Anefo)

A Spanish diplomat during World War II, Angel Sanz-Briz saved the lives of 5,000 Hungarian Jews who were to be deported to Auschwitz.

Born in Zaragoza, Spain, Sanz-Briz studied law in Madrid before entering the city’s diplomatic school at the age of 23. After he completed his studies, Sanz-Briz was posted to Cairo, before being sent to Budapest, Hungary, in 1942.

It was in Budapest where Sanz-Briz went above and beyond his diplomatic duties. In 1944, as the Nazis deported and murdered Hungary’s Jews, he and his assistants did their best to save as many Jewish people as possible. They issued fake Spanish identification papers to 5,200 Jews, saving them from being deported to (and murdered in) concentration camps. Sanz-Briz was only authorized to issue 200 of these papers, but continued to do so until he had issued 5,000 more.

Besides issuing fake identities, the diplomat used his own money to acquire housing in Budapest for Jews in hiding, again saving them from certain death.

Later in 1944, Sanz-Briz was ordered to Switzerland. But despite his exit, his replacement continued to issue the false Spanish visas, while also continuing the system of safehouses Sanz-Briz had set up.

After the war, Sanz-Briz continued his diplomatic career for the rest of his life, serving in the U.S. (San Francisco and Washington), Lima, Bern, Bayonne, Guatemala, The Hague, Brussels, and China (where he became Spain’s first ambassador to the Chinese). In 1976, he was posted to Rome, where he served until his death four years later.

In 1991, Yad Vashem awarded Angel Sanz-Briz the title Righteous Among the Nations in a ceremony attended by his family.

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