Righteous among the Peoples
June 29, 2008 3:59 PM Subscribe
In March 1944, Nazi Germany occupied its ally Hungary and immediately began preparing the extermination of Hungary's Jews
. A small band of diplomats from neutral countries and the Red Cross
put their lives at risk to try to smuggle as many Jews as possible out of Hungary from under Adolf Eichmann's
nose. While Raoul Wallenberg
remains the best known of these "Righteous among the Nations"
, there's no doubt that the most intriguing character was Giorgio "Jorge" Perlasca
A fugitive himself, as an Italian national who had refused his allegiance to Mussolini's puppet Salò Republic
, Perlasca had found refuge at the Spanish embassy, where he immediately received a Spanish passport as a veteran from the Italian Francoist volunteers of the CTV
in the Spanish Civil War, and joined the Spanish chargé d'affaires, Ángel Sanz Briz
, in protecting as many Sephardic (and not-so-Sephardic) Jews as possible under a 1924 Spanish decree
granting citizenship to these descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. When the Spanish diplomats were withdrawn to Switzerland, Perlasca appointed himself Spanish ambassador
and continued Sanz Briz' efforts at enormous personal risk
. After the war, he proceeded to retreat into obscurity until rediscovered forty years later.