Feb. 1, 2019
- Fake Salvadoran Citizenship Papers Saved Thousands of Jews during the Holocaust – David B. Green
Jose Arturo Castellanos and George Mantello saved thousands of Jews otherwise fated to die in Auschwitz. They met when Castellanos was posted by El Salvador as an army business agent in Europe and Mantello (formerly Mandl) brokered a deal for the Salvadoran to purchase weapons from Czechoslovakia in 1939. Later that year, Mantello, a non-Spanish-speaking, Central European Jew, became the honorary attache of El Salvador in Bucharest.
Mantello and his immediate family held diplomatic passports, which protected them from the Germans. Encouraged by his friend, Castellanos issued a small number of visas to Jews in occupied countries that enabled them to escape deportation by the Nazis. After Kristallnacht in November 1938, Castellanos requested permission from El Salvador’s foreign minister to do this on a larger scale. His request was turned down. Its president, Gen. Maximiliano Martinez, was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler.
After Mantello moved to Switzerland in 1942, Castellanos – by now the Salvadoran consul general – created a new “official” document: A certificate of Salvadoran citizenship, which they distributed to Jews in a number of countries in Europe. In 1944, after deportations began in Hungary, Mantello succeeded in smuggling 10,000 Salvadoran citizenship documents into Budapest, with the help of the Swiss consular office there. Each one was good for an entire family. (Ha’aretz)