On 27 July 2010 José Arturo Castellanos was posthumously awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Click on Yad Vashem for details.
JOSE ARTURO CASTELLANOS
The Times of Israel Salvadoran savior of tens of thousands of Jews honored in Germany. At least 25,000 were rescued from the Nazi’s by diplomat Jose Arturo Castellanos’s false citizenship papers, May 17 2016
An army colonel and diplomat from El Salvador who helped save tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II by providing them with false Salvadoran identity papers was honored in Germany.
The tribute to Jose Arturo Castellanos, who served as El Salvador’s consul general in Geneva, was held last week by Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Berlin Jewish Center, the Elsalvador.com news portal reported.
The film “The Rescue,” which documents Castellanos’s little-known but heroic acts during the Holocaust, was screened to the audience, which included El Salvador’s ambassador in Germany, José Atilio Benitez Parada.
Yad Vashem representative Sandra Witte said that Castellanos, who was recognized posthumously as Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli Holocaust memorial and museum in 2010, is a distinguished icon among all saviors.
“We can say that very few are like Jose Castellanos or Raoul Wallenberg, who have saved several thousands. And it happened in times that they say there was no margin for action and nothing could have been done. Castellanos proved something can be done,” Witte said.
Felix Klein, a German diplomat, said Castellanos’s example shows that denying the Holocaust is inconsistent.
“If a diplomat from a foreign country could be aware, many Germans could be, too,” he said.
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.
Around 2005, a woman found a mysterious suitcase in her basement in Geneva, Switzerland. Inside the suitcase were more than one thousand World War II-era certificates bearing the official seal of the Consulate of El Salvador. The certificates also featured the photographs of men, women, and children. What were these documents? Why were the decades-old official papers of a Central American nation lying forgotten in a Swiss basement? How many of these documents reached their intended recipients? Their history reveals one of the largest scale, yet least known, rescue attempts of the Holocaust.
George Mandel was a Hungarian Jewish businessman who befriended a Salvadoran diplomat, Colonel José Arturo Castellanos, in the years leading up to World War II. After Castellanos was named El Salvador’s Consul General in Geneva, he appointed Mandel, who had assumed a Spanish-sounding version of his last name, “Mantello,” to serve as the Consulate’s first secretary. Even in Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews who were citizens of or held official documents from other countries were often able to escape deportation. With the consent of Castellanos, George Mandel-Mantello used his diplomatic position to issue documents identifying thousands of European Jews as citizens of El Salvador. He sent notarized copies of these certificates into occupied Europe, in the hope of saving the holders from the Nazis.
Enrico Mandel-Mantello, the son of George Mandel-Mantello, donated the original certificates to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum after they were found.
Each certificate tells the unique history of one survivor or victim of the Holocaust. We want to learn as much as possible about the thousands of recipients of Salvadoran certificates. If you or someone you know received a Salvadoran citizenship certificate, please contact Judith Cohen, Director of Photographic Reference Collection, at email@example.com.
WHEN DID GEORGE MANDEL-MANTELLO BEGIN DISTRIBUTING THE CERTIFICATES?
In 1942, Jewish friends in Switzerland began to ask Mandel-Mantello if he could produce a Salvadoran citizenship paper for their relatives. Word then spread among representatives of various Jewish organizations, who also approached Mandel-Mantello, each providing data and photographs of the people they wanted to try to save.
WHERE WERE THE CERTIFICATES SENT?
Copies of the certificates were sent by diplomatic courier throughout wartime Europe. They were sent to almost every country in occupied Europe, some even to French internment camps, Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, and Auschwitz in Poland. After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, the production of certificates accelerated. In total, Mandel-Mantello may have issued as many as five thousand certificates, many with the names and photographs of several family members. Enrico Mandel-Mantello has donated more than one thousand originals to the Museum. He also donated to the Museum a copy of the Auschwitz Protocol.
DID EVERYONE WHO RECEIVED A CERTIFICATE SURVIVE?
Many people who received certificates survived. Some went to Switzerland; others were sent to a special camp in Bergen-Belsen for foreign nationals. Some certificates spared the holders from deportation. However, certificates frequently arrived too late, including those sent to Mandel-Mantello’s own parents. In other cases the Germans did not accept them. The Museum hopes through continued research to learn exactly how many people were saved through these certificates.
HOW DID THE CERTIFICATES SURVIVE?
After printing each “official” certificate of citizenship, Mandel-Mantello made a notarized copy (Photostat) that he sent into occupied Europe by diplomatic pouch or the underground Jewish courier system. The originals remained with him in Switzerland, accounting for their near pristine condition.
WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MANDEL-MANTELLO AND THE AUSCHWITZ PROTOCOL?
In April 1944, two Slovakian Jews, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, escaped from Auschwitz and wrote a report providing some of the first reliable eyewitness accounts of the camp. Romanian diplomat Florian Manoliu, who was assisting Mandel-Mantello in his rescue efforts, received a copy of the Protocol and immediately gave it to Mandel-Mantello in June. Recognizing the Protocol’s importance, Mandel-Mantello recopied it, translated it, distributed it to Swiss Protestant clergy, and launched a worldwide press campaign condemning Nazi atrocities.
Jews have been present in El Salvador since the early 19th century, starting with Spaniard Sephardic Jews and continuing with the arrival of World War II Ashkenazi (from Northern and Eastern European) refugees. Jews who escaped Spain during the inquisition were Jewish Sephardic , hence, a significant number of Jewish families in El Salvador have Hebrew hispanized sounding last names.
Business partnership with Catholic conservative landlords during the 1930s hampered Jewish security, but the situation improved after World War II. On Sept. 11, 1948, El Salvador recognized the State of Israel, and in 1956 the Instituto Cultural El Salvador-Israel was founded.
Jerusalén is a municipality in the La Paz department of El Salvador. It was named by the Cordova family, more specifically by Juan Cordova. They were Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain. Other Sephardic Jews are the Perla y Perla, Oman, Galeas, Galeanos, Gomar, Perez among others, some of them became members and founders of the Seventh-day Adventist church in the area of Morazan.
Right before the Salvadoran Civil War, the Jewish community was actively involved in organizing a Zionist Organization, of which Ernesto Liebes and Carlos Bernhard were its main leaders. Members of the community were also involved -according to American writer Jane Hunter in her book Israeli Foreign Policy: South Africa and Central America- in facilitating the sale of arms from Israel in El Salvador, particularly the sale of 18 Dassault Ouragan jetfighters aircraft in 1973, of which Liebes was perceived by guerrilla groups as the primary representative.
During the Civil War many Jews left the country after the kidnap and murder of a community leader and Israeli Honorary Consul for cultural relations Ernesto Liebes by the RN-FARN, the armed wing of the RN, one of the groups that formed the FMLN.
The Comunidad Israelita de El Salvador was established in 1944 with a Jewish community center opening in 1945 and a synagogue in 1950. The country has now 1 synagogue.
The signing of peace treaties in 1991 led to the return of several Jewish couples with children who had moved elsewhere during the Salvadoran civil war. A new community center and synagogue were inaugurated in the past decade. The Comunidad Israelita de El Salvador holds services on Friday, Shabbat morning, and on holy days. For Pesach, Rosh Hashannah, Sukkot, Channukah, Purim and Yom Haatzmaut the women's committee organizes meals for the community to share and celebrate together.
University students have a Jewish students association, EJES (Estudiantes Judíos de El Salvador), and a Zionist group, FUSLA (Federación de Universitarios Sionistas de Latinoamérica), both of which are active throughout the year. For adults, the community offers different educational classes in Hebrew and other topics of interest. The "Chevra of Women" offers a course in Jewish cooking, and there is a monthly Jewish bulletin called el Kehilatón, which advertises synagogue events. The Noar Shelanu youth movement, to which about 30 children age 8–18 belong, meets weekly. The kindergarten for young children also meets weekly. Two emissaries teach Hebrew and Judaism.
Relations with Israel
Israel has an embassy in San Salvador. In 2006, El Salvador announced plans to move the embassy to Tel Aviv where the rest of the embassies are located. This has been met by controversy, with many believing this decision to be under the political influence of the Arab community and the President himself, Tony Saca, who is of Christian Arab descent.
The Salvadoran Jewish Community was founded in the late 1940s predominately by Jews from the Alsace-Lorraine area in France. Jews from Central Europe followed and in the subsequent years, the community swelled to nearly 400 people until the beginning of the Civil War in 1980 when kidnappings and murders started to take place and the community was dramatically reduced to around 120 people.
The Civil War, which lasted more than 12 years (it lasted from the late 70s through 1992), was a turning point in our Jewish community since most of our members fled to Israel and the U.S. During that time, we had no rabbi. We had no one who could read Torah, except for one Israeli. We had no proper synagogue. Our community was barely breathing.
Nonetheless, the Jewish spirit continued to thrive in the most difficult moments and we somehow managed to have Kabbalat Shabbat services (my uncle Max would lead them) in family homes. We managed to support a youth movement made up of more than 20 kids. Called Noar Shelanu, young people would receive informal Jewish education on Saturday mornings since we were without a rabbi. We also managed to have Bar and Bat Mitzvot, brisses and Torah readings for the High Holidays.
When the Civil War ended in 1992, some of the Jews who had fled began returning. These were people who were concerned about the future of our community and their children. So the search for a rabbi began and after a couple of candidates, a young rabbi named Gustavo Kraselnik from Argentina was chosen. His enthusiasm plus the drive of the community started to yield results and in a short time, we had a community newspaper, Torah readings for every holiday, Hebrew and Judaism classes, informal education for youth during the week and committees that were devoted to different values in Jewish life and community priorities.
One of the most important things that took place during this time were the conversions within our own community. Many of the members of our community had been living Jewish lives all along, but since they were products of mixed-marriages, they were not halachkically Jewish. Our rabbi would gather a Beit Din every year and perform conversions, along with marriages of couples who never had the chance to have a Jewish wedding or who were starting a family.
Many “lost” Jews in the country, mostly with children, started to take note of how the community was flourishing and decided to become more connected to ensure a Jewish education for their family. Many of these young people were given the opportunity to attend Jewish camps in Israel, Latin America and the U.S. to strengthen their identity. The community grew to 150 members more or less, which is the current number today.
In terms of how we define ourselves, we always say that we are too Conservative to be Reform and too Reform to be Conservative. Some people regard us as “Conservative Egalitarian.” Our Rabbi Fernando Lapiduz from Argentina has increased Jewish life significantly. Since last year when he and his wife, Patricia, settled here, the community has had a boost in terms both of spirituality and attendance. We can proudly say that we have minyan every Shabbat morning and holidays, with many people contributing by reading from the scrolls.
Some four years ago, an initiative to found a Tikun Olam committee with 20-30 year olds was put in motion. Its objective was twofold: to fulfill the Tikun Olam mitzvah and to activate this demographic that was in a community void. The main focus of the committee was to help in education, mostly in public schools. We help three non-Jewish institutes that are scattered around the country: a kindergarten (150 kids), an elementary school (1,200 kids) and a vocational center (200 youth). Interestingly, all three schools are called, “State of Israel,” even though they are not Jewish since many schools here are named after countries. We help mostly with infrastructure, books, sporting goods and musical instruments. The committee organizes events like ping-pong tournaments, movie nights or raffles to raise funds for these projects.
Trying to live a Jewish life in this country is often difficult. One big obstacle is that there is no kosher food available. Another big problem is the fact that we are so few and familiar with each other that marrying a Jew here is almost impossible. Mixed marriages with converted partners are the rule, unless you find someone outside the country.
But as I said earlier, the Jewish spirit thrives in difficult times. And those difficult times and moments are the ones that make us want to be better Jews for our community and our families.
Except for the occasional transit of Portuguese Conversos, there were no Jews in the country until the first half of the 19th century when Sephardim from France settled in the town of Chaluchuapa. They were joined by Jews from Alsace who moved to the capital, San Salvador, in the second half of the 19th century. In 1976 there were some 370 Jews in El Salvador, but during the civil war many left the country. With the return of peace, community life began to strengthen steadily.
COMMUNAL AND RELIGIOUS LIFE
The Comunidad Israelita de El Salvador was established in 1944. A Jewish center was opened in 1945 and a synagogue in 1950. Since 1980 services have been conducted in a private house. A Zionist organization was established in 1945, and KKL is also very active.
Comunidad Israelita de El Salvador
Blv. Del Hipodromo 626, Colonia San Benito, San Salvador, El Salvador
Alameda Roosevelt y 63° Avenida Sur, Colonia Escalon, San Salvador
Tel: 503 22 11 34 34 Fax: 503 22 11 34 43
Embassy of El Salvador in Israel
6 Hamada Street
Herzliya Pituah, Israel 46733
There is no kosher food in El Salvador.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Glass House Trailer (3.31) IMDB 11/8/2010
Twenty-five to thirty thousand Jews were issued life-saving certificates of Salvadoran citizenship thanks to the El Salvador Action and its officials: Consul General Jose Arturo Castellanos and his first Secretary, George Mandel-Mantello. This is the story of how one of the world's smallest countries facilitated one of the most successful rescue operations of World War II. In 1938 Colonel Castellanos was assigned to Hamburg to open the consulate of El Salvador, then was sent to Switzerland. In 1942, as Europe was under siege by the Nazis, a wealthy Romanian Jew named George Mandel, who had befriended Castellanos, asked for his help. So Castellanos appointed him First Secretary of El Salvador's consulate in Geneva. When Mandel received his Salvadoran passport, he added "Mantello" to his name in order to sound more Latin. Soon afterward, inspired by the rescue efforts of his contemporaries and driven by the spreading horror of the genocide surrounding him, Mandel-Mantello suggested that they issue Salvadoran passports as rescue tools. Castellanos declined, citing the increased scrutiny of foreign passports, because spies commonly forged them. He instead suggested certificates of Salvadoran citizenship, and thus began one of the greatest humanitarian efforts in the history of the Holocaust. Glass House was filmed over a three year period on location in Central America, Switzerland, Hungary and Spain by the director and his wife Leonor, who is herself a native of El Salvador. The inspiring story of the El Salvador Action, and the Glass House (one of the protected buildings from which Salvadoran citizenship certificates were issued), is told by the sons and daughters of the heroes themselves, as well as survivors who owe their lives to the tiny country with a brave and humble heart.
The Story of José Arturo Castellanos - CNN Interview Washington March 2015
Castellanos Movie 2015 (4.41)
Alvaro & Boris Castellanos sat down with CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez to discuss their upcoming documentary about the life of their grandfather - José Arturo Castellanos who helped saved the lives of thousands of people during WWII by issuing Salvadoran citizenship certificates.
Salvadoran diplomat JOSE ARTURO CASTELLANOS, who saved tens of thousands of European Jews during the Holocaust by giving them false El Salvadoran identity papers.
Julien and Vivette Samuel leaders of OSE in France who survived the war. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
George Mandel-Mantello and his Mission to Rescue Europe's Jews (Curators Corner #7) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 2010 (14.31)
A Hungarian Jew—with the tacit approval and diplomatic authority of the Salvadoran consul in Switzerland—launched an effort to rescue thousands of Jews across Europe. Judy Cohen, director of the Museum's Photographic Reference Archive, narrates this episode of Curators' Corner.
Salvadoran diplomat GEORGE MANDEL-MANTELLO (11 December 1901 – 25 April 1992) was a Jewish diplomat who, while working for the Salvadoran consulate in Geneva, Switzerland from 1942 to 1945, saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by providing them with fictive Salvadoran citizenship papers.
He was also instrumental in publicizing in mid-1944 the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp.