An Iranian official risking his life to save Jews? This scenario, while implausible nowadays, actually happened during the Holocaust.
Meet Abdol Hossein Sardari, a diplomat at the Iranian mission in Paris during the 1940s. Known as the “Iranian Schindler,” he helped thousands of Jews escape certain death – by turning the Nazi race ideology on its head. […]
Born into a privileged Iranian family, Sardari was a junior diplomat at the Paris embassy who enjoyed fine dining and the company of pretty women. After the Germans invaded France and the Iranian ambassador left the capital and went to Vichy to reconstitute the embassy there, Sardari was put in charge of consular affairs in Paris. When the Nazis started implementing anti-Jewish decrees in occupied France, Sardari made it his mission to protect his fellow Iranians in the region, regardless of their religion. […]
Writing on the letterhead of the Imperial Consulate of Iran, Sardari tried to convince the authorities that according to “an ethnographic and historical study,” the members of the Jewish communities of Persia and central Asia were not Semitic but rather Aryan, like the Germans themselves. […]
Sardari’s plan actually worked. When Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David, a directive was issued that Iranian Jews should be exempt. In addition, Sardari gave out between 500 and 1,000 Iranian passports, without the consent of his superiors. This saved 2,000 to 3,000 Jewish lives, as passports were issued for entire families.
Sardari never took any credit for what he did. When Yad Vashem asked him in 1978, three years before he died a poor exile in London, about his wartime activities, he responded: “As you may know, I had the pleasure of being the Iranian consul in Paris during the German occupation of France, and as such it was my duty to save all Iranians, including Iranian Jews.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and other Jewish institutions have posthumously honored Sardari for his actions.
The BBC adds:
When Britain and Russia invaded Iran in September 1941, Sardari’s humanitarian task become more perilous. Iran signed a treaty with the Allies and Sardari was ordered by Tehran to return home as soon as possible. But despite being stripped of his diplomatic immunity and status, Sardari resolved to remain in France and carry on helping the Iranian Jews, at considerable risk to his own safety, using money from his inheritance to keep his office going. […]
Fariborz Mokhtari, the author of “In the Lion’s Shadow: The Iranian Schindler and his homeland in the Second World War,” a new biography about Sardari states:
“Here you have a Muslim Iranian who goes out of his way, risks his life, certainly risks his career and property and everything else, to save fellow Iranians,” he says. “There is no distinction ‘I am Muslim, he is Jew’ or whatever.”
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16190541