You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

February 26: A Spanish Rescuer

Lawrence Bush
February 26, 2017
Sebastián de Romero Radigales (1884-1970), a Consul General of Spain in Athens, Greece in 1943, was recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on this date in 2014 because of his efforts to save the Jews of Salonika from death in Auschwitz. Deportations of these began in March 1943, and within five months 48,000 Jews were gone, according to Yad Vashem. “For pragmatic reasons,” however, “the Germans agreed to exempt Jews holding Italian and Spanish citizenship from deportation, on condition that they return to their countries. Italian Jews were thus spared and could return to Italy; but the Spanish Jews were faced with the reluctance of the Spanish government to permit them to be repatriated.” Radigales, arriving in Athens in April, immediately arranged the repatriation of 510 Jews who had Spanish citizenship, despite his government’s instructions to the contrary. “Radigales did everything in his power to help the Jews in Athens,” Yad Vashem’s account continues. “He also intervened with the German authorities to have Jews released from the Haidari detention camp; assisted those who went into hiding; safeguarded the belongings of arrested Jews to ensure that they would be returned to their owners or their rightful heirs after the war -– actions that went above and beyond his duty as a diplomat, and often against his government’s policies.” A breakthrough came when 367 Jews who had already arrived in Bergen-Belsen were allowed to be deported to Morocco, thanks to his efforts. It was one of these, Isaac Revah, who wrote to Yad Vashem in later years to see Radigales honored. “Being released from a Nazi camp is an extraordinary event. It all happened thanks to an outstandingly courageous and humane man.” --Isaac Revah

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.