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Spanish Diplomat Angel Sanz Briz Recognized for Saving 5,000 Jews From Nazi Persecution #hungary #holocaust

Jan Meisels Allen
 

A mural of Ángel Sanz Briz was painted in 2016        

in Budapest. (Gobierno de Espana)

 

After the Nazi invasion on 19 March 1944, codenamed Operation Margarethe, the chief SS Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann moved to Budapest with a plan to eliminate Hungary's roughly one million Jews in record time.  In a matter of weeks the SS deported more than 400,000 Jews to Auschwitz. 

 

Spanish diplomat, Ángel Sanz Briz, who saved over 5,000 Jews from Nazi persecution in Hungary has been given an online tribute 40 years after his death in Argentina.  He is sometimes referred to as the “Angel of Budapest”.

 

 

As reports grew about the escalating Holocaust at Auschwitz and other Nazi killing sites, Sanz Briz started informing the fascist Franco government in Spain about the appalling truth.  A key document he sent was the Vrba-Wetzler report, by two Jewish escapees from Auschwitz.

 

Part of the Vrba-Wetzler report on the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz - sent by Sanz Briz to Madrid

 

He began to take the law into his own hands, falsifying consular documents to grant nationality to refugees on the basis of a long-expired 1924 Spanish law aimed at Sephardic Jews, even though Hungary's Jewish community was overwhelmingly Ashkenazi.

 

Sanz Briz was appointed by Spain to the Hungarian diplomatic post in 1944.  He received the consent of the Hungarian authorities to enable 200 Spanish Jews to receive them, but he turned that into 200 families, and kept increasing the number. It is believed that in the last seven months of 1944, Briz issued forged Spanish documents to 5,200 Jews.  As the Nazis and Hungarian fascists closed in on the city's Jews, moving them into confined quarters and killing people in the streets, Sanz Briz rented 11 apartment buildings to house the approximately 5,000 people he had placed under Spain's protection.

 

To read more see:  https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/spanish-schindler-who-reportedly-saved-over-5000-jews-during-wwii-given-online-tribute

 

Sanz Briz set up special apartment buildings with Spanish flags, marking these buildings as part of the Spanish Legation and therefore protected, to house Jews.  Since those Jews staying in the “Spanish Houses” were forbidden from leaving the buildings, he also provided them with food and other necessities.  Sanz Briz continued to use his power to help save Jews by urging the Red Cross representative to put Spanish signs on hospitals, maternity clinics, and orphanages in Budapest where there were Jews so that these buildings would also be under Spanish protection.  Jews were hidden in the Spanish embassy in Buda, bribes were paid to local officials.

 

Read more at: https://jfr.org/rescuer-stories/sanz-briz-angel/

 

Sanz Briz left Budapest in November 1944, ordered out by his superiors in Madrid, who feared he would suffer reprisals from the approaching Soviet army, due to Spain's help for the Germans on the Eastern front.

To read more see:  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47536432

 

He died in 1980.  Yad Vashem recognized him as Righteous Among the Nations in 1966. 

 

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee