Angela Sanz-Briz: “My father thought it was his duty”

angela sanz-brizWho wants to know more about the life of Ángel Sanz-Briz has at his disposal several documentaries and books. Also a television movie: ‘The Angel of Budapest’, which reliably tells the story of the Spanish diplomat. A man who used every means at his disposal to save as many lives as possible. A real feat and a pride for their families. His daughter, Angela Sanz-Briz, was traveling for the first time to Ceuta to participate in a talk in which the Fundación Premio Convivencia has collaborated with the Israelite Community of the autonomous city. A story full of emotion about an extraordinary episode.

Before that talk, Angela Sanz-Briz attends to this medium to tell how her father, who only 34 years old took over the Spanish legation in Budapest (Hungary), managed to save more than 5,000 people during the Holocaust. When the diplomat arrived in that country, the persecution of the Jews had not yet begun. “Hungary was Hitler’s ally but not anti-Semitic, and action had not yet been taken, as it had in other places.”

All that changed in the year 1944, date of the invasion of the Hungarian country. “They set up a puppet government and, with it, the so-called Final Solution began.” It was there that Adolf Eichman personally took charge of the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland. The idea was that everything developed as quickly as possible, and it was at that moment that Sanz-Briz began to get horror stories. Also very detailed information on how it was a concentration camp explained by people who had managed to escape the Nazi horror.

Sanz-Briz then decided to begin periodically sending to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid the data that came to him from what was happening. “My father was very disciplined and methodical and he began to ask for instructions on how to act. He already believed that it was necessary to help those who were in terrible danger. From Madrid did not answer yes or no, so he took the silence for response and decided to act, “says his daughter.

The method chosen was a repealed Royal Decree of 1924 promulgated by Primo de Rivera that served Sanz-Briz as an excuse to cement his feat. This ancient law gave Spanish nationality to all Sephardic Jews. “The law was no longer in force but in Hungary it was not known. There were also no Sephardic Jews in that country, “says his daughter, who also recognizes that the good relations between Spain and Germany were very useful for her father’s purposes. “Hitler had helped win the Civil War and my father used the strength that Spain had, despite the Nazis’ displeasure.”

In this way, the diplomat was given permission to deliver 200 passports, passports or visas. “That he turned it into 5,000 based on not using a number greater than 200 in any document and start using the letters of the alphabet.” In addition, “he used salvage products for families. He was very intelligent but also very brave and a very good person. He believed it was his duty, “says his daughter. In their purpose was joined invaluable collaboration of embassy workers. “My father had a very effective secretary and he was also helped by a lawyer and an Italian.”

But the Zaragoza not only offered letters of protection, but rented seven buildings. “It was not enough to give them a paper because they could be broken, they had to be really protected. So he put the Spanish flag in seven buildings that he rented and put them as sardines in a can. “

A gesture in which it put itself in serious danger while preparing its flight of Hungary before the increasingly imminent arrival of the Soviet troops in the country. Despite this, Sanz-Briz managed to reach Spain, where he had previously sent his family to try to protect her from what happened. “When the danger began, my father took my sisters and my mother, crossed Europe in war and left them on the border of Spain in the hands of my grandfather, who was from Santander.”

The humanity, courage and intelligence of Sanz-Briz was not, however, recognized until well after the end of the conflict. “The Jews did know and in 1966 they awarded him the title of Righteous Among the Nations, the most important granted to a non-Jew in the ‘Shoah’. He asked permission to pick it up but his government told him it was not convenient. My father did not tell anyone, not even us, “says his daughter.

Sanz-Briz did not live long enough to enjoy all the recognitions his praiseworthy work deserved. The distinction of Justo between the Nations, finally granted in the late 80’s, was only the beginning of an infinity of tributes. “Many of those saved by my father have contacted us. Everywhere in the world there is a Jew who knows the history of my father”.

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