Thousands of Holocaust survivors and their descendants escaped the Nazis thanks to a Spanish diplomat nicknamed the “Angel of Budapest”; however, the late Ángel Sanz Briz is hardly known in Spain today.
His improvised heroic actions in 1944 prevented more than 5,000 Hungarian Jews from being deported to Auschwitz.
“He is a hero more important than Schindler,” says Eva Benatar. Her mother protected her when she was a barely a few weeks old, and also her brother, in one of the shelters established by Sanz Briz in Nazi-occupied Budapest.
Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist who managed to save more than a thousand Jews from the Holocaust. His story was told in the Hollywood movie “Schindler’s List.”
After the Nazi invasion of March 19, 1944 – nicknamed Operation Margarethe – the main organizer of the Holocaust of the SS, Adolf Eichmann, moved to Budapest with a plan to eliminate approximately one million Jews from Hungary in record time.
Sanz Briz served in the embassy of Spain as commercial attaché, before being in charge of the mission in mid-1944, at the age of 33 years. He was one of a group of diplomats who decided to rescue the Hungarian Jews.
Kindertransport, the secret mission that saved 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazi holocaust
In a matter of weeks, the SS deported more than 400,000 Jews to Auschwitz.
Another humanitarian conspirator like the Spanish one became a well-known name: Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who issued “protection passports” and saved tens of thousands of Jews.
Wallenberg then disappeared; He was arrested by the Soviet forces that occupied Hungary and is believed to have died in a Soviet prison.
Why Sanz Briz took justice into his own hand
As reports grew about the growing Holocaust at Auschwitz and other sites of Nazi slaughter, Sanz Briz began to inform Franco’s fascist government in Spain of the terrible truth.
A key document he sent was the Vrba-Wetzler report, made by two Jewish fugitives from Auschwitz.
However, for several months he received no instructions from a regime that had initially supported Hitler in the war.
But he began to take justice into his own hands, falsifying consular documents to grant Spanish nationality to the refugees, on the basis of a Spanish law of 1924, which had lapsed many years ago, and which targeted Sephardic Jews. .
This, despite the fact that Hungary’s Jewish community was overwhelmingly Ashkenazi.
Jews were hid in the Spanish embassy in Buda and bribes were paid to local officials. Sanz Briz faced the dangers of the Nazi and Hungarian patrols of the fascist Cruz Flecha, as well as the Allied bombings, to house the Jews in danger.
“I managed to get the Hungarian government to authorize the protection of 200 Sephardic Jews by Spain, then convert those 200 units into 200 families, and those 200 families multiplied indefinitely by the simple procedure of not giving the Jews safe conduct in groups that surpassed 200, “wrote Sanz Briz in his report to the Spanish government from Bern, in December 1944.
“He added letters to each number, using the entire alphabet,” explains the diplomat’s son, Juan Carlos Sanz Briz.
“It was very unusual for him, he was usually very attached to the rules, diplomats should not issue false documents or put the national flag in buildings that are not part of the diplomatic mission.”
The final tally – tightly registered by Sanz Briz – shows that he granted 232 provisional passports to 352 people, 1,898 protection letters and 15 ordinary passports issued to 45 Sephardic Jews.
While the Nazis and the Hungarian fascists surrounded the Jews of the city, confining them and killing people in the streets, Sanz Briz rented 11 apartments to house the approximately 5,000 people he had placed under the protection of Spain.
In an interview in 2013 for Spanish public radio RNE, Jaime Vándor (recently deceased), who moved to Barcelona with his family after the war, he remembered the misery he lived in those Spanish shelters.
“We were 51 people living in a two and a half bedroom apartment, we were overcrowded, hungry and cold, infested with fleas, hygiene was atrocious, obviously, with so many people using a bathroom, but the worst was fear, fear of deportation”.
Sanz Briz left Budapest in November 1944, by order of his superiors in Madrid, who feared reprisals from the approaching Soviet army, due to Spain’s assistance to the Germans on the eastern front.
He devoted himself to a regular diplomatic career, and the Franco regime, strongly anti-Israel, did not allow him to receive in life the honor of the Righteous Among the Nations, granted by the Yad Vashem, the memorial center of the Holocaust of Israel.
He joined the ranks of the just in 1966.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, yesterday affirmed the commitment of the Government of Spain to combat anti-Semitism, the Memory of the Holocaust and the incitement to hatred.
These statements were made by Minister Borrell in the framework of a meeting held with the President of the Federation of Communities of Spain, Isaac Querub.
It was 526 years ago when the city of Vitoria in Spain, promised to keep and respect the Jewish Cemetery. We have been able to watch a historical day when the representatives of City Hall, Catholic Church and Spain Jewish Community made this ceremony to express how this city has kept the remainings of a Jewish Cemetery. At the end there was candle lighting to commemorate the 6 millions of victims of Shoa.
If you have ever been in Mallorca, I am sure you have seen “ensaimadas” everywhere. People have for breakfast, as a snack, or just buy as a fresh and delicious souvenir to take away for your family or friends.
What you might be don´t know, is that following the opinion of two famous chefs from Mallorca called Andreu Genesta and Tomeu Arbona, the Ensaimada have its origin as a dessert that the Jewish population of this mediterranean island used to cook for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year´s eve).
Nowadays ensaimada is cooked with pork fat, but originally is was made with olive oil. As the families had to bring everything to the central oven of every village, once the Inquisition was looking for “conversos” (converted jews), they replaced the olive oil with the fat in order to look alike as the rest of the village.
The Spain Jewish Communities Council (FCJE, Federación de Comunidades Judías de España) has decided to award the King of Spain, Felipe II, with the Senador Ángel Pulido Award. Following the words of the Spanish Jewish Council, the King has shown a support to the “Renaissance of the Jewish Legacy in Spain and rest of the World” and to the strengthen of the relations with Israel.
Ángel Pulido(1852-1932) was a Spanish Senator who founded the Hispano-Hebrew Union in 1910 under the Kingdom in Spain of Alfonso XIII.
The statue in the left is the Queen Isabella. As we are in December, the city hung a Hanukah lighting decorating this part of The Jewish Quarter in Toledo.
Can you figure that the Queen could turn her neck and look at the Hanukah hanging from the Church she decided to construct in 1474?
“Tapas” is that small dish very common in Spain. Usually “tapas” are eaten standing in a bar, and you order them together with your wine or beer.
The origin is quite unknown but there is an anecdote of the King Alfonso XIII (1886-1941) when he was travelling to Cadiz. The King decided to stop in a beach restaurant.
The King Alfonso XIII ordered a cup of Sherry wine, but did not realize about the wind outside that was coming into the restaurant, and could mess with beach sand his wine cup. A clever waiter had the idea of covering (“tapar” in Spanish) the wine cup with a ham slice.
When the King was going to drink it, he asked: “what is this?”. The waiter answered: “Sorry, My King, I just put a tapa for not to dirty your wine” . The the King ordered for another wine cup but he said to be covered again with the same tapa. Everybody start to laugh and ordered the same than the King.
The Spanish National Team of rhythmic gymnasts performed an exercise inspired by Roberto Benigni’s 1997 film “Life is beautiful”, which tells the story of a man and his son in the midst of the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Spain Royal Federation of Gymnastics published a photo of a gymnast dancing while wearing a prisoner striped uniform with a yellow number of inmate in the National Tournament of Rhythmic Gymnastics in the city of Pamplona, Spain.
The performance sparked outrage on social media, and people said it’s not appropriate to use such a sensitive topic in rhythmic events while some other people defended it as a touching tribute.