The Italian Schindler Who Conned the Germans into Letting 5,000 Jews Go Free

Jan. 19 2017

An early enthusiast of fascism, Giorgio Perlasca volunteered to fight for Italian forces in Ethiopia in 1935 and then went to Spain to fight for Francisco Franco. But after returning to Italy in 1939, he quickly became disillusioned with Mussolini and, to avoid military service, found himself a job procuring livestock for the Italian army, which involved traveling around southeastern Europe. His travels made him aware of—and deeply troubled by—what was happening to the Jews. After Mussolini’s fall in 1943, he found himself in Budapest. Elizabeth Salthouse writes:

[I]n late 1944, the Spanish consul to Budapest beat a hasty retreat to Switzerland leaving behind empty offices, his official consulate seals, Jewish staff, and hundreds of Jews desperate for Spanish protection. . . .

Unbeknownst to the Germans, the Spanish consulate had been quietly sheltering Hungarian Jews in eight apartment blocks under its control, but the rescue effort was jeopardized by the consul’s departure. And so Giorgio “Jorge” Perlasca stepped in, brazenly convincing Hungarian authorities that he was now the Spanish ambassador with all the powers that went with the title.

It was a breathtakingly audacious and highly dangerous move that could have led to Perlasca’s summary execution at any moment. But he was a master of persuasion and so “Ambassador Perlasca” proceeded to issue Spanish-consulate letters of protection, stamped with the genuine seals, to hundreds of Jews over the winter of 1944. And not only that, Giorgio personally challenged German troops rounding up Jews, persuading them that many potential gas-chamber deportees had Spanish heritage and were therefore protected. He even used his own money to buy peoples’ freedom and argued with German officers directly, including the infamous Adolf Eichmann, to rescue children from the jaws of certain death. The man was fearless, galvanized by his hatred of the Nazis and fortified by his skills as a negotiator.

Ultimately, over the course of around 45 days Giorgio Perlasca managed to fool the Germans, to issue fake permits and to directly protect, rescue, and secure the lives of at least 5,500 Jews.

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Read more at Italo-Americano

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Hungarian Jewry, Italy, Righteous Among the Nations

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror