Righteous Among the Nations - Our Passports
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Righteous Among the Nations

2017 Jerusalem awarded to a Chilean national.

 

1939 was one of the most important years of the 20th Century. In that year alone the world’s fate and destiny changed forever: starting with the complete occupation of Czechoslovakia, Memel territory, Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the outbreak of World War Two.

 

The Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement from August 1939 was a game changer. The secret clause inside it allowed the two new allies, Germany & Soviet Union, to carve up Poland and divide the spoils of war between them, thus after Germany made the first move on September 1st, it was Russia’s turn, and the latter invaded from the east on September 17th.

 

By early 1940 Europe was in war: Poland has been conquered, and Germany with Russia where jointly controlling the country. Anyone who did not manage to escape east, into Romania, Hungary or the Baltic states was caught. No way out was seen. Hope was gone.

 

By this time, there were those who were lucky enough to have done just that: thousands found refuge in neighboring Bucharest and Budapest and also far up north, in Lithuania, Kaunas.      This was the location of a very rich and traditional old Jewish community and now, a refuge for hundreds and even several thousand refugees, the lucky ones who managed to cross the border before it was shut tight.

 

As the days went by it was becoming clearer that the situation would not remain safe for long. With both German and Russian soldiers massing up on the borders of the tiny small country, all feared the worst. All began to anticipate the inevitable: the possibility of conquest and invasion into still safe Kaunas. And this was the case: On June 15th the Soviet army invaded. They were trapped.

 

During this year, several diplomats who were stationed in the city did the unthinkable and went even against the orders of their superiors: they issued life saving visas to hundreds and several thousand Jews and other refugees. Such actions even put their own life at risk, yet, they did so without thinking twice: Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara and Dutch representative Jan Zwartendijk, in this link here you can see examples of the visas that were issued by these 2 brave and heroic men.

 

The list of Righteous among the Nations – those individuals who put their life at risk and issued all the assistance possible, at the time, in order to do the right thing, because they knew, deep inside their hearts, that a life is too precious of a thing to let go, and acted – is getting longer by the day, but not all managed to get in, some, were left out or they have not been discovered yet. There are many reasons for this. The list consists of clergymen, businessmen, farmers, private individuals and also diplomats.

 

The task of locating a potential individual, a gentile, a non-Jew, who risked his life and went against orders or regulations in order to save Jews, falls upon the Holocaust institute, Museum and research center, the leading one of its kind in the world, the Yad Vashem hall of memory located in Jerusalem, established shortly after the formation of the State of Israel, in order to preserve, research and teach future generations of the atrocities and crimes committed during those six long years. The list is long, and today it has over 25,000 brave men and woman who risked it all in order to do the right, humane and just thing: save a life.

 

Last year, another individual was added to this long list: Chilean Diplomat Samuel del Campo.

 

On October 22nd 2017 Yad Vashem, held a ceremony in honor of the Chilean diplomat. The ceremony was held with various delegates from the Righteous and Righteous among the Nations Prof. Sergio Della Pergola and Irena Steinfeldt. Diplomats as well were invited to attend this important event, such as Chilean Foreign Ministry Director General H.E. Mr. Milenko Skoknic; Chilean embassy Chargé d’Affaires Allan Najum; his counterpart from Israel, deputy of the ministry Modi Ephraim and last, but most important probably of all was Holocaust survivor Professor Eliyahu Rosenthal.

 

Samuel del Campo served in the Romanian capital from 1941 to 1943 as senior Chilean Chargé d’Affaires. Up to 1940, we can locate Polish passports still being issued by the Polish consulate in the Romanian capital, and in 1941, when these diplomatic missions were shut down the Chilean government took the responsibility of representing the Polish Government in Exile in the country, thus assuming the position of “In charge of Polish interests“. This came to an end in mid 1943, when the Governments of Chile and Romania broke off diplomatic relations and the duties of representing Polish interest in the country were transferred to the neutral Swiss government. We thus can locate Swiss issued passports for Polish nationals bearing the special division embossed seal & applied stamp as well.

 

Del Campo issued Chilean protection documents and passports to polish Jewish refugees living in Bucharest and the northern city of Czernowitz: such documents prevented their deportation to Transnistria; more can be learned via this link here as well.

 

I have added images of a sampled document bearing a passport extension signed by this courageous diplomat.

 

 

Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.

 

Neil Kaplan
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