JERUSALEM – The Embassy of El Salvador in Israel and the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum will remember on Thursday Salvadoran diplomat Jose Arturo Castellanos (1893-1977), recognized as a “Righteous Gentile” for saving thousands of Jews during World War II.
“For the Salvadoran people, it’s a very emotional and proud moment that his actions have been recognized,” Ambassador Susana Gun de Hasenson told Efe.
Castellanos, who was El Salvador’s consul in Geneva during the war, granted some 40,000 passports and birth certificates to Jews from different countries – mainly from Hungary – so that they could escape the Nazis, according to an investigation by El Salvador’s foreign ministry.
On July 27, a ceremony will be held in El Salvador, where the Israeli Embassy will present the Yad Vashem medal to Castellanos’s descendents.
The title of “Righteous Gentile” is the highest recognition bestowed by the Museum and has been extended to around 22,000 people, most of them Europeans.
Among its requirements are the fact that the person performing the act being honored must not be a Jew and must have risked his or her life or career to save Jews from Nazism.
Gun de Hasenson said she was very grateful “to all the people who helped” ensure that Castellanos’s actions were made known since the recognition process was initiated in 1989, above all “the survivors and his descendents, who did not hesitate to give their testimony.”
Some of those survivors faithfully preserve the memory of the Salvadoran consul.
One of them is Isaac Meir, a teenager during the war years who says that the identity papers that Castellanos provided to him allowed him to leave his house to buy food and saved him several times when he was arrested by the Nazis.
On more than one occasion, this particular survivor has shown the ambassador photographs of his children and grandchildren saying: “This is what I owe to El Salvador.” EFE