Muslim Risked Life To Save Hundreds Of Jews From Holocaust
Iranian president Makmoud Amidineijad famously called the Holocaust “a myth“, but a new book, In the Lion’s Shadow, by Fariborz Mokhtari, chronicles the little known story of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat in Paris who courageously saved almost all of the Iranian Jews in France from the Nazi death camps.
A BBC article inspired by the release of the book has brought Sardari’s story to the mainstream. He was a Swiss trained attorney who assumed leadership of the Iranian diplomatic mission in Paris after the Germans attacked France and the Iranian ambassador moved to Vichy in the unoccupied zone. At a time when roughly 100,000 French Jews were deported to Nazi death camps, any Iranian of Jewish descent unlucky enough to be in France was destined to fall victim to the Nazi’s “final solution.” But Sardari used blank passports and other official Iranian documents to allow Jewish Iranians to get past German border guards.
Sardari also invented a category of Iranian citizen whom he called “Djuguten,” a people he insisted were gentile Iranians whose ancestors had chosen to convert to Judaism, but were not Jews by blood. Because Nazi anti-Semitism was racial in nature, not religious, this invention helped delay and confuse the Nazis’ decisions on whether some Iranian Jews should be arrested.
Eventually, Sardari’s status as a diplomat was removed. With his diplomatic immunity gone, Sardari, a Muslim, decided to remain in France at great risk to his own life, funding efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust with his own money. He was instrumental in the escape not only of Iranian Jews, but also of as many as 1500 Jews from other countries in the Middle East and in countries which were then part of the Soviet Union.
At a time when people in the West are tempted to think of fascists like Makmoud Amidineijad as representative of the people of Iran, we would do well to remember it was the Iranian people’s brave struggle for free elections in the face of brutal tyranny that inspired the Arab Spring.
And we would do well to remember Abdol-Hossein Sardari.