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Policy

A Spanish War Hero

April 1, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 13

After reading about Marvin W. Makinen, who became a biochemistry professor after his release from prison in the former Soviet Union, and hearing about Raoul Wallenberg therein (C&EN, Feb. 18, pages 3 and 47), I feel I have to share the story of Spanish diplomat Ángel Sanz Briz (1910–80). He is often referred to as the Spanish Oskar Schindler. That’s because Sanz Briz saved the lives of more than 5,000 Hungarian-Jewish refugees in 1944 during the Nazi occupation of Budapest.

Acting at his own risk, Sanz Briz was able to convince the local Nazi authorities that most of the Jews in Hungary who were ordered to Auschwitz were actually Sephardic, or Jews of Spanish descent. He further explained that this situation invoked a 1924 Spanish law which would give each of these Sephardim a Spanish passport. After the war, Sanz Briz was honored by Hungary and posthumously in 1991 by Israel for the many, many lives he saved.

Pedro Cintas
Badajoz
Spain

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