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Mantello El Salvadorian Certificates

Introduction from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/mantello/photo/?content=87387

· Background
· Database
· Acknowledgements
· Searching the Database

This database contains records for 2,160 European Jews who applied for papers identifying them as citizens of El Salvador.

Background

Around 2005, a woman found a mysterious suitcase in her basement in Geneva, Switzerland.  Inside the suitcase were more than one thousand World War II-era certificates bearing the official seal of the Consulate of El Salvador.  The certificates also featured the photographs of men, women, and children.  What were these documents?  Why were the decades-old official papers of a Central American nation lying forgotten in a Swiss basement?  How many of these documents reached their intended recipients?  Their history reveals one of the largest scale, yet least known, rescue attempts of the Holocaust.

George Mandel was a Hungarian Jewish businessman who befriended a Salvadoran diplomat, Colonel José Arturo Castellanos, in the years leading up to World War II.  After Castellanos was named El Salvador's Consul General in Geneva, he appointed Mandel, who had assumed a Spanish-sounding version of his last name, "Mantello," to serve as the Consulate's first secretary.  Even in Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews who were citizens of or held official documents from other countries were often able to escape deportation.  With the consent of Castellanos, George Mandel-Mantello used his diplomatic position to issue documents identifying thousands of European Jews as citizens of El Salvador.  He sent notarized copies of these certificates into occupied Europe, in the hope of saving the holders from the Nazis.

In 1942, Jewish friends in Switzerland began to ask Mandel-Mantello if he could produce a Salvadoran citizenship paper for their relatives.  Word then spread among representatives of various Jewish organizations, who also approached Mandel-Mantello, each providing data and photographs of the people they wanted to try to save.

Copies of the certificates were sent by diplomatic courier throughout wartime Europe.  They were sent to almost every country in occupied Europe, some even to French internment camps, Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, and Auschwitz in Poland.  After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, the production of certificates accelerated.  In total, Mandel-Mantello may have issued as many as five thousand certificates, many with the names and photographs of several family members.  Enrico Mandel-Mantello has donated more than one thousand originals to the Museum.

Many people who received certificates survived.  Some went to Switzerland; others were sent to a special camp in Bergen-Belsen for foreign nationals.  Some certificates spared the holders from deportation.  However, certificates frequently arrived too late, including those sent to Mandel-Mantello's own parents.  In other cases the Germans did not accept them.  The Museum hopes through continued research to learn exactly how many people were saved through these certificates.

In April 1944, two Slovakian Jews, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, escaped from Auschwitz and wrote a report providing some of the first reliable eyewitness accounts of the camp.  Romanian diplomat Florian Manoliu, who was assisting Mandel-Mantello in his rescue efforts, received a copy of the Protocol and immediately gave it to Mandel-Mantello in June.  Recognizing the Protocol's importance, Mandel-Mantello recopied it, translated it, distributed it to Swiss Protestant clergy, and launched a worldwide press campaign condemning Nazi atrocities.

Database

This database includes 2,160 records for those who certificates were arranged.  The fields for this database are as follows:

  • Name (Surname + Given Name)
  • Maiden Name
  • Date of Birth / Age
  • Birthplace - City
  • Birthplace - Country
  • Recent Residence - Street Address
  • Recent Residence - City
  • Recent Residence - Country
  • Date of Certificate
  • Country (modern name)
  • Folder Number
  • Certificate Number

Acknowledgments

The information contained in this database was indexed from the files of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) [RG-19.073].  Enrico Mandel-Mantello, the son of George Mandel-Mantello, donated the original certificates to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum after they were found.  He also donated to the Museum a copy of the Auschwitz Protocol.

In addition, thanks to JewishGen Inc. for providing the website and database expertise to make this database accessible.  Special thanks to Warren Blatt and Michael Tobias for their continued contributions to Jewish genealogy.  Particular thanks to Nolan Altman, coordinator of Holocaust files.

Nolan Altman
Coordinator - Holocaust Database
January 2010


Searching the Database

This database is searchable via JewishGen's Holocaust Database.


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