New York, NY, May 14, 2010 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the decision by the State of Israel to posthumously honor Salvadoran diplomat Jose Arturo Castellanos as Righteous Among the Nations for his heroism in saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Col. Castellanos, along with George Mandel-Montello, his first secretary at the Consulate in Geneva, distributed Salvadoran citizenship papers to thousands of Jews across Nazi-occupied Europe.
"The Jewish Community owes a debt of gratitude to El Salvador for the heroic actions of its diplomats in rescuing and saving members of a doomed Jewish community," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. "Castellanos put himself at great personal risk in issuing citizenship certificates to save Jews and never sought to personally benefit from the scheme."
Castellanos was El Salvador's Consul-General in Geneva. In 1942, on Castellanos' suggestion, the Salvadoran Consulate issued thousands of "citizenship certificates" to Jews from different parts of Europe. Holders of the certificates were considered citizens of El Salvador, and protected by the International Red Cross. Salvadoran citizenship papers were sent to thousands of Jews in occupied countries across Europe, free of charge, in the midst of the lucrative black market for false papers. After the war, Castellanos was posted in London. He died in his homeland in 1977.
In December 1995, ADL honored the memories of three Salvadoran diplomats, including Castellanos, whose conspiracy of goodness led to the rescue of nearly 40,000 Jews, including 30,000 from Hungary alone. Then-President of El Salvador Dr. Armando Calderon Sol was presented the ADL Humanitas Award on behalf of the heroes of "The El Salvador Action."