|Giorgio Perlasca worked for an
Italian importing firm in Budapest, Hungary. When Mussolini fell in July
1943, all Italians in Hungary were requested to return home. Perlasca
refused to go to a German-ruled Italian puppet state. As Perlasca said:
"I was neither a fascist nor an anti-fascist, but I was anti-Nazi."
Perlasca was interned; however, on October 13, 1944, he was able to talk
his way out of the hotel where he was being held.
He made his way to Angel Sanz-Briz, the Spanish envoy in Budapest,
and applied for a job. Sanz-Briz, along with other members of the
diplomatic community, had been issuing protective passes to Budapest
Jews since the spring of 1944. Sanz-Briz put Perlasca in charge of the
"safe houses" sheltering Jews from deportation and from the Arrow Cross
On November 30, 1944, Perlasca learned that Sanz-Briz had gone,
leaving him a note saying that he could obtain a visa to Switzerland
through the Spanish embassy in Vienna. Although Perlasca did not have an
official letter appointing him the charge d'affaires of Spain, he made
himself the charge d'affaires and continued to issue protective passes.
He changed his first name from the Italian "Giorgio" to the Spanish
"Jorge". Perlasca later said, "At first, I didn't know what to do, but
then I began to feel like a fish in water. I continued giving out
protective passes and looked after the Jews in the 'safe houses' flying
the Spanish flag. As the proverb says, 'Opportunity makes the thief.'"
Between November 1944 and January 1945, Perlasca worked with Raoul
Wallenberg from Sweden; Friedrich Born, from the International Red
Cross; and Angelo Rotta, from the Vatican; in issuing protective passes.
It is estimated that Giorgio Perlasca saved approximately 3,500
Hungarian Jews. On April 5, 1945, Dr. Hugo Dukesz, one of the Jews saved
by Giorgio Perlasca, wrote, "On this occasion we want to express the
affection and gratitude of the several thousand Jews who survived,
thanks to your protection. There are not enough words to praise the
tenderness with which you fed us and with which you cared for the old
and the sick among us. You encouraged us when we were close to despair,
and your name will never be omitted from our prayers. May the Almighty
grant you your reward."
Giorgio Perlasca returned to Padua, Italy, and died in August 1992.
Above swiped from The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous...Stories
of Moral Courage