Yad Vashem honors Chilean righteous among the nations

October 22, 2017 17:45

Chilean diplomat honored for issuing passports which prevented the deportation of over 1000 Jews during the Holocaust.

2 minute read.

Yad Vashem

From left to right: Dr. Christian Beals Campos, Relative of Samuel del Campo; Sergio Della Pergola, Member of the Committee for the Designation of Righteous Among the Nations; and Irena Steinfeldt, Director of the Righteous Among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem.. (photo credit:ISAAC HARARI/YAD VASHEM)

Israel’s Holocaust center Yad Vashem on Sunday posthumously honored a Chilean diplomat who risked his career to help rescue over a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust.

Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, member of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous, and Irena Steinfeldt, Director of the Department of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, presented Dr. Christian Beals Campos, a relative of Samuel del Campo, with the medal and certificate of honor on behalf of Yad Vashem, the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

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Del Campo was a diplomat in the Foreign Service of the Republic of Chile who served as Chargé d'Affaires at the Chilean Representation in Bucharest from 1941 to 1943. During this time he assisted Jews by issuing various documents – mainly to Polish Jews in Czernowitz, which is now part of Ukraine.

During October 1941, a ghetto was established in the city of Czernowitz, and deportations to Transnistria began. In the absence of an official Polish representation in Romania, the representation of the interests of Polish citizens in Romania was transferred to Chile, and Del Campo began to issue Chilean passports for Jews of Polish nationality.

After the deportations from Czernowitz to Transnistria resumed in June 1942, Del Campo continued to intervene with the Romanian authorities on behalf of "the Jews under the protection of Chile," Yad Vashem said. Based on recorded minutes from discussions in the Council of Ministers of Romania, Yad Vashem estimated that approximately 1,200 Jews received Chilean passports providing them with protection against deportation.

In the spring of 1943, diplomatic relations between Chile and Romania were severed, and Switzerland began to represent the interests of Chile. The documents del Campo issued were clearly not in line with the Chilean government’s policy; when Swiss envoys asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile to clarify the policy of the Ministry regarding the granting of Chilean passports, they were told that "they would prefer not to grant new passports without the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile."

Del Campo was appointed Consul-General in Zurich, but the appointment never came into effect, and Del Campo never returned to serve in Chile's Foreign Ministry, Yad Vashem noted. He died in Paris in the 1960s.

"To act righteously requires one to, first and foremost, recognize the reality of what is happening around them. Del Campo was a foreign diplomat who lived in Romania and saw what was happening to the Jews," said Steinfeldt. "Instead of saying, that it is none of my business and that I am not guilty of anything, he chose to open his eyes and act, and thus, endangered his position."
"Per Anger, a Swedish diplomat who lived in Budapest in 1944, said, as the Germans were conquering Hungary, that there is nothing in the company guidebook which tells us how we should behave in these situations. As such, these diplomats had to invent new ways [of helping endangered Jews]," she added.
Yad Vashem has recognized a number of diplomats as Righteous Among the Nations and is currently preparing a special exhibition together with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to honor them.

On 23 November 2016, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations decided to recognize Samuel Del Campo as Righteous Among the Nations.

To date, Yad Vashem has recognized over 26,500 Righteous Among the Nations from around the world.

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