Spanish priests in Paris in WWII saved over 130 Jews with forged baptism

All the documents were signed by the same four priests: Joaquin Aller, Ignacio Turrillas, Emilio Martin e Gilberto Valtierra.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the renovated Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris, France January 27, 2020 (photo credit: MICHEL EULER / REUTERS)
French President Emmanuel Macron visits the renovated Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris, France January 27, 2020
(photo credit: MICHEL EULER / REUTERS)
Between 1940 and 1944, a group of Spanish Claretian missionaries based in Paris forged baptismal and wedding certificates for more than 150 Jews to protect them from persecution, a Spanish historian has uncovered. As reported by the El País Semanal, the story was unveiled after 80 years thanks to the work of 26-year-old Santiago López Rodríguez, who started his research after a fortuitous conversation.
“I was researching for my doctoral thesis on the work of Spanish diplomacy during the Holocaust in the archives of the consulate and doing interviews with survivors and relatives of victims of the Nazi extermination,” he told the newspaper. “While having coffee with Alain de Toledo, son of a deportee in the Royallieu-Compiègne camp, he told me that his parents had baptismal certificates forged in a Spanish church in Paris to help them flee to Spain.”
The researcher soon got to the small parish in the central Rue de la Pompe and started to dig in its archives, where he found out that in the period where France was ruled by Nazi-collaborator Philippe Pétain, four clerics seemingly converted to Catholicism the members of dozens of Jewish families, mostly from Istanbul and Thessaloniki.
“It is clear how in that period of time baptisms increased by 200% in this parish. Entire families were converted on the same day and in some cases the marriage certificate was also forged at the same time,” López Rodríguez, who teaches at the University of Extremadura, pointed out.
He found out that all the documents were signed by the same four priests: Joaquin Aller, Ignacio Turrillas, Emilio Martin e Gilberto Valtierra.
The date carried by the first certificates granted to the Modiano family - Mauricio, 65, his wife, Eda María, 51; his son René, 20, and his niece María Francisca Hasson, 9 – is also striking: October 3, 1940, the very same day when the first laws on Jewish status, which among others excluded Jews from the army, press, commercial and industrial activities, were promulgated.
“These priests were not only breaking ecclesiastical law by making false conversions, but they were taking on the French state,” the historian told El País.
Names of those who resulted baptized earlier were later used by the missionaries as godparents for the new converts.
According to the research, 138 out of 155 people who received the documents managed to survive the Holocaust.
Many questions remain about the operation carried out in Rue de la Pompe. The four missionaries seem to have never spoken about it for the rest of their lives.
De Toledo told the newspaper that at least some of the Jews who were helped seemed to have been directed to the church by the Consul General of Spain in Paris Bernardo Rolland, who is known for the assistance he gave to several Jewish families.
According to the report, in 2008, another daughter of survivors approached the mission and its current director Father Carlos Tobes Arrabal to thank him for saving her parents. Tobes shared the story with the rest of the missionaries, but asked them not to disclose it to the public and he made a similar request to De Toledo, who wanted to honor his family’s saviors.
“I believe it was a story that our order lived in its privacy. Now, knowing more about what our brothers did fills us with pride and happiness,” Tobes told El País.
For the future, López Rodríguez hopes that further research will reveal more details on the work of the four priests, the stories of all the people they helped and their descendants.