Skip to comments.How diplomat's paperwork saved lives in Holocaust
Posted on 02/27/2010 7:58:04 PM PST by Saije
It took Ina Polak 35 years to discover the dusty piece of paper that probably saved her and her family in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
It wasn't until she was cleaning her mother's New York City apartment following her death in 1980 that she discovered the document listing her, her sister and parents. It was a Salvadoran citizenship certificate.
"My first reaction was 'Oh, now I understand!'" said Polak, who is 87.
She and her family were Dutch Jews, with nothing to connect them with the distant Central American country of El Salvador. Yet the certificate dated 1944 became their lifeline, thanks to a man named George Mantello.
Mantello, a Jew born in what is now Romania, was one of a handful of diplomats who during World War II saved thousands of Jews and others on the run from the Nazis by giving them visas or citizenships, often without their governments' knowledge.
They were men such as Hiram Bingham IV, a U.S. consular official in Marseille, France who issued visas and other travel documents that are credited with helping to rescue about 2,000 people; or Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese envoy in Lithuania, thought to have saved 3,500; or Dr. Feng Shan Ho, the Chinese consul in Vienna whose visas got 18,000 Jews to safety in Shanghai.
Best known of all is Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden, whose efforts probably contributed to saving 90,000 Jewish lives in Hungary before he vanished in what became an abiding mystery of the Holocaust.
Now the work of Mantello is getting fresh attention as scholars dig into newly released files and piece together the lives he saved by gaming the diplomatic bureaucracy during the Holocaust - the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators in World War II.
(Excerpt) Read more at seattlepi.com ...
I enjoy reading these also. Thanks for posting.
Pavel Suboplatov. in his memoirs, Special Tasks, makes it quite clear that Wallenberg was "eliminated" by the Soviets shortly after WWII when he refused to become an agent for them.
No mystery there.
Not only is this fascinating for this reason, but this is the woman in the documentary “Steal a pencil for me” about how she and Jack Polak were carrying on an affair in the camp before they went to Bergen Belsen and he had to write her letters because his wife was upset that he would sneak out at night with her. Within weeks after the war he demanded a divorce and married Ina Soep (now Polak). His wife never remarried and died alone in a nursing home. From what I understand, she felt that she was still married in the eyes of God. Ina and Jack were married over 60 years last I heard.
Amazing about this though! I actually recommend watching that movie, it’s free on hulu.com. It’s beyond fascinating for the Holocaust story involved and also footage. Jack, her husband, was the principle at the first camp they were located. This was the camp that Hitler used to show how FABULOUS life was in the ‘work camps’ and so they had it much easier. It wasn’t until later that they were sent to Bergen Belsen where they nearly starved and died from typhus.
Oh, and the Jack that ran off with the woman in this story, also denied his dying sister a piece of bread he was “saving.” He said a friend of his didn’t speak to him for nearly a decade because he also wouldn’t share that piece of bread with his friend’s dying son.
As much as this man adored Ina, I walked away feeling like they were selfish. But then again, they went through hell, maybe they deserved each other. They seemed happy enough.
I don’t know, I do know I felt very conflicted afterward.
Was the movie designed to make you conflicted? I haven’t seen the movie and don’t know anything about it, but am really suspicious of stuff put out today as to what it is leading us to think.
Lots of people want us to feel conflicted over the Holocaust these days.
I wasn’t conflicted over the Holocaust, I was conflicted over seeing an obviously happy couple who had been married for six decades. The couple who started by hurting a wife who was not only spending her own hell in a concentration camp, but watching her husband comfort another woman with the entire camp knowing and seeing.
I realize that. I am not questioning that you understand YOUR conflicted feelings, but will everybody? There are those that will see this couple as representative of all Jews...
Ohhh, no, actually the movie was very well done. And other than my own “That poor wife” moments, the viewer gets caught up in what was the reality of life in a concentration camp. I will say that other than that one issue, the film was remarkable. And this couple were not evil cads or anything, I just thought that too much emphasis was placed on how the couple felt disregarding the wife’s situation. My personal hang up really, as I have been the wife in my own life before. But as far as the jewish experience... certainly not portrayed them as negative. Just human.
Please watch it and tell me what you think! Seriously, the footage is worth it if nothing else! It’s free to view here;
I think I understand what you mean about making the jews look bad, as there does seem to be a haze about that lately. Makes me uneasy with all the “Israel is evil” crap I see. No, this movie does not portray jews negatively, not at all.
I hear ya!
In the concentration camps, from what I have read, it was common for people to put their own lives ahead of others, to hide food, to eat it themselves and not share. Unless you have been extremely hungry, and I mean hungry, not just ready to eat, but HUNGRY, you can't really pass judgment on people trying to survive.
People like to think they would unselfishly share food with others when their lives are on the line, but most of us wouldn't. We don't know what we will do if we were starving. Dictators know this, that is why one of their first moves is to limit the food supply, it has been done over and over again and it works very effectively to control people.
That’s just it, he didn’t eat it! He saved it, for whatever. And yes, I understand people were hungry. But I also know that I don’t think I could live with myself if my dying sister was begging for some bread that I had stashed away and say “No, you’re going to die anyway...”
I’ve not been in that situation, and I pray I never am. I don’t judge him for the bread alone, it seemed to be an overall selfishness in him. To know his wife is sleeping a few bunks away from his mistress and he risks going into the bunk... and he doesn’t comfort or visit his wife but his mistress instead? With her just feet away?? As I said, it just rubbed me wrong as to his character in general.
Also, when you are starving to death, not just hungry but starving, your brain doesn't function correctly any longer. Saving bread without eating it makes no sense, from that action alone one might conclude that the man in question was no longer functioning on all 8 cylinders so to speak, ditto his girlfriend and his wife.
That’s true... I didn’t consider the lapse in brain activity due to circumstances. Although they did meet at a party before the invasion and met again at the camp. That’s when they started the affair.
I would hope I would behave better under those conditions, but who knows.