Muslim Heroes Saved Jewish Lives During Holocaust
Today’s news is filled with stories of conflict, many of them focused on Israel and its Jewish and Muslim population. Within the history of the Holocaust, there are many under-reported stories of Muslims who bravely saved Jewish lives and it is important to tell these stories. According to the American scholar Arnold Reisman, Turkey actually did more to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust than the United States and the United Kingdom. In sum, Turkey saved around 15,000 Turkish Jews who were living in France, 20,000 Eastern European Jews, and an additional 190 prominent Jewish scholars who found safe haven in Turkey. Turkish Counsels in Greece and France fought hard to save Jewish lives at enormous risk. For instance, on the island of Rhodes, Turkish Consul Selahattin Ülkümen pressured the Nazis into sparing the 50 Jews of Rhodes who possessed Turkish citizenship. Later on, he was imprisoned by the Nazis after his consulate was bombed and his pregnant wife was murdered by the Nazis.
Interestingly, Turkey was not the only Muslim country whose diplomats actively worked to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust at enormous risk. Abdol-Hossein Sardari, who was in charge of the Iranian mission in Paris, saved 2,000 Iranian Jews that were living in France during the Nazis occupation, despite the fact that it put his career and life on the line; he continued to fight to save Jewish lives even after Iran was overrun by Allied Forces and he was ordered home by his superiors. He used his own personal inheritance money to finance the rescue of Iranian Jews after he was stripped of his diplomatic immunity and pay. Unfortunately, Abdol-Hossein Sardari never received any recognition during his lifetime and died in exile in London in 1981, after his Ambassador’s pension and Iranian properties were lost during the 1979 Iranian Revolution.