Friday, July 13, 2012

George Mantello: The man who stopped the trains to Auschwitz

This is an amazing story worthy of a John Le Carre novel, except the story is true.

I came across George Mantello by accident - I had never heard of him. A little internet researching unearthed references to David Kranzler's book The Man Who Stopped The Trains to Auschwitz: George Mantello, El Salvador and Switzerland's Finest Hour, (2000, Syracuse University Press). Kranzler's research shed light on a very interesting moment in Holocaust history, namely the seemingly sudden about-face of a generally apathetic Switzerland in the summer of 1944. Linked to this is the sudden outburst of energy and protest shown by President Roosevelt, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Pope Pius XII.

Pius XII's telegram to Admiral Horthy on 25 June 1944 appealing for an end to the persecution based on religion or race, (Jews were not mentioned by name, but the reference could only refer to Jews) broke a pattern of public silence and non-intervention on the part of the pope. In his personal telegram to the Hungarian Regent, Pius does not mince his words. This was the first time the pope made such an extraordinary appeal to a head of state. What lay behind it? The more accurate question is :"Who lay behind it?"

John W. Lamperti is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Lamperti has had a long interest in El Salvador and, in particular, the life of arguably, the least well-known Salvadoran, George Mantello. John willingly gave permission for me to publish his essay on Mantello here and I thank him for his generosity in helping make Mantello better known for the memory of this good man and of those he saved.

John's essay can be found on the "pages" section of the blog.

George Mantello, 1901-1992

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