Remembering Holocaust Advocates and Allies: Giorgio Perlasca

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Remembering Holocaust Advocates and Allies: Giorgio Perlasca

Life: January 31, 1910 - August 15, 1992

Why you should know him: Giorgio Perlasca was an Italian who left fascism and instead posed as a diplomat in order to save the lives of more than 5,200 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

Born in 1910 in Italy, Giorgio Perlasca grew up to fight for Benito Mussolini's fascist forces, in Africa and in Spain. Yet before World War II even began, Perlasca had begun to loathe fascism and the anti-Semitism for which it stood. When Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, Perlasca chose the side of good.

In Budapest, Hungary, he was arrested. But as a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, he requested and received asylum and freedom through the Spanish Embassy there.

It was through Spain - a neutral country during the war - that Perlasca began to smuggle Jews out of Hungary, before the Nazis could send them to extermination camps. He provided Jews with "protection cards" and found them safe places to live through other neutral embassies.

When Perlasca's supervisor left Hungary for the safety of Switzerland, Giorgio refused to leave. Instead, he stayed in Budapest and continued to hide, shield, and feed thousands of Hungarian Jews - Jews who would otherwise have been murdered by the Nazis. One story is told of Perlasca pulling two Jewish boys from a train deporting Jews to a concentration camp. The Nazi commander on the scene - who Perlasca defied with his actions - was Adolf Eichmann, one of the main organizers of the Holocaust.

In only 45 days - from December 1944 to January 1945 - Giorgio Perlasca was able to save more than 5,200 Jews, more than four times as many as those saved by Oskar Schindler. After the war, Giorgio never told anyone of his heroic feats, living the life of a humble man. It was more than four decades later, in 1987, when a group of the Jews he had saved finally found him. A best-selling book, The Banality of Goodness, was written about Perlasca, and he was ultimately honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel, along with many other honours.


Remembering Holocaust Advocates and Allies: Giorgio Perlasca


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