The Nazi-Defying Grandfather of Helena Bonham Carter

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You’ve most likely watched a movie starring English actress Helena Bonham Carter. Now, our friends at Jewniverse teach us something we may not have known - her grandfather was a Spanish diplomat whose actions allowed thousands of Jews to escape Nazi-occupied France during the Holocaust, saving their lives:

The award-winning English film and television actress Helena Bonham Carter probably could have gone on to a career in diplomacy had acting not so caught her fancy. She certainly had the family legacy: Her grandfather was Eduardo Propper de Callejon, the Spanish diplomat responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews fleeing Nazis.

When France surrendered to Nazi Germany in June 1940, Callejon was acting as the First Secretary of the Spanish Embassy in Paris. Soon after, over the course of four hectic days, he issued tens of thousands of transit visas for Jews crossing Spain to reach the relative safety of Portugal. Carter told the Jewish Journal she recalls her mother, Elena, saying that Callejon was “stamping documents with both hands”.

Callejon, who identified as Catholic despite having a Jewish father and a Jewish wife, was transferred to Morocco when Spain’s foreign minister got wind of the unauthorized visas. His wife, Carter’s grandmother, vowed to convert to Catholicism herself if everyone survived the war. Which, Carter points out, “makes no logical sense..."

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