Yehuda Saporta

“The Jewish community of Thessaloniki was at its peak 80,000 strong. 97 percent of the city’s Jews were sent to Auschwitz. Luckily, my father had a Spanish citizenship which prevented our deportation to Auschwitz and we were sent to the Ghetto instead, until our status was clear. Fortunately, a new Spanish consul arrived at Greece at the time, and Sebastian Romero Radigales – that was his name – did everything in his power to save the Jewish Spanish subjects. The Nazis urged the Spanish government to accept us, but it refused to do so. We were therefore transferred to Bergen Belsen concentration camp, in Germany, until our fate was decided. Radigales fought for our cause, and the Spanish government finally consented to let Jews with Spanish citizenship pass through its territory, but only as a waypoint to another destination. Radigales managed to save 510 Thessalonikian Jews, and was awarded with the title “Righteous among the Nations” in a ceremony held in Jerusalem in 2014. I met his granddaughter there, and thanked her for her grandfather’s good deeds.

I often wonder what made Radigales so uniquely devoted to his noble mission. Why were most of the others so unconcerned with the extermination of the Jewish People in Europe? What was it about Radigales that pushed him to make such tremendous efforts to save those 510 Jews? Why did he act so differently from his diplomatic colleagues? After all, it would have been so convenient for him to simply ignore our existence and go on with his diplomatic work as if nothing had happened. Radigales was a lighthouse shining brightly through one of the darkest periods in the history of mankind. There is a saying in Jewish tradition, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire”. Radigales hadn’t just saved one life – he saved 510 lives. I will forever cherish his memory and good deeds.”

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