A Salvadoran Diplomat in Nazi Europe Lent His Nation's Protection to Hungarian Jews

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From San Salvador to Budapest to Washington: The tides of memory and forgetting swept into the El Salvador Embassy on 16th Street NW the other day, transporting ghosts.

Mounted on the walls, their faces peer from postcards of a desperate time -- identity papers, manually typed in great haste, accompanied by glued-on family snapshots, all scanned and enlarged like inscrutable posters for our inspection 64 years later.

One incongruity stands out. You can't help wondering if some Nazi officer noticed it, too, back in Budapest of 1944, pounding on the door of an apartment, babies crying, hands trembling, the trains being loaded for Auschwitz:

The papers say the bearers are citizens of El Salvador, "with all the rights and duties inherent with this nationality." That included the right not to be shipped to an extermination camp.

Yet the names on these "Certificates of Nationality" sure don't ring Salvadoran: Rabbi Jehudah Glasner, with wife Deborah and son Moses. Leiba, Sara and Elijas Javneris. Abraham, Malka and Rifka Perelman.

It was amazing how, just when Hitler began applying the final solution to the last major Jewish community in Europe, there suddenly appeared in Budapest, by some estimates, thousands of Salvadorans who happened to be Jewish.

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