Past events, Past Exhibitions

The Rescue: José Castellanos, Rescuer of thousands of Jews

Director Alvaro and Boris Castellanos
The Rescue, Canada 2016, English with German subtitles
Runtime: 23 minutes


THE RESCUE is a short film about José Arturo Castellanos, a diplomat from El Salvador in Central America. Although Castellanos used his diplomatic status to save thousands of Jews during the Shoah, he is almost unknown today.

THE RESCUE is not a standard documentary, but a very personal story by two grandsons of José Castellanos who set out to save their grandfather’s name from oblivion. In THE RESCUE, filmmakers Alvaro and Boris Castellanos show the challenges their grandfather had to overcome to organise his large-scale rescue operation. They not only talk to those saved from the Shoah by José Castellanos, but also their descendants now living scattered around the world.

THE RESCUE highlights the brave actions of one individual who did not turn a blind eye to the fate of others, but showed moral courage and personal dedication despite the possible sanctions he might face.

From 1938, José Arturo Castellanos Contreras (1891-1977) was El Salvador’s consul in Hamburg. At that time, he had already asked his superiors, including El Salvador’s Foreign Minister, for permission to issue visas for Jews to enable them to leave Germany. Such permission, though, was denied.

From 1941 to October 1945, while Castellanos was serving as Salvadorian General Consul in Geneva, he decided to act against his superiors’ instructions. During these years, he provided purported “certificates of Salvadorian nationality” for thousands of European Jews. Since the nationality documents of a neutral country provided a certain protection, these were life-saving. The rescue operation was the work of Castellanos and his friend Gyorgy Mandl, a Hungarian Jew. Castellanos appointed his friend under the name George Mandl-Mantello as the first secretary of the El Salvador Consulate in Geneva, protecting him from persecution. With Castellanos’ agreement, Mantello issued documents confirming the Salvadorian citizenship for Jews in countries across Europe. Only from May 1944 did Castellanos receive the support of his superiors for his actions to rescue Jews.

In 2010, Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Center, recognised Castellanos as Righteous Among the Nations.

The film is being shown from 11 May to 30 July 2016 in the Centrum Judaicum.
More details:
+49 (0)30 88028316

Images of the event on 05.10.2016 in honor of José Arturo Castellanos at the Foreign Office

Comments are closed.