His name was not Schindler but Romero. There is not any movie about him, just like about many other Spanish diplomats. However, just like many of his colleagues he did everything he could to save the lives of men, women and children that, just for the fact of being Jewish, were going to be sent to Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. A few years ago he was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations.
It was April 1943. Sebastián de Romero Radigales had just arrived in Athens as consul general of Spain. From the first moment, he decided to make everything he could in order to liberate the Sephardic Jews, about 800 people distributed all over Athens and Salonica, from the Nazi, from torture and from death.
Romero used all possible strategies. He organized the warehouse of these people’s belongings in the Spanish Embassy, with the objective of avoiding them to fall in the Nazi’s hands and to help them recovering them later. He made a decree public where he offered the Spanish nationality to all the Sephardic Jews without any specific requirement.
His resistance set him against the German ambassador in Athens, Günter Altenburg, who was forced to postpone the deportation of hundreds of Jewish people. In a document of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated on 30 April 1943, Altenburg regretted that persistent resistance of the Spanish diplomat and asked Berlin to put pressure on the Spanish authorities to “teach” Romero to stop his “interferences” in the planned deportations.
Between March and June 1943, 48,000 Jewish people from Salonica were deported to the extermination camps. Romero could only fight for the Sephardic Jews, because of his bonds with Spain, and he could evacuate 150 people in an Italian military train. He also fought until the last moment to avoid the deportation of another 367 Jewish people, causing the anger of the Hitlerian regime that got away with it at first. It was only in February 1944 when the German authorized the transfer of those people deported to Spain.
In 2014, Sebastián de Romero, was recognized as Righteous among the Nations by the institution dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust, the Museum Yad Vashem. The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out in a statement that “this recognition means a gesture of great symbolic value for the memory and the family of Sebastián de Romero Radigales.
After many years, the bravery and the dedication of the diplomat have been recognized” and it highlights “the sense of justice and humanity that this Spanish civil servant inspired, as well as many others, during the Second World War”.
Those others are Ángel Sanz-Briz, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, Bernardo Rolland de Miota, José Rojas Moreno, Miguel Ángel de Muguiro, Julio Palencia Tubau, Juan Schwartz Díaz-Flores or José Ruiz Santaella. All of them were Spanish diplomats who did not hesitate to face the then allied of Franco’s regime.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, along with the Sepharad-Israel Centre, organised an event in honour of Sebastián de Romero Radigales for his recognition as Righteous among the Nations.