José Arturo Castellanos, a Salvadoran diplomat, was posthumously awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations on July 27, 2010. The ceremony which was held at the Salvadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in San Salvador, was attended by El Salvador’s Minsiter of Foreign Affairs, members of parliament, representatives of the Jewish community, church leaders and diplomats. and was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in El Salvador. Acting on behalf of the State of Israel and Yad Vashem, Israel’s ambassador to El Salvador, Mattanya Cohen presented the medal and certificate of honor to Castellanos’ children.
Arturo Castellanos was El Salvador’s consul in Geneva during the war and provided citizenship certificates to thousands of Jews in occupied Europe in an effort to protect them from deportation. The citizenship papers were given to Jews who had no connection whatsoever to El Salvador and who didn’t even speak a word of Spanish. Such documents, issued by neutral countries, provided a certain protection and were therefore life-saving. This rescue operation was unique since it was a joint effort of Castellanos and George Mandel, a Hungarian Jewish businessman, who had assumed a Spanish-sounding version of his last name, “Mantello,”. Mandel-Mantello had met José Arturo Castellanos in the years leading up to World War II, and after Castellanos was named El Salvador’s Consul-General in Geneva, he appointed Mantello, to serve as the Consulate’s first secretary. With the consent of Castellanos, George Mantello issued documents identifying thousands of European Jews as citizens of El Salvador.
In his remarks, Israeli ambassador Mattanya Cohen said: “As the proud ambassador of the State of Israel, on behalf of Yad Vashem and the Jewish people, and especially in the name of the thousands of Jews saved by Castellanos, I have the honor to present the medal and diploma to you, the Castellanos family. The State of Israel and the Jewish people will never forget Colonel Castellanos”.
Castellanos’s daughter, Frieda, who was moved to tears, spoke on behalf of her family and thanked the State of Israel and Yad Vashem for the great honor that was bestowed on her father.