28 September 2014
On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, a ceremony posthumously honoring Sebastián de Romero Radigales of Spain, as a Righteous among the Nations, will be held at Yad Vashem. The medal and certificate of honor will be received on his behalf by his granddaughter, Ms. Elena Colitto Castelli. The ceremony will take place in the presence of H.E. Mr. Fernando Carderera, Ambassador of Spain in Israel, Holocaust survivor Isaac Revah, family and friends. The event will begin in the Hall of Remembrance, at 11:00, and continue in the Garden of the Righteous, and will take place in English and Spanish. Media who wish to attend, please RSVP: 02 644 3410.
Sebastián de Romero Radigales arrived in Athens in 1943 as the newly-appointed head of the Spanish diplomatic delegation. In March 1943 the deportations of Jews from Salonika to Auschwitz began. Within five months 48,000 Jews were deported; the thriving Jewish community, which had existed since the Hellenistic period, was almost completely decimated.
For pragmatic reasons, the Germans agreed to exempt Jews holding Italian and Spanish citizenship from deportation, on condition that they return to their countries. Italian Jews were thus spared and could return to Italy; but the Spanish Jews were faced with the reluctance of the Spanish government to permit them to be repatriated.
This was the situation when Radigales arrived in Athens. In a letter dated April 15, 1943, written shortly after his arrival, Radigales thanked Foreign Minister Jordana for his nomination and added that he was now working hard to arrange the repatriation of 510 Jews from Salonika who had Spanish citizenship. Despite Jordana's instructions "to maintain a passive approach and to avoid any personal initiative," Radigales relentlessly continued negotiating on behalf of the Jews with the German and Spanish authorities.
On August 13, 1943 a group of 367 Jews with Spanish citizenship arrived in Bergen-Belsen. Radigales continued tirelessly in his attempts to protect these Jews until the Spanish government finally changed its position, and permitted the transfer of this group to Spanish Morocco. Their travel documents bore Radigales' signature. Isaac Revah, who was a child at the time, recalled how his group was permitted to leave the camp in February 1944. "Being released from a Nazi camp is an extraordinary event. It all happened thanks to an outstandingly courageous and humane man," he wrote to Yad Vashem. Revah did not forget his rescuer's actions, and applied to Yad Vashem to have Radigales honored and recognized as Righteous Among the Nations
Radigales did everything in his power to help the Jews in Athens. He also intervened with the German authorities to have Jews released from the Haidari detention camp; assisted those who went into hiding; safeguarded the belongings of arrested Jews to ensure that they would be returned to their owners or their rightful heirs after the war – actions that went above and beyond his duty as a diplomat, and often against his government's policies. Sebastián de Romero Radigales passed away in 1970.