George Mandel-Mantello (1901-1992)
The man who disrupted the Auschwitz time table
George Mandel as he was first called, was born in what was known as Austria-Hungary. After World War I, when Transylvania became annexed to Rumania, he moved to Kolozsvar (Cluj) and later to Budapest. In the wake of a chance encounter with travelling diplomats and businessmen from the Central American republic of El Salvador, Mantello became appointed honorary consul of that country. The Salvadorean ”connection” turned out to be a key element to Mantello’s further activities. Owning a diplomatic passport meant that he could cross international frontiers at will, at a time when these became increasingly controlled. He now added Mantello to his family name in order to make it sound more ”Latin”. He happened to be in Vienna in 1938 when the Nazis annexed Austria, and in 1939 he saw the Germans march into Prague. He realized that a great disaster far European Jewry was at hand.
In Geneva, the Salvadorean consul general, José Arturo Castellanos, appointed Mantello as the First Secretary. For Mandel-Mantello this was not to be a sinecure for a leisurely life in a neutral country. He learned of the plight of Jews in neighboring France and began to issue Salvadorean protective papers. He had them smuggled across the frontier in untold clandestine ways. In many instances his papers were forwarded by diplomats and handed out secretly. In due time, appeals reached him from all over Europe. Many hundreds of such documents were prepared individually and written on typewriters or even by hand. This was a time-consuming job, accomplished by Mantello, his assistant, Mathieu Muller, and a dedicated small team of five Swiss students. During the sudden Hungarian crisis of 1944 the team rose to twelve. In all urgency it prepared several thousands of protective papers. Mandel-Mantello paid everything out of his own pocket and did not charge any fees. He thus saved countless lives.
However, Mantello’s finest hour came in the spring of 1944. Up to the day of the German occupation on March 19 of that year, Hungary had been considered a safe place for Jews. No one had expected that the vast Hungarian Jewish community would soon be deported to Auschwitz. Mantello had not even thought of providing protective papers far his own family. Under the impact of the disaster, he asked a Rumanian diplomat-friend, Dr Florian Manoliu, who was stationed in Switzerland, to rush to Bistritza in Transylvania in order to give the precious papers to his threatened family. Travel was slow and Manoliu arrived too late. The entire Mandel family had been deported a few days earlier and most of them eventually perished.
On his return trip the Rumanian diplomat called on Swiss Consul Carl Lutz in Budapest, who was himself engaged in a vast action to save Jews. The consul welcomed the additional blank Salvadorean papers brought by Manoliu. Then he and his Hungarian assistant, Moshe Krausz, gave the visitor a copy of the ”Auschwitz Protocol”. This was the first fully reliable report on the death camps. It had been prepared by two young Slovak Jews, Vrba and Wetzler, who had miraculously escaped from Auschwitz. After his return to Geneva Manoliu turned it over immediately to Mantello. Shocked over what had happened to his parents and by the tragic Vrba and Wetzler paper, Mantello made a summary of the ”Protocol” during that same night. With the help of highly placed Swiss friends he then released it to the local and the international press. The news about Auschwitz caused an unprecedented public uproar in Switzerland, Sweden and in the English speaking countries.
Governments had been sitting on reports about the death camps ever since 1942, but they never made these public. This time it was different because Mantello went directly to the public, breaking wartime censorship.
On July 7, 1944, surprised by the extent of the international outcry, Admiral Horthy ordered a stop to the deportations and the infamous Eichman was called back to Germany. The Jews of Budapest had an unexpected reprieve of three important months. Later, on October 15, the Nazis had Horthy overthrown and replaced by Ferenc Szalasi and his murderous Arrow Cross and Eichman was sent back to Budapest to finish his mission. Fortunately the publication of the Auschwitz Protocols by Mantello disrupted Eichman’s deportation schedule. This has saved the lives of tens of thousands of people.
George Mandel-Mantello’s actions were related by many historians in dozens of books and publications:
- EUGENE (JENO) LEVAI
1946 – FEKETE KONYV
1947 – RAOUL WALLENBERG
1948 – ZSIDOSORS EUROPABAN
1949 – BLACK BOOK ON THE MARTYRDOM OF HUNGARIAN JEWRY
1968 – ABSCHEU UND GRAUEN VOR DEM GENOCID IN ALLER WERT
1988 – RAOUL WALLENBERG(foreword by Per ANGER and S. WIESENTHAL)
- WERNER RINGS (1910)
1966 – ADVOKATEN DES FEINDES
- RANDOLPH L. BRAHAM (1922)
1981 – THE POLITICS OF GENOCIDE
1990 – A. MAGYAR HOLOCAUST
- DAVID KRANZLER (1930)
1987 – THY BROTHER’S BLOOD
1991 – TO SAVE A WORLD
- THEO TSCHUY (1925)
1995 – CARL LUTZ UND DIE JUDEN VON BUDAPEST
Other historians and authors mention Mandel-Mantello or his two actions:
- Ben HECHT
PERFIDY – 1961
- Per ANGER
WITH WALLENBERG IN BUDAPEST – 1966
- Nora LEVIN
THE HOLOCAUST – 1968
- Edgar BONJOUR
HISTORY OF SWISS NEUTRALITY 1980
- Alois PIEBERGER
ZU MEINER ZEIT – 1988
- Jean-Claude FAVEZ
UNE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – 1988 and 1996
- Robert A. GRAHAM, S.J.
VATICAN DOCUMENTS – 1996
- John S. CONWAY
THE FIRST REPORT ABOUT AUSCHWITZ -1998