There are some stories that evolve over time but their essence never ages.
The subject of this story, first published March 22, 2014, was recently brought up by the Consul General of Azerbaijan to the United States West Coast. The reason for his interest is that the hero of this story, Abdol Hossein Sardari, was Iranian, of Azerbaijani descent.
The story of Abdol Hossein Sardari is about the moral compass of right thing to do, no matter what, when there is a calling.
Abdol Hossein Sardari reminds us of Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler was an ethnic German industrialist, a German spy, and member of the Nazi party. Schindler has also been credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, by employing them in his factories, which were located in what is today Poland and the Czech Republic.
Abdol Hossein Sardari served as an Iranian diplomat in Paris, and he used his position to save the lives of many Jews from the Nazis’ deadly claws.
Fariborz Mokhtari, Ph.D. discovers the rather covert Abdol Hossein Sardari story
Fariborz Mokhtari, Ph.D., born in Iran, a retired professor of political science from the University of Vermont and at Saint Michael’s College. Fariborz read the book ‘The Persian Sphinx: ‘Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution‘ by Abbas Milani, (The Puzzle of Hoveyda), which tells the story of Iran’s Prime Minister Amir-Abbas Hoveyda*, the longest-serving – 13 years – prime minister in Iran’s history. After the Iranian Revolution, or the 1979 Revolution, Hoveyda was tried for “waging war against God” and “spreading corruption on earth” and was executed.
In Milani’s book Dr. Mokhtari read about a mentioned rumor that there was an Iranian diplomat who worked in Paris and helped Jews escape the wrath of the Nazi’s methodical Jew killing machine. That diplomat was Abdol Hossein Sardari, Amir Abbas Hoveyda’s uncle. Noting, while studying at the Sorbonne University, in Paris, France, Mr. Hoveyda, who later became Iran’s prime minister, frequented his uncle’s Parisian residence.
Curiosity led Mr. Mokhtari to contact the publisher of the book who directed him to the author, who then directed him to three people who were able to tell him the entire story about the young Iranian diplomat, Abdol Hossein Sardari, a son of an affluent Iranian family who was assigned to join Iran’s diplomatic ranks in France.
As this fascinating story goes, Mr. Sardari was a social butterfly who threw many parties that attracted the crème de la crème of the Parisian and beyond society as well as high ranking Nazi officers.
When Mr. Sardari realized what the Nazis were doing to the Jews in Europe, he wanted to save lives. He started to use the connections and influence he collected throughout his social life, including the ones he had made with the influential Nazis who attended his parties. Over a period of time he issued hundreds of fake Iranian passports that enabled Jews to flee Europe to a safer place, to Iran.
It is believed that Abdol Hossein Sardari issued some 500 fake passports. Considering that a single passport was often issued for entire families, or at least to mothers and their children, the 500 passports may very well have saved over 2000 Jews. Indeed, a Gestapo document claimed/complained that the Iranian diplomat had managed to save over 2000 “stateless people” by granting them Iranian documents.
Mokhtari’s Pride in Sardari’s Heroism
Mr. Mokhtari takes pride in Sardari’s heroism, equating his deeds to Schindler’s.
In 2002 Mr. Mokhtari began to write his book, ‘In the Lion’s Shadow: The Iranian Schindler and His Homeland in the Second World War‘, published in 2011.
The word lion, used in the title of the book, represents the flag of Iran prior to the revolution, which depicted a lion at its center. After the revolution the lion’s image was taken out of Iran’s flag. What it means is that what Sardari did, helping to save Jews, he did in the name of the national symbol of Iran. That has a profound meaning when today’s Iran is the state of Israel’s greatest nemesis.
The subtext of the book, ‘The Iranian Schindler and His Homeland In The Second World War’, is significant because of the remarkable number of Jews Abdol Sardari saved. It was greater than the number of Jews the well-known Oskar Schindler saved.
Oskar Schindler’s story was the subject of the 1982 novel ‘Schindler’s Ark’, by Thomas Keneally, and the subsequent 1993 film ‘Schindler’s List‘, which reflected Schindler’s life as an opportunist, initially motivated by profit, but ended up showing extraordinary initiative, tenacity, and dedication in order to save the lives of his Jewish employees from the Nazis.
Now is as good a time as ever to tell and retell the story, possibly even in a film, of Abdol Hossein Sardari’s heroism. Because if we do not, evil will continue to eclipse goodness. Apathy will eclipse love and ignorance.
Abdol Sardari’s Successively Heroic Acts
Abdol Sardari refused to receive the accolades he deserved. Among them, to be acknowledged as ‘Righteous Among The Nations,’ Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Commemoration Center recognition award to righteous people who risked their lives to save Jews’ lives during the Holocaust years.
Sardari knew that what he did was the right thing to do, the only thing to do. But loud praises he well deserves. His story must be told. It will inspire future generations.
Azerbaijan Angle on This Story
Azerbaijan has been a safe homeland for many Jews for over 2000 years. The Iranian-Azerbaijani population – some 30 million, residing mainly in Iran’s northwestern provinces – is the largest non-Persian ethnic group in Iran.
The fact that Abdol Hossein Sardari was an Iranian of Azerbaijani roots instills pride in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s national doctrine is harmony and coexistence among its population and the world at large. Mr. Sardari’s action amplified Azerbaijan’s national doctrine.
It should also be the pride of the Iranian people.
* Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, an Iranian economist and politician, served as Prime Minister of Iran from January 27, 1965 to August 7, 1977 – a 13-year tenure, the longest-serving prime minister in Iran’s history. After the Iranian Revolution, he was tried by the newly established Revolutionary Court for “waging war against God” and “spreading corruption on earth.” For this he was executed.
Amir Abbas Hoyeyda, Iran’s late prime minister was an educated and well-read man who knew Arabic, French, English, and German; his younger brother, Fereydoun Hoveyda, served as Iran’s permanent Ambassador to the UN. Both brothers had attended the American School in Beirut, Lebanon, when their father served as Iran’s envoy.