The right thing to do, no matter what, is the story of Abdol Hossein Sardari.
A republished story, originally published in 2014.
Oskar Schindler was an ethnic German industrialist, a German spy, and member of the Nazi party. Schindler has 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 now Poland and the Czech Republic.
Dr. Fariborz Mokhtari, born in Iran, is a professor of political science at the University of Vermont. One day he 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 – 13 years – serving prime minister in Iran’s history. After the Iranian Revolution Hoveyda was tried for “waging war against God” and “spreading corruption on earth” and was executed.
In Milani’s book Dr. Mokhtari read a mentioned rumor that there was an Iranian diplomat who worked in Paris and helped Jews escape the wrath of the Nazis killing machine. That diplomat was Amir Abbas Hoveyda’s uncle, who later on became Iran’s prime minister, and who also frequented his uncle’s Parisian residence, while studying at the Sorbonne.
Curiosity led Dr. Mokhtari to contact the publisher of the book who directed him to the author, who directed him to three people who told 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 the story goes, Sardari was a social butterfly and the parties he gave attracted the crème de la crème of Europe and Nazi officers as well.
When Sardari realized what the Nazis were doing to the European Jews, he used his connections and influence, including the one he had made with the Nazis who attended hos parties, he issued hundreds of fake passports that enabled Jews to flee Europe to safer place, Iran.
In 2002 Dr. Mokhtari started to write his book, In the Lion’s Shadow: The Iranian Schindler and His Homeland in the Second World War, published it in 2011.
The word lion, used in the title of the book, represents the flag of Iran, prior to the revolution, in its center a lion was depicted. After the revolution the lion’s image was taken out of Iran’s flag. That means, what Sardari did, he did in the name of the national symbol of Iran.
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 that was greater than the number of Jews Oskar Schindler saved.
Oskar Schindler story was the subject of the 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark, and the subsequent 1993 film Schindler’s List, which reflected Schindler’s life as an opportunist, initially motivated by profit, but ended showing extraordinary initiative, tenacity, and dedication in order to save the lives of his Jewish employees.
Now it is the time to tell and retell the story, possibly in a film, of Abdol Hossein Sardari’s heroism. Because if we do not, evil will continue to eclipse goodness.
Abdol Sardari refused to receive the accolades he deserved. Among them is Righteous Among The Nations, Israel’s Holocaust commemoration center, Yad Vashem’s recognition of righteous people who saved Jews during the Holocaust years.
Sardari knew that what he did was the right thing to do, the only thing to do. But loud accolades he is well deserves. His story must be told because it is the right thing to do. It will inspire the next generations.
* Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, an Iranian economist and politician, served as Prime Minister of Iran from 27 January 1965 to 7 August 1977 – for 13 years – the longer 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” and was executed.
Amir Abbas Hoyeyda, Iran’s late prime minister was an educated and well-read man who knew Arabic, French, English and German but did not attend the Sorbonne; his younger brother, Fereydoun Hoveyda, received a doctorate in the Sorbonne, France, and was later 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.
Sardari is reported to have issued some 500 passports. Considering that single passport was often issued for an entire families, or at least to mothers and their children, the 500 passports may very well have saved over 2000 people. Indeed, a Gestapo document claimed/complained that he had saved over 2000 “stateless people” by granting them Iranian documents.