When Paris became a Nazi stronghold in World War II, an Iranian diplomat by the name of Abdol-Hossein Sardari used his influence to help more than 2,000 Iranian Jews by making a creative case for their exemption from racial persecution and by issuing hundreds of passports, according to Fariborz Mokhtari’s new book, “In the Lion’s Shadow.” Sardari’s story is also relevant to our own era of sectarian conflicts, because he himself was a Muslim. Here’s more from the BBC. —KA
When Britain and Russia invaded Iran in September 1941, Sardari’s humanitarian task become more perilous.
Iran signed a treaty with the Allies and Sardari was ordered by Tehran to return home as soon as possible.
But despite being stripped of his diplomatic immunity and status, Sardari resolved to remain in France and carry on helping the Iranian Jews, at considerable risk to his own safety, using money from his inheritance to keep his office going.
The story he spun to the Nazis, in a series of letters and reports, was that the Persian Emperor Cyrus had freed Jewish exiles in Babylon in 538 BC and they had returned to their homes.
However, he told the Nazis, at some later point a small number of Iranians began to find the teachings of the Prophet Moses attractive - and these Mousaique, or Iranian Followers of Moses, which he dubbed “Djuguten,” were not part of the Jewish race.
Using all of his lawyer’s skill, he exploited the internal contradictions and idiocies of the Nazis’ ideology to gain special treatment for the “Djuguten”, as the archive material published in Mr Mokhtari’s new book shows.