The core of this book is the fascinating story of an aristocratic Iranian diplomat who manages, through a masterful manipulation of German law, to save and evacuate hundreds of Iranian Jewish families living in France during the Second World War. Twisting the Third Reich’s racial logic, the diplomat, Abdol-Hossein Sardari, argued that the Mosaique Iranians or Djougoutes were quite distinct from European Jews. He argued that even though the people in question believed in the teachings of Moses, they met the standards of Blutmassig nicht Juden. Their blood and race was not Jewish. Indeed, like all Iranians, they were Aryans. It also seems clear that Sardari issued Iranian passports to non-Iranian Jews, thus extending the hard-won protections to them.
The author portrays Sardari as a sympathetic though occasionally flawed personality. Saving others from tragedy, he himself is a tragic character. His diplomatic position changed dramatically when neutral Iran, having been overrun by the allied British and Russian troops, became an enemy of the Germans. Refusing to return to Tehran when recalled and losing all diplomatic privileges (and salary), he continued to work to protect those threatened by the Nazis using his own resources.
Sadly, the end of the war was to bring Sardari no peace. The woman he loved, a Chinese opera singer known as Tchin-Tchin, disappeared when in 1948 she went to China in the midst of the revolution to ask for her parents’ approval to marry Sardari. In addition he was pursued by a hostile opposition in Iran which charged him with wrongdoing and succeeded in temporarily halting his career until he was granted a royal pardon. He retired from the diplomatic service in 1958 and moved to London. In 1979, the events of the Iranian revolution were to bring him further heartbreak when his nephew, a former prime minister, was executed. A short time later he died while living in a rented flat in London, his wealth a thing of the past.
With an index, photographs and an excellent set of notes, this work casts light on an otherwise obscure figure in the history of the Holocaust.