Mexico, the Jews, and the Holocaust

by Daniel Nardini

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, when immigration was largely closed off in the United States, various immigrant groups were able to go to parts of Latin America. Among these immigrant groups were the Jews. They were welcomed in Mexico, and despite attempts by neo-nazi groups in Mexico trying to create boycotts and even foment violence against the Jews, Mexicans overall had nothing against the Jews. Most of the Jewish immigration to Mexico was from the 1880’s to 1939, when anti-Jewish hatred peaked in Europe. Especially during the 1930’s, many Jews fled to Latin America and to Mexico where they found acceptance. During World War II, Jews settled in and passed through Mexico. Unlike the United States, which turned Jews away, the Mexican government usually looked the other way as Jews were allowed to go through Mexico.

One well known Mexican diplomat named Gilberto Bosques Saldivar would save the life of many Jews in Europe. Stationed in the Mexican consulate in Marseilles, France, Saldivar issued visas to thousands of Jews trying to escape the Nazis. Saldivar provided housing for those Jews with nowhere to go, and he had arranged ships to take the Jews wherever they were destined to go. The visas issued by Saldivar helped Jews go to various African nations as well as Argentina, Mexico and Brazil to escape the Germans. Saldivar was responsible for saving the lives of 40,000 Jews. However, Saldivar, along with his entire family, were arrested by the Germans. If it was not for his diplomatic status, the Nazis would have most likely executed Saldivar for saving so many Jews as well as those Spaniards trying to escape Fascist Spain. Eventually the Mexican government was able to negotiate for Saldivar’s release. He would continue serving as an ambassador to Cuba, Finland, Portugal, and Sweden. He died in 1995 at the age of 103.

As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust,, it is important to note that despite so many Jews having been slaughtered by the Nazis, there were various peoples and countries that did all they could to save Jews from the infernos of the Nazi concentration camps and death squads.

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