glyph 473: history, Europe, Iran, Iranian jews, Paris, Nazi occupation of France ... Persia, Cyrus the Great, jews of Babylon, 500 BC ..... Fereydoun Hoveyda
In June 1940, embassies were transfered from Paris to Vichy which had become the capital of the new French Government. Nevertheless in each embassy residence in Paris a caretaker was left behind. Uncle Abdol Hossein Sardari, my mother's youngest brother, [photo on site linked above], who was in charge of consular affairs remained in the former French capital, now occupied by German Nazi military forces. At that unfortunate time many Iranian Jewish families lived in Paris. My uncle who liked to entertain, established close contacts with the German authorities and at the outset made it clear to them that Iranian jews were Iranians since the time of Cyrus the Great and therefore fell under the protection of Iranian laws like any other Iranian. He added that it was the reason why religion was not mentioned in Iranian passports. A letter was sent to my uncle by the German ambassador in Paris assuring him that no Iranian citizen would ever be harmed. As a result, the Iranian jews of Paris were not subjected to the special nazi measures against the Jews.
When in 1942 round ups of Jews started, and news regarding the "final solution" began to spread, the head of the Iranian Jewish community, contacted my uncle about his french co-religionists who were in danger of being sent to concentration camps. My uncle had in his office had a good supply of blank Persian passports. He took upon himself to also issue them to non-Iranian Jews who were facing deportation. As Allied forces invaded Iran, our ambassador in Vichy (Anoshiravan Sepahbody whose spouse was Sardari's brother) departed leaving Sardari in care of Iranian interests in Paris and all communications with Tehran cut. Refering to the humanitarian attitude of Cyrus the Great who had freed in 500 BC the Jews held captive in Babylon, Sardari had no doubt that the Shah and the Iranian government would confirm his decision after the war.
I was a diplomat in Paris during 1948 when the Iranian Jewish community (with its newly added "citizens") visited my uncle and offered him a silver plater signed by their leaders, as a token of their deep appreciation and gratitude. Sardari had also saved in extremis from the Gestapo Mr. Petrossian, a well-known importer of caviar who had contacts with the French resistance.
My uncle later became chargé d'affaires in Brussels. ln the mid-fifties he joined the National Iranian Oil Company and passed away in London in 1981.
Written by Fereydoun Hoveyda - New York December 1997
June 15, 2009