The BBC has a fascinating report based on The Lion’s Shadow, a new book by Fariborz Mokhtari, which tells the story of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, a young Iranian diplomat in Paris, who helped save 2,000 Iranian Jews in Europe. While Iran was officially neutral during World War II, Reza Shah—the father of the Shah overthrown in 1979—sympathized with the Nazis. In 1941, Iranian authorities ordered Sardari home, but he continued to help Iranian Jews in Europe even after the loss of his diplomatic immunity.
The BBC continues:
The story he spinned 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. High-level investigations were launched in Berlin, with “experts” on racial purity drafted in to give an opinion on whether this Iranian sect – which the book suggests may well have been Sardari’s own invention – were Jewish or not. The experts were non-committal and suggested that more funding was needed for research.
Adolf Eichmann dismissed Sardari’s claims as “the usual Jewish tricks and attempts at camouflage” but by then, Sardari had already saved 2,000 Jews. While Iranian diplomats today are apologists for terrorism, anti-Semitism and a noxious regime, it is important to remember that once upon a time, Iranian diplomats could be honorable. Perhaps in the future, if the Islamic Republic collapses, Iranian diplomats could once again follow the example of Sardari and hamper rather than promote genocide.