Abdol Hossein Sardari

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Abdol Hossein Sardari (in Persian: عبدالحسین سرداری; Tehran, 1914 - Nottingham, 1981) was an Iranian statesman and diplomat who saved the lives of many Jews during the Holocaust.[1] He is known as the "Schindler of Iran"[2] and was the uncle of Amir Abbas and Fereydoun Hoveyda.


Sardari was in charge of the Iranian consular office in Paris in 1942. There was a sizeable community of Iranian Jews in Paris when Adolf Hitler invaded and occupied the city. Leaning on the national socialist perception that Germans were Aryan, Nazi Germany and Iran had an agreement which protected all Iranian citizens against German acts of aggression. Sardari was able to protect Iranian Jews, whose families had been present in Iran since the time of the Persian Empire. (Cyrus the Great personally ordered the Jews of Babylonia to be freed from Babylonian slavery.) He very strongly argued this point to the Germans and specifically ascertained that the Iranian Jews were protected under these statutes. The Nazis grudgingly agreed and accordingly, many Persian Jews were saved from harassment and eventually deportation by the Nazi regime.[3]

But Sardari went further. Once he realized the full nature of Nazi ambitions, he began issuing hundreds of Iranian passports for non-Iranian Jews to save them from persecution. To safeguard his plan, he did not ask for permission, and felt that support by the Iranian leadership was implied. His actions were later confirmed and applauded by the government of Iran.[4]

Sardari's later life was blighted by many misfortunes, including the disappearance of his Chinese lover during the Chinese Civil War in 1948, charges of embezzlement by the post-war Iranian Government, and penury in his final years due to the loss of his pension rights and property in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. After a period spent living in a bed-sit in Croydon, he moved to Nottingham where he died in 1981.[5]


Sardari has been honored by Jewish organizations such as the convention in Beverly Hills, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center on multiple occasions.[6] In April 1978, three years before his death, Abdol Hossein Sardari responded to the queries of Yad Vashem, the Israeli national Holocaust Memorial, about his actions in this way: "As you may know, I had the pleasure of being the Iranian Consul in Paris during the German occupation of France, and as such it was my duty to save all Iranians, including Iranian Jews."[7]

In popular culture[edit]

Zero Degree Turn (Madare sefr darajeh), a popular Iranian TV series (2007), was loosely based on Sardari's actions in Paris. The focus of the series is an Iranian Muslim who falls in love with a Jewish woman while studying in France during World War II and later desperately looks for ways to save her and other Jews from the imminent threat of deportation.[8][9]

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