Abdol Hossein Sardari-Beating the Nazis at their own game.

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An Iranian official risking his life to save Jews? This scenario, while unlikely nowadays, actually happened during the Holocaust.

Iranian diplomat Abdol Hossein Sardari provided critical assistance to Iranian Jews in occupied France (1940-1944). In June 1940, following the German invasion of France, Iranian ambassador Anoushirvan Sepahbodi left for Vichy in the unoccupied zone to reconstitute the Embassy there. This left Sardari, the Consul General of Iran, in charge of consular affairs in Paris. In this capacity, Sardari appealed on several occasions to exempt Iranian and other Central Asian Jews living in German-occupied France from anti-Jewish measures decreed by French and German authorities.

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At the beginning of World War II, about 150 Jews from Iran, Afghanistan, and Bukhara (a city in the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan and the former cultural center of the ancient Persian Empire) resided in France. Sharing linguistic and cultural ties, many of these Central Asian Jews, fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, had settled in Paris during the 1920s. Following the German occupation of northern France in 1940, representatives of these three communities presented themselves to Vichy French officials and the German occupation authorities as “Jugutis” (Djougoutes in French). Jugutis were the descendants of Persian Jews who, forced to convert to Islam in 1838, continued to practice Judaism privately in their homes. Official identity papers, such as passports, generally identified Jugutis as Muslims.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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.

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Sardari’s plan actually worked. When Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David, a directive was issued that Iranian Jews should be exempt. In addition, Sardari gave out between 500 and 1,000 Iranian passports, without the consent of his superiors. This saved 2,000 to 3,000 Jewish lives, as passports were issued for entire families. His actions were later confirmed and applauded by the government of Iran.

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.

Sardari has been honored by Jewish organizations such as the convention in Beverly Hills, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center on multiple occasions.

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Sardari never took any credit for what he did. When Yad Vashem asked him in 1978, three years before he died a poor exile in London, about his wartime activities, he responded: “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.

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Forgotten History-The Hardaga & the Kabiljo families:Holocaust and Bosnian Muslim Genocide survivors

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There really isn’t such a thing as a happy Holocaust story but I think this is probably could be seen as a ‘happy’ story.

It doesn’t only portray extreme bravery but also that deep down good people are the same, regardless of what religious differences they have. Especially in the present time where there are so many negative stories about Muslims and to a lesser extend of Jews it is important that a story like the one of these 2 families gets told.

The story spans approximately 50 years and is about the Hardaga and Kabiljo(aka Kavilio) families

During the Second World War, the Germans invaded Yugoslavia. After they seized Sarajevo in 1941, the Gestapo opened an office across the street from the home of  Mustafa Hardaga, a local furniture salesman.

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The Nazi occupation was vicious. The city’s old synagogue was looted, 400-year-old Torah scrolls were burned.

At night, the Hardagas could hear the screams of prisoners being tortured in Gestapo jail cells.

Amid the brutality, Hardaga and his wife Zejneba agreed to take in Hardaga’s friend and business partner Yosef Kabiljo(Kavilio), whose own home had been destroyed during a Nazi bombing raid. Kabiljo, his wife and daughter were Jewish. They hid behind clothes in the back of a walk-in closet when the Gestapo came to the Hardaga home to check documents.

“We were only 10 metres away from the Germans and hiding the Kabiljo s right under their noses,” said Salih Hardaga, Sara’s brother, who was born a year before the Germans invaded Yugoslavia.

The Hardagas were conservative Muslims, with the women covering their faces with a veil in the presence of strangers.

“Never before had a strange man stayed with them,” Yosef Kabiljo testified later to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial authority. “They welcomed us with the words: ‘Josef, you are our brother, and your children are like our children. Feel at home and whatever we own is yours.’”

The Hardaga women never again wore veils in front of Kabiljo.

“When I was growing up, my mother Zejneba always said, ‘You can’t control how rich you will be, or how smart or successful you will be,’” Pecanac said. “But she said you can control how good you will be.”

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The Kabiljos stayed with the Hardagas until Josef Kavilio was able to move his wife and children to Mostar, a Bosnian city that was under Italian rule.

Kabiljo stayed behind to liquidate his business but he could not escape detection forever. Eventually he was arrested and imprisoned by the Ustasa.

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Because of the heavy snow, the prisoners could not be transferred from Sarajevo to the infamous Jasenovac camp near Zagreb, where the Croatians systematically killed Serbs, Jews and Roma.

Instead the prisoners were taken, with their legs chained, to clear the roads from snow. This is where Zejneba saw Kvilio. Kavilio later testified that he saw her standing at the street corner, her face traditionally veiled, watching the plight of their family friend with tears in her eyes. Undisturbed by the danger, she began to bring food to the prisoners.

Josef Kavilio eventually managed to escape and returned to the Hardaga home. The family welcomed him warmly and nursed him back to health. The Gestapo headquarters were nearby, and the danger was immense. In his testimony Josef described the notices on the walls threatening those who would hide Serbs and Jews with the death penalty. Not wanting to endanger the Hardagas life, Josef decided to flee to Mostar and join his family.

After September 1943, when the Italian areas came under German occupation, the Kavilio family had to move yet again. They fled to the mountains and joined the partisans.

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After the war they returned to Sarajevo. Again they stayed with the Hardagas until they could find a place of their own. The Hardagas also returned the jewelry that the Kavilio family had left with them for safekeeping.

Their saviours paid a steep price for helping Jews. Mustafa Hardaga’s Father in Law, Ahmed Sadik, was executed by the Nazis because he helped to forge documents with Christian names for Jewish families like the Kavilios and had hid a Jewish family in his house.

 

Half a century later, the Hardagas were themselves saved by the Kavilios during the Bosnian Civil War.

Threatened by the continuous shelling of Sarajevo, the Kavilio family appealed to the President of Bosnia to permit their erstwhile saviours to travel to Israel.

In 1992, shattered Bosnia was on fire. The phone lines to Sarajevo were down, leaving friends and family worried about their loved ones. Salih Hardaga, who had moved to Mexico in 1974, watched TV news programs, hoping for a glimpse of his sister or mother in Sarajevo.

In Jerusalem, too, the Kabiljos tuned in to the evening newscasts, unsure whether the Hardagas were still alive. While Mustafa Hardaga had died during the 1960s, the Kabiljos had stayed in touch with Zejneba and Pecanac, who was born in 1957.

They contacted an Israeli journalist who was heading to cover the war. The journalist passed on a message to a local community organization in Sarajevo that the Kabiljo family was searching for Zejneba.

A message was sent back to Israel that Zejneba, then 76, and her youngest daughter Sara were still in Sarajevo.

“There was no talk about leaving Sarajevo because there was no time,” Pecanac said. “One day things were OK. The next, soldiers were surrounding the city, the city was split into sections, and there were UN troops and snipers and bombings.

 

Pecanac was stunned to hear the Kabiljos were trying to help.

She had heard the full family story only in 1984, when the Kabiljo family asked Yad Vashem to recognize the Hardagas and Ahmed Sadik as Righteous Among the Nations, an honour given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Zejneba at the Hall of Remembrance, Yad Vashem 1985, courtesy of Yad Vashemhardag mem

“My dad had died and my mother didn’t talk about it very much,” Pecanac said of the family’s heroism.

After learning that Zejneba was still alive, the Kabiljos again contacted Yad Vashem and officials agreed to help organize a rescue.

In early 1994, Pecanac, Branimir, Sacha and Zejneba joined 300 other refugees on a convoy of six buses that streaked through the shattered streets of Sarajevo.

“I remember we passed 34 checkpoints, and all the soldiers at the checkpoints wanted were U.S. dollars,” Pecanac said. “But without the help of the Kabiljos, we would not have been on the bus. When Yad Vashem wrote a letter to the president of Bosnia, asking that we be allowed to leave, he said no. It only happened after the Kabiljos managed to get the case all the way to (Israeli Prime Minister) Yitzhak Rabin.

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The Hardaga family was given its choice of destinations. Pecanac and her mother picked Jerusalem.

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The rescue was extraordinary — one family saving another from genocide, only to see the favour returned half a century later.

“Imagine that you are in such a state and need help and you get it from the same family your family saved 50 years earlier,” said Pecanac, who converted to Judaism and now works for Yad Vashem. “It is an amazing story.”

A few months after Zejneba and her family arrived in Jerusalem, they were asked to meet Rabin.

“We went in and talked for a bit and my mother turned to Rabin and said, ‘Can I offer you some advice?’” Pecanac said. “The whole place went quiet. Who was this old woman to give advice to the prime minister of Israel?

“He said OK, and she said, ‘Please, try to make peace in the Middle East. Don’t let Jerusalem become Sarajevo.’”

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Forgotten History-Noor Inayat Khan

Nowadays it has become so easy to blame Muslims for all evil in the world. And I get why people think that way, given all the awful acts of terror which have been committed in the name of Islam in the recent past and are still happening.

But the fact is the criminals who commit these acts use Islam for their own twisted political ideology and has very little to do with Islam. The biggest group of victims are Muslims themselves.

Next time you want to say that Muslims are a threat to our western freedom, spare a thought for Muslims like Noor Inayat Khan who gave her life for our Western freedom.

Khan was a wartime British secret agent of Indian descent who was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She was arrested and eventually executed by the Gestapo.

Noor Inayat Khan was born on New Year’s Day 1914 in Moscow to an Indian father and an American mother. She was a direct descendant of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century Muslim ruler of Mysore. Khan’s father was a musician and Sufi teacher. He moved his family first to London and then to Paris, where Khan was educated and later worked writing childrens’ stories. Khan escaped to England after the fall of France and in November 1940 she joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). In late 1942, she was recruited to join SOE as a radio operator. Although some of those who trained her were unsure about her suitability, Nevertheless, her fluent French and her competency in wireless operation—coupled with a shortage of experienced agents—made her a desirable candidate for service in Nazi-occupied France. On 16/17 June 1943, cryptonymed ‘Madeleine’/W/T operator ‘Nurse’ and under the cover identity of Jeanne-Marie Regnier, Assistant Section Officer/Ensign Inayat Khan was flown to landing ground B/20A ‘Indigestion’ in Northern France on a night landing doubleL ysander operation, code named Teacher/Nurse/Chaplain/Monk. She was met by Henri  Déricourt who turned out to be a double agent.

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She travelled to Paris, and with two other women, Diana Rowden (code named Paulette/Chaplain), and Cecily Lefort (code named Alice/Teacher), joined the Physician network led by Francis Suttill (code named Prosper).

Over the next month and a half, all the other Physician network radio operators were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), along with hundreds of Resistance personnel associated with Prosper. Colonel Maurice Buckmaster, head of F Section, later claimed that in spite of the danger, Inayat Khan rejected an offer to return to Britain, although it was certainly in SOE’s interest that she stay in the field in the aftermath of the round-up of their largest network. As the only remaining wireless operator still at large in Paris, Inayat Khan continued to transmit to London messages from agents of what remained of the Prosper/Physician circuit, a network she also worked to keep intact despite the mass arrests of its members. She was now the most wanted British agent in Paris with SD officers sent out to look for her at subway stations, and an accurate description of her widely circulated among German security officers. With wireless detection vans in close pursuit, Inayat Khan could transmit for only twenty minutes at one time in one place, but constantly moving from place to place, she managed to escape capture while maintaining wireless communication with London: “She refused to abandon what had become the most important and dangerous post in France and did excellent work

Inayat Khan was betrayed to the Germans, either by Henri Déricourt or by Renée Garry. Déricourt (code name Gilbert) was an SOE officer and former French Air Force pilot who had been suspected of working as a double agent for the Sicherheitsdienst. Garry was the sister of Henri Garry, Inayat Khan’s organizer in the Cinema network (later renamed Phono).Allegedly paid 100,000 francs, Renée Garry’s actions have been attributed by some to jealousy due to Garry’s suspicion that she had lost the affections of SOE agent France Antelme to Inayat Khan

On or around 13 October 1943, Inayat Khan was arrested and interrogated at the SD Headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch in Paris.

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Though SOE trainers had expressed doubts about her gentle and unworldly character, on her arrest she fought so fiercely that SD officers were afraid of her.She was thenceforth treated as an extremely dangerous prisoner. There is no evidence of her being tortured, but her interrogation lasted over a month. During that time, she attempted escape twice. Hans Kieffer, the former head of the SD in Paris, testified after the war that she did not give the Gestapo a single piece of information, but lied consistently. However other sources indicate that she chatted amiably with an out-of-uniform Alsatian interrogator, and provided personal detail that enabled the SD to answer random checks in the form of questions about her childhood and family.

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Although Inayat Khan did not talk about her activities under interrogation, the SD found her notebooks. Contrary to security regulations, she had copied out all the messages she had sent as an SOE operative (this may have been due to her misunderstanding what a reference to filing meant in her orders, and also the truncated nature of her security course due to the need to insert her into France as soon as possible). Although she refused to reveal any secret codes, the Germans gained enough information from them to continue sending false messages imitating her. London failed to properly investigate anomalies which would have indicated the transmissions were sent under enemy control, in particular the change in the ‘fist’ (the style of the operator’s Morse transmission though according to M R D Foot, the Sicherheitsdienst were quite adept at faking operators’ fists.As a WAAF signaller, Inayat Khan had been nicknamed ‘Bang Away Lulu’ because of her distinctively heavy-handed style, which was said to be a result of chilblains.

As a result of London’s errors, three more agents sent to France were captured by the Germans at their parachute landing, among them Madeleine Damerment, who was later executed.

Sonya Olschanezky (‘Tania’), a locally recruited SOE agent had learnt of Inayat Khan’s arrest, and had sent a message to London through her fiancé, Jacques Weil, telling Baker Street of her capture and warning HQ to suspect any transmissions from ‘Madelaine’. Colonel Maurice Buckmaster ignored the message as unreliable because he did not know who Olschanezky was. As a result, German transmissions from Inayat Khan’s radio continued to be treated as genuine, leading to the unnecessary deaths of SOE agents, including Olschanezky herself, who was executed at Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp on 6 July 1944.

When Vera Atkins investigated the deaths of missing SOE agents, she initially confused Inayat Khan with Olschanezky (they were similar in appearance), who was unknown to her, believing that Inayat Khan had been killed at Natzweiler, correcting the record only when she discovered Inayat Khan’s fate at Dachau.

On 25 November 1943, Inayat Khan escaped from the SD Headquarters, along with fellow SOE Agents John Renshaw Starr and Leon Faye, but was captured in the vicinity. There was an air raid alert as they escaped across the roof. Regulations required a count of prisoners at such times and their escape was discovered before they could get away. After refusing to sign a declaration renouncing future escape attempts, Inayat Khan was taken to Germany on 27 November 1943 “for safe custody” and imprisoned at Pforzheim in solitary confinement as a “Nacht und Nebel” (“Night and Fog”: condemned to “Disappearance without Trace”) prisoner, in complete secrecy. For ten months, she was kept there shackled at hands and feet.

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She was classified as “highly dangerous” and shackled in chains most of the time. As the prison director testified after the war, Inayat Khan remained uncooperative and continued to refuse to give any information on her work or her fellow operatives, although in her despair at the appalling nature of her confinement, other prisoners could hear her crying at night. However, by the ingenious method of scratching messages on the base of her mess cup, she was able to inform another inmate of her identity, giving the name of Nora Baker and the London address of her mother’s house

On 11 September 1944, Inayat Khan and three other SOE agents from Karlsruhe prison,Yolande Beekman, Eliane Plewman, and Madeleine Damerment, were moved to the Dachau Concentration Camp. In the early morning hours of 13 September 1944, the four women were executed by a shot to the back of the head. Their bodies were immediately burned in the crematorium. An anonymous Dutch prisoner, who emerged in 1958, contended that Inayat Khan was cruelly beaten by a high-ranking SS officer named Wilhelm Ruppert before being shot from behind; the beating may have been the actual cause of her death. She may also have been sexually assaulted while in custody. Her last word has been recorded as, “Liberté”.

Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949, and a French Croix de Guerre with silver star

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As she was still considered “missing” in 1946, she could not be recommended for a Member of the Order of the British Empire,but was Mentioned in Despatches instead in October 1946 Inayat Khan was the third of three Second World War FANY members to be awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy.

At the beginning of 2011, a campaign was launched to raise £100,000 for a bronze bust of her in central London close to her former home. It was claimed that this would be the first memorial in Britain to either a Muslim or an Asian woman,but Inayat Khan had already been commemorated on the FANY memorial in St Paul’s Church, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London,which lists the 52 members of the Corps who gave their lives on active service.

The unveiling of the bronze bust by HRH The Princess Royal took place on 8 November 2012 in Gordon Square Gardens, London.

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Inayat Khan is commemorated on a stamp issued by the Royal Mail on 25 March 2014 in a set of stamps about “Remarkable Lives”

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Although Noor Khan as been remembered a lot it appears that she still has been forgotten.

In 2014 a TV movie was made in her memory called “the Enemy of the Reich”