Ecuador restores credentials of late diplomat who saved Jews from Nazis
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Ecuador restores credentials of late diplomat who saved Jews from Nazis

Ecuadorian FM leads ceremony honoring Manuel Antonio Munoz Borrero, who was removed as consul in Stockholm for issuing passports to fleeing Jews

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia speaks at en event in the capital of Quito on November 9, 2018, to restore Manuel Antonio Munoz Borrero as a member of the country's diplomatic service. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia speaks at en event in the capital of Quito on November 9, 2018, to restore Manuel Antonio Munoz Borrero as a member of the country's diplomatic service. (Screen capture: YouTube)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Ecuador posthumously restored the diplomatic career of its World War II-era consul to Stockholm, who was removed from his position in 1942 after saving over 100 Jews from the Nazis.

Several Ecuadorean officials attended a ceremony Friday in Quito, where Foreign Minister Jose Valencia signed the agreement to restore Manuel Antonio Munoz Borrero as a member of the country’s foreign service, reported El Comercio newspaper.

The act revoked the 1942 decree signed by President Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Rio removing Munoz Borrero from his position as consul in Stockholm.

“His behavior was a sign of a brave, humanistic attitude, solidarity, and brotherhood with those who were persecuted for being what they were, Jews,” Valencia told local media.

While carrying out his diplomatic duties in Sweden beginning in 1930, Munoz Borrero saved the lives of more than one hundred Jews by granting them humanitarian passports. Before the rupture of diplomatic relations between Ecuador and Germany in 1942, Munoz Borrero continued to issue passports on his own. When the Ecuadorian authorities discovered his actions, he was relieved of his duties and he never returned to diplomatic positions.

Valencia apologized to Munoz Borrero’s family and highlighted his work as a defender of human rights, saving the lives of Jewish people “even at the expense of his personal well-being and that of his family.”

“His gigantic work passed in silence. It was not until a Holocaust survivor said that she was saved thanks to a passport issued by him, when several historians investigated her life,” Munoz Borrero’s grandnephew Esteban Coello said.

“Over the last few decades, his history was rebuilt thanks to many efforts of the family and other historians in Israel, Argentina, Europe, the US and Ecuador. We have managed to reconstruct Manuel Antonio’s whole history of heroism, and this is the final step to preserving his memory,” he added.

In 2011, the Ecuadorean diplomat was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations from the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem.

Earlier this month, Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno praised his country’s Jewish community on the 80th anniversary of its founding.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno gives a press conference to the foreign media in Quito, Ecuador, on July 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

“Today, allow me to feel like a proud heir of several generations of authorities and citizens who opened the borders and the heart to all the Jewish brothers who chose my homeland to escape the horror and find peace,” he said to an audience of several Jewish and non-Jewish officials at the Comunidad Judia de Ecuador synagogue.

Ecuador is home to some 650 Jews, many of them descendants of German, Austrian, Czech, and Polish founders of the local community.

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