RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — 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, El Comercio newspaper reported.
The act revoked the 1942 decree signed by President Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Rio removing Munoz Borrero from his position.
“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 the local media.
While carrying out his diplomatic duties in Sweden beginning in 1930, Munoz Borrero saved the lives of 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 Ecuadorean authorities discovered his actions, he was relieved of his duties and 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 U.S. 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.
“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.