Gilberto Bosques Saldivar was a Mexican diplomat who saved 40,000 Jews and Spaniards from the Nazi and Franco fascist regimes.
Born in a mountain village near Mexico City in 1892, Bosques fought in the Mexican Revolution at the age of 17 and later became a journalist and state legislator. In 1939, Bosques was sent to France to serve as Mexico’s Consul General. After the German occupation of Paris in May 1940, Bosques fled, but was instructed by his government to return and create a Mexican consulate in Nazi-occupied Vichy France. Bosques set up the consulate in Marseilles.
The Vichy government, in collusion with the Germans, began rounding up Jews and deporting them to concentration camps. Bosques sprang into action. He rented a castle and a summer camp in Marseilles, and maintained that the properties were part of the consulate and therefore Mexican territory under international law.
Bosques began issuing visas to Jews, as well as Spaniards fleeing the fascist Franco regime. Bosques housed the refugees at his compound in Marseilles, and chartered ships to get them safely out of the country. Bosques issued visas to approximately 40,000 Jews and Spaniards.
In 1943, Bosques, along with his wife, three children, and 40 members of the consulate staff were arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Germany for a year. They were released in 1944 after Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho imprisoned German citizens in Mexico and then arranged a prisoner swap.
After the war, Bosques served as Mexican Ambassador to Portugal, Finland, Sweden and Cuba. Bosques died in 1995, at the advanced age of 102. Sadly, his heroism was never recognized during his lifetime. The long-overdue accolades began in 2003, when the City Hall of Vienna, together with the Mexican Embassy and the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, dedicated a boulevard to Bosques. “Promenade Gilberto Bosques” was inaugurated on June 4, 2003. Bosques’ daughters, Laura and Maria Teresa, attended the ceremony in Vienna.
In 2008, the Anti-Defamation League honored Bosques posthumously with the Courage to Care Award. In 2010, renowned Mexican-Jewish filmmaker Lillian Liberman made a documentary about Bosques called “Visa al Paraiso” (Visa to Paradise).
For courageously saving the lives of 40,000 people at great personal sacrifice, we honor Gilberto Bosques Saldivar as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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