This post was originally published in 2011 on the Tangier American Legation blog.
In honor of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the Soviet arrest of Raoul Wallenberg, the "Swedish Schindler," I republish three posts on a righteous American diplomat who helped more than a thousand Jews escape the Holocaust.
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Photo at left: J. Rives Childs, Chargé d'Affaires, American Legation Tangier, February 1941 - June 1945 (from the collection at TALIM).
The following letter is from one of Childs' many books, Vignettes, or Autobiographical Fragments, Vantage Press, 1977.
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Tangier, 13 June 1945
Permit me, before your departure from Tangier, to express to Your Excellency from the bottom of my heart my most profound and everlasting gratitude for your extremely noble and generous assistance in the affair of the entry visas for Tangier for 500 children and adults, for the most part of large families of Hungarian Jews.
It is without doubt, due to the intervention of Your Excellency that the requests for entry visas were accorded.
The International Red Cross of Budapest, not having received German transit visas for these persons, had, thanks to the entry visas for Tangier, been able to arrange for the departure of this number of Jews from a Nazi concentration camp, place them in safety in a building rented by it which was, in consequence of the authorization of entry visas, protected by the Spanish Consulate in Budapest.
Thus 1200 innocent souls owe their survival to Your Excellency.
I pray God and hope for Your Excellency that benedictions and success accompany all your life each of your steps.
Please accept, Excellency, this testimony of my most profound respect and most distinguished thanks.
Your very devoted,
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Renée Reichmann, when she wrote this letter, was in Tangier representing the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The incident is partially described in this 1997 Business Week excerpt from Anthony Bianco's book on the Reichmanns.
J. Rives Childs, in his 1977 book, wrote "All these years... I have carried a copy of Mme. Reichmann's letter in my wallet." In his autobiography, Let the Credit Go (1983, Frederick Fell Publishers), Childs modestly gave credit for the rescue to Reichmann and to General Luis Orgaz, high commissioner of the Spanish Zone of Morocco, who had ordered the visas issued.
My question is this: shouldn't J. Rives Childs be considered one of The Righteous, and be properly recognized in Yad Vashem? Childs, in Vignettes, wrote: "I cannot now recall whether, in the hurly-burly of leavetaking of Tangier, I made Mme. Reichmann's letter a matter of official record or ever reported to Washington my unofficial and personal intervention with General Orgaz." Might there be some mention of this event in Childs' State Department file or at the National Archives?
Childs died on July 15, 1987 at the age of 94, but even posthumous recognition would do him honor.
Next month, it will have been 70 years since Childs took up his post as Chargé at the American Legation, a key post given the events that would unfold here over the next two years, culminating in the first American combat operation in the European theatre of World War II: Operation Torch, the North Africa landings that started to turn the tide on the Western Front.
We knew he was in charge of sensitive diplomatic relations then; we didn't know that he was a hero, a righteous man.
(originally posted January 3, 2011)