Many of you are aware of Oskar Schindler through the movie Schindler’s List. Schindler saved thousands of Jewish Poles from the Holocaust. However, many of you do not know about Gilberto Bosques Saldívar, who saved the lives of 40,000 individuals in World War II. Not only did Bosques, a Mexican native, save the lives of Jews from the Holocaust, but he was also instrumental is averting a nuclear war. Here is his interesting story.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is an international non-governmental entity that identifies people who rescued Holocaust survivors. The organization advocates for the recognition of the unknown heroes who risked their lives to protect Jews from the Holocaust. The Wallenberg Foundation recognized Gilberto Bosques as someone who rescued Jews from the Holocaust. On July 20, 2017, Google recognized Bosques with one of its Google doodles on the Google search page.

Like many other non-Jews, individuals who risked their lives to help Jews escape the Holocaust are not “well-known.” [1] In 1987, the Anti-Defamation League created the Courage to Care Award to honor non-Jews “who helped rescue and hide refugees during the Holocaust.” [1] In November of 2007, the award was posthumously awarded to Gilberto Bosques for helping to “save as many as 40,000 Jews and other refugees from Nazi persecution.” [1]

While delivering the award to Bosques’ daughter, Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League stated, “Bosques’ life is a shining example of human decency, moral courage and conviction, and his actions highlight the less well-known initiatives of Latin Americans who helped to save Jews during the Holocaust.” [1]

According to the ADL, Gilberto Bosques Saldívar, while serving as the Mexican consul general in Marseilles in 1939, “rented two chateaux to house European Jews and other refugees.” For two years, Bosques issued “about 40,000 visas and chartered ships to take Jews and other refugees to various African nations, where they went on to Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.” [1] The two homes were claimed by Bosques as Mexican sovereign territory under international law. Bosques “instructed the consulate personnel to help anyone who wished to flee to Mexico as the Nazi persecution gathered force.” [2]

Bosques and about 40 consular staff members were arrested by the Nazis in 1943 and held for about a year.

But that was not all, Gilberto Bosques has a long history in México, from the Mexican Revolution until he passed. As ambassador to Cuba, Bosques was instrumental in solving the Cuban Missile Crisis peacefully.

In 1953, Bosques was appointed as Mexico’s ambassador to Cuba. In his capacity as ambassador, Bosques give safe-passage protection to Fidel and Raul Castro, allowing them to leave Havana. [3] In July of 1955, Fidel and Raul Castro were allowed to leave Cuba after Bosques intervened on behalf of the Castro’s – who were in jail – with the Fulgencio Batista government. Had the Castros remained in Cuba, they likely would have been executed for treason. They remained in México for about 18 months until returning to overthrow the Batista government.

It was Bosques’ intervention for the Castro’s that allowed Bosques to act as an intermediary between Cuba, The Soviet Union and the United States to find a viable solution to the Cuban Missile Crisis between the three nations. Gilberto Bosques, as the represented of México, a neutral country, was trusted by the Soviet and American governments. Fidel Castro’s friendship with Bosques provided that lynchpin needed to allow all three governments a “face-saving” solution to the nuclear missile standoff. [4]

Bosques died in 1995, at the age of 103. [1]


1. Bloomekatz, Ari B.; “’Mexican Schindler’ honored”; Los Angeles Times; December 1, 2008
2. November 27, 2013 Letter to Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, from Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, nominating Gilberto Bosques Saldívar for the “2014 Raoul Wallenberg Prize”
3. “Gilberto Bosques Saldívar, Mexicano universal”; Cámara de Diputados, México, 2013; pg. 36
4. Grabman, Richard; “Bosques’ War: How a Mexican diplomat saved 40,000 from the Nazis (and maybe prevented World War III); Editorial Mazatlán, 2007

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “The Mexican That Saved 40 Thousand in World War 2 and Helped to Avert a Nuclear War”

  1. Glad when you post history related to Mexico/Mexicans not known in many circles, especially at a time when Mexico/Mexican-trashing has escalated in the USA.

    It’s similar to what el Clavel Negro (Black Pimpernel) did in Chile after the Pinochet coup and before that he’d saved Jews and others from the Nazis in Norway.

    Unsung heroes.

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