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Holocaust memorial honors Spanish diplomat

/ Source: The Associated Press

Israel's Holocaust memorial on Wednesday posthumously recognized a prominent Spanish diplomat, who was actress Helena Bonham Carter's grandfather, for his role in saving hundreds of Jews during World War II.

Yad Vashem named Eduardo Propper de Callejon a "Righteous Among the Nations," the highest honor granted to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

More than 22,000 have been honored since the designation was originated in 1963, including Oskar Schindler, whose efforts to save more than 1,000 Jews was documented in the Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List," and Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who is credited for having saved at least 20,000. Only four Spaniards have been granted the award.

About 6 million European Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.

As German troops marched into France in the summer of 1940, Propper de Callejon, then first secretary in the Spanish Embassy in Paris, stamped and signed passports for four days nearly nonstop to allow refugees to escape to Spain, and from there to the relative safety of Portugal.

Propper de Callejon, a Franco loyalist, defied Spanish Foreign Ministry instructions not to issue such visas. In 1941, he was demoted, and he was never promoted to be an ambassador. He retired in 1965 and died in 1972.

'It was extraordinary'
The exact number of visas Propper de Callejon issued remains unknown, but Yad Vashem Director Avner Shalev said it was believed to be at least 1,500, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

"He was signing papers with both his hands. He signed so many that his hands hurt so much, my mother had to bandage them at the end of the day," said Elena Bonham Carter, his daughter. "It was extraordinary. He said those were the most important days of his life."

Bonham Carter attended Wednesday's ceremony at the memorial's Garden of the Righteous along with her brother, Felipe Propper de Callejon. "Today, justice has been done to my father," he said.

Helena Bonham Carter is currently on location for the latest film in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

"She would have loved to be here today," Bonham Carter said of her famous daughter. "She is so proud of him."

Helena Bonham Carter, 41, was nominated for an Academy Award for her leading role in the 1997 film, "The Wings of the Dove." She is also well known for her starring roles in movies including "Fight Club," "Howard's End," "Frankenstein" and several films directed by her longtime partner, Tim Burton.