Recently Netflix offered me Perlasca, an Italian film starring Luca Zingaretti partly because I use Netflix to watch hard to find foreign films and partly because I watched an Italian detective series called Montalbano he starred in for several years. Whatever the reason, I saw that it was based on the life of Giorgio Perlasca, now known as the Italian Oskar Schindler for the many Jewish people he saved while trapped in Hungary during WWII. He did it by pretending to be Spain’s lead diplomat for nearly 2 months, the time it took for the Russians to chase the Nazi’s out of Hungary.
Giorgio was in Hungary as part of his job finding food supplies for the Italian army but when Italy joined the Allies and the Nazi’s started rounding up the Italians he went to the Spanish Embassy for help (because he had fought in the Spanish Civil War and he knew they owed him a favor). There they were writing hundreds of fake passes to Hungarian citizens of Jewish descent, pretending they were Spaniards and therefore under the safety of the Spanish embassy. Instead of using his fake passport to exit the country, he stayed behind to help hand write more passports. BUT then Spain ordered the embassy closed so that it wouldn’t look like they were accepting the Nazi takeover of Hungary. The legitimate ambassador had to leave and offered to take Giorgio safely out of the country BUT instead Giorgio stayed behind, wrote a fake letter making him the head counsel to the embassy and continued to write passes and protect several apartments full of Hungarian Jews from deportation. He even went toe to toe with Eichmann while pulling people off trains by pretending their names were on his list of Spanish citizens. Amazing.
While the book written about Girogio Perlasca is rather stilted, and the film offered a couple of over-the-top sentimental moments, the chance to learn about such an interesting man was worth taking. So while I wasn’t originally a fan of the randomness of Netflix (when you relied on them to mail you films to watch based on availability rather than the mood you were in at the time), I have come to learn the beauty of Netflix (borrowed from Amazon, its older 2nd cousin twice removed) is that is can help you stumble upon stories worth knowing. The story of Giorgio Perlasca certainly fits that bill. Check it out.
Read the Book/Watch the Movie