segunda-feira, Abril 21, 2014

The forgotten Holocaust hero

Posted by PORTUGALPRESS on April 21, 2014
There was a Portuguese diplomat called Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who during WW2 reportedly saved the lives of 30,000 people, including 10,000 Jews. Sadly, this act brought him exile and destitution.
Born in 1885 in Cabanas de Viriato, near Viseu, Aristides descended from a catholic aristocratic family. Following a diplomatic career after graduating in law from Coimbra University, he held consular positions worldwide, mixing with the best of society. He was made Consul in Bordeaux in 1938, moving there with his wife Angelina and their 14 children.
Aristides was sociable, attentive and family-orientated, insisting they all travelled together in a specially designed bus.

What did he do?

In the words of Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer, he performed “perhaps the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust”.
During WW2, Portugal was neutral but on November 11 1939, Prime Minister António Salazar ordered Portuguese consulates to “refuse visas to foreigners of undefined contested or disputed nationality, stateless persons and Jews expelled from the countries of their nationality or from which they came”. This confidential order, known as ‘Circular 14’, made it difficult for refugees to escape Europe through Portugal.
As Nazi troops advanced, refugees overran Bordeaux, many queuing outside the consulate for visas for passage through Spain and Portugal for travel to the USA. Aristides believed ‘Circular 14’ inhumane and racist and sent telegrams to Lisbon contesting the orders, but he was ignored.
He befriended refugee Rabbi Chaim Kruger and offered the family visas and refuge in his home realising that to help the ever-increasing number of desperate refugees he would have to disobey his government. Distressed, Aristides isolated himself for three days to make the decision that changed his life.
On June 17, 1940, Aristides told the Rabbi: “From now on I will give visas to everyone; there is no longer nationality, race or religion. I would rather stand with God against man than with man against God.”
For three days, Aristides worked endlessly issuing visas to everyone. Lisbon ordered him to stop but Aristides replied: “If there is to be disobedience, I prefer it to be to an order from man than to an order from God.”
Salazar demanded Aristides return to Lisbon but even then the Consul continued issuing visas along the way. At Hendaye, he found refugees being denied passage into Spain as word spread that his visas were invalid. Undeterred, Aristides led a procession of cars to another border where he convinced the guards to let everyone through.
Arriving in Portugal on July 8 1940 Aristides was stripped of his title and demoted. After 32 faithful years, he was banned from working and forced to ‘retire’. Colleagues, friends and local villagers shunned the family fearing repercussions from the authorities that decreed no charity be shown to the Sousa Mendes family. Unable to support themselves, the family ate in the Jewish community canteen and said “we too are refugees”.
Aristides fought continuously to clear his name, explaining to Salazar in 1945 that he could not go against the Portuguese constitution which forbade discrimination due to religion. He claimed to be unfairly punished whilst the government was being praised for helping refugees! His correspondence went unanswered and the family was destined to poverty and dishonour.
Ostracised in their beautiful mansion, Casa do Passal, Aristides’ children, unable to study or work in Portugal, eventually emigrated. When his wife died in 1948, Aristides married his French lover Andrée Cibial and they had one daughter. Living on soup they burnt the doors of the house for firewood.
Aristides died a pauper on April 3 1954 in the Franciscan Hospital in Lisbon. He was buried in a Franciscan habit as he did not even possess a suit. No-one from his family was present. His house was repossessed and abandoned.


Since his death, Aristides’ descendents have worked to keep his memory alive. In 1966 he was honoured at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as one of the “Righteous among the Nations” yet in Portugal this news was censored. There is a bust and plaque at his Bordeaux address and a promenade named after him in Vienna.
In 1986, his son João Abranches created the ‘International Committee to Commemorate Dr. Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ and in 1987 Aristides was granted the Order of Liberty Medal, one of Portugal’s highest honours.
In March 1988, 34 years after his death, Aristides was officially pardoned. All charges were dismissed and he was promoted to Ambassador.
In 1995 he was given the Military order of Christ and on the 50th anniversary of his death, he was honoured in more than 80 commemorations worldwide.

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Salazar's harsh punishement may have reflected Nazi influence

A Portuguese journalist writing under the pseudonym "Onix" in New Bedford's Diario de Noticias in February 1946 defended the actions of Aristides de Sousa Mendes and questioned to what extent the harsh punishment might have reflected Nazis influence over the Salazar regime. 
‘Salazar condemned to poverty the Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux, for having applied visas to the passports of refugees who in 1940 went to Lisbon with fear of the Nazi invaders!’  Other officials charged with disciplinary infractions were treated with more leniency.  
In  another article published in June 1947, “Onix”   reminding readers   that the new Ambassador of Portugal to Washington, DC, Pedro Teotónio Pereira  was vehemently opposed to the granting of visas by   Sousa Mendes  and testified stongly against him, thus contributing to the negative outcome of the  Consul’s disciplinary process. 

The Sousa Mendes disciplinary proceedings were only an internal process.  It is unclear to what extent there might have been Nazi pressure between 1940 and the end of World War II for Salazar to punish Sousa Mendes
- Salazar's censorship board controlled all letters leaving the country - MYTH, 'Onix' was able to mail several explosive articles against Salazar for a period of over 1 year; it is probable that the censorship board caught up with these letters
The journalis,  only known by pseudonym "Onix", also took great personal  risks, by writing and mailing several explosive articles to New Bedford, Massachusetts' Diário de Notícias, a Portuguese-language daily newspaper.
Source:  Facebook 

sábado, Abril 19, 2014

What are Sites of Conscience

(em português abaixo)

Sites of Conscience are memorials to moments of deep human significance.

The Sites of Conscience movement helps Places of Memory become Places of Action around ever-present issues such as discrimination, intolerance, zenophobia, persecution, genocide through creative programs that bring people together to learn and to talk more openly about the past and about how we might shap a more just future.

They help us to see our shared goals and our shared responsibilities.

Can Casa do Passal, the home of the hero Aristides de Sousa Mendes  become a Site of Conscience ?

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Sítios da Consciência são memoriais a momentos de profundo significado humano. 

O movimento dos Sítios da  Consciência ajuda a transformar os Lugares de Memória  em Lugares de Acção em torno de questões sempre presentes, como a discriminação, a intolerância, a xenofobia, a perseguição e o genocídio,  através de programas criativos que unem as pessoas para aprender e para falar mais abertamente sobre o passado e sobre como nós podemos moldar um futuro mais justo. 

Estes Sítios ajudam-nos  a ver os nossos objectivos comuns e as nossas responsabilidades compartilhadas. 

Pode Casa do Passal, a casa de família do heroi  Aristides de Sousa Mendes,  vir a ser um Sítio da  Consciência?

sábado, Abril 12, 2014

Homenagem a Sousa Mendes, São Paulo, 16-Abril

CCJ homenageia Aristides de Sousa Mendes

O Centro da Cultura Judaica inaugura em 16/04 programação especial sobre as vítimas do Holocausto. Destaque para a homenagem a Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Cônsul de Portugal em Bordéus, na França, à época da invasão alemã, e responsável por salvar a vida de milhares de judeus.
Saiba mais clicando aqui.

Carregal lança Roteiro Turístico, 13-Abril, 10h00

Dia Internacional dos Monumentos e Sítios

Lançamento do Roteiro Turístico do Município é ponto alto das comemorações do Dia Internacional dos Monumentos e Sítios
O Município de Carregal do Sal assinala o dia dos monumentos e sítios enquanto Lugares de Memória com a publicação  do “Roteiro Turístico do Município de Carregal do Sal”, subordinado ao tema Território e Património Histórico-Cultural”. O Dia Internacional dos Monumentos e Sítios é comemorado com diversas atividades que decorrerão de 12 a 17 de abril . 
  • Data:  domingo, 13 -abril - 2014.  10h00
  • Local:  Museu Municipal de Carregal do Sal
 Do programa comemorativo constam ainda visitas guiadas/organizadas às coleções permanentes e temporárias do Museu Municipal (dia 12) e de 15 a 17 de abril decorrerá a exposição temporária subordinada ao tema “Lugares de Memória”.
Há quatro anos, em Janeiro 2010,  foram divulgados  no blog Amigios de Sousa Mendes alguns "Elementos para um Estudo Turístico"

segunda-feira, Abril 07, 2014

Coloquio Dever de Memória, 3-Abril, Carregal do Sal


CARREGAL DO SAL – Aristides de Sousa Mendes foi mote para o colóquio/painel realizado ontem à tarde, no Centro Cultural de Carregal do Sal. A iniciativa, integrada no projeto “Dever de Memória.- Jovens pelos Direitos Humanos” promovido pelo Agrupamento de Escolas de Carregal do Sal, surgiu como uma evocação e singela homenagem ao Cônsul, no dia em que passaram 60 anos sobre o aniversário da sua morte.
Painel de convidados e moderador à direitaPrecedido de discursos de abertura proferidos pelo Diretor do Agrupamento de Escolas, Hermínio Cunha Marques, que enalteceu o projeto e o empenhamento dos alunos na sua concretização e informou de que Aristides de Sousa Mendes tinha sido um brilhante aluno do ex-Colégio Nun’Álvares e do Vice-Presidente da Câmara Municipal, José Sousa Batista, que sublinhou a necessidade de memória e o dever para com o gesto do Cônsul, a tarde iniciou com um momento musical em violino, a cargo da aluna Beatriz Queirós, do 9.º ano. Depois seguiu-se a projeção de um filme sobre iniciativas realizadas nos últimos dez anos, para evocar a figura de Aristides de Sousa Mendes, e sobre o atual estado da Casa do Passal, produzido por Josefa Reis, professora do Agrupamento.
O colóquio/Painel, moderado por Óscar Paiva, começou de imediato com a intervenção de António Moncada, neto de Aristides de Sousa Mendes, que recordou episódios da vida do avô e fotografias antigas, algumas com mais de 90 anos.
Fátima Claudino, da Comissão Nacional da UNESCO, referiu-se aos objetivos, missão e abrangência da Comissão parabenizando o Agrupamento de Escolas por ser mais uma das Escolas associadas da UNESCO procedendo, no final, à entrega do documento oficial.
António Martins, natural do Concelho de Carregal do Sal e em nome da Memoshoá (Associação para a Memória e o Ensino do Holocausto) sustentou a sua intervenção em imagens de desumanização e carnificina praticada pelas SS recordando que também estes tinham família e na importância da Resistência dos Judeus lembrando que o ato de Aristides de Sousa Mendes, que levou à sua distinção de “Justo Entre as Nações” por Israel, foi totalmente merecida. Aludiu na ocasião ao facto de existir um outro português “Justo Entre as Nações” mas que não tem tido a visibilidade do Cônsul, referindo-se a Sampaio Garrido. A terminar deixou o repto para que situações como a do Holocausto não se repitam.
Luís Fidalgo, da Fundação Aristides de Sousa Mendes e orador seguinte, reportou-se ao caráter de Aristides de Sousa Mendes que, tal como o seu irmão gémeo, César, foram ótimos alunos também na Universidade de Coimbra onde, inclusive aparecem referenciados em atas como dois alunos que tentaram fazer das praxes algo menos agressivo sugerindo a realização das Festa dos Novatos (referindo-se aos caloiros). A par deixou o que chamou de referendo aos alunos em relação à transladação dos restos de Aristides de Sousa Mendes para o Panteão Nacional e sobre a beatificação do Cônsul, alvitrada por alguns.
A última intervenção coube a Paula Teles, do Museu Municipal Manuel Soares de Albergaria. A Técnica incidiu a sua apresentação sobre a Casa do Passal em termos de património cultural e histórico que importa preservar e perenizar.
Seguiu-se um período de debate e logo depois a visita à exposição realizada por alunos de várias turmas do Agrupamento “O Outro Olhar… Aristides de Sousa Mendes – 60 anos de Memória”, patente no Museu Municipal.
A iniciativa terminou com um Dão de Honra servido nas instalações da Escola Sede – CEF/Bar.
Nota:  Aristides de Sousa Mendes casou-se em 1909, dificilmente terá estudado no Colégio Nun'Álvares que foi criado muito mais tarde  e onde estudaram os seus filhos