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sábado, dezembro 30, 2006

Sebastian de Sousa Mendes, Son and Defender of Aristides de Sousa Mendes dies

SON AND LIFELONG CHAMPION OF MAJOR HOLOCAUST HERO SOUSA MENDES DIES

Sebastião de Sousa Mendes, son of Portuguese diplomat and Holocaust rescuer Aristides de Sousa Mendes died on 17-December-2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of 83.
We extend our respectful condolences to his widow, his sons, the Sousa Mendes Family and the Sousa Mendes Foundation.

Sebastião was with his parents in France and wrote a partially fictionalized account of the actions of his father Aristides as Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux, France, who is credited with saving nearly 30.000 refugees in 1940 by giving them visas to Portugal without which they were forbidden to cross the border into Spain at the Pyrenees.

His book, Flight from Hell, published in 1951 under the pseudonym Michael d’Avranches, served to register the historic events for posterity and helped to lead to the the recognition of Aristides de Sousa Mendes as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem in 1940.

Sebastião (aka Sebastian) dedicated the better part of his adult life to vindicating his father who was wrongfully and severely punished by then Portuguese dictator Salazar, for having disobeyed the dictator’s explicit orders forbidding the granting of visas to Jews and other undesirables. His act of conscience is considered the largest single rescue act of the entire Holocaust.

In 1951, at a time when no other voices could be heard on the subject, Sebastião distinguished himself by being the very first person to write a detailed account of what Aristides de Sousa Mendes had done, in the novella “A Flight Through Hell”. Throughout the 1950's Sebastião continued by repeatedly approaching newspaper and magazine journalists. Except for a few brief sympathetic newspaper articles, the story largely fell upon deaf ears. Undaunted and with the help of siblings, Sebastião persevered until momentum and interest in the story began to increase. This culminated in 1995 with a national homage in Portugal, at which time then Portuguese president Mario Soares publicly proclaimed Aristides de Sousa Mendes to be “Portugal’s greatest hero of the twentieth century”. In 1997, an international homage was organized by the European Union, in Strasbourg, France. In 2004, the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation organized an international homage that was simultaneously conducted in some fifty cities around the world, including New York, Paris, London and Jerusalem.

During the eighties and nineties, Sebastião spoke publicly whenever he could at synagogues, community centers or institutions, which included the Simon Wiesenthal Institute, in Los Angeles and Israel’s official Holocaust memorial agency Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem. As a champion of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Sebastião received further recognition from many institutions including the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and state and municipal legislatures.

Sebastião Miguel Duarte de Sousa Mendes was born the tenth of fourteen children of Angelina and Aristides in Berkeley, California, in 1923 while his father was Portuguese Consul General, in San Francisco. Two years after his father’s dismissal from the Portuguese diplomatic corps, Sebastião went to England where he volunteered for the US Army. He participated in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, among others. After the war, he immigrated to San Francisco where he spent most of his life.

Sebastião is survived by his wife of fifty-eight years, Ruth and their three sons Sebastian, Francis and Richard. He is also survived by his brother John Paul Abranches and Teresinha Sousa Mendes in California and his half-sister Rose-Marie in France.

Obituary of Sebastian Mendes in Portuguese

See Yad Vashem Web site: http://yad-vashem.org.il/righteous/bycountry/portugal.html

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Sebastian Mendes, Jr.
Associate Professor of Art, Department of Art, FI-107
Western Washington University
Bellingham, WA 98225-9068

Tel: Office +1(360)650-3673, Tel: Home +1(360)647-2664
Sebastian.Mendes@wwu.edu

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