quinta-feira, janeiro 25, 2007

Sousa Mendes opened the Lisbon gateway to safety

In June 1940, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, then Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux, France, decided to follow his conscience and grant entry Visas to Portugal to all the refugees that sought desperately to exit France as it was invaded, despite written orders to the contrary.

For this heroic act, in which he had the support of his wife Angelina and their children, Aristides de Sousa Mendes was removed from his diplomatic post, subjected to disciplinary proceedings, and finally ousted from the diplomatic service. With his career shattered, forbidden to practice law, and his large family persecuted and dispersed, he died in poverty in 1954. After a persistent campaign spearheaded by this children, in 1966, Aristides de Sousa Mendes was recognized as a Righteous Gentile by YAD VASHEM, the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Authority. It is estimated that he saved nearly 30.000 persons, including 10.000 Jews.

Long before the worst horrors of the World War II and the Holocaust were fully evident, Sousa Mendes was among the first to take such a stand and to undertake, on his own initiative and at great personal risk, what became one of the most significant rescue efforts of the war period.

His actions forced open the Lisbon gateway through which many refugees passed on their way to America, Brazil or Israel, some staying for a while in residencias fixas in Portugal’s seaside residents, and a few returning later to post-war Europe.

The Sousa Mendes Museum Project consists of the creation of the Aristides de Sousa Mendes Memorial Museum and Studies Center in Cabanas de Viriato, Portugal and the recuperation of the historic and imposing Sousa Mendes family mansion for this purpose.

Soroptimist http://soroptimistapt.blogspot.

Beijós XXI http://antoniopovinho.blogspot.com/, home village of Angelina

See testimonial http://www.soroptimist-israel.org/international/asm_testimonial.htm

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