TAP Air Portugal has named its newest Airbus A319, the CS-TTV, after Aristides de Sousa Mendes as a tribute to the Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux, France, who saved thousands of lives at the time of Germany’s invasion of France during World War II. The honor marks the 60th anniversary of the diplomat’s death.
The “Aristides de Sousa Mendes” whose maiden flight connected Lisbon /Madrid on Monday, September 6, will fly to 55 destinations in Europe.
To mark the new aircraft’s entry into service, TAP has been screening the film “Aristides de Sousa Mendes, o Cônsul de Bordéus” on board its long-haul flights.
In 1940, Aristides de Sousa Mendes was the Portuguese Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux, France where he issued visas to WWII refugees without regard to nationality or religion. The operation has been described by the Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer as “perhaps the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.”
He issued the visas against the Portuguese government orders for which he was recalled and subjected to disciplinary action by Oliveira Salazar, Portugal’s dictator. A father of 14 children, in 1954, Sousa Mendes died destitute and in obscurity. In 1966, Sousa Mendes was named “Righteous Among the Nations” by the State of Israel. In 1986, the U.S. Congress proclaimed him a hero. In 1987, former Portuguese President Mário Soares offered an apology to the Sousa Mendes family in the name of the Portuguese Nation. In 1989 Sousa Mendes was recognized posthumously by the Portuguese Parliament with the rank of Ambassador.