Portuguese diplomat, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, will be honored today, June 17, in churches and synagogues around the world. The initiative aims to evoking his efforts to save thousands of Jews and many WWII refugees from the Nazi regime.
Promoted by New York City resident, João Crisóstomo, the interfaith events will be held throughout the day marked as the “Day of Conscience,” in remembrance of the passing of 60 years over Sousa Mendes death.
According to Crisóstomo, observances will be held in Portugal, United States, Brazil, Vatican, South Africa and Belgium, among other places.
In the United States, commemorative events were scheduled to take place in churches in Newark, Long Island and Yonkers. In Portugal similar events were scheduled in Lisbon, Braga, Viseu, Braganca, Porto and Beja.
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.
Aristides the Sousa Mendes >> Jewish Virtual Library >>