Israel celebrates Portuguese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during Holocaust

Israel celebrates Portuguese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during Holocaust

In Israel to commemorate the 5th World Forum of the Holocaust, Portugal’s head of State Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has heard the country is celebrating the war efforts of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes by naming a square in Jerusalem after him.

Sousa Mendes saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust by issuing them with travel visas to Portugal, enabling them to escape the Nazi regime.

His work – as the Portuguese consul-general in the French city of Bordeaux – was not sanctioned by the Salazarian regime which had issued explicit orders – known as Circular 14 – against giving Jews settlement visas.

Although it was ‘unthinkable’ for a diplomatic official to disobey clear-cut instructions, Circular 14 got short-shrift in Portuguese consulates throughout Europe, Aristides de Sousa Mendes being perhaps the official who most actively disobeyed it – “almost immediately”, says Wikipedia, on the grounds that it was ‘inhumane and racist’.

The Aristides de Sousa Mendes square will be officially inaugurated in June – close to Jerusalem’s Holocaust Memorial Centre – marking 80 years since the diplomat issued the first visas that saved so many lives.