SEATTLE, Jan. 9, 2012 /CNW/ - The Sousa Mendes Foundation is seeking to identify and locate Holocaust refugees who were given life-saving visas by Aristides de Sousa Mendes in the Spring of 1940. Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul stationed in Bordeaux, France, rescued an estimated 30,000 people from the Holocaust. He did so by giving refugees visas to Portugal, in contravention of a document called "Circular 14" issued by the Portuguese government to its consular corps that contained strict orders not to do so. As a result, he was put on trial by the Salazar dictatorship and harshly punished.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in 1954 in poverty and official disgrace, and almost erased from history. In 1966 he was posthumously declared a "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust authority. In the late 1980's the Portuguese government formally apologized to the Sousa Mendes family and elevated him posthumously to the rank of Ambassador.
The Sousa Mendes Foundation, established in 2010 as a partnership between the hero's family and the families of those rescued by him, has begun an unprecedented search for the rescuees. These individuals and families came from all parts of Europe, received Portuguese visas in the south of France (Bordeaux, Bayonne, Hendaye or Toulouse) in April, May or June of 1940, and subsequently traveled through Spain to Portugal, from where they scattered to the United States, Canada, Brazil, the U.K., and elsewhere between 1940 and 1942.
"Most people who were saved by Sousa Mendes don't know that they were saved by anyone," declared Dr. Sylvain Bromberger, professor emeritus at MIT and himself one of the lucky ones. Bromberger serves on the Board of the foundation and is helping in this effort. The research is being spearheaded by another Board member, Dr. Olivia Mattis, in partnership with a volunteer researcher, Ms. Marie J. Gomes.
Famous Sousa Mendes visa recipients include Salvador Dali, Hans and Margret Rey (authors of Curious George), the Habsburg family, the Rothschild family, and the filmmaker King Vidor, among others. But most visa recipients were ordinary families escaping the horrors of Nazi persecution.
The following list includes just a few of the individuals who were either directly saved or whose families were saved as the result of the action of Aristides de Sousa Mendes:
Hamilton Fish Armstrong, founding editor, Foreign Affairs magazine
Thomas Bennigson, attorney, whose mother Edith Landsberg was rescued
Daniel Branton, Professor of cell biology, Harvard University
Dr. Sylvain Bromberger, Professor Emeritus of philosophy and linguistics, MIT
Ilja Dijour, representative of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Richard de Grab, photographer
Archduke Otto von Habsburg and the Habsburg family
Robbert Hartog, Canadian business leader and philanthropist
Dr. Lissy Jarvik, Professor Emerita of Medicine, UCLA
Robert Lebel, art critic
Kizette de Lempicka, daughter of the artist Tamara de Lempicka
Alexander Liberman, sculptor, painter, and art director of Vogue magazine
Dr. Daniel Mattis, Professor of physics, University of Utah
Leon Moed, architect
Alfred Montesinos, former president of Cartier
Jonah Peretti, internet guru and co-founder of The Huffington Post, whose grandmother Adina Cherkin was rescued
Hans and Margret Rey, authors of the Curious George series
Baron Maurice de Rothschild and the Rothschild family
Boris Smolar, chief European correspondent, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Tereska Torres, feminist writer and one of the first women to fight for Charles de Gaulle
Julian Tuwim, Polish poet and nephew of the pianist Arthur Rubinstein
King Vidor, Hollywood film director
Wilhelm Weinberg, art collector and philanthropist
Dr. Charles Weissmann, biomedical researcher, Scripps Research Institute
SOURCE The Sousa Mendes Foundation
For further information:
Zayna Fayyad, +1-202-973-5312, [email protected]