Aristides Sousa Mendes
Aristides and his twin brother César Sousa Mendes were born in Cabanas de Viriato, a small village in the district of Viseu. They moved to Lisbon and graduated in Law in 1907. Both pursued diplomatic careers, which lead Aristides to postings with several Portuguese consular delegations all over the world. After almost 10 years of dedicated service in Belgium, the Portuguese fascist dictator António Salazar gave Sousa Mendes the consulate of Bordeaux in France.
The consul was still in Bordeaux at the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of France by the Nazi army of Hitler. Salazar managed to maintain Portugal's neutrality in the war, but his own personal opinions favoured Hitler. Thus, it was in clear disrespect of the hierarchy that Sousa Mendes issued about 30,000 visas to Jews and other persecuted minorities. He saved an enormous number of lives, but risked his career for it. In 1941, Salazar lost political trust in Sousa Mendes and forced the diplomat to quit his career. He died in poverty in 1954.
People who received one of these special visas include:
- Otto von Habsburg, heir of the Austrian-Hungarian Emperor, who was detested by Hitler
- Norbert Gingold, pianist
- Charles Oulmont, French writer
In 1967 he was honored at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust as one of the "Righteous Among The Nations". In 1987, the Portuguese Republic rehabilited his memory and granted a postumous Order of Liberty medal. In 1994 former President Mário Soares dedicated a bust of Sousa Mendes in Bordeaux.
I will not condone with murder, therefore I disobey and continue to disobey Salazar.