A Portuguese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust is to be recognised alongside the country’s greatest figures with a monument at a site in the National Pantheon in Lisbon.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who disobeyed the orders of Portugal’s Salazar dictatorship to issue Jews with visas, was declared “a heroic historical figure” and “part of Portugal’s national patrimony” in a parliamentary resolution last month.
“A moral legacy for all, his heritage is for the whole of civil society and above all a virtuous example for future generations,” it read.
In 1940, Mendes was serving as consul in Bordeaux, France, from where he issued visas to those fleeing the Nazis. One researcher said he may have saved up to 10,000 Jews, although that figure has been challenged.
When his actions were discovered he was suspended, his pay docked and, a year later, he was forced to retire from Portugal’s diplomatic service, at the age of 55.
He died in 1954, and was posthumously vindicated and recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in 1966, the first diplomat to be honoured