Mendes, do Amaral e Abranches, Aristides de Sousa.

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Mendes, do Amaral e Abranches, Aristides de Sousa, born on 19-07-1885 in Cabanas de Viriato near Viseu. Son of Maria Angelina Ribeiro de Abranches and the judge José de Sousa Mendes, he graduated in Law along with his twin brother César in the University of Coimbra, by the time he was 22 years-old. In 1908 he marries his cousin Angelina, who would be the mother of his 14 children. and nine Aristides and Angelina de Sousa Mendes with their first six children, 1917 He begins his diplomatic career quite young and in 1910 he becomes consul of Demerara in the British Guiana. He worked as a consul in the British Guiana, in Zanzibar, in Brazil (Curitiba and Porto Alegre), in the United States (San Francisco and Boston), in Spain (Vigo), in Luxemburg, in Belgium and finally in France (Bordeaux). He was a family man and a patriarch who has always had his wife and children nearby, providing them university education along with painting, drawing and music classes. One of his sons once said: ”We had a true chamber orchestra in our home and we regularly invited persons to watch our concerts. We played Chopin, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and so on.”

During World War II under the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar ( Portugal was allegedly a so-called “neutral” nation, however it was clearly and unofficially pro-Adolf Hitler. The Portuguese government issued the wicked “Circular 14” to all its diplomats to deny safe haven to refugees, including explicitly Jews, Russians and stateless persons. But a man defied these dreadful orders and raised the voice of his consciousness, saving 30.000 persons from a certain death. Aristides de Sousa Mendes was severely punished by Salazar, who deprived him from his job and from any form of earning a living, which proved to be tragic, since Sousa Mendes had 15 children, who were blacklisted and prevented to attend university. On 16-06-1940 the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, meets the Polish Rabi Chaim Hersz Kruger,  who escaped an occupied Poland. He promised to do all his best for the thousands of Jewish refugees by trying to persuade the government of Lisbon led by dictator Salazar. On that night, Rabi Kruger stayed in the consul’s home.

Bernard Deutsch  and his family fled Antwerp in 1940. With a visa issued by Sousa Mendes they manage to reach Portugal and finally New York.and Otto von Habsburg, the last Crown Prince of Austria, was on Hitler’s enemy list. He and his family were rescued with visas from Aristides de Sousa Mendes. During the war he was a leading figure in the war against Hitler, and after the war he was one of the founders of the European Parliament.

On the morning of June 17th Lisbon denied the visas to the Jewish refugees, but unexpectedly Aristides de Sousa Mendes informed the Rabi that he would issue the visas, for he knew that the refugees were doomed to die on the horrific Nazi concentration camps. The house of the family – Casa do Passal located in Cabanas de Viriato, Viseu – was repossessed by the bank and eventually sold to cover debts. The Judaic Association of Lisbon was the only help that the Sousa Mendes family had, providing them with food and medical assistance.

Death and burial ground of Mendes do Amaral e Abranches, Aristides de Sousa.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes died on 03-04–1954 in poverty, but he fought for the justice of his deeds until his last breath. As the Nazi threat and the persecution of Jews all over Europe grew stronger and increasingly terrifying, thousands of Jewish refugees in Bordeaux gathered in front of the Portuguese and Spanish consulates, searching for visas in order to escape a certain death. Spain denied the visas to the Jewish refugees and the only hope was the Portuguese consulate.

Order of Liberty. In 1988, the government of Portugal restored his diplomatic status, paid his pension to his heirs, and granted him another medal, the Cross of Merit. Yad Vashem ceremony in honor of Aristides de Sousa Mendes   His former childhood home, Villa Passal, was declared a national historical monument, and a local school was named after him. He was then proclaimed a national hero, and other events were arranged to celebrate his memory. Aristides was born in material wealth, but he died in abject poverty. Sousa Mendes’ children and grant children receive the Yad Vashem certificate as “Righteous Among the Nations” (1967)..

After Sousa Mendes’ death, his children[ worked tirelessly to clear his name and make the story known. In the early 1960s, a few articles began appearing in the U.S. press. On 21-02-1961, David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel, ordered that twenty trees be planted by the Jewish National Fund in memory of Sousa Mendes and in recognition of his deed.[160] In 1963, Yad Vashem began recognizing Holocaust rescuers as Righteous Among the Nations, and Sousa Mendes, in 1966, was among the earliest to be so named, thanks in large part to the efforts of his daughter Joana.[161] But with Salazar still in power, “the diplomat and his efforts remained unknown even in his own country for years.”[162] Moreover, Salazar’s representatives gave statements to the press casting doubt on Sousa Mendes’ heroism by denying that Circular 14 had ever existed

Mendes, do Amaral e Abranches, Aristides de Sousa, is buried at De Sousa Mendes Ancestral Home, Cabanas de Viriato, Carregal do Sal Municipality, Viseu, Portugal, Mausoleu de Sousa Mendes.

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