The man who served as Portugal’s consul in France during World War II has been posthumously honored for illegally issuing 30,000 visas, mostly to Jews facing Nazi persecution.
Dr. Aristide de Sousa Mendes do Amoral e Abranches, also known as the “Portuguese Raoul Wallenberg,” received Protugal’s most distinguished non- military honor — membership in the Order of Christ, first degree — and had a memorial in his honor erected in Lisbon’s city center.
Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved the lives of 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II.
The first lady of Portugal, Lady Soares, presided over both ceremonies, which many dignitaries attended.
In 1940, De Sousa Mendes served as the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, france, In three days, he issued about 30,000 visas to mostly Jewish refugees in the area, an illegal act under the Portuguese government.
A carrer diplomat, De Sousa Mendes was ordered back to Portugal to be fired from the consul post and to have his diplomatic status taken away as a result of the visas.
He and his family, which included 14 children, spent the rest of their lives in poverty. Only the Jewish community in Lisbon supported him, providing daily meals to the family in the social kitchen, which was set up for the Jewish refugees who fled to Portugal, many of whom as a result of De Sousa Mendes’ visas.
De Sousa Mendes died in 1954. In 1967, he posthumously received a medal from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.