Sousa Mendes is a hero.
During the Jewish Holocaust, Mendes, the Portuguese Consul in France, defied his government orders issuing Portuguese visas to 30,000 refugees, 10,000 of which were Jews.
Mendes risked his life and the lives of his wife and 15 children to do what his conscience dictated. Even though the Portuguese government was neutral, Mendes couldn’t stand aside while lives were extinguished under the boot of Facism.
When the government discovered his “disobedience” they stripped him of diplomatic status, his law practice, and pension. Bankrupt, Mendes was forced to rely on the kindness of the local Judaic Association of Lisbon, which fed the Mendes family in its soup kitchen and paid for their medical bills.
He died destitute and impoverished on April 3rd, 1954, at the Franciscan Hospital in Lisbon. He was buried in a Franciscan tunic for lack of appropriate clothes of his own.
Like so many heroes during WWII, Mendes actions were forgotten and overlooked by the world. Unfortunately, Mr. Sousa Mendes is still practically unknown in his own country.
Slowly, Mr. Sousa Mendes is being recognized for his efforts. In 1966, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Israel, honored him as a “Righteous Among the Nations“. In 1986, the United States Congress also honored him for his heroic act.
Finally in 1987, Portugal restored Mr. Sousa Mendes’ name and apologized to his family, while the Portuguese Parliament posthumously promoted him to the rank of ambassador.
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t feel like enough.
You and I Can Do More…
Would I have had their courage to act the way they did if I were in their position?
What about you? Would you be fair, loving and kind to people suffering persecution, especially if their lives were at stake?
We can make sure that Sousa Mendes and his brave stand in the face of atrocity is never forgotten.
Contact the Souza Mendes Foundation to learn how you can help make Mendes’ name and action better known across the world.
P.S. Let’s do this now. Click here to leave me a message on Facebook.
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