Quixote in the Darkness
Souza Dantas headed the Brazilian diplomatic mission in France during World War II and is credited with saving 800 people from death at the hands of the Nazis.
Distinguished diplomats and other gathered last week at the Consulate General of Brazil for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas (1876-1954), who saved approximately 800 people from Nazi extermination
The event, sponsored by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, included a presentation of a book on Souza Dantas called ”Quixote nas trevas” (Quixote in the darkness”) by an academic from Rio de Janeiro, Fabio Koifman. The foundation’s founder, Baruch Tenembaum, and its vice president and the coordinator of the commemoration, John Crisostomo, gave the Souza Dantas 2004 Award to Mr. Koifman and to the Brazilian Consul General in New York, the Hon. Julio Cesar Gomes dos Santos.
Souza Dantas – the uncle of newspaperwoman Katherine Graham by marriage – headed the Brazilian diplomatic mission in France during World War II. Those whom he saved included noted Polish theater director Zbigneiw Ziembinski, who arrived in Rio the Janeiro in 1941.
For decades, the humanitarian achievements of Souza Dantas remained in obscurity. However, thanks to the scholarly efforts of Mr. Koifman, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, and others, this has begun to change. Last year Souza Dantas received the ”Righteous Among the nations” distinction from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorial in Israel. In New York, the main hall pf the Brazilian Consulate on Avenue of the Americas was just renamed in his honor.
The Portuguese born Mr. Crisostomo was also instrumental in raising public awareness of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the humanitarian Portuguese consul in Bordeaux who saved thousands of innocent lives during World War II.