Human rights week kicks off with 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas, honored at the Consulate General of Brazil by The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation on December 6th 2004.
Moved by what he later called ”a Christian feeling of mercy”, Souza Dantas granted diplomatic visas for hundreds of Jews and other persecuted by the Nazi regime during WWII.
The ceremony included the presentation of Fabio Koifman’s book on Souza Dantas, ”Quixote nas Trevas” (Quixote in the Darkness).
With his actions, Souza Dantas saved about 800 people from extermination in spite of the orders issued by the Getulio Vargas’s administration, according to Koifman.
Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the IRWF, and John Crisostomo, Vice President and Coordinator of the Sousa Mendes and Souza Dantas 50th anniversary commemorations presented the Souza Dantas 2004 Award to Koifman and Ambassador Gomes dos Santos for their sincere commitment to honor Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas and for broaden his legacy throughout today’s diplomatic delegations. Moreover, Mr Tenembaum also presented to the Consul an official letter addressed to President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, inviting the Head of State to join the Honorary Board of the Wallenberg Foundation.
The presentation of the ceremony was in charge of Gustavo Jalife, IRWF Executive Director whereas Koifman and Ambassador Gomes dos Santos delivered speeches before an enthusiastic attendance which included Perla Graisman, IRWF Global Development Directorand diplomatic delegations of the Holy See, Sweden, Argentina, Israel, Switzerland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkish, Czech Republic, China, El Salvador and Angola.
An excerpt of a letter of endorsement signed by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was read aloud:
”Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas was a tremendous leader of his era. He believed that religious persecution was intolerable and took the necessary actions to overcome it. At great personal risk, Souza Dantas granted diplomatic visas to hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust, saving countless lives from barbaric slaughter by the Nazis. I would like to applaud each of you for gathering tonight to celebrate his historic life.”
Moving letters sent by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and United States Congressman Tom Lantos were also mentioned.
The closing of the ceremony was in charge of Ambassador Gomes dos Santos who invited Tenembaum to unveil a portrait of the Brazilian diplomat after whom the Auditorium was named ”for ever”, Gomes dos Santos said.