Wednesday, April 26th. The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation honored five Saviors of Portuguese speaking countries together with the Consulates of Portugal and Brazil in New York on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The homaging ceremony took place on Wednesday, April 26th at the Brazilian Consulate, located at 1185 Avenue of the Americas on the 21st floor.
Saviors honored included Portuguese diplomats Alberto Carlos de Liz-Teixeira Branquinho, Carlos de Almeida Sampayo Garrido and Aristides de Sousa Mendes, and Brazilian diplomat Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas and Mrs. Aracy de Carvalho-Guimaraes Rosa.
José Alfredo Graça Lima, Consul General of Brazil, and Alexandre Almeida Fernandes, Consul General of Portugal, opened the event with remarks about the Brazilian and Portuguese nationals. A letter sent by the current Portuguese Consul in Budapest was read aloud and Ms. Abigail Tenembaum, Vice President of the Wallenberg Foundation pointed out the importance of remembering and honoring the saviors, who represent the positive legacy of the war, on Holocaust remembrance Day. Speeches were closed by Joao Crisostomo, who invited the guests to learn more about these diplomats by looking at the series of documents he has been collecting throughout the years and that were in exhibition for the event.
Ambassador Felix G. Rohatyn was in attendance among a concurrence of a hundred people representing the Brazilian, Portuguese and diplomatic communities. Mr. Rohatyn, who served as the US Ambassador to France from 1997-2000, was saved by one of the honorees, Brazilian Diplomat Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas. Hungarian born Judith Saly, who was able to escape thanks to a pass stamped by the Portuguese legation in Budapest, was also present. Both survivors spoke about how moved and grateful they are towards the saviors and the countries that allowed them to be here today.
About the Honorees
Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas
Brazilian Ambassador to France, 1940. He issued visas to hundreds of Jews in occupied France after the Nazi takeover in 1940, at great risk to his diplomatic career. Souza Dantas was in charge of the Brazilian diplomatic mission in France from 1922 to 1944. Moved by what he later called ”a Christian feeling of mercy”, he granted diplomatic visas to enter Brazil to hundreds of people who were running away from the horror of Nazism. With his actions, Souza Dantas saved about 800 people from extermination. In June of 2003 he was proclaimed ”Righteous Among the Nations”.
Mrs. Aracy de Carvalho-Guimaraes Rosa
Aide to the Brazilian Ambassador in Berlin. Rosa gave 80 visas to persecuted people in Berlin, saving many lives. For her actions, Rosa received the ”Righteous Among the Nations” award.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes
Consul General of Portugal in Bordeaux in 1940. He issued more than 30,000 life-saving Portuguese visas. Ten thousand were for Jews and 20,000 were for other refugees. Mendes saved the entire royal Habsburg family, including the Empress Zita. In addition, he saved the entire Belgian cabinet in exile. Mendes personally conducted hundreds of Jewish refugees across a border checkpoint on the Spanish frontier. All of his lives saving activities were done against the orders and policies of his government. He was sacked by his government and lost all of his property. He died in poverty in Lisbon in 1954. In November of 1995, Portugal restored his career and awarded him a special medal for saving lives. He was the first diplomat recognized by Yad Vashem.
Carlos de Almeida Afonseca Sampayo Garrido
Minister Plenipotentiary, Acting Ambassador of Portugal in Budapest from 1939 to 1944. Dr. Garrido helped large numbers of Hungarian Jews who came to the Portuguese diplomatic mission in 1944 seeking Portuguese protection. Along with Branquinho, his successor, he rented houses and apartments to shelter and protect refugees from deportation and murder. He was instrumental in establishing the policy for the protection of Portuguese Jews in Hungary. In May 1944, he was reposted to Switzerland and on several occasions intervened on behalf of Jews from his post in Switzerland.
Alberto Carlos de Liz-Teixeira Branquinho
Portuguese Chargé d’Affaires in Budapest in 1944. He obtained permission from the Portuguese government to issue safe conducts to all persons who had relatives in Portugal, Brazil, or the Portuguese colonies. Each safe conduct was signed by Branquinho. After October 15, 1944, there was a great demand for these documents. Branquinho was authorized to issue 500 safe conducts, but in actual fact issued more than 800. Soon, the Portuguese established several safe houses to shelter the 800 protected Jews. Despite constant raids by the Arrow Cross, the Portuguese houses remained relatively safe throughout the war. He also established an office of the Portuguese Red Cross at the Portuguese legation to care for Jewish refugees.