On occasion of the 50th anniversary of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Consul General of Portugal in Bordeaux in 1940 who defied is government’s orders and granted visas to 30,000 persecuted by the Nazis, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation presented a portrait of Sousa Mendes to the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the U.N.
Ambassador Gonçalo Santa Clara Gomes, the Permanent representative of Portugal to the UN mentioned Sousa Mendes’ heroic acts, and called for others to follow his example, especially in these times of turmoil in the world.
Representing the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Abigail Tenembaum announced the various events planned for the 50th anniversary of Sousa Mendes, including Thanksgiving Masses in the Vatican, New York and several other cities on June 17th, and the special 50th Anniversary Sousa Mendes Award to be awarded to a French and to a Portuguese individual.
In an emotional moment, the grandson and granddaughter of Sousa Mendes, Aristides Mendes and Sheila Fleischacker gave the portrait to the Ambassador, who placed it next to the Portuguese flag. The portrait was made by Peter Malkin, the Mossad agent who caught Adolf Eichmann and who is now a renowned artist in New York.
Many diplomats were present, in the ceremony honoring a diplomat. These included representatives of Bulgaria, Argentina, East Timor, Brazil, Poland, France and Hungary, among others.
Dozens of letters were sent to The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in support of this occasion, including a letter from Congressman Tom Lantos, who wrote:
”Like the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved both my life and that of my wife…Mendes, guided by the ”Imperatives of his conscience”, delivered light, hope and most importantly life to thousands of individuals who would have perished in the hands of the Nazis….In celebration of the life work of a remarkable individual whose dedication to humanity overrode the threat of consequences which, in fact, did befall Mendes and his family after the war, with reverence I commemorate the 50th anniversary of Aristides de Sousa Mendes.”
Other letters were received from the Anti Defamation League, ambassadors of Israel, Sweden and Portugal and many other institutions and individuals.