Tribute Made to Brazilian Envoy Who Helped Jews


Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas Contravened Orders

NEW YORK, DEC. 21, 2004 ( The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation recently paid tribute to Brazilian diplomat Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas, who saved numerous Jews from the Nazis.

Souza, motivated by what he later called a ”feeling of Christian mercy,” granted diplomatic visas to hundreds of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II, the Wallenberg Foundation said.

A ceremony in Souza’s honor marked a key event of Human Rights Week and took place at the Brazilian Consulate General in New York. The ceremony included the presentation of Souza’s biography, ”Quixote nas Trevas” (”Quixote in Darkness”), by historian Fábio Koifman.

According to his biographer, Souza saved around 800 people from extermination, contravening orders given by then president of Brazil, Getúlio Vargas.

The ambassador (1876-1954), who for 20 years led his country’s diplomatic mission in France, granted diplomatic visas to hundreds of people to enter Brazil who were otherwise deemed ”undesirable” under immigration policy. Many of those saved were Jews.

In June 2003 Souza, a Catholic, was recognized as ”Righteous Among the Nations” by the Holocaust Museum in Israel. The award is conferred annually on those who, under the Nazi regime, risked their lives for the good of others.

Baruj Tenembaum, founder of the Wallenberg foundation, and John Crisóstomo, vice president and coordinator of the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of Aristides de Sousa Mendes y Souza Dantas, conferred the 2004 Souza Dantas Award on Koifman and the Brazilian consul general in New York.

The award, given Dec. 6, is conferred for the sincere commitment made to honor the ”Brazilian diplomat savior of Jews,” and extend his legacy in the contemporary diplomatic world.

Attending the meeting were diplomatic delegations from the Holy See, Sweden, Argentina, Israel, Switzerland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, the Czech Republic, China, El Salvador and Angola.

During the ceremony, messages were read from the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano; the former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani; and U.S. congressman Tom Lantos.