The 2002 Sousa Mendes International Award goes to an Argentine and a Briton

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation announces that the Sousa Mendes International Award is to be presented to the Argentine writer and historian José Ignacio García Hamilton and to British journalist Nicholas John Tozer.

The award, which is presented for the first time, is an acknowledgement of the conduct of people who stand out by not only for their defence of individual freedoms, but also for upholding with their spirit and acts of solidarity, the examples of the lives of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Raoul Wallenberg and hundreds of other saviours.

The announcement of the launching of the Sousa Mendes International Award was made by the founder of the IRWF, Baruch Tenembaum in New York City on April 3, 2001, during the ceremony commemorating the 47th anniversary of the death of the Portuguese diplomat.

The Sousa Mendes International Award will be presented in the course of the year 2002 at a date yet to be confirmed.

Among the considerations evaluated by the jury it is stated that

”The winners are given the Sousa Mendes International Award in recognition of their firm commitment over the years with the aims of clarifying, massively promoting and educating, keeping as their guideline the behaviour and the humanitarian values which distinguished Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Raoul Wallenberg, the Brazilian diplomat Luis Martins de Souza Dantas and many other public officials who, at their risk of their own lives and often against the directives of their governments, gave the best of themselves to help people in need in one of the darkest periods in history as was the Holocaust.”

The commendation also states that

”The historical and journalistic work of José Ignacio García Hamilton and Nicholas John Tozer is an example of a profession in the service of common welfare and in the defence of the inalienable rights of people, such as freedom of speech and religion; prerogatives that in the full exercise of democracy often appear to be given by the grace of nature. Nevertheless, history teaches us that they are fragile treasures that are only kept through the actions of those who vindicate and defend them day after day from barbarism, tyrannies and despotic regimes.”

¿Who was Sousa Mendes?

Aristides de Sousa Mendes was the Portuguese Consul General in Bordeaux, France, in the spring of 1940 when the Nazi ‘blitzkrieg’ (lightening war) broke through the French defences in Sedan on May 14.

A crowd of refugees of different nationalities, among them thousands of Jews, came to the French city with the hope of obtaining a transit visas towards Portugal from where they could continue to America.

In spite of the directives from Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar´s government prohibiting diplomats to issue visas ”to Jews expelled from their countries of origin,” Sousa Mendes issued thousands of transit permits not only in Bordeaux, but also in Bayonne and in the streets of Hendaya, on the border with Spain. Thanks to his actions about thirty thousand refugees received help, among them ten thousand Jews who avoided death at the extermination camps.

”I will give a visa to whoever needs it, whether he or she can pay for it or not. I will act in accordance with what my Christian conscience tells me to”, he used to say.

For disobeying the dictator he was expelled without benefits from the Portuguese Foreign Service and the mere mention of his name was forbidden for decades in Portugal. He lived the rest of his life as an ostracised person, losing his home and dying in absolute poverty on April 3, 1954. It was only in 1987 that Portuguese President Mario Soares granted Sousa Mendes the Order of Freedom and publicly asked his relatives for forgiveness for the injustices committed.

The award winners

José Ignacio García Hamilton

Is a writer, historian and a lawyer. He was born on November 1, 1943 in San Miguel de Tucumán. Married. Six children. Graduated from the Tucumán National University in 1969. He got a PhD in Law and Social Sciences at the Buenos Aires University (UBA). Professor of History of Law at the UBA.

Columnist and news editor of the ”La Gaceta” newspaper of Tucumán he was a founder in 1972 of the newspaper ”El Pueblo” and a director of the Association of Provincial Newspapers. In 1991 he ran as candidate to vice governor of the province of Tucumán. He is columnist in newspapers and magazines in Argentina, Uruguay and the United States. He is currently vice-president of the non-governmental interfaith organisation, Casa Argentina en Jerusalem.

He is the author of many books, among them, ”Hispano-American authoritarianism and unproductiveness”, (1990), as well as the recognised biographies of Juan Bautista Alberdi, ”Life of an absentee”, (1993); of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, ”Troublemaker from Cuyo”, (1997), and of José de San Martín, ”Don José”, (2000), a best-selling book that sold more than 60,000 copies in Argentina alone.

For ”Life of an absentee” the Konex Foundation awarded him with the Diploma of Merit as one of the five literary figures of the 1984-1994 decade in the field of Biographies and Memoirs. He has given numerous conferences about the life and work of Alberdi at the Georgia and Loyola Universities in the United States.

Nowadays, he is the presenter, together with writer Pacho O’Donnell and historian Felipe Pigna, of two media shows on Argentine history, one on channel 7 and the other on Radio Mitre in Buenos Aires.

Nicholas John Tozer

Journalist. He was born on January 3, 1954 in Romford, Essex, England. In 1981 he obtained a degree in Modern Languages at the Institute of Linguists in London and in 1987 he graduated with a Master in Arts degree in Hispanic Studies from London University.

Since 1983 he has done extensive research work on the Falklands/Malvinas conflict for different institutions such as the South Atlantic Council of London, the Di Tella Institute, the UN Development Program and the Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires Foundation with the view of submitting a PhD thesis on the subject. Since 1993 he has been an National Academician at National Academy of Tango of the Argentine Republic.

Between 1978 and 1997 he worked at the English language Argentine newspaper Buenos Aires Herald. There he carried out diverse activities ranging from proof reader, correspondent in London, news editor, editorialist to co editor of the morning daily.

Tozer has also worked as an advisor and consultant on communications for several national and international companies and as a journalist for numerous news organisations such as the news agencies MercoPress and DYN, for magazines such as Gente, Noticias and La Primera, as well as producing numerous radio and television programs specially for channel 13, Todo Noticias, America TV of Argentina as well as for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 from Britain.

He is considered one of the most knowledgeable international analysts on the Falklands conflict and has travelled to the islands on more than twenty occasions. In 1998 he was the producer of the only show in the history of the Argentine television to be broadcast live from the islands, Hora Clave from the Falklands with the political analyst Mariano Grondona.

Currently he shares his time between journalism and research into the Falklands/Malvinas conflict, as well as fulfilling his duties as correspondent of the MercoPress news agency and collaborations with other media, specially the BBC. He is active collaborator of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and of the National Academy of Tango where he is Secretary of Institutional Affairs.