June 11, 2023


Aristides de Sousa Mendes – 1940
Photo Credit: Wikipedia












Aristides de Sousa Mendes was the Portuguese consul-general in the city of Bordeaux. In the horrific days of WWII, defying the orders of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar’s regime, he issued life-saving visas to a great number of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.

Based on an account from Sousa Mendes’ own son, Pedro Nuno, the consul decided to issue the visas on June 17, 1940, following Marshal’s Petain broadcast to the French people to “stop fighting the Germans“.

As per Pedro Nuno’s own words: “My father got up, apparently recovering his serenity. He was full of punch. He washed, shaved and got dressed. Then he strode out of his bedroom, flung open the door to the chancellery, and announced in a loud voice: ‘From now on I’m giving everyone visas. There will be no more nationalities, races or religions.’ Then our father told us that he had heard a voice, that of his conscience or of God, which dictated to him what course of action he should take, and that everything was clear in his mind“.

According to the Bordeaux Register of Visas on the 17th were issued 247 Visas; on the 18th, 216; between the 19th and the 22nd, an average of 350 were written into the Register of Visas.


Visa issued by Sousa Mendes on June 19, 1940 . Photo credit: Wikipedia










For his actions, Sousa Mendes was punished by the Salazar regime with one year of inactivity and a 50 % reduction of his salary, being forced eventually to retire.

The Day of Conscience was conceived by a distinguished member of the IRWF, Mr. Joao Crisostomo, who worked nights and days to make this dream come true, calling upon churches, synagogues and mosques to celebrate June 17th as the Day of Conscience.

Back on June 17, 2020, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Sousa Mendes’ momentous decision, Pope Francis (himself a member of the Wallenberg Foundation) issued a statement saying that “freedom of conscience always and everywhere needs to be respected”. “May every Christian give an example of the consistency of an upright conscience enlightened by the word of God“.

In a joined statement issued this June 17th, Mr. Eduardo Eurnekian and Mr. Baruch Tenembaum – Chairman and Founder of the IRWF respectively, call upon “the three faiths and people around the world to celebrate the Day of Conscience and remember the legacy of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, especially in these turbulent days, when violence and racism are raising their head”.


Israeli Postal stamp commissioned by the IRWF in 2015 – Photo credit: IRWF