The diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who is the subject of a new biography by French author Eric Lebreton (Le Cherche Midi Editions), was the only Portuguese citizen ever recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
“Visas for Life: Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Righteous Man of Bordeaux” relates how in 1940, serving as Portugal’s consul-general in Bordeaux, de Sousa Mendes issued around 30,000 visas for Portugal to anyone who requested one, disobeying direct orders from Portugal’s fascist dictator António Salazar. Two among the thousands whom he personally saved are Rabbi Chaim Kruger of Antwerp and the composer Norbert Gingold.
Soon, Salazar banished de Sousa Mendes from the diplomatic corps and slashed his retirement pension. The full motivations of the consul-general, who died forgotten in 1954, in illness and poverty, long remained a mystery.