Utah Exhibition Honors Holocaust Hero


The name Aristides de Sousa Mendes may not ring a bell, but for people who have studied the history of World War II and have a keen understanding of the Holocaust, he is a hero who helped 30,000 people escape certain death at the hands of Nazi persecutors.

Thousands Saved

Aristides de Sousa Mendes

Sousa Mendes was a Portuguese diplomat who used his position as a consulate in France’s Bordeaux region to help fleeing Jews and other afflicted peoples escape occupied France to enter his native homeland. Over several months beginning in late 1939 and lasting well into June 1940, Sousa Mendes and supporters issued visas to help Jews escape France. He took this action in direct opposition to Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar who feared angering Germany. Portugal was neutral during the war and did not want to incur the wrath of Adolf Hitler who was pressing his way through Europe, mounting his Third Reich.

Eventually, Sousa Mendes was recalled by Salazar and was stripped of his position. Portugal censured his activity; Sousa Mendes died in poverty in 1954 as he was no longer permitted to practice law.

National Touring Exhibit

To mark Sousa Mendes’ bravery, a national touring exhibit “These Are My People!” will be stopping in at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City beginning on April 15 at the Marriott Library. The exhibition, sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Utah, is in partnership with the University of Utah and the Sousa Mendes Foundation.

“These Are My People!” explains the account of Sousa Mendes through 20 panels of photographs, documents and text.  It is being presented in conjunction with Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Commemoration Day, which will be observed on Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. at the State Capitol.  The ceremony will feature Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert – Aristides de Sousa Mendes’s grandson – Aristides Mendes, and Sousa Mendes visa recipients Dr. Lissy Jarvik and Dr. Daniel C. Mattis.  Both Mendes and Mattis are Utah residents.

“Sousa Mendes illustrates the importance of individual action, how one person can, indeed, make a difference in our complex world,” said Martin Gelman, president of the United Jewish Federation of Utah.

Foundation’s Quest

The Sousa Mendes Foundation’s mission serves a dual purpose: to raise money to build a museum in honor of Sousa Mendes in Portugal and to support projects in the United States that honor his memory.

The exhibit is open during normal library hours. Find out more information by visiting library.utah.edu.

Photo: Wikipedia

Sources: United Jewish Federation of Utah and Sousa Mendes Foundation


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