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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Aristides de Sousa Mendes, One of the Righteous Among the Nations

"I would rather be with G-d against men, than with men against G-d"
A Portuguese diplomat who defied his government and helped save thousands of Jews during the Holocaust will be commemorated in special prayer services in dozens of countries over the next few days.

Correspondent Michael Freund reports that the initiative, launched by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, is in honor of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who served as Portuguese consul in Bordeaux during World War II. . . .

Despite explicit instructions from Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar barring the entry of Jewish refugees, Sousa Mendes issued 30,000 transit permits, including some 10,000 to Jews, enabling them to escape deportation to the German death camps. As a result, Sousa Mendes was denounced and stripped of his post. He died penniless in 1954.

Yad Vashem has recognized him as a Righteous Gentile. Asked once to explain why he was willing to disobey his superiors and risk his career in order to save Jews, Sousa Mendes is reported to have replied, "I would rather be with G-d against men, than with men against G-d."
In honor of Sousa Mendes, I strongly recommend that you contribute to The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which provides monthly financial support to more than 1600 aged and needy non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.

Zichronam l'Vracha, may their memories be a blessing.