Saturday, May 05, 2007

Aristides de Sousa Mendes

During my student years in Montpellier, I enjoyed the yearly latter-May "Comédie du livre" (an open-air book show) because there, the éditions Verdier sold their received covers and postcards to finance their coffee breaks. I find this stamp, un-cancelled, on a postcard from Portugal :

This stamp was issue in 1995 for the Europa issue, which topic that year was "Peace and Liberty" to commemorate the 50th birthday of the end of World War 2. The second stamp, 95 escudos too, remembers that Madeira island hosted the British inhabitants of Gibraltar.

On the stamp I found, the character is the Portuguese consul Aristides de Sousa Mendes. Working in Bordeaux during the French 1940 defeat, he violated an order from Portuguese strong leader Salazar : from end December 1939 to end of June 1940, Sousa Mendes signed as many as possible visas to help refugees to go to Portugal through Spain. Arrived in Lisbon, the left part of the stamp shows the families and refugees waiting to embark onboard boats to America. These visas saved Jewish families, antinazis from many political parties, who sometimes already fled Germany in 1933.

The punishment Sousa Mendes' family endured was terrible : they survived only thank to the Lisbon Jewish community's generosity. The consul's children emigrated. And he died in 1954 in the most miserable poverty.

This stamp was issued at a time of rehabilitation of the consul by the democratic Portugal.

To go further:
* biography of Aristides de Sousa Mendes on the Wikipedia in English,
* website-catalogue of the Europa issued.

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