Portugal to open first Holocaust Museum

Neutral during the Second World War, Portugal accepted roughly 50,000 Jewish refugees, yet Lisbon largely ignored the painful lessons of the Holocaust until now.

The Holocaust Museum in Oporto, Portugal   (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Holocaust Museum in Oporto, Portugal
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The city of Porto will become the first city in Portugal to have a museum honoring the Holocaust which is meant to open on January 20 with Mayor Rui Moreira and President of the local Jewish Community Dias Ben Zion. 
Portugal didn’t participate in the Second World War and accepted roughly 50,000 Jewish refugees, yet Lisbon largely ignored the painful lessons of the Holocaust until now. 
In a video released ahead of the inauguration, representative of the Jewish community of Porto Dara Jeffries explains that “as children, the Holocaust wasn’t taught in schools.” 
Portugal was ruled by military dictator António de Oliveira Salazar until 1974 and was one of the last European nations to hold on to its African colonies. The country has had a socialist president of Jewish origins in the late 1990s, Jorge Sampaio. Most Jewish people in the country reside in Lisbon or Porto. 
Seeing as the modern Jewish community is mostly composed of families deeply impacted by the Holocaust, the museum encompasses both material heritage - many refugees donated precious Torah scrolls before they continued on their path to build a new life in the New World - and educational materials about the dangers of hatred and radical politics. 
The museum was created in cooperation with other Holocaust museums in Hong Kong, Moscow and the US. Ambassadors of all countries which tool part in the Second World War will attend the opening. 
US born writer Jonathan Lackman, who has resided in Porto since 2019, told The Jerusalem Post that he means to share the history of his grandfather and grandmother who survived the Holocaust during his speech at the inauguration. 
“My grandmother hid, she had non-Jewish friends who helped her to hid in barns and cellars to stay ahead of the authorities,” he explained. 
“She was eventually discovered and ended the war in Bergen-Belsen where she was eventually liberated. My grandfather was 18-years-old when the war began and he was sent to Treblinka, where his father also perished.”
“He was able to take part in the uprising and escaped with five other men,” Lackman said. “They hid in tree tops near the camp and eventually found a non-Jewish farmer who was willing to hid them in a for two years until the war ended.” 
“I see it as honoring their sacrifice, which is why I wanted to have a place where their story can be shared with others. Hopefully, it could instruct future generations.”