Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion inaugurated a city square on Tuesday named in honor of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who issued visas to approximately 10,000 Jews during The Holocaust and was named a “Righteous among the nations” by the State of Israel in 1966.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who was Consul General of Portugal in Bordeaux, France during World War II. Mendes issued roughly 30,000 visas and passports to refugees who fled Nazi Germany – including 10,000 issued to Jews fleeing their certain death in Europe.
"It is a great honor for the capital city of the Jewish people to inaugurate the square today in the name of Mendes, a Righteous Among the Nations, who risked his life and saved many Jews from the terror of the Nazis during World War II,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said in the inauguration ceremony. “Today, the greatness and heroism of Mendes will be proudly commemorated for many generations.”
Who was Aristides de Sousa Mendes?
Mendes was born in Portugal in 1885 and died on April 3, 1954, at the age of 69. He became known for issuing visas and passports for refugees who escaped the clutches of the Nazis – including Jews – thus defying the orders of the fascist regime, led by dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, during World War II.
As a result of his heroic actions, Mendes was punished by the Salazar regime and suspended from his activities as a consul general of for one year, with half of his salary deducted. He later received a full salary for his position as consul until his death in 1954 and was finally recognized for his deeds in a 1964 article – published ten years after his death.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes Square
The square, located on the corner of Zangwill and Torah V’Avoda Streets in the Kiryat HaYovel neighborhood, was inaugurated in the presence of the Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Ambassador of Portugal to Israel Jorge Cabral, Director Righteous Among the Nations Department in Yad Vashem Dr. Yoel Zysnoin, members of Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ family, and former Israeli Ambassador to Portugal Ms. Colette Avital.
As part of a year of planting operations that began at the end of the shmita year, the Jerusalem Municipality renovated the square, replaced the artificial turf, and planted new grass and approximately 6,000 seasonal flowers in a variety of colors and types.
“The Jerusalem Municipality will continue to highlight their actions and perpetuate the memory of the dear people who worked to save the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the country, and contributed to our country, our city, and its residents,” concluded Mayor Lion.