Aristides de Sousa Mendes

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Aristides de Sousa Mendes

Aristides de Sousa Mendes (19 July 18853 April 1954) was a Portuguese diplomat who fought against his own government for the safety of Jews living in Europe in the early years of World War II. Between June 16 and 23, 1940, he frantically issued Portuguese visas free of charge, to over 30,000 refugees seeking to escape the Nazi terror, 12,000 of whom were Jews.


  • I cannot allow all you people to die. Many of you are Jews, and our constitution clearly states that neither the religion nor the political beliefs of foreigners can be used as a pretext for refusing to allow them to stay in Portugal. I've decided to be faithful to that principle, but I shan't resign for all that. The only way I can respect my faith as a Christian is to act in accordance with the dictates of my conscience.
  • Even if I am dismissed, I can only act as a Christian, as my conscience tells me.
    • Quoted in The Independent, Sunday 17 October 2010
  • I could not have acted otherwise, and I therefore accept all that has befallen me with love.
    • Quoted in The Independent, Sunday 17 October 2010
  • Starting today I will obey my conscience. As a Christian I do not have the right to let these women and men die.


  • Aristides de Sousa Mendes saved my life. He enabled me to have a family that includes professionals whose lives are very much dedicated to helping humankind. In that way the value of his sacrifices has increased exponentially in succeeding generations.
    • Sonja Jarvik, quoted in The Independent, Sunday 17 October 2010
  • At a time when many men were cowards, he was a true hero to the West.
  • Aristides de Sousa Mendes was neither a superhero endowed with supernatural powers nor a saint capable of working miracles, but rather a man who loved others and who believed in humanity above all else. He was a man who was truly alone during one of the darkest moments in history.

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