Portugal, The Councils ,and the Jewish Refugees
Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XXVII
Portugal, the Consuls, and the Jewish Refugees, 1938-1941
The article examines the attitudes of Portuguese consuls to the rescue of Jews in the immediate prewar years and the first years of World War II, prior to the implementation of the “Final Solution.” Portugal pursued a neutral foreign policy both regarding the opposing powers and regarding allowing foreigners into its territory. President Salazar and the police were tolerant of foreigners that sought to pass through Portugal and strict regarding those who sought to settle in the country. It was at this same time that Portuguese diplomats encountered the Nazi-created “Jewish problem”. Following Germany’s annexation of Austria, tens of thousands of Jews tried to get Portuguese visas in order to escape their tormentors. The problem worsened with the German conquest of Western European countries in spring-summer 1940. This situation confronted the Portuguese consuls with moral dilemmas and personal conflicts regarding their government and their superiors. The article sheds light on neutral Portugal and the behavior of its consuls in a time of moral crisis.