The Bounds of Neutrality: Portugal and the Repatriation of Its Jewish Nationals
In early 1943, following the German defeats in North Africa and Stalingrad, the strategic value of the neutral countries, including Portugal, increased, especially in the eyes of Germany. On this background and in awareness of the shift in the balance of forces, the Germans allowed the neutral countries to remove their citizens from the occupied territories and from the danger of deportation to the East by March 31. By this time, the true meaning of the “East” – death – was well known. Approximately 1,000 Jews with Portuguese citizenship were then living in occupied Greece and France, and 4,303 Jews of Portuguese origin (though not citizenship) were in Holland. All of these Jews tried to return to the homeland in which they were not born and which they had never seen. Did Portugal exploit the German offer in order to rescue its Jewish nationals from deportation to the East? Did she behave as Spain did toward its Jewish nationals? These are among the questions addressed in this article. The article shows that Portugal did not live up to its responsibilities toward its Jewish nationals and did not use its position and its relations with Germany toward rescuing Jews of Portuguese origin. Moreover, Portugal displayed more interest in the property of these Jews than in their lives.