This article deals with two diplomats and the impact they had on the lives of Polish refugees trapped in France during the German invasion of May and June 1940. These individuals were the Portuguese consul-general in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, and Brazil’s ambassador to France and to the Vichy government, Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas. Sousa Mendes was recalled to Portugal and left France in July 1940, after the French defeat and the subsequent partition of the country into the Occupied Zone and the Free Zone (Vichy France). Souza Dantas remained in the Free Zone and continued to help refugees. This article offers a comparison between the Portuguese and Brazilian refugee policies of the time, focusing on their discriminatory aspects. The disobedience and humanitarian actions of the two diplomats are also described, including numerous examples of the treatment of refugees, among them both famous and ordinary Poles. Some had left Poland recently, while others had emigrated to other European countries years before—but all were in danger. These two diplomats provided desperate people with the unauthorized visas they needed to escape France, at personal risk for their activities. The consequences for Sousa Mendes and Souza Dantas of their acts are also discussed.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.