JEWS, CAPTAIN BARROS BASTO - THE PORTUGUESE DREYFUS, SALAZAR, ARISTIDES DE SOUSA MENDES, PORTUGAL AND THE NAZIS
CAPTAIN BARROS BASTO - THE PORTUGUESE DREYFUS
Captain Barrow Basto was a WW1 Portuguese army officer who through a chance meeting in a trench realised his family was Jewish. At the end of the war he converted to Judaism and made it his task to bring Marranos back to Judaism. He founded a new synagogue and yeshiva in Porto to teach Jewish boys. As a result of Catholic opposition, using trumped up charges he was dismissed from the Portuguese army so that many Marranos did not return to Judaism.
In 1937, he went before the Disciplinary Board of the Army and was dismissed from the institution for allegedly participating in circumcision ceremonies (in Hebrew, brit milah) of the students of the Israelite Theological Institute of Porto.
He died in 1961, and was, according to his wish, buried in Amarante, the city where he was born. Following a petition presented to Parliament on 31 October 2011 by his granddaughter, Isabel Ferreira Lopes, the name of Barros Basto was rehabilitated on February 29, 2012. He is now know as ‘The Portuguese Dreyfus’
It is told by Howard Morley Sachar in 'Farewell Espana' The World of Sephardim Remembered', 1994 pp184-7
and by Alexandre Teixeira Mendes in Barros Basto, the Marrano Mirage
PORTUGAL AND THE FASCISTS
António de Oliveira Salazar served as the autocratic Prime Minister from 1932 to 1968 and the acting President of the Republic in 1951. He founded and led the Estado Novo (New State), the authoritarian, right-wing government from 1932 to 1974. In 1940. His goal was to establish a Catholic Social Order even in a nominally secular state. To meet this objective he dissolved Freemasonry in Portugal in 1935
A nationalist who was close to the Roman Catholic church he fervently opposed communism and was considered a fascist, though Portugal remained neutral during World War 2. His main instrument of repression was The Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado or PIDE (International State Defence Police). Although this name was only used from 1945 to 1969, the network of secret police forces which existed during the 40 years of the regime are commonly known as PIDE.
During the 1930’s he was the person whom Captain Barros Basto and Aristides de Sousa Mendes(see below) had to deal with.
PORTUGAL, SALAZAR, AND THE JEWS(Excerpt) Project Muse Marion Kaplan, Article in ‘Shofar an Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 31(1):165-169 January 2012 DOI: 10.1353/sho.2012.0135
In his densely researched book, ‘Portugal, Salazar, and the Jews’, Avraham Milgram focuses on the gap between the rescue potential of Portugal, a European nation that, surprisingly, resisted rabid and rampant antisemitism, and the number of Jews who actually received permission to enter Portugal during World War II. Unique in its more open approach to Jews, it nevertheless hobbled Jewish immigration when Jews most needed it.
Milgram provides important background first. Starting with the Inquisition, he shows that, with few significant exceptions, Portugal began to accept Jews in the late eighteenth century, opening its gates to North African Jewish immigration in the nineteenth and Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the early twentieth centuries. A very small and diverse Jewish community made up of Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and former crypto Jews thrived in the early twentieth century. As the absolutist state of the nineteenth century consolidated itself, its leaders disdained the Inquisition as anachronistic. "Antisemitism seems to have petered out in Portugal" (p. 43), as the state adopted a utilitarian and liberal attitude towards Jews. Indeed, the vast majority of rightists, monarchists, and anti-liberal circles marginalized racist antisemitism and pointed to intellectuals, liberals, and Freemasons as the new enemies. (Milgram does not explore if the Right assumed that Jews belonged to these stigmatized groups, or if Portuguese citizens understood these terms as code words for "Jews.")
A liberal Republic emancipated Jews fully in 1911. Conservatives aimed their ire at liberalism, not at the minuscule number of Jews in Portugal. Milgram insists, and is convincing on this point, that modern antisemitism failed "to establish even a toehold in Portugal" (p. 11) while it grew racist and virulent elsewhere in early twentieth-century Europe. Moreover, António de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal's dictator, rose to power in 1932 without antisemitic rhetoric or violence. Even Portuguese fascists (the Blue Shirts) eschewed the antisemitism that proponents of their ilk espoused in the north. They admired Hitler, yet did not oppose Jews coming to Portugal to escape his violent persecution. This is impressive. Still, readers may wonder about this lack of prejudice, especially since Salazar dreaded and stigmatized "communism," "republicanism," and "liberalism"—more code words for "Jews," at least among Portugal's neighbors. In addition, Milgram admits that the police harbored antisemitism, transposing their general dislike of foreigners onto Jews. But even as the police harassed and threatened Jews, they did not turn them over to the Germans.
Salazar and his minions performed a precarious balancing act before and during the war. At first they tried to please both sides, the Allies and the Germans. Starting in 1938 with the annexation of Austria, Portugal provided an important escape route for refugees to havens overseas. Then, in the summer of 1940 when the Germans overran France, a veritable flood of refugees— Jewish and non-Jewish—sought safety in Portugal. The largest number of Jews (13,000-15,000, according to Jewish sources) passed through Portugal, entering when, as Milgram notes, "the Germans called the shots" (p. 12). Milgram's statistics radically challenge long-established but fuzzy numbers ranging between Yehuda Bauer's estimate of 40,000 Jews passing through Portugal in 1940-41 (p. 61) and the American Jewish Yearbook's (1944) estimate of 100,000 mostly Jewish refugees. Still, Jewish sources cannot tell the whole story, since Jews also passed through Portugal on their own, without the assistance of Jewish organizations. Numbers aside, Milgram underlines that only in the summer of 1940 did the Portuguese ease their strictures and only for a few months.
Since most of these refugees hoped to flee Europe and since local business people welcomed them as consumers in the small resort towns where the government placed them (and where they were forbidden to compete with Portuguese businesses), why did Salazar insist on 30-day tourist visas and limit the number of refugees? Salazar feared all aliens, Jewish and non-Jewish, as potential communists and liberals who would undermine his regime. Before allowing entry, he demanded assurance of departure and the ability to pay for a place on a ship and for expenses incurred in Portugal (p. 248). Salazar's Foreign Ministry, police, and Interior Ministry took a "legalistic approach, sometimes tainted...
30,000 refugees, including 10,000 Jews were saved by the Bordeaux Portuguese consul Aristides de Sousa Mendes for a Portuguese visa. When Germany had invaded Belgium and the Netherlands, the Portuguese Government prohibited further crossings especially of Jewish refugees. Only British citizens recommended by the British consul could get visas. After reporting back to Lisbon he was dismissed and eventually died in poverty.
In 1966, Yad Vashem recognized him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. In 1987, the Portuguese Republic awarded him a posthumous Order of Liberty medal, one of that country's highest honors and in 1988 the Portuguese parliament officially dismissed all charges, restoring him to the diplomatic corps by unanimous vote and honoring him with a standing ovation. He was promoted to the rank of Ambassador and issued the Cross of Merit for his actions in Bordeaux. In 1994 former President Soares dedicated his bust and a commemorative plaque where the consulate at Bordeaux had been housed.