The Sousa Mendes visa recipients came from forty-six countries and all walks of life. They were Jews and non-Jews, public figures and private citizens, most with passports but many without. The Sousa Mendes Foundation is interested in tracking the fates of all visa recipients, no matter their stories.
Most of the visa recipients were able to cross into Portugal and arrived at the border town of Vilar Formoso. There they were sorted by the Portuguese authorities and assigned to “fixed residences” where they were required to live for the duration of their time in the country. They were not permitted to remain in Portugal. Their visas were valid for only thirty days, during which time they were required to find ship passage and visas to another country. Many Sousa Mendes visa recipients were initially unsuccessful in finding ship passage and onward visas, and required multiple extensions of their Portuguese visas – extensions that were generally granted.
Many other visa recipients were unable to do cross into Portugal because they arrived at the Hendaye, France/Irun, Spain border too late. On June 24, 1940 the crossing was sealed by the Spanish authorities on the request of the Portuguese authorities. The New York Times estimated the number of refugees trapped in Nazi-occupied France by this border closure to be around 10,000. Because of the location and the timing, these refugees were certainly Sousa Mendes visa recipients. Of those, some survived the Holocaust and others were murdered.
We have grouped the visa recipients by families and/or traveling groups. Each member of each family has been given a number of identifiers, where known:
On this website you can search the visa recipients by country (forty-six countries plus “stateless” and “unknown”), by name (we have identified names for approximately 3800 visa recipients), by residence in Portugal (thirteen localities plus “not in Portugal” and unknown), and by ship (ninety-four ships covering each refugee’s complete route to freedom).
If you know of anyone who escaped the Holocaust via Portugal and/or is a likely Sousa Mendes visa recipient, please contact us.
To learn more about our research process, please read this article.