Visa Recipients

  • DEUTSCH, Bernard P
    Age 41
  • DEUTSCH, Hélène née HOFFMAN P
    Age 42
  • DEUTSCH, Henri V P T
    Age 10
  • DEUTSCH, Joséphine/Josette V P
    Age 6
  • DEUTSCH, Paul P
    Age 49
  • DEUTSCH, Sara née LEWIN P
    Age 35
  • DEUTSCH, Siegfried
    Age 12
  • DEUTSCH, Simon P
    Age 12
  • DEUTSCH, Simon

About the Family

The DEUTSCH families received visas signed by Aristides de Sousa Mendes in Bordeaux on June 19, 1940.

They all crossed into Portugal, where they resided in Figueira da Foz. Bernard DEUTSCH and his family subsequently sailed on the ship Nea Hellas from Lisbon to New York in September 1940.

Paul DEUTSCH and his family went to the United Kingdom, where they settled.

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  • Testimonial

Testimonial of Henri Zvi DEUTSCH, 1997

In June 1940, my family and I were refugees from Antwerp, Belgium. We had settled in Lacanau d'Océan, a village some 25 kilometers from Bordeaux.

About a dozen other Jewish families had found refuge there, including my Uncle Paul and his family. On Thursdays, the men went to Bordeaux to learn the latest war news, as we had no radios, and to buy kosher food.

On June 20, Uncle Paul returned alone, and told my mother to pack, as we were to meet my father in Bordeaux the following morning. Apparently Paris had fallen and northern France was occupied, thereby closing the Swiss and Italian borders. The only means of escape from the grasp of the German army was by ship, but British warships were patrolling the seacoast to prevent ships from going to Palestine -- the one country willing to accept Jews -- or through Spain or Portugal.

Thousands of refugees had flocked to Bordeaux. It seemed as if they all had the same idea: apply for a visa to Spain or Portugal. Since only the Portuguese Consulate was issuing visas, it was decided that my father remain in Bordeaux until he received visas for both families and we were to join him in Bordeaux the following morning [June 21].

What had troubled my father was the fact that he had not taken his passport along. We had fled with just two suitcases with our summer clothes -- and whatever diamonds my father had in the Bourse. Like many of Antwerp's Jews, my father was a diamond broker. Possessing diamonds enabled us to flee and covered our traveling expenses for a few months. Apparently the lack of passports was not a problem, for my father obtained transit visas to Portugal, which also enabled us to travel through Spain.

Whenever my father recalled our flight, he mentioned the crowd in front of the Portuguese Consulate. It seemed as if everyone in the line was an authority on the war! Native people appeared out of nowhere selling sandwiches and bottled water. Occasionally a man or woman came on the balcony and calmed the crowd, which seemed to grow bigger with each passing hour.

By late afternoon it was my father's turn to enter the building housing the Consulate. Everyone seemed to have quieted down as they went up the stairs, step by step, each refugee praying that his request for a visa would be granted.

When they entered the Consulate they were welcomed by a reassuring voice, apparently the same Portuguese lady who had appeared on the balcony, who told them not to worry. They would all be granted visas to Portugal. She also told them to help themselves to something to drink as she pointed to a table set with pitchers and glasses. She then joined three men at the desk and table who asked a few questions and issued visas to everyone. What impressed my father most was that he never saw anyone pay for the visas.

As he left the Consulate, visas in his pocket, it was already dark outside. Out of nowhere a young man appeared, and asked if he was looking for a room for the night. With a mixture of relief and apprehension, my father followed the stranger, who led him to an old tenement. The price for a cot in the room shared with the young man was expensive, but it was better than walking the streets or staying in the waiting room at the railway station.

That night [June 19-20] there was a bombing raid over Bordeaux and the house across the street was hit. My father fell off the cot and muttered a prayer. The next morning -- after we were reunited and heard his story -- he pointed out the demolished house only a few yards away from his refuge for the night.

After a harrowing journey we reached Portugal where we stayed until we were granted visas for the States. We settled in New York and it wasn't until 1987 that I learned from an article in The New York Times that our savior in Bordeaux was none other than Dr. Aristides de Sousa Mendes. Later I learned that the "reassuring Portuguese lady" was none other than his wife Angelina.