- HALPERN, Clara née STRULOVICI P A
Age 33 | Visa #2280
- HALPERN, Esther V P T
- HALPERN, Isaie P
- HALPERN, Judith P
- HALPERN, Marcel/Moise P A
Age 40 | Visa #2279
- HALPERN, Noémie
About the Family
The HALPERN family received their visas from Aristides de Sousa Mendes in Bordeaux on June 19, 1940.
They crossed into Portugal and subsequently sailed on the Serpa Pinto from Lisbon to New York in March 1941.
Testimonial of Esther DRESNER née HALPERN
We left Antwerp on the 13th of May 1940, three days after the Germans invaded our country. Although I was only ten years old, I realized that something very serious was happening....
As the roads were packed with cars, carts and people on foot, we only advanced a few kilometers a day. After many days we reached Bordeaux. The Germans were still advancing and were getting dangerously close to us. From the refugees who had gathered in the city my father found out that the consulate of Portugal, a country we had hardly heard of, was giving visas to everyone. After spending some days in the queue at the consulate, my father came back relieved with our passports stamped....
Now it was necessary to get travel visas to cross through Spain. A friend of ours offered to get these visas for us in Bayonne. By mere chance that friend of ours had to solve a personal issue with the Portuguese consul in Bayonne, whose family she knew very well. During her interview with the said diplomat he realized that she had our passports with her, already with visas for Portugal. He insisted on seeing them. When he saw that they were signed by Sousa Mendes, the consul warned her that those visas might not be valid anymore and that they would probably not be recognized at the border. However, instead of confiscating our passports he ended up granting us new visas, now signed by him, and which would guarantee our exit from France.
Now with our documents reinforced, we went onto the road again. In the middle of July we reached Portugal. We were immediately directed towards a beach town somewhat to the north of Lisbon and which was called Figueira da Foz. I remember feeling great relief when my parents told us that we didn't need to run away anymore and that we would be staying there until we went to America....
Like most of the refugees, my parents frequented the Café Europa. It was at the tables in this café that news was exchanged, people talked about the past and one forgot the fear about the future....
Always being touched by the drama of those who were in a worse situation than us, my father hired a young Belgian refugee girl as a secretary, Mlle Germaine Rosenzweig, who had managed to flee to Portugal with her mother and sisters. They knew that her father was still in France and was desperate, without a visa for Portugal.
When the time to leave came my father decided that they would come with us. Thus we all embarked on the 15th of March 1941 on the Serpa Pinto, headed for the USA, where we effectively restarted our lives. Despite this, and as long as I live, I will never forget the kindness and friendship with which we were treated by the people of Figueira.