Matuzewitz/Sternberg

Visa Recipients

  • MATUZEWITZ, Blanche P A
    Age 16 | Visa #1180
  • MATUZEWITZ, Charles V P
    Age 6
  • MATUZEWITZ, Daniel Charles V P A
    Age 7
  • MATUZEWITZ, Gabriel P A
    Age 72 | Visa #1185
  • MATUZEWITZ, Gitla Reizel née BLACHER P A
    Age 66 | Visa #1186
  • MATUZEWITZ, Joseph P A
    Age 46 | Visa #1178
  • MATUZEWITZ, Lucie née APPELBAUM P A T
    Age 43 | Visa #1179
  • STERNBERG, Cheina Feigel "Fanny" née MATUZEWITZ P
    Age 47
  • STERNBERG, Denise P A
    Age 16
  • STERNBERG, Jacques Clément P A
    Age 19
  • STERNBERG, Solomon P
    Age 54
  • STERNBERG, Sylvain P
    Age 12

About the Family

The MATUZEWITZ family fled Belgium on May 10, 1940. They boarded the last train to Paris, and then continued south to Bordeaux. Charles, age 6, was separated from his parents and sister by the bombing and didn't see them again for a year and a half; he was together with his grandparents and extended family during the exodus.

The MATUZEWITZ family obtained visas from Aristides de Sousa Mendes in Bordeaux on May 31 and June 3, 1940 after a chance encounter on the streets of Bordeaux between Joseph MATUZEWITZ and Rabbi Chaim KRUGER, Sousa Mendes's right-hand man.

In Portugal the family lived in Coimbra, Lisbon, and Figueira da Foz. Joseph and Lucie MATUZEWITZ subsequently emigrated to Brazil on the vessel Santarem in August 1940 with their children Blanche and Daniel, and Gabriel and Gitla MATUZEWITZ followed on the Serpa Pinto with their grandson Charles in November of that year. The family later moved to the United States, accompanied by Henri MATUZEWITZ, oldest child of Joseph and Lucie.

The STERNBERG family obtained their visas in Bayonne on June 22, 1940 and subsequently traveled to New York on the Nea Hellas in October of that year and the Carvalho Araujo in January 1941.

After the war, Gabriel, Gitla, Joseph, Lucie and Henri MATUZEWITZ returned to Europe, while the two younger children, Blanche and Daniel, remained in the U.S. Henri and Daniel changed the family name to MATTIS.

  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Artifacts
Visa request MATUZEWITZ

Telegram from Sousa Mendes to Salazar requesting permission to grant a visa to the MATUZEWITZ family - Courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives, Lisbon

Theater program from casino in Figueira da Foz, featuring Denise Sternberg

Theater program from casino in Figueira da Foz featuring Jacques and Denise STERNBERG

1161-93

Page of Sousa Mendes Visa Registry Book listing this family and others - Courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives, Lisbon

  • Testimonial

Testimonial of Lucie MATUZEWITZ

1977

We had a very bad night as a bomb fell in the neighborhood of the Eiffel Tower, near our hotel. The next day we decided to leave Paris for Bordeaux....

In Bordeaux, we shared as best we could an old lady's place, awaiting further developments. One day Joseph was approached by a bearded ginger-haired rabbi with long peyot (side curls), therefore a very Orthodox man, who told him a most unusual story.

"Can you imagine—one day, the Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux approached me and said, 'Rabbi, where are you living here?' 'Alas!' I answered, 'I have been sleeping on a bench in the train station's waiting room with my wife and my five children.' 'I understand,' said the Consul, 'that in this town, with all the lies that the Nazis have been blaring out from morning until night, no one dares to provide you with lodging. Therefore, I offer you my hospitality and invite you and your family to stay with me.'

"And what is more," added the rabbi, "during the few days that we have been living in the Consul's home he has been exquisitely kind to me. Moreover he said to me: 'Go to the park where all the refugees who want to leave France are gathered. Tell them that I will give all of them visas for Portugal. I have no right to do so because I have received instructions to grant transit visas only to those people who have visas to go overseas. I know that I shall lose my post, but at least I shall give Portugal, my country, the honor of welcoming Jewish refugees and help wipe out a crime committed in the 1490's when Portugal chased out the Jews, just as Spain had done, because of the Inquisition."

The news of this minor miracle traveled fast in Bordeaux, from one refugee to another, and soon the consul's drawing rooms filled to the brim. He stayed up till all hours of the night distributing visas to all who applied. When I recall those times of poisonous anti-Semitism, fueled by Germany's virulent propaganda, I feel it necessary to relate the story of the courageous help given by the Consul.