De Bruyn/Vermeersch

Visa Recipients

    Age 33 | Visa #903
  • DE BRUYN, Nicole P A
    Age 10
  • DE BRUYN, Philippe P A T
    Age 6
  • DE BRUYN, Pierre P A
    Age 34 | Visa #897
  • MOJES, Maria P
  • VERMEERSCH, Clara/Claire née DE BRUYN P A
    Age 27 | Visa #898
    Age 7
    Age 29 | Visa #904
  • VERMEERSCH, Michel P A
    Age 2
  • VERMEERSCH, Viviane P
    Age 9
    Age 35 | Visa #888

About the Family

The visas for the DE BRUYN and VERMEERSCH families were issued by Aristides de Sousa Mendes in Bordeaux on May 18, 1940.

Clara and Louis VERMEERSCH and Marie and Pierre DE BRUYN, along with their families, had been explicitly denied visas by Salazar, the Portuguese head of state.

Yvonne HALLET-VERMEERSCH and her daughter Viviane VERMEERSCH sailed on the Serpa Pinto from Lisbon to New York in January 1941.

  • Photos
  • Artifacts

Visa issued to Marie DE BRUYN in Bordeaux

Visa issued to Clara VERMEERSCH in Bordeaux

Visa issued to Pierre DE BRUYN in Bordeaux


Telegram from Salazar denying visas to this family and others - Courtesy of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives, Lisbon


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

  • Testimonials

Testimonial of Philippe DE BRUYN

November 2012

Louis VERMEERSCH owned a shoe factory in Termonde/Dendermonde, Belgium. Pierre DE BRUYN had worked for a money changer and made models for large ships and ocean liners. When the Germans started attacking Brussels, both the VERMEERSCH and DE BRUYN families left at the same time, going first to La Panne for a couple of weeks. Guy VERMEERSCH remembers the state of the French army stationed there: they had old guns, tractors, carts, and were completely disorganized which did not inspire anyone's confidence. As the Germans were approaching the two families decided to drive directly to Bordeaux. Along the way there were long columns of all possible vehicles, cars, carts bikes, people on foot. Suddenly they would hear German planes approaching and everyone would jump into the trenches. The Germans would turn their machine guns on and be off again, leaving some people seriously injured by the side of the road.

They arrived in Bordeaux where they stayed in a cheap flea-infested inn. They were thrown out and rented a small house called Les Tifs belonging to a hairdresser.

At some point the Belgian Embassy contacted persons with property in Belgium, telling them that their businesses and factories were accessible and that they could return without any danger. The VERMEERSCH and DE BRUYN families returned to Brussels where they remained throughout the war.

Testimonial of Guy VERMEERSCH

November 2012

Attendant à la frontière, même avec visa, cela pouvait prendre vu le monde, le chaos, et la pagaille, entre deux à quatre jours. C'est entre autre pour cela que les gens dormaient dans leurs voitures, et aussi vu les nombreux voleurs, la peur de se faire voler sacs et bagages, voir argent ou bijoux. Il n'y avait là aucun logement possible, excepté trois à quatre petits hôtels où les réfugiés en attentes, dormaient partout, parfois dix par chambre et dans tous les couloirs et jardins, partout une pagaille énorme où tout s'achetait prix d'or.

Nous allions checker la dernière gare espagnole pour espérer voir ou trouver des connaissances, ou d'autres membres de la famille tous bloqués dans des trains, et qui ne pouvaient pas, faute de visas, entrer au Portugal. Les conditions de vie aux postes frontière entre l'Espagne et le Portugal où tout le monde était bloqué, étaient épouvantables--presque rien à manger, pas de magasins, seulement des trafiquants qui proposaient des vivres à des prix exorbitants! Pratiquement pas d'hygiène, et beaucoup de gens malades, pas de soins et aucuns médecins. Les autorités portugaises de Salazar laissaient volontairement la situation se pourrir, pour décourager les réfugiés à essayer d'entrer au Portugal.

Vous m'avez permis grâce à vos documents de plonger dans la vie exemplaire de cet héros qu'est Mr. Sousa Mendes. Je dois vous dire mon admiration pour les risques pris pour sauver la vie d'êtres humains dont de très nombreux Juifs qui sans son intervention, n'auraient surement pas échappés l'enfer de l'extermination. Il ne faudra jamais l'oublier. J'ai transmis toutes ces informations à la connaissance de mes enfants afin que ces faits historiques important puissent se transmettre à travers les générations à venir.

Waiting to cross the Spanish border to enter Portugal, even with a visa, considering the amount of people and chaos, could take between two to four days. This was one of the reasons for which amongst others, people slept in their cars with the added worry of having one's bags, suitcases, money or jewelry being stolen, given the large number of thieves. There was no lodging available except for three to four small hotels where refugees waiting to cross the border slept, sometimes ten to a room, in hallways and in gardens"everywhere a big mess and with exorbitant rates charged.

We would go and check at the last Spanish train station before the border, hoping to see or meet up with friends or other family members stranded on the trains and who, for lack of a visa, could not enter into Portugal. The living conditions at the border between Spain and Portugal where everyone was blocked were appalling"almost no food, no shops, only black marketeers offering food at exorbitant prices, no sanitation and many sick people, no medical care and no doctors. The Portuguese authorities of Salazar deliberately allowed this situation to deteriorate and fester so as to discourage refugees from trying to enter Portugal.

Thanks to your documentation, you have given me the opportunity to delve into the exemplary life of the hero that Mr. Sousa Mendes was. I must express my admiration for the risks he took to save the lives of fellow human beings, many of them Jewish and who, without his intervention, would certainly not have escaped the hell of extermination. We must never forget. I have forwarded all this information to the attention of my children so that these significant historical facts can be passed down through the generations to come.