Sousa Mendes Foundation Advising on Project to Film Stories of Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust

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Fifteen hours of interviews related to a group of World War II-era diplomats who defied official policies to save hundreds of thousands of people from the Holocaust are to be integrated into the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. The interviews, featured in filmmaker Michael W. King and Joyce D. Mandell’s award-winning documentary The Rescuers, describe the actions of 13 diplomats — including Aristides de Sousa Mendes and others — whose tireless efforts to save Jews and others earned them the status of Righteous Among the Nations, an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. This film is being shown by the Sousa Mendes Foundation on June 13, 2021 as part of its Sunday series of programs on rescue and resistance. For more information about the screening, click here.

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The videotaped testimonials, including that of Aristides de Sousa Mendes‘ grandson Sebastian Mendes, are being integrated into the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive as the inaugural collection of testimonies to be named the Joyce D. Mandell Rescuers Collection. These interviews will comprise the world’s largest collection of testimonials concerning the actions of the “Righteous Diplomats.” The collection will be made available to the public through the Visual History Archive. “We can all be uplifted by the fact that the stories of these rescuers are themselves being rescued for posterity. Now they can inform and inspire future generations just as they are doing for viewers today,” said Stephen Smith, Finci-Viterbi Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation.

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Among those featured in the Joyce D. Mandell Rescuers Collection are survivors and relatives who recount the stories about the following diplomats: Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes in France; German diplomat (and Nazi Party member) Georg F. Duckwitz in Copenhagen; Americans Varian Fry and Hiram Bingham in Marseille; Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara and Dutch businessman Jan Zwartendijk in Kaunas; Turkish Consul Selahattin Ulkumen in Rhodes; British Captain Frank Foley in Berlin; Polish diplomat Henryk Slawik in Budapest; Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who helped coordinate Budapest’s rescue efforts in 1944 along with Archbishop Angelo Rotta, who represented the Vatican; and Consul Carl Lutz of Switzerland. The collection also features a segment from His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, who reveals a little-known story about his grandmother, Princess Alice, and Sir Martin Gilbert.

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In a related development, Michael W. King is expanding his research efforts with support from the Andrew J. and Joyce D. Mandell Family Foundation and the USC Shoah Foundation to identify additional survivors and relatives to continue to document the stories of an additional 32 diplomats with Righteous Among the Nations status, with the goal for these new stories to be ultimately added to the Joyce D. Mandell Rescuers Collection in the future. It is with this effort that the Sousa Mendes Foundation is assisting. “This is our last chance to document first-hand accounts related to diplomats who were at the center of the 20th century’s most unforgettable events,” King said.

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The list includes the Lados Group (Polish diplomats in Switzerland), Brazilian diplomats Aracy de Carvalho Guimarães Rosa (Germany) and Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas (France); Chinese diplomat Feng Shan Ho (Austria); Ecuadorian diplomat Manuel Antonio Muñoz Borrero (Sweden); El Salvadoran diplomat José Castellanos Contreras (Switzerland); French diplomat François de Vial (Italy); Italian diplomats Pacifico Marchesini (The Netherlands), Giorgio Perlasca (Hungary) and Angelo Rotta (Hungary); Peruvian diplomat Jose Maria Barreto (Switzerland); Polish diplomat Władysław Bartoszewski (Warsaw); Portuguese diplomat Carlos Sampaio (Hungary); Romanian diplomats Constantin Karadja (Germany) and Florian Manoliu (Hungary); Swedish diplomats Per Anger (Hungary), Lars Berg (Hungary), Carl Ivan Danielsson (Hungary), and Elow Kihlgren (Italy); Swiss diplomats Harald Feller (Hungary), Ernst Prodolliet (Austria), Ernst Vonrufs (Hungary), and Peter Zurcher (Hungary); Yugoslavian diplomat Franjo Punčuh (Warsaw), and others.

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The Rescuers research team is looking to speak with anyone who may have information about the “Righteous Among the Nations” diplomats who are to be included in the expanding Joyce D. Mandell Rescuers Collection. Those with pertinent information are encouraged to write to general@rescuersdoc.com.