Portugal state airline honors diplomat punished for saving Jews

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Portugal’s national airline named its newest plane in honor of a diplomat who saved approximately about 30,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

TAP Portugal last week announced the naming of the Airbus A319 after Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who in 1940 served as consul in Bordeaux, France, where he gave visas to refugees fleeing the Nazi advance.

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“The naming of one of the planes of our fleet for Aristides de Sousa Mendes is an honor for the Portuguese national airline which, in this way, seeks to pay homage to this person and his exemplary actions,” TAP Executive Director Luiz da Gama Mor said on Sept. 9, according to the news website fugas.publico.pt. The plane “will carry his name to many European cities where we operate.”

After his actions in Bordeaux — a city located just 120 miles north of France’s border with Spain and the Iberian Peninsula, Mendes was suspended and ejected from the diplomatic service of Portugal, then a dictatorship under Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

However, Mendes was posthumously vindicated and recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations — a title conferred on behalf of the State of Israel by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Mendes was the first diplomat to receive the title.