From the testimony of Rabbi Haim Krieger, 1966
This man was a Righteous Among the Nations. He also told me that he was a descendent of the Jews who had been forced to convert in the Middle Ages.
We had escaped from Brussels to France together with thousands of our brethren who had been expelled from France and Belgium that were already under the rule of the cursed Nazis. After many upheavals and troubles caused by Allied bombings, we reached Bordeaux. We found thousands more of our brethren in the streets, camping on the square next to the synagogue. In the evening a big car driven by a chauffeur arrived and stopped next to us. The diplomat stepped out and talked to me. He invited me to come with my wife and five children – the eldest was ten and the youngest two years old – to come to his home. When we got to his home he told me that he was the consul-general of Portugal in France and that he had 13 children. He offered us to use all the comforts of his home, but I realized that I couldn’t do that because I couldn’t part from all the people who were out in the streets, and also because the house was filled with [Christian] statutes, which terrified our children who refused to eat. I thanked him for his kindness. In the morning we joined the people outside and then I returned to his place and explained that there was only one way to help us – giving us visas to Portugal.
As we were talking, the vice-consul heard what we had said in the French language, and warned him not to fall in the trap of granting visas. He said it in Portuguese, but to no avail. Mr. Mendes told me that he would give visas to my family and myself, but that he would have to seek his ministry’s permission for the other refugees. I tried to influence him not to listen to his deputy, and then he said that I could announce to the refugees that anyone who wished to have a visa could receive one. I immediately announced it to the refugees. All the refugees got visas and he sat all day long and signed them. I helped him in putting the stamps in the passports and then he would sign. He didn’t eat nor drink the entire day until late in the night, and within a short time gave thousands of visas until the perpetrators came closer and we had to escape through Spain. When we reached the Spanish border the Portuguese Foreign Ministry had already decreed that the visas the consul had issued were worthless. It was on the eve of Shabbath [Friday evening]. We asked the border guards to let us cross the border in transit through Spain. While we were standing there, begging the border guards, the consul appeared and told us to wait while he would talk to them. An hour or two later it was he who opened the gate for us….
I went to Lisbon with my family, and there Mendes visited us. He told us that he had been fired because of his help, but that he was content, and if thousands of Jews were suffering because of one Catholic, one Catholic could suffer for all the Jews. He said that he accepted it with love….”