By Jim Silver
"We wondered if it was worth it to make a museum there or elsewhere,” Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a grandson of the diplomat, said in an interview in Lisbon. “We know the house has a special symbolism.”
Salazar ordered that Jews, as well as stateless refugees and those barred from returning to their home countries, be refused visas unless they already had made arrangements to leave Portugal for another country. Given the suddenness of the French collapse, few had done so.
Estimates of the number of refugees he saved go to as many as 30,000. The documents Sousa Mendes issued may have applied to that many, though the refugees who reached safety before the blocking of French-Spanish border crossings probably numbered closer to 10,000, Afonso said. (Schindler saved almost 1,200).
The house is well situated to take advantage of a growing interest in Jewish tourism in north Portugal, where vestiges of Judaism survived throughout the centuries of the Inquisition.