OPENING OF THE MEMORIAL TO REFUGEES AND TO PORTUGUESE CONSUL ARISTIDES DE SOUSA MENDES
The Memorial to Refugees and to the Portuguese Consul Aristides de Sousa Mendes, in Vilar Formoso, was inaugurated on 26 August. It is a museum space that occupies two former railway warehouses.
The ceremony was presided over by the Portuguese President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and was attended by numerous individuals, including the Mayor of Almeida, António Baptista Ribeiro, the director of IP Património, José Carlos Osório, and several Jewish families that are descendants of refugees given asylum in Portugal after fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II.
"It is a museum to constantly remind us not to forget, not to resign ourselves, not to give up our struggle for the fundamental human values. This was the case of Aristides de Sousa Mendes. It has to be so with many, many more today and in the future. That’s the lesson of this museum,” said the Portuguese President who also recalled the attacks against lives and human rights, warning that "there is a risk that we consider this to be routine, to consider it normal to disrespect the dignity of people, to trivialize this horror".
"There is the risk that we become insensitive, in other words we become inhumane. And we cannot lose our humanity. Our struggle must be for the rights of people of flesh and blood, ... for peace and harmony and for the acceptance of others. (...) we cannot forget, we will not forget,” concluded Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in his speech to, among others, former refugees and their relatives and the relatives of Aristides de Sousa Mendes.
In turn, the Mayor of Almeida, António Baptista Ribeiro, hopes that the new cultural facility "can serve as an example to those who visit it" and that “it is a catalyst of sustainable development" for Vilar Formoso.