RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – The Brazilian government denied some 16,000 visas to European Jews attempting to escape the Nazi regime, according to new research looking at thousands of Brazilian documents from the World War II era.
The research was undertaken by Brazil’s Virtual Archives on Holocaust and Antisemitism Institute, or Arqshoah. It was made public for the first time last week in a documentary aired on Brazilian television.
The figures were based on monthly reports sent by Brazilian diplomats in service in Germany and Nazi-occupied countries. They obeyed 26 secret memos that forbade by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to grant visas to during the terms of presidents Getulio Vargas and Eurico Gaspar Dutra between 1937 and 1950.
“I believe the number could be much higher, since I researched only part of the documentation. Even after the news about the Holocaust was released, the Brazilian government continued to deny visas to survivors who, in many cases, obtained visas as Catholics,” historian and Holocaust expert Maria Luiza Tucci Carneiro told JTA.
“Both the Vargas and Dutra governments were intolerant, with political actions marked by xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and nationalist sentiments that had serious consequences for Jews seeking a host country,” he said.
The result of the extensive research became a one-hour-long documentary produced in both Brazil and Germany, named “Reporting Paths – Survivors of History,” aired by Brazilian television on June 22. In Europe, academics on Nazi education in German schools were consulted. In Brazil, several video testimonials were recorded.
“Based on oral testimony, we found that many refugees or exiles in Brazil lost family members during the Holocaust because they did not receive visas from the Brazilian government between 1937-1945. Not even a request of the great scientist Albert Einstein was attended by the chancellor Oswaldo Aranha,” she said, in a reference to the Brazilian diplomat that presided over the United Nations General Assembly session that partitioned the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab, in 1947.
The research led by Tucci Carneiro was backed by Sao Paulo University, one of Latin America’s most prestigious. She will present a book based on 6,000 diplomatic documents from the Nazi era at the Shoah Memorial in Paris on July 2.
“Even those who survived the Nazi genocide faced difficulties in having their visas released or regularizing their citizenship after they entered as stateless. Symptoms of trauma and pain continue to mark the voices of these survivors whose trajectories are examples of courage and struggle for dignity in gloomy times,” she said.
In January, Brazil’s President Michel Temer attended a service to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, held at the at the country’s largest synagogue, the 2,000-family Congregacao Israelita Paulista, affiliated with both the Conservative and Reform movements.
“Remembering the Holocaust in all its pain and anguish is preparing the future. It stands to all of us as a lesson. One day may pass, one month may pass, years may pass, centuries may pass, we must remember the Holocaust for it’s a lesson for the future and for the present time,” Temer said.