Portugal will now welcome its first-ever Holocaust Museum in the northern city of Porto. Built by members of a Jewish community that was founded by descendants of victims of the Inquisition, the museum is a joint collaboration with the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow and other institutions.

The Museum is set to open on Jan. 20, according to a statement by the Jewish Community of Oporto, an organization representing local Jews. The organization also expects to receive 10,000 visitors a year when emergency restrictions connected to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, students from across Portugal will visit the museum, the statement said.

Dignitaries and diplomats from several countries will attend the opening of the latest addition to the community’s institutions, the Holocaust Museum of Porto, the community said.

Source: Sun Sentinel

The museum features a reproduction of Auschwitz prisoner barracks, a memorial room with walls carrying the names of Holocaust victims, and a study center. The Inquisition, a campaign of religious persecution on the Iberian Peninsula that began in Spain in 1492, was applied also in Portugal in 1536. It ended Jewish life in Porto and across the region as hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews fled both countries. Those who remained practiced Judaism in secret. Their descendants are known as bnei anusim.

Organized Jewish life in Porto reappeared in the 1920s thanks to Artur Carlos de Barros Basto, a descendant of the bnei anusim and armycaptain who helped promote Jewish life in and around Porto. Consequently, he was thrown out of the army and labeled a pedophile on false charges in an anti-Semitic conspiracy. With his downfall, Jewish life in Porto suffered a setback.

In the 1940s, many thousands of Jewish refugees from further east in Europe passed through Portugal, which was neutral during World War II, and escaped from there to the United States and pre-state Israel. Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a former Portuguese consul-general serving in France, issued thousands of life-saving visas to Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe.

In the early 2000s, multiple bnei anusim from Porto completed Orthodox conversions to Judaism, including the former leader of the community, Jose Ferrao Filipe.

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Rhea Sovani

Author Rhea Sovani

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