North County Resident and WWII Survivor Lee Sterling To Speak After Inspirational Film of Holocaust Rescue

Lee Sterling, a Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Director, and Encinitas Resident who received a visa from Sousa Mendes, will talk about how Sousa Mendes saved his family after they escaped from Belgium when the Nazi forces invaded on May 10, 1940.

Sousa Mendes and his 15 children. Courtesy Sousa Mendes Foundation
Sousa Mendes and his 15 children. Courtesy Sousa Mendes Foundation

The SDJFF movie, Disobedience: the Sousa Mendes Storytells the true story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul General stationed in Bordeaux, France, during World War II. His government had issued strict orders to all its diplomats to deny visas to refugees seeking to escape Occupied Europe through Portugal. Sousa Mendes defied these orders and issued Portuguese visas to an estimated 30,000 people in May and June of 1940 in an operation described by the Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer as “perhaps the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.”

A Great Humanitarian Punished by His Government - While Those He Saved Flourished.

The rescued families ended up in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Australia and elsewhere across the globe and began new lives, while Sousa Mendes himself was put on trial by the Portuguese government for “disobedience” and was harshly punished. Some visa recipients were, or became, famous, such as the painter Salvador Dali and the authors of the Curious George series, Hans and Margret Rey. But most were ordinary families escaping the horrors of Nazi persecution.

After the showing, Lee Sterling, a Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Director, and Encinitas Resident who received a visa from Sousa Mendes, will talk about how Sousa Mendes saved his family after they escaped from Belgium when the Nazi forces invaded on May 10, 1940. Sterling, a Director of the Sousa Mendes Foundation, said that the Foundation is dedicated to “spreading the concepts of humanity and courage, exemplified by Sousa Mendes.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. [There will be a reception, starting at 6:15 p.m.,  prior to the showing of the movie for all ticket holders.]

Carlsbad Village Theatre, 2822 State Street, Carlsbad

Sunday, Feb 16, 2014, at 1:00 PM at Clairemont Reading Cinemas, 4665 Clairemont Drive, San Diego, and Sterling will speak there as well.

Order tickets by phone at (858) 362-1348 for $10.50 plus a service charge of $1.50, using the code: CCOC14, or purchased at the door for $13.00.

For more information contact:

Lee Sterling

Director-Sousa Mendes Foundation



jddu73 January 12, 2014 at 12:44 PM
I call Sousa Mendes "Our own Oskar Schindler" because he saved my family among the 30,000 he saved. The movie about that experience is moving and inspiring.
Jorge Manuel Pratas January 22, 2014 at 10:29 AM
According to the testimony of a Sousa Mendes’ son Salazar lost political trust in Sousa Mendes and stripped the diplomat of his title, subsequently ordering that no one in Portugal show him any charity. However Sousa Mendes never lost his title as he kept on being listed in the Portuguese Diplomatic Yearbook until 1954 and kept on receiving his full Consul salary, 1,593 Portuguese Escudos, until the day he died.This was a customary procedure in the Portuguese foreign office, known as “disponibilidade” (meaning “on-call”), diplomats and consuls never retired so they could keep on receiving their full salary. Rui Afonso, a Sousa Mendes biographer, also cites the monthly 1,593 Portuguese Escudos and remarks: "although it was not a salary of a prince, one should not forget that at that time, in Portugal, the salary of a school teacher was only 500 Escudos. Sousa Mendes was therefore receiving a salary that was three times the salary of a school teacher. The archives of the Portuguese Treasury Department are, today, available online and it is possible to verify that at the time of his death Sousa Mendes was still receiving from the government a monthly payment of 2,304 Portuguese Escudos. And he was never fired or retired. A lifetime allowance (3 times the salary of a school teacher) can hardly be considered a punishment. You can check it. http://badigital.sgmf.pt/Arquivo-DGCP--07---005---003/1/ Sousa Mendes was called to Lisbon because on June 20 the British Embassy in Lisbon accused the Consul in Bordeaux of improperly charging money for issuing visas. The letter said that "The Portuguese Consul at Bordeaux has been deferring until after office hours all applications for visas and has then been charging them at a special rate; in at least one case the applicant has also been requested to contribute to a Portuguese charitable fund before the visa was granted. And also because along his career he had a accumulated an impressive track record of indiscipline. Disciplinary proceedings were brought against him for leaving his post without authorization both in 1917 (Zanzibar) and in 1938 (Antwerp). And in 1923, while posted in San Francisco, Sousa Mendes clashed with the local Portuguese community, because he was enforcing a contribution to a charity institution to which the American Portuguese refused. Sousa Mendes made public statements to a local newspapers, his statements were considered, anti-democratic and anti-American, and the US Department of State canceled his consular exequatur, expelling Sousa Mendes from his consular services in the US. Last but not least: Yad Vashem historian Dr. Avraham Milgram believes that "the number of visas granted by the consul was lower than the numbers mentioned in the literature" and that "the discrepancy between the reality and the myth of the number of visas granted by Sousa Mendes is great". What is not disputed is that Portugal’s neutrality saved hundreds of thousands.
glenn bernard January 25, 2014 at 09:00 PM
There is something incredibly ironic about that first submission, above, "jddu73." Why retain your anonymity? What or who are you scared of?
Jorge Manuel Pratas February 03, 2014 at 02:35 PM
What I find truly ironically is that hundreds of thousands of people benefited from the Portuguese Neutrality and hospitality but everyone talks about a false story of an alleged martyr that also benefited from Portugal’s extreme generosity (Sousa Mendes received his full salary until the day he died!). And everybody seems to forget that we are talking about the war early days, nobody could predict the horrors that the Nazis would commit. If Sousa Mendes new about it then he probably would have not left in Bordeaux his mistress (Andrée Cibial) and the child he had with her.


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