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 the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to grant visas to Jews 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,” historian and Holocaust expert Maria Luiza Tucci Carneiro told JTA. “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.
“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.”
The result of the extensive research became an hourlong documentary produced in both Brazil and Germany. “Reporting Paths: Survivors of History” aired June 22 on Brazilian television.
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 and1945. Not even a request of the great scientist Albert Einstein was attended by the chancellor Oswaldo Aranha,” Carneiro 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 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 Holocaust 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,” she said. “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.”
In January, Brazilian President Michel Temer attended a service to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the country’s largest synagogue, the 2,000-family Congregacao Israelita Paulista, affiliated with both the Conservative and Reform movements.