The Case of Hungary: Carlos Sampaio Garrido and Alberto Teixeira Branquinho
When the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944 it was already clear that Germany would lose the war and no longer possible to ignore the fate of the Jews. So, when movements began to eliminate the Hungarian Jews, several countries acted to try and stop it. Led by the recently created War Refugee Board the Americans repeatedly warned the Hungarian government not to collaborate in persecutory policies against Jews or others, and took steps with neutral countries to protect the Hungarian Jews.
Between March and December the Hungarian government, deeply divided and headed alternately by two pro-German Prime Ministers and a reluctant one, with the Russians on their borders and under great pressure from the Nazis, wavered in the zeal with which it handled “its Jewish question”. Taking advantage of such wavering the diplomatic representatives of neutral countries were able to join efforts to help the Jews of Budapest and – with the aid of the Allied bombings – did much to protect them from the first wave of deportations in July. From the end of August, it being impossible to prevent the German determination to eliminate the Jews from Budapest, this effort was expressed by the issue of thousands of Swiss, Swedish, Portuguese, Spanish and Vatican documents of protection, in collaboration with the Jewish Committee “Vaa’da”, under Otto Komoly.
The Portuguese government appears to have had no difficulty in authorizing its Legation in Budapest to act together with the representatives of neutral countries in protecting Hungarian Jews, granting then diplomatic asylum, as well as provisional and/or collective passports. This was done on the understanding that granting nationality was out of the question, beneficiaries undertaking not to invoke their Portuguese passport to request Portuguese citizenship and accepting that the validity of the documents expired at the end of 1944. By this time it was a question of being on the winning side. The neutral Catholic countries – Spain, the Holy See and Portugal– toyed with the idea of an alliance under which they would convince the Allies to sign a separate peace with Germany to avoid the destruction of Germany and stop communism. Immediately after the German occupation, in response to the Allies’ representation that the Sztojay government was a puppet government, Portugal downgraded its diplomatic mission to Budapest, recalling its Minister to Lisbon, and replacing him by a Charge d’Affaires “so as not to give the idea that it was breaking diplomatic ties but to mark the decreased independence of the Hungarian State”.
Minister Sampaio Garrido had been in Hungary since 1939 and no doubt had seen a lot, for the persecution of Jews was not introduced to the government of Regent Horthy by the Germans. In the midst of the climate of terror caused by the Gestapo’s arrival in Budapest, Sampaio Garrido had taken the initiative of sheltering a group of people who were probably friends of his in the Portuguese Legation. At the beginning of May, however, he had to inform Lisbon that the Legation had been attacked by the Gestapo and his guests taken to the Budapest Police from where he had had great difficulty in removing them. Although surprised, the government in Lisbon was not angered. Gently calling the attention of its Minister to the fact that he “should” have warned the MNE, it undertook to honor the protection granted by Garrido to his protégés.
Alberto Teixeira Branquinho took over his post as Charge d’Affaires in Budapest on 5 June and with it the responsibility of protecting “its” refugees. In August, when the situation again worsened, the new Charge d’Affaires, invoking the actions of the Swedish Minister in Budapest (Danilsson, a personal friend of Teixeira de Sampaio, Secretary General of the MNE), obtained permission from Lisbon to widen the nature and quantity of Portuguese protection, mainly by issuing Schutzpässe. These protection papers did in fact protect many Jews until Regent Horthy’s deposition by the national socialist Szalasi, Prime Minister and self-proclaimed vice-regent. At the end of October, Szalasi decided that he would only respect protection papers issued by countries that recognized his government as legitimate. At that point, the Portuguese government recalled its Charge d’Affaires.
After 29 October the Portuguese representation in Budapest was in the hands of the vice-consul, Jules Gulden, who continued to keep an eye on the Portuguese protégés. In his book American Jewry and the Holocaust, The American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1939-1945, Yehuda Bauer says “Jules Gulden not only offered hundred of visas to Portugal but also issued 1 200 protection papers”. In a letter he wrote to the MNE on 18 December about the situation he had left behind in Budapest, Jules Gulden, now a refugee in Geneva, did not mention the subject.
After the departure of its representatives, Lisbon continued representations in Berlin to protect the refugees left behind in the Portuguese Legation and to protect the bearers of Portuguese protection papers. There could be no disrespect for the prerogatives of sovereignty. Officially, Portuguese diplomatic action in Hungary helped save about 1 000 people.
in "Politics and Morals " [click on the title to read full text]
Confidential telegram nº 69 from the Portuguese Legation Budapest to the MNE informing of the worsening situation of the Jewish persecution, in particular in the countryside and of the inhuman way Jews are deported to Germany.
Spared Lives, the actions of three Portuguese diplomats in World War II
© 2013 Governo da República Portuguesa