Rede de Judiarias de Portugal

Almeida

Almeida

The border town of Almeida is historically the one that revealed itself of most importance in the whole Iberian Peninsula in the reception of international refugees; this happened in the 15th century and more recently in the 20th century during World War II. In these two periods, Vilar Formoso allowed saving the lives of about 200.000 people.

Almeida encompasses nowadays other medieval municipalities such as Castelo Mendo or Castelo Bom. In 1492 it was the principal of the five official places of passage of the Jews expelled from Spain (estimated in 35.000). Many of them formed a camp near the Vilar Formoso area, with some ending up living in Almeida’s neighbouring villages.

The Jewish quarter of Almeida is perfectly documented in the archives of Torre do Tombo; in 1498 the Count of Almeida began receiving an annuity by virtue of having lost the income of the Jewish quarter due to the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom.

In Castelo Mendo would have also been a Jewry; it would be found inside the village’s wall, with houses addorsed to it, beside the Porta da Guarda (Guarda’s Door). Near this location stands the building know as old Hospital da Misericórdia (Mercy Hospital). Inside stands out the Hejal of Castelo Mendo, a cabinet designed to keep the Torah in the Synagogues.

In this region there have been discovered several Hejal’s, allowing to support claims of secret Judaism practices. Probably dating from the second half of the 16th century, this building is contemporary with the attacks of the Inquisition.

Lately have begun to appear traces of Jewish presence in Vilar Formoso and in the Malhada Sorda, historical pottery place and where the Casa do Relógio (Clock House) was until recently know as “Esnoga”.

 

Memorial to the Refugees and Consul Aristides Sousa Mendes

 

In the second half of 2017, the Museum of Vilar Formoso – Frontier of Peace, Memorial to the Refugees and to Consul Aristides Sousa Mendes will be open to the public. The initiative by Almeida’s Town Hall aims at remembering an important period of world history, the centre stage of which was the Portuguese border of Vilar Formoso.

The place chosen was, how could it be not, the railway station of that place, where in June 1940 thousands of people on the run – most of which holding visas issued in Bordeaux by Aristides de Sousa Mendes – first contacted Portuguese lands. To that extent, local authorities, after having negotiated with IP Património, were granted two old railway warehouses.

Architect Luisa Pacheco Marques will be in charge of adapting these buildings to their new function, as well as of coordinating the entire musealisation project. Researcher Margarida de Magalhães Ramalho will be responsible for the museum collection.

Conceptually, the museum aims at, through 7 nuclei, remembering, sometimes in a sensorial manner, what drove thousands of people to run away from Nazism, the feat of Sousa Mendes and the way Portugal welcomed them.

Apart from hundreds of photos, some never seen before, the museum will also screen period films and present objects and testimonies of refugees who passed through here.

Completing the museum path, we will find a grove planted in honour of Aristides de Sousa Mendes and a memorial with the names of those saved by the feat of the consul of Bordeaux engraved in stone. 

 

 Address

Geral: 271 570 020

 Dra. Paula Sousa: 925 487 597

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