Portugal mourned the German dictator


Ad Honorem
Oct 2015
Matosinhos Portugal
On May 2, 1945, two days after Adolf Hitler's suicide at his bunker in Berlin, Portugal, despite being a neutral country, was in mourning for the Nazi dictator. What did António Oliveira Salazar know of the Holocaust when he declared national mourning? Two scholars of Salazarism say that Salazar, the president of the Portuguese Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was aware of the existence of Nazi death camps, such as Auschwitz, and also knew of the efforts of Portuguese diplomats such as Aristides Sousa Mendes and Sampaio Garrido , to save Jews by giving them passports and diplomatic protection.
Three years before the end of the war, Salazar already knew stories of the horror of the Nazi camps, but perhaps he agreed with the censorship, according to which the descriptions of the Portuguese Catholic newspaper A Voice were "fanciful or at least exaggerated." The text in question should have been published on the first day of 1942, but the censors cut "a few sentences from the article by attributing" to the Germans the practice of the greatest cruelties against children "and that because they are" so horrible " could only be fanciful, according to historian Irene Pimentel. The article was titled Worst Entries and was sent to Salazar for censorship.
In the possession of the Portuguese government was also, at least since November 1944, the face-to-face report of two Jews fled two years after Auschwitz, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler. The historian António Louçã considers that the fact that Portuguese diplomacy received this report proves that Estado Novo was aware of Nazi war crimes, long before the national mourning for Hitler's death.
Hitler committed suicide with a gunshot wound on April 30, 1945. By that time Russian troops had entered Berlin and were one block from the refuge where the German dictator spent the last few days, a bunker located under the chancellery. Two days later it was declared national mourning in Portugal: on May 2, 1945, it was ordered "the laying of the flags at half-stature for the death of Hitler, a foreign head of state," writes the historian Fernando Rosas.
Irene Pimentel recalls the "legalism" of the Estado Novo and rules out the possibility that national mourning may have been declared by ideological affinities with the Nazi regime. Salazar was not a "pro-Nazi", he was more of a "conservative Catholic" and his regime did not have "the racist and anti-Semitic component," says Pimentel. But "he never wanted the defeat [of Germany], he wanted to sign a peace in which there were no winners or losers, which was absurd at the time."
The mourning sparked "a wave of international protests and a major domestic scandal," Rosas writes. After eight days of national mourning, "Salazar ordered that no further public reference be made to the subject that had been" maliciously exploited, "according to Pimentel. At the same time that he decreed his mourning, Salazar froze the German assets and let the intercalated commission close the German schools of Lisbon and Porto, points out Irene Pimentel. João Pacheco