Paris 21-June-2010

Voyage en hommage à Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Day 1

I check out of the Hotel Bastille Charonne, and surprise the desk clerk by suddenly appearing in suit and tie, after she has seen me in t-shirt and shorts all weekend. A Mercedes-Benz taxi whisks me off to the Hotel Concorde-Montparnasse, a luxury hotel by the railway station, Gare de Montparnasse.

At Montparnasse I check the prices for a train trip to Zurich, as I am considering visiting my cousin Janos there next week. After a coffee on Rue d'Odessa, I walk to the Fnac store on Rue des Rennes to buy a ticket for a rock concert the following week. Then I return to the hotel to check in and prepare for my interview with Kevin Gironnay.

Kevin and I sit at a table in the courtyard, and with the sound of a fountain burbling in the background, we record our first interview. I give a little bit of background... after my father passed away in 1996, I created some web pages in his memory, featuring his poems and other writings, which is called Artur's Studio. There are some autobiographical works there, notably "A Fragmentary Chronology" and "Celebrated True Life Stories I Don't Want To Tell Anymore."

Quite a few people over the years have found me on the internet because of these pages: old friends of Arthur's including author Walter Abish, other researchers, and my cousin Janos Makowsky.

Janos has been for some years conducting genealogical research on the Deutsch family (my great-grandmother was Hermine Deutsch, married to Moritz Oesterreicher). Janos grew up in Zurich but now lives in Haifa where he is a professor at the Technion. We have met several times, and I contributed photos and data to his Deutsch family website.

I explained to Kevin that if you perform an internet search on my grandparent's names, you will find the Hermine Deutsch page, which includes my contact information. This is how I was "found" by Hellen Kaufmann of le Comité national français en hommage à Aristides de Sousa Mendes.

After our interview, I recognized Hellen Kaufmann in front of the hotel, and we return to the courtyard to await the rest of the delegates. As the guests arrive, I am introduced to several of the descendants of Aristides de Sousa Mendes:










Hermine Deutsch

  • Gérald Mendes, son of Luis Filippe (France)
    and his companion Patricia Stenger
  • Aristides Sousa Mendes, son of Clotilde (Portugal)
    and his wife Maria Teresa
  • Marc d’Août, son of Isabel Maria d’Août (Belgium)
    and his wife Gisèle
  • Paul Abranches, son of Jean-Paul (USA)
  • Louis Philippe Mendes, son of Luis Filipe (Canada)
  • Sebastian Michael Mendes, son of Sebastian (USA)
  • Ana Margarida Navarro Mascarenhas, granddaughter of Clotilde
    (Portugal), shown here with cousin Paul Abranches
  • Ruth Mendes, spouse of Luis Filipe (Canada)

The voyage and events were organized by members of le Comité national français en hommage à Aristides de Sousa Mendes.

  • Manuel Dias Vaz, président du Comité Sousa Mendes
  • Georges Bouhana, vice-président, président LICRA Aquitaine
  • Hellen Kaufmann, coordinatrice, Anonymes Justes Persécutés

There were two other delegates who represent the other dimension of the story: Lissy and Jerry Jarvik. There had been past events honoring "the Consul of Bordeaux" that were attended by Sousa Mendes family members, but this time his descendants have been joined by sauvées, people who received visas from Aristides de Sousa Mendes, or those descended from people that he saved.

Lissy was 16 years old when her parents fled from Amsterdam to Paris, and then to Biarritz in the south of France. While they were there, her father heard that the Portuguese consul was issuing visas in Bayonne, and he got there just in time to save himself and his family.

  • Lissy Jarvik with her son, Jerry Jarvik (USA)

Our delegation also included author Eric Lebreton, who has just published a book entitled "Des Visas Pour La Vie," a scholarly biography of Aristides de Sousa Mendes.

  • Eric Lebreton (France), shown here with Manuel Dias

Actor and director Armand Éloi portrayed Aristides de Sousa Mendes in the play "Aristides" authored by Béatrice Hammer, and was kind enough to join us for the voyage.

  • Armand Éloi (Belgium), shown here with Manuel Dias

Historian and professor of Yiddish literature Michael Fink came from Rhode Island with his wife, also named Michael Fink. I would become very fond of this pair over the course of the week.

  • Michael and Michael Fink (USA)

My friend Kevin Gironnay, in his role as a journalist for Radio France, was warmly welcomed and appreciated by everyone present, and as a result he became an honorary member of our delegation as well.

  • Kevin Gironnay (France), shown here with Ruth Mendes

Introductions were made, and speeches (en français) by Manuel Diaz Vaz and (in English) by Gérald Mendes. Programs were distributed along with copies of the book "Le pouvoir de dir <<non>>" created under direction of Manuel Diaz Vaz.

Program for 21 June


































































After some mingling in the courtyard, the group walked to Montparnasse station where we boarded a city bus to l'Hôtel de Ville de Paris (city hall). We received a guided tour of the Salons de Reception. The art and architecture were most impressive!

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Paris Gallery
Patricia's Gallery
Jerry's Gallery


In the Council Chamber, our guide gave us a lesson in history and the governance of Paris. I was fascinated to learn that the original building was burned down by the Paris Commune during the civil war in 1870, and was rebuilt to exact specifications in only 8 years. We also learned that the current mayor split the large residence in l'Hôtel de Ville into a smaller apartment and a day-care facility, and also turned half of the garden into a park for the children. DSC00151

We saw more of the lavish decor on the way to the meeting hall where the delegation was acknowledged with a speech by a conseigneur for the Mayor of Paris, followed by a passionate speech by Manuel Dias.

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Hellen Kaufmann and I went out for a smoke, and spent a long time talking outside l'Hôtel de Ville before joining the group for dinner at
la brasserie du Pont Louis-Philippe. We hit if off immediately, and I knew I had found a new friend I would treasure.


We were seated upstairs in a reserved room. Manuel, who has an amazing voice for speaking as well as singing, sang some traditional songs in Portuguese, including a song of the Portuguese revolution, with many family members singing along. An accordian player came and serenaded our tables as well, singing songs familiar to the French members of our contingent. Lively discussions over dinner and sharing of stories ensued.


21 June is the 'Night of Music' in Paris (Fête de la Musique) and the streets were completely filled with revelers and performers. A group of us, including the amazing Lissy Jarvik (86 or 87 years old), walked across the bridges to the Île St. Louis and the Île de la Cité to enjoy the evening celebration and pop into Notre Dame.

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A very festive night in Paris!