The mission of the new museum is to promote education about the Shoah, by initiatives such as teacher training programs, exhibitions, support for academic research, and school visits.
The new Holocaust Museum in Porto (Oporto), Portugal, the first on the Iberian peninsula, has opened.
The museum was inaugurated with a small ceremony attended by members of the local Jewish community, the Bishop of Porto and the President of the Muslim community, but its opening to visitors has been postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19 measures.
Created by the local Jewish community, some of whose members lost family in the Shoah, the Holocaust Museum of Porto depicts in detail the history, development, and aftermath of the Holocaust, including the story of the Jewish refugees who arrived in Porto between 1940 and 1941 hoping to flee to the Americas.
Portugal stayed neutral during WWII and gave refuge to thousands Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi Germany and its allies or occupied territories.
One section features the reproduction of barracks at the Auschwitz death camp and a reproduction of part of the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate.
“Visitors will be able to walk through some areas designed to create a sensorial effect of real presence in the space,” museum curator Hugo Vaz explained.
Exhibits also include artifacts and documents left by Jews who sought refuge in Porto. Among them are two sifrei torah presented to the city’s synagogue by Jewish refugee families.
The museum also has a cinema, a study center, a conference hall, and a memorial hall with the names of thousands who perished during the Holocaust written on its walls.
The stated mission of the new Holocaust museum is to promote education about the Shoah, by initiatives such as teacher training programs, exhibitions, support for academic research, and school visits. Educational activities will be coordinated in collaboration with the state-led “Nunca Esquecer” (Never Forget) project, approved by the Portuguese Council of Ministers in July 2020, which aims to promote initiatives that foster knowledge about the Holocaust, its Portuguese victims, and also Portuguese citizens who helped those persecuted by the Nazi regime.
Among them, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, who saved thousands of people fleeing from France after the Nazi invasion in 1940 and was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1966.
A virtual museum tells his story, and his home in Cabanas de Viriato, Portugal, is currently at the center of a renovation project that aims to open it as a memorial museum and cultural space.
Portugal’s Jewish community, with a cultural and religious legacy dating back to antiquity, numbers over 1,000, most of whom live in the capital, Lisbon. There are also smaller communities in Oporto, Belmonte and Algarve.