Aristides de Sousa Mendes (1885-1954) was a Portuguese diplomat and rescuer who saved the lives of nearly 30,000 refugees (12,000 of whom were Jews). Born to an aristocratic family, Mendes was trained as a lawyer but began a diplomatic career which took him throughout the world. By the outbreak of WWII, he and his family were stationed in France, where Mendes was assigned to the Portuguese Consulate in Bordeaux. 

As Hitler's forces advanced, refuges attempting to flee to Spain were denied entrance due to Generalissimo Franco's loyalties to Hitler. Meanwhile, the Portuguese authorities (mostly concerned with remaining out of the fray) had also issued an order that no visas be issued to refugees. 

Partly due to his friendship with Rabbi Chaim Kruger, Mendes began secretly issuing Portuguese transit visas to various displaced persons, describing his effort as an act of "elementary humanity". But within a few months, the Portuguese became even more strict, requiring approval of all visas to come directly from Lisbon. This complicated Mendes' work significantly as he would be now blatantly disobeying orders. By mid-June of 1940, he was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of refugees requiring assistance and equally concerned with the risk he was undertaking. After contemplating the matter in solitude for three days, he emerged even more committed to the endeavor than before. 

Along with his wife, two sons, and Rabbi Kruger, Mendes setup two offices that processed numerous visas to refugees. He continued to do so until Portuguese authorities learned of his actions and summoned him to Lisbon for disciplinary action. This too, he delayed as long as possible, until finally he left for Lisbon in July of 1940. 

Yet, when he returned to his native land, he was dishonored. His diplomatic career ended abruptly and he was prevented from practicing law. These measures left Mendes penniless. He spent his final days in destitution, living meagerly through the generosity of Jewish aide organizations. Decades after his death, Mendes received numerous accolades from Yad Vashem and the government of Portugal. Mendes' family home (originally sold in poverty) was recently renovated and now houses a museum in his honor.

Reflecting in his later years on the sacrifices he made during the war Mendes once said, "If thousands of Jews can suffer because of one Christian demon [Hitler], then surely one Christian can suffer with so many Jews."