Chapter 4:

"Will we get Transit Visas?"

In the film Irving said:


     “Through some luck, I got us transit visas through Spain to Portugal.  Then my Dad managed to get us transit visas from Portugal to Mexico. We’ve trekked over 1,000 kilometers and we must keep moving.”

In the film, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Ambassador in France, says:

     "I will obey my conscience and grant these Jews visas. As a Christian I do not have the right to let so many women, children and men die. How can I choose not to help them because of an order that has been issued by the authorities?"

Discussion Starters:

  • Why do you think that Aristides de Sousa Mendes chose to help so many endangered people?

  • Do you think that others in positions of power felt like Sousa Mendes? Why or why not?

  • Sousa Mendes issued thousands of live-saving transit visas.  What is a transit visa? 

Dig a little deeper...

  • What was the legal penalty for helping Jews? Why did Sousa Mendes choose to break the law? 

  • What was the Circular 14?

  • Contrast the ideologies and responses of Sousa Mendes and Asst Secretary of State Breckinridge Long.

  • Imagine a debate between Aristides de Sousa Mendes and Breckinridge Long. Give 3 arguments for each side of the debate and evaluate the successes/failures of these positions. 

Dig even deeper...

  • What can be learned from the film about how we respond to the refugee crisis today?

  • What are other examples of refugees fleeing for fear of persecution?

What Can I do?



  1. Download a map of Europe.  Indicate the route from Brussels, Belgium to Lisbon, Portugal.