From 1933 onwards, Portugal was under the authoritarian regime of António de Oliveira Salazar: the Estado Novo. In September 1939, the country proclaimed its neutrality. In the first months of the war, Portugal had a liberal visa policy which became more restrictive from the end of 1940 to the spring of 1941. In August 1943, Portugal and Great Britain signed an agreement which allowed the British army to use Portuguese bases in the Azores. During the war, the country continued to export goods to both sides.

On the eve of the war, Portugal had a total population of 7,722,152 people; approximately 380 of them were Jews and there were 650 Jewish refugees (mostly from Central Europe) with a quasi-resident status. About 80,000 to 100,000 Jews and other refugees were able to flee Nazi-controlled Europe via Lisbon, which was the only neutral transatlantic harbour left in Western Europe after the occupation of France in June 1940. Staying in Portugal, however, was not an option, since the country’s government allowed Jews to enter on the condition that they would only use Portugal as a transit point. Various rescue projects were coordinated from the country, such as the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a US-based Quaker aid society – and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee which reopened its European office in Lisbon in 1940. Several Portuguese Jewish expatriate citizens were incarcerated in the so-called “neutrals’ camps” (Neutralenlager) in Germany.

Archival Situation

The National Archive of the Tower of the Tomb (Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo), the Portuguese national archive, is located in Lisbon and was established in 1378.

EHRI Research (Summary)

EHRI has established that the National Archive of the Tower of the Tomb is likely to hold sources relevant to Holocaust research on Portugal. Furthermore, the Diplomatic Historical Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which conserve the Ministry’s records as well as private diplomatic archives are certain to possess collections of similar importance. Other relevant archival institutions are the Historical Archives of the Red Cross in Portugal, the archives of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, and the Jewish Community of the City of Porto. Outside of Portugal, EHRI has detected a considerable number of Holocaust-relevant collections related to Portugal at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, NIOD and the German Bundesarchiv in Berlin-Lichterfelde.