“May God bless Vilar Formoso for the humanity it had toward those foreigners 73 years-ago. May I have the privilege of being able to offer that goodness to everyone during my life.” Henry Galler
In 2012 the Municipality of Almeida began to create the Museum “Vilar Formoso – the Peace Frontier”, devoted to the refugees that crossed Portugal during World War II. The museum will be housed in the railway station of Vilar Formoso, occupying 2 pavilions. 6 exhibitions will be placed in the pavilions: “People like us”, “The beginning of the nightmare”, “The trip”, “Vilar Formoso – the Peace Frontier”, “Around Portugal” and “The departure”.
Vilar Formoso was the entry to Portugal, famous for its hospitality. There are several testimonies of refugees stating that it was a friendly place, where refugees were welcomed with huge pots of soup, bread and shelter.
Portugal was a neutral country on World War II and therefore it played a crucial role as an escape spot for the refugees fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust. Most of the refugees were anonymous persons, but among them there were also prestigious writers, movie makers, artists, actors, intellectuals, politicians, Royal families, secret agents, among others.
Some of the refugees who came to Portugal on that period reported this experience in their memoires, such as Arthur Koestler, Alfred Döblin, Heinrich Mann, Antoine de Saint – Exupéry, Erika Mann, George Rony and Peggy Guggenheim.
The Museum will open its doors in 2016 in Almeida.
Photo: Vilar Formoso – Fronteira da Paz
Author: Margarida de Magalhães Ramalho