“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
The City Hall created the Museum "Vilar Formoso Frontier of Peace, Memorial of the Refugees and the Consul Aristides de Sousa Mendes", devoted to the refugees that crossed Portugal during World War II. The museum is housed next to the railway station of Vilar Formoso, occupying 2 former warehouses and containing the following 6 exhibitions: “People like us”, “The beginning of the nightmare”, “The journey”, “Vilar Formoso – Frontier of Peace”, “In Portuguese lands” 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 a gateway spot for the refugees fleeing the horrors of Nazism. 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 memoirs, such as Arthur Koestler, Alfred Döblin, Heinrich Mann, Antoine de Saint – Exupéry, Erika Mann, George Rony and Peggy Guggenheim.
The Museum opened its doors on August 26th 2017 by the President of the Portuguese Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
Architecture and museography:
Luísa Pacheco Marques with Milena Raposo and João Gomes
Commissioner and Research:
Margarida de Magalhães Ramalho