Rehabilitate the late Jewish war hero Capt. Arthur Barros Basto

  • by: Shavei Israel
  • recipient: Dra. Assuncao Esteves, President of the Portuguese Parliament
The late Captain Arthur Barros Basto was a Jewish war hero who was wrongly and unjustly drummed out of the Portuguese military nearly seven decades ago.

Captian Bastro was also one of the Bnei Anousim, a descendant of Jews whose ancestors had been forced to convert to Catholicism during the time of the Spanish Inquisition and who are now emerging from centuries of hiding to rejoin the Jewish people.

Captain Bastro was a decorated soldier who commanded a Portuguese infantry company in World War I, fought in the trenches of Flanders, and took part in the allied offensive to liberate Belgium. 

In 1937, the Portuguese military summarily expelled him from its ranks, unjustly humiliating him all because he launched a public campaign to reawaken Portugal's Bnei Anousim to return to their Jewish roots.

This year marks five decades since Capt. Barros Basto passed away in 1961, a broken man.

We believe it is time to right this historical injustice and remove the stain on this noble man's name, which is also a stain on Portugal itself.

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We the undersigned are writing to request that you take official action to rehabilitate the late Captain Arthur Barros Basto, a Jewish war hero who was wrongly and unjustly drummed out of the Portuguese military nearly seven decades ago.

Captain Barros Basto was one of the Bnei Anousim, a descendant of Jews whose ancestors had been forced to convert to Catholicism during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. He was a decorated soldier who commanded a Portuguese infantry company in World War I, fought in the trenches of Flanders, and took part in the allied offensive to liberate Belgium.

After the war, he embraced the faith of his forefathers and underwent a formal return to Judaism before a rabbinical court.

Based in the northern Portuguese city of Oporto, Barros Basto launched a public campaign to convince other Bnei Anousim to emerge from centuries of hiding and rejoin their people.

He succeeded in building the beautiful Mekor Haim synagogue, which still stands in Oporto, and opened a yeshiva that operated for nine years, teaching young Bnei Anousim about their heritage.

But his open profession of Judaism, and the thousands of people whom historians say he inspired, did not sit well with the government or the Church authorities of the time. They sought to quell his nascent movement by bringing him up on charges connected to the practice of the Jewish religion.

In 1937, the Portuguese military summarily expelled him from its ranks, unjustly humiliating him and bringing about an end to his efforts to reawaken Portugal's Bnei Anousim.

This year marks five decades since Capt. Barros Basto passed away in 1961, a broken man.

We believe it is time to right this historical injustice and remove the stain on this noble man's name, which is also a stain on Portugal itself.

We therefore urge you to take action and we call upon the Portuguese authorities to formally apologize to Capt. Barros Basto’s descendants as well as posthumously restore his rank and honor, which were so cruelly taken away from him.

Justice demands no less.

Sincerely,

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