Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sealed train in Bilbao July 11, 1940

Walter is right. There definitely were sealed trains. Here is a newspaper report involving a sealed refugee train in Bilbao just 12 days before our travelers went through. Could ours have taken a circuitous route through Bilbao, possibly accounting for the four days of transit?

UNIFORMED NAZIS SEEN IN SPANISH TOWN
LISBON, July 11-Refugees who went aboard the U.S. liner Manhattan, after arriving in a sealed train from Bilbao, declared that they saw uniformed Germans at Bilbao, where many posters referring to Gibraltar were displayed in hotels. The populace, they said, was uneasy about the possibility of future European developments involving Spain. A propaganda campaign has been launched de manding part of French Morocco.

Also, get this! The exiled "Black Front" Nazi Otto Strasser not only escaped from Perpignon to Lisbon on a sealed train, he also did it based on a Curacao tourist visa obtained from the Netherlands consulate in Toulouse. That tidbit comes from a recent book, The Lisbon Route: Entry and Escape in Nazi Europe, by Ronald Weber, 2011. I've downloaded a Kindle copy and expect to find much good material to come.

Also, just a shout out here to Aristedes de Sousa Mendes, the so-called Portuguese Schindler, whose amazing story I have just read in detail. He was the courageous Portuguese consul in the French Atlantic port city of Bordeaux who in the six weeks immediately preceding Elly getting her passport in Toulouse was defying his own government by giving out visas on humanitarian grounds.

I think Walter may have alluded to our women having been in Bordeaux. If so, they must have missed out on getting help from Mendes, and went on to Toulouse from there. On the surface, Portugal's consul in Toulouse goes more by the book. But maybe the Curacao connection with the Netherlands embassy was kind of a wink, wink, nod, nod.

One question. The Netherlands and neighboring low countries have been overrun by the German blitzkrieg two months earlier. How is it that its consulate in a southern French city is still issuing visas to refugees fleeing the Nazis?

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