1. In the first half of the 20th century, the city of Porto was the scene of important events - documented in the Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia - by virtue of the heroic action of a soldier of the Portuguese army converted to Judaism, according to halacha: Captain Barros Basto. A highly-regarded soldier, with numerous merits and distinctions for gallantry, particularly during World War I, a stage where he risked his life at the battle front, surviving, despite his injuries, to a poison gas attack.
Having decided to settle in Porto, where, for centuries, there had been no Jewish community, and benefiting from the fact that about two dozen Jewish merchants, coming from Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Russia, lived in the city, Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto officially founded the Jewish Community of Porto, of which he became President in 1923 and, propelled by his religious faith - "Hashem li, velo ira" - launched an attempt to rescue the Portuguese crypto-Jews which caused a huge emotional impact within Jewish communities around the world.
Materially supported by the Portuguese Marranos Committee - an international organization based in London, which brought together the efforts of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, of the Anglo-Jewish Association and of the Alliance Israelite Universelle- Captain Barros Basto made of the Jewish Community of Porto the basis of all the 'Rescue Work' and the 'religious lighthouse' of Portuguese crypto-Jews. With an open synagogue, a Jewish school, an official newspaper, a section to assist the work of crypto-Jews and an objective plan for the creation of Jewish communities in other latitudes, the Jewish Community of Porto was also the organizational base of courageous expeditions for the search and attempt to rescue the crypto-Jews who had been born and raised in villages submerged, for centuries, in the Christian spirit that lustrously flowed from its churches and chapels.
A huge synagogue, in size and beauty, was commissioned for the city of Porto, symbol of the rescue of such crypto-Jews and of the feeling of the Jews towards themselves around the world. A journalist of the time observed that, during the construction period of the majestic building, "a piece of Palestine" was being erected in the city of Porto.
The aforesaid activities, far from being monitored with indifference on the part of the political regime then in force - a "teachers' dictatorship," chaired by a General of the Army, who conducted the "reinstatement in the State of Christian-based justice and morals" (Jacques Bainville," The Dictators," Civilization, 1937) - were interpreted as subversive of the existing political and social system.
It is important to emphasize that, at the beginning of the Estado Novo (so was the Dictatorship called), the Christian doctrine was a pro-Syllabus doctrine based on the ex-cathedra teachings of the Catholic Church and on the determinations of the ancient Councils, openly anti-Semitic, which forced every Catholic individual to the purest obedience. The Fourth Council of Toledo, for example, considered the "abominable circumcision" an "insult to the body" (Fourth Council of Toledo, Canon LIX, year 633).
It was not hard to destroy the Jewish Community of Porto and reduce it to raw insignificance. One had only to belittle and humiliate Arthur Carlos Barros Basto, the real engine of the entire organization. The other members of the Community, few in number, were foreign Jews who were afraid to face the political regime of the host country and Portuguese crypto-Jews (in fact, former crypto-Jews) who, following in the footsteps of its charismatic leader, sought to psychologically free themselves from the shackles that had been binding their families for over 400 years.
The Jewish Community of Porto and its President would be devastated by moralists who, by adulterating the 1933 Constitution and the entire Portuguese legal structure to the taste and will of their own religious doctrine, would appear as advocates of ius puniendi.
2. Under the umbrella of the dolus malus and Decree 16:963, of June 15th, 1929, which provided for the "service separation" in cases of blatant immorality, the "Portuguese Dreyfus" case emerged. Indeed, in July 1937, even before the inauguration in Porto, the Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue (which took place in January 1938), the Superior Council for Army Discipline determined the "service separation" of Captain Barros Basto, sentencing that the latter performed the "operation of circumcision to several students according to a precept of the Israelite religion" and, therefore, had no "moral capacity for the performance of his duties and decorum towards his uniform".
The "service separation" constituted for Arthur Carlos Barros Basto (the officer and the Jew) a veritable civil death penalty. He was definitively dismissed from his office; he was definitively barred from advancing in his career; he was definitively forbidden from wearing his uniforms, badges and military insignia; and he was forced to remain forever subject to the discipline of the Army (i.e., he was forced to keep his civil life and religious practice forever shaped by military rules absolutely hostile towards basic Jewish precepts), under penalty of again standing trial and again being re-sentenced.
The persecution of Captain Barros Basto and the Porto Jewish community did not stop there. Two short months after the official inauguration of the synagogue Kadoorie Mekor Haim, and due to the Community efforts to the benefit of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, one could read in the newspaper "A Voz" that «the synagogue of Porto has taken rather shady shortcuts, favouring the immigration of disturbing elements, by associating itself with an international work" that "has driven the Jewish action in northern Portugal, radiating from Germany and the Netherlands».
The effects of all the foregoing were catastrophic. With no uniform, no occupation and no economic resources, the great community leader began to lose strength; the Jewish Community of Porto became poorer and inactive; and the crypto-Jews, as expected, gradually returned to a clandestine belief, until they were forever lost, in the 60's, as a result of immigration, assimilation, intermarriage and the weakening of religious ties. Only the community of Belmonte survived.
Arthur Carlos Barros Basto died in 1961. According to his wishes, he was buried wearing the military uniform he had been forbidden to wear for a quarter of a century, thanks to the well-known decision of the Superior Council for Army Discipline. The great events of the mid-20th century - World War, Holocaust, Refugees, the foundation of the State of Israel, etc. - had taken projection and international support from the rescue attempt of the Portuguese crypto-Jews. Captain Barros Basto considered, however, until the end of his life, that the 1937 ruling was the key factor in the failure both of the "Rescue Work" and of the great Jewish community that it was once thought possible to build in the city of Porto. He never lost hope in the idea of cleaning his tarnished name and being reinstated with full rights in the military, stating, on the day before his death: "One day, they will do me justice!"
3. Regarding as the dogmatic-legal basis the principle of legality and the corresponding command "Nothing against the Law, nothing without Law," on April 26th, 1974, in the heat of the revolution, Decree-Law No. 173/74 was published, under which "political crimes and disciplinary offences of the same nature are amnestied" (Article 1 paragraph 1) and "the civil servants, military and civilian, who have been compulsively laid off, made pensioners, retired or moved on to the reserve and separated from service for political purposes will be reinstated in their functions, if they so require" (Article 2, paragraph 1).
Due to the legal interpretation of the argument a Maiori, ad minus, it is obvious that a case of political-religious segregation of a Jewish community leader, practised through a disciplinary and statutory sanction, imposed by a Council of Military Discipline, at a time when, in Europe, the Nazi anti-Semitism and the Catholic anti-Semitism impended over the Jewish community an inescapable "tenacious effect," falls within the spirit of Decree-Law No. 173/74, of 26th April.
The aforesaid Decree-Law No. 173/74, of 26th April, was regulated by Decree-Law No. 498-F/74, of 30th September, which states that "the reinstatement in his military duties covered by Article 2 of Decree-Law 173/74” occurs in accordance with Articles 8 to 10 of Decree-Law No. 46001, of 2nd November 1964, and, in the case of the Army, by the provisions of Ordinance No. 21202 of March 29th, 1965. Moreover, Decree No. 498-F/74 states that "in cases of disability and death [of the soldier to be reinstated], the benefits of reintegration may be required by their spouses, parents, and 1st degree descendants" (Article 1, paragraph 3), and such benefits also "may be officiously and at all times granted by order of the Chief of Staff of the Military Branch to which the member of the military belonged" (Article 1, paragraph 4 of the same diploma, with the wording given to it by Decree-Law No. 434-N/82, of 29th October).
On July 3rd, 1975, the widow of Captain Barros Basto, Lea Montero Azancot, 82 years of age, wrote a letter to the President of the Republic, General Costa Gomes, calling for justice regarding the process of her loved one. That letter reads as follows: "For the Lords Generals of the Disciplinary Council who judged him, it was held unworthy for an army officer to practice the religious ceremonies that the Law of Moses practices in the persons of its initiates, and only by this practice, his separation from the army was imposed. My husband, permanently tormented by grief, died in 1961 without having achieved his moral rehabilitation and reinstatement in the ranks of the Army. I clarify you that I have delivered a petition to that effect at the General Headquarters of Porto, where I was told that it would be referred to the Analysis and Information of Political Processes Committee."
In 1978, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces dismissed in limine Lea Montero Azancot's request, deeming as "proven" facts that had "not been proven" unanimously during the Estado Novo (Dictatorship). "The problem addressed by the petitioner - inclusion into the sphere of Decree-Law No. 173/74, of 26th April, cases of political and religious segregation, especially when occurred at a time when, as we all know, anti-Semitism raged in Europe - would be very interesting to debate, were it not for the facts that completely belie such assertion. The facts which justified the decision for service divestiture translate into homosexual practices with several students of the Jewish Theological Institute of Porto and have nothing to do with the ceremonies prescribed by the Semitic religion."
The avalanche of absurd arguments, ready to march to the war, of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces not only failed to do proper justice, but condemned for the second time, in cowardly fashion, the late Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto, acting upon lies and rumours that four decades earlier, had been fully discredited by the competent court.
The decision, revealing of the anti-Semitic nature of the judges of the "Portuguese Dreyfus" case, in full democracy, was notified to the rightful interested, the widow, and was not disputed; theoretically, the lawsuit was, therefore, closed, and given as final within the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. The 1937 decision was also notified to Captain Barros Basto, with no dispute whatsoever. The crime is, and has always been, the case itself, in its dual adjective and substantive dimension. The antanagoge is coruscating. A case of anti-Semitic nature that undermines the principles whose earliness imposes on all codes can never be considered lawful. Quae rerum natura prohibentur, nulla lege confirmata.
4. The widow died. The discussion on the anti-Semitic decisions of 1937 and 1978 did not fade. In Portugal and worldwide. Politicians, historians, religious men, journalists and humanists of various latitudes had their say. Too often quite noisily. Several assertive requests were sustained by the silence of the competent Portuguese authorities. The inchoate of a new awakening, which would finally come, began to be felt.
In 2011, the granddaughter of Captain Barros Basto (current Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Porto), the president of the Lawyers' Bar Association and Portuguese journalists with particular sensitivity in the field of justice gave substance to an extremely clean press campaign around the criminal "service separation" occurred in 1937. Stripped of the decontextualized pleadings and aberrations previously reported with the greatest insolence, the information and clarification campaign managed to extensively rehabilitate the good name of the person concerned, thus creating broad consensus within Portuguese society on the urgent need to conduct due justice.
Through her representative (who was the Vice-President of the Portuguese Bar Association), the granddaughter of the wronged Army officer addressed a petition to the Parliament, complying with all legal requirements for admissibility and legitimacy, indicating the procedure to follow and pointing batteries to the case which led to the conviction of 1937, not mixing it with others, of different nature.
The petition reads as follows: "The undersigned hereby requires the Parliament to undertake the reinstatement in the ranks of the Army, Arthur Carlos Barros Basto, having as guiding principle - well beyond Decree-Law No. 173/74 of April 26th, applicable to the case by force of argument a Maiori, ad minus - the moral and inalienable duty of the State to repair such a severe violation of international customary law. This petition is based on the serious violation of human rights and the intolerable misapplication of the hard core of fundamental rights materially protected by the Portuguese Constitution, so it requires the intervention of the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees."
The petition was delivered to the National Defence Committee, which, as required by the petitioner, requested the intervention of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees, which, leaning over the alleged argument, unanimously adopted an Opinion anchored in bona fides in terms of facts and on the best principles of legal interpretation in matters of law.
"Captain Barros Basto was "separated from the Army" - one may read in such Opinion, dated February 29th, 2012 - due to a general climate of animosity against him driven by the fact that being a Jew, with no inhibition demonstrating so and, on the contrary, sporting an energetic proselytism by converting Portuguese Jews, "marranos" or "new-Christians," and their descendants. The conviction of Arthur Barros Basto by the decision of the Superior Council of Military Justice in the military disciplinary case No 6/1937 is justified and motivated by religious intolerance and an anti-Semitic prejudice truly evident in the analysis of the documents in such case file."
"The Opinion/Decision to reject the widow's, Lea Monteiro Azancot Barros Basto's, request, dated 1978, tries to fallaciously compose this anti-Semitic motivation and displays a set of void facts, which had been deemed unproven in 1937, trying, in vain, to convey some integrity to a decision defined in advance."
"Under the direct applicability established under art. 18, paragraph 1, of the Portuguese Constitution and in the face of the blatant violation of freedom of religion and worship that was perpetrated against Arthur Carlos Barros Basto and which is guaranteed by art. 41, paragraph 1, of the same constitutional law, in accordance with art. 16, paragraph 2 of the same constitutional text should be interpreted and integrated in harmony with art. 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the provisions under art. 10, paragraph 1, of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and also, by the application of art. 2, paragraph 1, of Decree-Law No. 173/74, of 26th April, the Portuguese Government has the bounden duty to grant the request in Petition No. 63/XII/1st, posthumously reinstating Captain Arthur Carlos de Barros Bastos in the Portuguese Army."
In short, the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees found that the Portuguese Government had the bounden duty of proceeding to the reinstatement in the Army of Captain Barros Basto, by ordering the enforcement of Decree-Law No. 173/74 of 26th April, without limitations. More comments could only damage the clarity of this determination.
Once the aforesaid Opinion was published, the President of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) addressed a letter of meaningful content to the President of the Portuguese Parliament. «Known to the wider world as the “Portuguese Dreyfus,” the injustice committed against Captain Barros Basto has weighed too long on Portugal’s reputation among the Jewish community and on the conscience of Portuguese society. Just as the specific act of discrimination reflected a larger societal problem at the time, the full rehabilitation of Captain Barros Basto will reflect Portugal’s commitment to human rights today. »
5. Based on the cited Opinion, the National Defence Committee prepared the competent report, which resulted in the creation of the Parliament Resolution No. 119/2012, of 10th August, which recommended to the Government the reinstatement of Captain Arthur Carlos Barros Basto in the Army.
The intrigue, however, deepened further. At the last minute, by hands inexperienced on justice intricacies, a legal article whose purpose was to negatively discriminate against the Jew's family, an aggression that neither the family nor the Jewish Community responded to, due to the fact that it was a "dead letter," unable to override the general law of the country in the field of the reinstatement of deceased members of the military, was added to the text of the resolution.
What transpired, however, of this sly article added at the last minute was that several groups of wanna-be Democrats - well aware that, apart from all that has already been said, the Estado Novo political police archives contain a significant number of pages on such persecuted Jewish leader - kept on insisting on doing harm to Captain Barros Basto, in this case his family, who they considered to be the only one, since April 25th, 1974, with the "moral duty" to waive any compensation and no right to participate in the extended list of beneficiaries established by Decree-Law No 173/74, of 26th April.
6. Taking into account the principle of procedural economy, the family of Arthur Carlos Barros Basto had streamlined mechanisms so the Chief of Staff of the Army (CEME) could review with justice and dignity the "Portuguese Dreyfus" case, which continued, and day after day, to add economic burden (interest) to the Portuguese Government.
On the other hand, in the absence of communication by the Minister of Defence, the Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Porto addressed him a letter which reads as follows: "The signatory hereby requests information on whether the Ministry of Defence intends to act in accordance with the legal recommendation of the Parliament and, if so, whether the reinstatement of my grandfather will be held along the lines of the reinstatements made in the period following the April 25th or along other lines, in which case why. The unfolding of this case shall be brought to the knowledge of the Anti-Defamation League, since my grandfather has been punished twice: in 1937 and 1978, for being Jewish."
The letter received no reply, but took effect. On March 4th, 2013, the Head of the Office of the Minister of Defence sent a summary letter to the CEME. "Following the publication of the Parliament Resolution No. 119/2012, of 10th August, which recommends the government to proceed with reinstatement, in the Army, of Infantry Captain Arthur Carlos Barros Basto, who was subject to political and religious segregation in 1937, the Minister of National Defence has given me the task of requesting information on the procedures already carried out or expected to be carried out by the Army so that the Government may comply with such recommendation."
A universe of Officers contemporary of Captain Barros Basto was in the meantime defined by the CEME (two Officers immediately above him, with prior date of promotion to Captain, and three more recent officers, but with the same date of promotion to the rank of Captain) and it was concluded that two of these Officers had reached the rank of Colonel. This long-awaited exercise resulted in a clear-cut conclusion. Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto should be reinstated in the rank of Colonel.
And, leaving aside the arguments that it had advocated in other times, on July 26th, 2013, the Chief of Staff of the Army decided and issued the proposal to the Minister of Defence, with the following content: "The reinstatement of Captain Barros Basto's career can be materialised as follows: Second Lieutenant (15Nov1912), Lieutenant (01Dec1916), Captain (17Aug1918), Major (05Sept1938), Lieutenant-Colonel (28Jan1943), Colonel (22Nov1945), Reserve (26Mar1947)".
With its coffers depleted, the Army took advantage of the ghost article mischievously added in the parliamentary Resolution. Such matters, however, treated in the law and regulated by the constitutional principle of equality, fall completely outside its sphere of decision, as it is well known within the legal community.
7. Upon receiving the proposal for reinstatement addressed to it by the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Minister of Defence (who, it should be recalled, had requested information on the procedures already implemented or expected to be implemented by the Army so the Government could proceed with the reinstatement of Captain Barros Basto in the Army) did not proceed, as it should, to the official summoning of the descendants of wronged official for a meeting. He put on his Sunday suit, in complete silence, leaving the case pending for those to come and engraving his name, in shame, in the "Portuguese Dreyfus" case.
This inertia of the Minister, which was communicated to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) by having reached traits of scandal, lead the Chairman of this organization to address a letter of clear intelligibility to the Portuguese Prime Minister. «We write to you today to respectfully ask for your instruction to the Ministry of Defence to ensure the full implementation of the petition and to officially reinstate Captain Barros Basto into the Portuguese Army. »
The Office of the Prime-Minister requested agility and readiness to the Minister of Defence, finally forced to act, given that the proportions of the issue did not consent further silence. Thus, an objectionable delaying tactic was created. More than three years (i.e. over 36 months) after the decision from the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees, the Minister of Defence sent an order to the Parliament, expressing his "doubts" on whether the intention of the members of Parliament had been to enforce Decree-Law 173/74, of 26th April.
It is obvious that the author of the request knew, so long after, that Resolution No. 119/2012 of 10th August had been based on the aforementioned Committee's opinion, which clearly advocates the application of that diploma, dated 26th April 1974.
8. Perhaps under the influence of the Minister of Defence's absurd speech, a vigorous turmoil extended to Parliament. In July 2015, a Bill was presented in the Parliament, aimed at reinstating Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto in the Army - one soon aborted, as the Jewish community of Porto opposed it, as was its duty - which redefined, against the general law of the country, the terms of the "reinstating" of a deceased soldier, seeking to identify it only with a useless "ceremony" that, discriminating the family of the person concerned, would serve people small in size but large in ambitions.
Such Bill spoke also, and wrongly, of the word "rehabilitation," whose definition, not being included in the law [except in the form of "judicial rehabilitation," inapplicable to this case], could only be interpreted by the family of Captain Barros Basto and the Jewish Community of Porto. Otherwise, the person concerned would never be "rehabilitated," because such would open the debate to all kinds of people and there would always be those who, mixing serious affairs with all sorts of nonsense, would demand more and more.
9. It is clear to the Jewish Community of Porto that the "moral rehabilitation" requested by Lea Montero Azancot, four decades ago, should be considered as accomplished, as far as now there are official documents with sufficient density, detail and sense of justice – documents by the relevant Governmental Bodies, namely the Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees and the Chief of Staff of the Army – recognizing officialy the anti-Semitic nature of the sentence passed on Arthur Carlos Barros Basto and the rank of Colonel owed to him since 22nd November 1945.
Symbolically Barros Basto is a Colonel since 22.11.1945.
10. There will always be an invisible history and a long list of distressed losers behind every great achievement. Such history, indecent, also exists in this case. It is documented, for future memory.
In the early 20th century, a new and important page in the history of the Judaism Portuguese is written, with the discovery and dissemination of the existence - just as a miracle of ethnic-religious survival – of crypto-Jews (marranos) in the North and in the Beiras of Portugal. Associated with this romantic movement, there is a character who will forever be linked to the history of the Jews in Portugal and in the world - Captain Barros Basto, founder of the Jewish Community of Oporto and the great driving force to construction of the Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue.
Earlier already quoted because of his work dedicated to the Jews of the old Oporto, Barros Basto was a Portuguese army officer who fought in the trenches of World War I, where he even survived a poison gas attack. Of Crypto-Jewish descent through his father and son of a Catholic mother, he converted to Judaism in the year 1920, before a Beit Din (Rabbinical Court) in Tangier. Captain Barros Basto married with Lea Israel Montero Azancot and decided to live his life in the city of Oporto, where, for centuries, there had not been a Jewish community. Two dozen Jewish merchants recently arrived from Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Russia lived in the city, a fact that did not go unnoticed to the captain. It was just the time to gather them and organize a community, which was officially legalized in the year 1923, under the name of «Israeli Community of Oporto», having, as main purpose, the practice of Judaism.
Through the narrow streets of the old Quarters of Oporto, where once the Jewish blood had pulsed unstoppably, the pronunciation of the name "Adonai" (G-d) would be heard again, this time not by the ancient Sephardim (Jews from the Iberian Peninsula), but by Ashkenazim (Jews from Central Europe) that had found comfort in the beautiful town bathed by the Douro river. The legalization of community and the renting of a floor promptly transformed into a "synagogue" corresponded to a repair of historical importance and apparently difficult to overcome.
Soon the new-born community found itself shaken by a singular fact, when some Portuguese citizens presented themselves before Captain Barros Basto as Jews and showed cheerfulness in the desire to take part of the Congregation. There were not mere individuals who claimed willingness to become Jews or claimed chances of having existed Jewish converts among their ancestors. They were crypto-Jews, on whose ears their mothers and grandmothers had chanted the prayers of Israel, raising them in the respect for the sacred fire of faith.
In fact, the crypto-Jews came from families who, lost in the clouds of the centuries, separated for a long time from the entire Jewish culture, still elevated their praises and prayers to Adonai, practicing their ancestors’ religion in secret, at home, or in isolated places in the field and keeping Jewish matrilineal descent through the choice of spouses within the congeneric family settings. According to the Mosaic Law, the son of a Jewish mother is Jewish.
It was not necessary to wait long. Materially supported by the Portuguese Marranos Committee - an international organisation based in London and designed to support the rescue of the Portuguese crypto-Jews - a lonely man puts into motion a human rescue project that is unmatched in the history of mankind. It is the «Rescue Work», which quickly becomes famous, provoking a remarkable sentimental impact within the Jewish communities around the world.
With the motto «Adonai li velo ira» (G-d is with me, I fear nothing), Barros Basto began travelling from town to town by car, on foot or on horseback, determined to bring the crypto-Jews to the light of day and causing them to not feel civically diminished by professing the law of Moses, but rather proud of a heroic past of which they were miraculous survivors.
There was, however, much romanticism in this initiative, given that the «Rescue Work» was a monumental task that could never be carried out by a man alone, facing enormous distances, facing the difficulties of the paths he had to go through, facing the fury of Catholic priests, facing the fear of crypto-Jewish populations, facing endless antagonisms. This was not a mere action of liberation, but a war happening within a fully hostile axiological framework, of strong opposition on the part of the Catholic majority, and the more battles the captain won, the greater and more organized opposition he had to face. In the eyes of the Church, any action of propaganda that would steal its baptized children was considered a sacrilege.
The construction of the Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue is umbilically intertwined with the «Rescue Work». Determined to turn Oporto into the «religious lighthouse» for the Portuguese crypto-Jews, the captain remembered, at some point, to build, in the city, a synagogue which would be enormous in size and in beauty, something that represented a serious motif of pride for the crypto-Jews. The project might seem overly ambitious, but it also went on. A journalist of the time noted, during the period of the construction of the synagogue, that «a piece of Palestine» was being engraved in Oporto».
The great synagogue was inaugurated on January 16, 1938, with representations of the communities from London, Berlin, Lisbon, Bragança and Covilhã. In the speech at the opening ceremony, Barros Basto emphasized the miracle of the millennial survival of the Jewish people: «This, perhaps one of the smallest in the world, is one of the most noble and elevated people, and, in the words of Moses, a people of tough backbone. This people still exists due to its tough cervix. Rich and amazing civilizations tried to dominate and eliminate its name from Earth. These civilizations and peoples representing them have ended, have died and the small Jewish people still lives».
One might think that the year of 1938 was a year of glory for the Israeli Community of Porto and its founder. That is not true. Barros Basto had been separated from the Army a few months before the synagogue was inaugurated, for having intervened in circumcision operations on his students of the Israel Theological Institute of Oporto. The case became worldwide known as the "Portuguese Dreyfus". The Supreme Council of Military Discipline proved that he «performed the circumcision operation on several students according to a precept of the Israelite religion», and, in this sense, he had no «capacity for the moral prestige of his function and the decorum of his uniform». At trial, the circumcisions of the students were called «homosexual rituals with young people aged between 17 and 18, who were forced to expose their sexual organ».
False denunciations of homosexuality had forced the captain to fight in the judicial and military instances of the time, in terrible judicial quarrels, spending most of his energy, since the end of 1934 until mid-1937, until he could be completely cleared from these accusations, without managing, however, to escape a penalty of "separation of service".
The great community leader was left with no uniform, no occupation, no economic resources. His self-esteem had been severely hit. The crypto-Jews, in turn, felt they had lost their charismatic leader and saw in the treatment he was given a sign of what could happen to them in the future. This fact, combined with the anti-Semitism echoes that came from Europe, dictated, to the crypto-Jews, the return to a clandestine belief.
The great synagogue of Oporto, built within a grandiose project, had lost its raison d’être, before even being inaugurated. The «Rescue Work» was greatly weakened in the year 1938. In a way, it had almost collapsed. If there was something really striking Captain Barros Basto could still do, it would be to the benefit of the refugees, who would soon begin to arrive, terrified, fleeing from Nazism. And thus it was.
The constant increase of Jewish families from Central Europe arriving to the synagogue in desperate situation led the captain to organize a Committee of moral and material assistance to the refugees, who were thus able to rebuild their broken lives in Oporto. Many years later, the historian Michael Studemund-Halévy, of the Institute for the History of the German Jews, called Barros Basto «the Apostle of the refugees».
In the year 1961, Captain died. He left behind, for future memory, a life rich in events and memorable achievements, enriched by historical research, prayer books in the Portuguese language (to make accessible the Hebrew liturgy to simple men) and more than a hundred numbers of a community newspaper of great quality.
Barros Basto departed knowing that the great tribulation in the History of his time - Nazism, war, Holocaust, survivors’ assistance, implementation of the State of Israel, etc. - had taken projection and support to his attempt to rescue the Portuguese Crypto-Jews. He considered, however, until the end of his life, that the "separation from the Army" he had been condemned to had been the deciding factor in the failure of both the «Rescue Work» and the large Jewish community that one day he thought would be possible to build. He never lost the hope of being reinstated as of right in the military service and to see his tarnished name cleaned, claiming, on the eve of his death: «One day, I shall be vindicated!»
In general, the legal proceedings end with the reading of the sentence. In this case, everything was different. When the sentence was read, in 1937, there was the beginning of a long struggle for the rehabilitation of his name, carried out by himself and then, successively, by his wife, his daughter and granddaughter.
In 1974, a democratic regime was established in Portugal. The Army proceeded to reintegrate into their ranks all those soldiers who had been unjustly expelled during the period of the Estado Novo. Hundreds of soldiers were reinstated, some in life, others posthumously, and their families were compensated. There was only one exception. The Jew. The Portuguese Army refused to reinstate him on the grounds that he had been punished «for long-standing homosexual practices with students.» This is an outrageous lie that the Army deliberately used to maintain its anti-Semitic attitude to Captain Barros Basto, the deceased Jew!
Captain Barros Basto was morally rehabilitated 50 years after his death, at the request to the Portuguese Parliament of his granddaughter, Isabel Ferreira Lopes, supported by a team of British and Portuguese jurists of religious and civil laws. In addition, in 2013, Portuguese Army decided that «Captain Barros Basto's career can be reconstructed as follows: Ensign, 15.11.1912 | Lieutenant, 12.01.1916 | Captain, 17.08.1918 | Major, 05:09.1938 | Lieutenant Colonel, 28.01.1943 | Colonel, 22.11.1945 | Reserve [end of career], 26.03.1947.»