518 years later: Porto Jewish community releases film ‘The Genocide of Lisbon’

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518 years later: Porto Jewish community releases film ‘The Genocide of Lisbon’

It recounts the 1506 massacre of the city's Jews and is now available in a variety of languages and platforms

More than 500 years after the massacre of 3,000 Jewish residents in Lisbon, the Jewish community of Porto has premiered a documentary film describing the events that began on 19 April 1506.

The 20-minute short feature reconstructs the three-day mass slaughter from Jewish and Christian sources of the time. Worshippers at the Church of São Domingos initially killed members of the congregation they believed were ‘cristãos-novos’, or new Christians – Jews forcibly converted to Christianity.

The violence instigated a wild pogrom where, between April 19 and 21, 1506, the fires into which the bodies of murdered Jews, young and old alike, were thrown, reached the height of houses.

Produced by Portuguese director Luis Ismael, the screenplay is based on the research and documentation of the Alberto Benveniste Chair of Sephardic Studies at the University of Lisbon.

Dr. Michael Rothwell, director of the Holocaust Museum and Jewish Museum of Porto said: “The film seeks to show that the massacre in Portugal did not take place in a vacuum, just as the October 7 massacre did not take place in a vacuum, as stated by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was once Portugal’s prime minister.

Rothwell, the grandson of grandparents murdered in Auschwitz by Nazi Germans, added: “The massacres perpetrated against Jews have always been characterized by a combination of stereotypes, fanatical joy and terror that have emerged in each of the events that took place throughout history in Alexandria, Granada, Seville, Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona, Basel, Überlingen, Strasbourg, Cologne, Worms, Erfurt, Metz, York, Norwich, Trent, Troy, Bern, Paris, Odessa, Moscow, Hebron and recently even inside Israel, on the country’s southern border.”

The film premiere was held at the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv on April 17, with the participation of former MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, special envoy for combating antisemitism, Dr. Raheli Baratz (Rix), head of the World Zionist Organization’s department for combating antisemitism and enhancing resilience and Ashley Perry (Perez), President of Reconectar, an organisation that promotes the connection between descendants of Sephardic Jewry and the Jewish world.

In 2021, Porto’s Jewish community produced “1618,” a feature film about the Inquisition’s visit to the city of Porto, which has garnered 150 international awards, making it the most decorated Portuguese film to date.

In 2019, the community also produced the film “Sefarad,” about the founder of the Jewish community in Porto, Captain Barros Basto, who became a local version of Dreyfus in his lifetime when he was expelled from senior military service in 1937 for his religious activities.

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