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Postcard with large blue illustration along top titled “BILHETE POSTAL,” addressed to “Frau Sara van Perlstein.”

[Related items 2019.2.273-.278]

Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: For Jews attempting to flee occupied Europe and the grip of the Nazi menace, Portugal could be a relatively safe harbor. The Salazar government struggled to maintain a semblance of neutrality, continuing a friendly relationship with Britain despite increasing pressure from Germany, and this permitted thousands of Jews to reach Lisbon. While Salazar would eventually tighten requirements for immigration, his diplomat in Vichy France, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, heroically carried on issuing large numbers of visas to Jews, as a consequence of which he would be recalled. Portugal would eventually increase the number of entry visas it granted to Jews as the tide of war turned against the Nazis. Once having arrived in Lisbon, refugees would then be able to seek the assistance of a number of agencies and organizations who could help them emigrate to South America or the United States.

The van Perlsteins were a prosperous family living in a vibrant Jewish community in pre-war Amsterdam whose lives were irrevocably changed under the German occupation. Philip Samuel (Sam) van Perlstein, had been an importer of Orientalia before expanding into other areas of profitability such as board games: His company, van Perlstein and Roeper Bosch, held the first license in the Netherlands to sell Monopoly. A copy of the stock market game Beursspel, is displayed at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam: Peter van Pels had received it as a 16th birthday present, four months after going into hiding with the Franks.

Sam van Perlstein had understood early the plight of the Jews of Holland. He and his son Gerard van Perlstein assisted in setting up a resistance network. They were able to establish a relationship with Werner Klemke, a German Wehrmacht soldier and talented artist who despised Nazism. Klemke risked his life forging documents for Dutch Jews—identity cards, baptismal and birth certificates, etc.-which enabled some Jews to leave Holland and others to go into hiding. Klemke’s documents ultimately saved the lives of many Jews during the occupation.

While Sam and Gerard survived the war, others in his family were less fortunate. Sam’s brother Herman was murdered in Auschwitz in November 1942. He had been a prominent member of the Amsterdam rowing club. Sam’s uncle Bernard, whom Sam was able to help establish a business trading yeast when his own business failed in the Great Depression, was to be arrested for not wearing his Jewish star, and subsequently deported to Vught concentration camp and ultimately Auschwitz where he perished in January 1944. Siegfried Herman van Perlstein, a prominent lawyer and prosecutor, also perished at Auschwitz in January 1943. And Sam’s mother, Sara van Perlstein-Hecht, who resided at 160 Van Breestraat in Amsterdam, took her own life in March, 1943.


3 1/2 x 5 1/2"


Netherlands, Sara Van Perlstein, Salazar, Lisbon, Portugal, Jewish Refugees



Censored Postcard from Lisbon, Portugal to Sara van Perlstein in Amsterdam, Netherlands



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