Brazil admitted 96,000 Jewish immigrants between 1918 and 1933 but only 12,000 between 1933 and 1941 as a result of more stringent policies under the populist rule of Getulio Vargas. According to Brazil’s Virtual Archives on Holocaust and anti-Semitism Institute, the Brazilian government had a secret policy that forbade the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from granting visas to Jews between 1937 and 1950, and Brazil denied approximately 16,000 visas to European Jews attempting to escape the Nazi regime. Despite these instructions, the Brazilian ambassador to France, Ambassador Luis Martins de Souza Dantas, granted immigration visas to French Jews, saving hundreds of lives. Yad Vashem includes him on its list of “Righteous Among the Nations.”
Following World War II, Brazil saw an influx of both displaced Jewish refugees and former Nazi officials. German prosecutors who examined secret files from Brazil and Chile discovered that as many as 9,000 Nazi officers and collaborators from other countries escaped from Europe and found sanctuary in South American countries, including between 1,500 and 2,000 in Brazil.
Local sources estimate that Brazil has the 10th largest Jewish population in the world. Currently around 50,000 Jews, about half of Brazil’s Jewish population, live in Sao Paulo. Rio de Janeiro is home to the country’s second-largest Jewish community, with a population of nearly 29,000. There is a significant Jewish population of about 9,000 located in Porto Alegre. Northeast Brazil has several smaller, historic Jewish communities in the cities of Belem do Para, Manaus, and Recife.
Brazil endorsed the Terezin Declaration in 2009 and the Guidelines and Best Practices in 2010. Sources in the federal government, the Israeli Mission to Brazil, civil society organizations, and Jewish community representatives were unaware of any existing laws codifying the return of Holocaust-era property to victims. The Uniao Brasileiro-Israelita do Bem Estar Social (UNIBES) is a nonprofit organization that has operated in Sao Paulo for more than 95 years. UNIBES representatives said that they had heard of survivors based in Brazil pursuing claims abroad, but that this had usually been done privately without advocacy or assistance from the government. UNIBES representatives said that assistance from Brazil was primarily of a consular nature, provided to survivors pursuing claims while in Europe. The Department is not aware of any pending cases involving U.S. citizens.