Byre

BYRE, Allan (Visa # 1652)
BYRE, Leah née CLOTZ (Visa # 1655)
BYRE, Marcelle (Visa # 1654 – age 9)

The above visas were issued by Aristides de Sousa Mendes in Bordeaux on June 15, 1940.

The BYRE family chose not to travel to Portugal, and sailed on the vessel Madura from Le Verdon (near Bordeaux) to Falmouth, England.

Testimonial of Marcelle JAY nee BYRE, November 2012:

The events of what I deduced to be June 15th, 1940 remain imprinted in my memory for all time.

The truth is that my father Allan Byre went off to try and get a visa because of the Fall of France. By chance he walked by the British Consulate, saw the notice on the door and got the visas just to be on the safe side. Inside the office at MGM (American film company for which he worked), all was pandemonium, and I realized very quickly that but for me, the child, my parents could have escaped sooner.

I was born on December 5th, 1930, the only child of my parents who were both Jewish. I was used to having my own passport from the time of the Anschluss, so that if necessary, I could be sent by myself to be in the safety of England where all my parents’ relatives lived…

It so happens that my mother was the one who decided at the very last minute not to go to Portugal and go through Lisbon because she was genuinely frightened of long sea voyages. She told my father that she would take a chance and get on one of the last ships leaving Bordeaux for England, the country of my parents’ birth. My father happened to be very active in anti-Nazi work, to the extent that he was on a black list, and the Gestapo came looking for him at our flat in Neuilly-sur-Seine very shortly after we had left… We landed on the ship called SS Madura at one of the deepest anchorages on the planet, namely Falmouth…

I realized the debt one can hardly ever hope to repay of the courage shown during the Occupation of my native country… Sadly all I can say in Portuguese is “obrigado.” The important thing to recall from my point of view is that as soon as I had children of my own and that my husband and I had the opportunity to travel freely, my first port of choice was Lisbon and a place called Cascais where my children got the full tourist treatment including stories of Henry the Navigator etc.

Impossible to travel anywhere in the Western World without acknowledging a debt to Aristides de Sousa Mendes.