More on Emile Gissot

More on Emile Gissot

Usually, when you google a historical name of someone who was not particularly famous, you don't expect to find much. With Emile Gissot, we hit a veritable gold mine of information.

First, there is this biographical sketch of him on a city web site for the Toulouse region. There he is a portrait in full French military regalia. We learn from the article that he was born in 1882 in the village of Fleurance. He was a brilliant student and was well educated in Parisian schools.

After graduation, he accepted a foreign service position in Chile, and distinguished himself during the 1906 Valparaiso earthquake. The following year, he authored a report on the economy of Chile, which is still available on the Internet today.

After returning to France, he was appointed as a career consular official, and was posted again to Chile, as well as later to Athens and other outposts.

In 1917, he was arrested in Salamanca, Spain, for associating with an early band of Spanish Republicans. He also played in politics, running but losing in Parliamentary elections in 1919. Between 1928 and 1932, he advised French Interior minister Albert Smock.

The article then skips over to his death in Toulouse in November 1958, omitting any mention of his role in the 1940 refugee crisis. We'll set that aside for the moment, too, as we consider the inventory of Internet sightings.

Most deliciously, that portrait from the biography article, showed up as a physical postcard available for sale on several Internet memorabilia sites. Evidently he had the cards made for himself and used them as stationery. This one is hand-inscribed to a correspondent in 1916, so the photo shows him perhaps in his early to mid 30s. Note that same distinctive signature we will see on visas 24 years later.

After I tipped off Olivia at the Sousa Mendes Foundation about the card, I'm pleased to say she purchased it online for the foundation's collection.

The next thing of note that turns up is that Chilean economic report,, available for download as a PDF. Finally, there are a number of citations and references to his activities as Portugal's honorary vice consul in Toulouse, including from several French Sousa Mendes tribute sites.

Most intriguing is this listing in the index of archived records of Antonio Salazar, Portugal's longtime strongman leader, of a report about an inquiry into irregularities involving the activities of Emile Gissot in Portugal's Toulouse consulate.

The report is not available online or evidently physically in the archive, since the documentation is said to have mysteriously disappeared. Now on to what might actually have happened in the next post.