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SPAIN: Sephardic Jews under Franco



Rosa de Pena says: "There was a law restoring Spanish citizenship to descendents of Sephardic Jews, a law enacted by Primo de Rivera. Seems that it was inspired by a man close to him who in a trip heard an old Sephardic song and was moved by the archaic Spanish used. Also there was a report that an airman told of entering in a town in Morocco and being acclaimed by the Jews with shouts of "Long Live Fernando and Isabel". [I find this story quite incredible. RH] That law became quite useful to many Jews in World War II".

Christian Leitz reports: "I recently gave a paper on "Spain and the Holocaust" at a symposium (in Copenhagen) on "Bystanders to the Holocaust" It will be published as a collection of essays on Nazi Germany and Franco Spain. In historiographical terms, the situation appears complex on first sight as there are books that are very supportive of the Franco regime's policy towards the Jews, while others are critical to highly critical. However, as the available evidence demonstrates (admirably brought together by German historian, and expert on Spain and the Sephardic Jews, Bernard Rother in a very recent book and many articles), the critical voices clearly deserve more credence. While Jews undoubtedly survived the Nazi terror by escaping,to Spain (and while some were also given protection due to their Spanish citizenship), these outcomes were not due to the active, but instead extremely reluctant support of the Franco regime.

Very few Jews that managed to get across the Pyrenees remained in Spain; they went on to Portugal and from there overseas. It's very clear that the Franco regime (and the Salazar regime in Portugal) only permitted Jews in because they expected these refugees to leave again very soon, i.e. it was not about Spain providing refuge, but acting as a transit country. Finally, Spanish documents show that the protection of Sephardic Jews was considered (and undertaken to an extent) due to a concern that the wealth (or perceived wealth) of these people would end up with the Germans when it could be secured for Spain".

Stanley Payne says: "The best book in English is by the Israeli Haim Avni. I believe that Franco eventually officially rescinded the expulsion order of 1492 (as Regent of Spain), but this was done more officially by the present Juan Carlos". [See what Rosa de Pena said above].

RH: In Istambul I visited the Sephardic mosque. The man in charge complained of the treatment the Sephardic Jews were receiving from the Turkish government. I suggested he return to Spain. He replied angrily: "I HATE Spain!". After 500 years, the ancient resentment persisted

Ronald Hilton - 11/18/02


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