The Holocaust in Spain


Figure 1.--.

The NAZIs could demand that the authorities in occupied countries turn over their Jews and also did so in countries allied to them. This was, however, not always possible. Hitler met with General Franco on the French border at Hendaye on October 23, 1940. Hitler had assumed that Franco would be a willing ally given the assistance provided his Nationalist forces during the Civil War. Franco refused to enter the War or even allow German troops to transit Spain to attack the British at Gibraltar. Franco flatly refused. This was in part because of Admiral Canaris, the head of German Military Intelligence. Canaris had been apauled by the NAZI brutality he had witnessed in Poland. He had worked with Franco during the Civil War and had a close personal relationship with the Generalisimo. He told him privately that Hitler was now obsessed with Russia and would not risk any kind of diversion in Spain. Thus Franco refused to be cowed. Hitler went on to meet Musolini, who had also assissted Franco. He told Musolini that, "I would rathger have three or four teeth extracted than go through that again". Franco also refused to hand over Spanish or foreign Jews to the NAZIs. Franco in fact probably saved more saved more Jews than any other European country. He did close the Spanish border in an act of solidarity with the NAZIs, but allowed Jews and others with Portuguese visas to transit Spain. Historians debate the actual role of Franco and his ministers and their motivation. Because Franco himself is a highly controversial person, many authors have allowed their assessment oif Franco himself affect their assessment of Spain'spolicie toward Jewish refugees. Thus available assessments need to be treated with caution. The consenus of historians suggest that Spain helped save 20,000-35,000 Jews by letting refugees pass through the country. Anotherv5,000 Jews were saved by Spanish diplomats.

Spanish Jews

Jews have a long history in Spain. They were for centuries tolerated im both Islamic and Christian kingdoms. Jews developed a sophisticated culture in Spain. Spain's Jews were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (1492). The refugees became known as Sephardic Jews after the fall of Grenada. They played an important role in the economic suucss and cultural life in countries like the Netherlands. The expulsion of Jews and Moslems by Ferdinand and Isbellaoccured at the same time that Spain burst on the world scene with Columbus' discoveries. The gold and silver which poured in to Spain with the conquest of Mexico and Peru made Spain for a time a European super power. Spain's subsequent decline is in part due to the decling shipments of bullion. Many histoians believe that the impact of repressive policies such as the use of the Inquisition to curtail discent (and free thinking) and the expulsion of the Jews and Moslems were major factors in Spain's decline.

The Spanish Civil War(1936-39)

NAZI Germany and Fascist Italy beginning in 1936 were also active in Spain helping Franco establish a Fascist regime. The Spanish Civil War is often seen as the unveiling of the new German Luftwaffe after Hitler had unilaterally abrogated the Versailles Peace Treaty prohibiting Germany from building an air force. Fighting began in Spain in July 1936. Spanish Generals Francisco Franco and Quiepo de Llano revolted against the reform-minded Republican Government elected in Madrid. Franco appealed for help. Hitler immeduately ordered Luftwaffe transport plans to transport Franco's loyalist troops in Morroco to participate in the fighting. He saw a left-wing government in Madrid as harful to the Reich, aiding the French policy of encirclement. Both Italy and Germany were soon sending arms and men to the loyalists and provided important air elements. The defenseless Basque village of Guernica was the first European city to be destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The democracies and League of Nations respnded with an arms embargo. Only the Soviets aided the Republic. The Spanish Civil War is most commonly seen as the first major battle against fascism in Europe. Less know and more controversial is the social revolution launched by the Republic.

Francisco Franco

Franco's ancestors were Marranos, Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity to avoid expulsion. I'm not sure to what exten this was publicized in Spain or even if Hitler knew about it. Nor do we know if it was a factor in his policies toward the Jews.

Spanish Jews during the 20th Century

Even by the 20th century, Spain had only a very small Jewish population. Franco apparentlyh had no intention of allowing that community to grow in size. [Rother]

The Falange


World War II

Despite German urging, Spain neither joined the Axis or entered the War. The NAZIs could demand that the authorities in occupied countries turn over their Jews and also did so in countries allied to them. This was, however, not always possible. Hitler met with General Franco on the French border at Hendaye (October 23, 1940). Hitler had assumed that Franco would be a willing ally given the assistance provided his Nationalist forces during the Civil War. Franco refused to enter the War or even allow German troops to transit Spain to attack the British at Gibraltar. Franco flatly refused. This was in part because of Admiral Canaris, the head of German Military Intelligence. Canaris had been apauled by the NAZI brutality he had witnessed in Poland. He had worked with Franco during the Civil War and had a close personal relationship with the Generalisimo. He told him privately that Hitler was now obsessed with Russia and would not risk any kind of diversion in Spain. Thus Franco refused to be cowed. Hitler went on to meet Musolini, who had also assissted Franco. He told Musolini that, "I would rather have three or four teeth extracted than go through that again".

Spanish Jewish Policies

Franco also refused to hand over Spanish or foreign Jews to the NAZIs. Franco in fact probably saved more saved more Jews than any other European country. He did close the Spanish border in an act of solidarity with the NAZIs, but allowed Jews and others with Portuguese visas to transit Spain. Historians debate the actual role of Franco and his ministers and their motivation. Some Franco apologists claim that Franco played a major role in saving Jews. Other historians dispute this. Most historians conclude that Spanish officials did indeed save Jews, but contend that such acts of rescue took place despite rather than because of Franco and his ministers. [Marquina and Ospina] Rather than humanitarian efforts, Spanish policies seem fominated by obstructionist measures and a desire to profit by the plight of Jewish refugees. What ever Franco's motives, we know that not only did Franco refuse NAZI demands that he issue anti-Jewish regulations for Spanish Jews, let alone deport them, but he allowed foreign Jews reaching the Spanish border to enter Spain. [Michener, p. 547.]

Jose Felix Lequerica a Minister for Foreign Affairs during the War and who also served as Spain's ambassador to the Vichy France regime. Lequerica made it veryclear that he believed in the 1492 expulsion edict. For Lequerica, Jews should only be protected if they pffered some financial benefit to Spain. The central calculation of the Franco regime was a cost-benefit analysis. In scenario, Franco according to some historians only reluctantly reverse the expulsion edict for the financil benefits while at the same time thanking the Catholic majesties for having relieved Spain of its Jewish "burden". [Marquina and Ospina]

Refugees

Some facts are generally accepted by scholars. We do know that Jewish refugees suceeded in enter Spain during the war, most through France. The actual number is disputed. The most accepted range is 20,000-35,000 people. We have seen larger estimates, but they are primarily advanced by Franco partisans. A wave of Jewish refugees first arrived at the Spanish border durung June 1940 as the German Panzers broke through the French defenses and after reaching thge Channel began moving South. The fall of France exposed both French Jews and foreign Jews that had fled to France to the NAZIs. This was before the Vichy regime began actions against the Jews. The Spanish Government was at first unsure how to deal with the refugees, espciallythe Jewish refugees. The Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, issued about 2,000 Portuguese visas, contratry to instructions from his Government. By the end of the year he had written 10,000 such visas. [Fralon] Only a small number of those refugees stayed in Spain. Spanish border guards with few exceptions did not refuse to allow Jewish refugeees to enter Spain. Of course because of Vichy France's policies, it was difficult for Jews to get to the border. The Spanish refugee policies do not appear to have been for humanitarian reasons or a disagreement over NAZI racial policies. Instead, the crucial matter for Franco was Portugal's willingness to allow Spain to pass on these refugees. One historian writes, "Had Portugal - which did itself expect a rapid departure overseas - refused the transit of the refugees, Spain's policy would have turned out differently." [Rother]

Vichy Policies

At the behest of the NAZIs, Vichy authorities adopted the race laws adopted in Germany. as in Germany these laws allowed authorities to rob Jews of their property and isolate them. Camps were set up in France where conditions were so made that many interned Jews died. While Vichy authorities did not do the actual killing, they actively participated in rounding up Jews and transporting them to the death camps. Jews that reached the Spanish border were allowed to enter Spain. Vichy policies, however, made it very difficult for Jews to reach the border.

Sephardic Jews

Initially Spanish officials treated Sephardic Jews that possessed or claimed Spanish citizenship the same as other refugees. This policy began to change from early 1943. This date of course coincides with German reversals in Russia and North Africa.) At this time Spanish officials began to show some interest in Sephardic Jews. Various factors may have been involved here. First, German battlefield losses began to make it safer to stand up to the NAZIs. Second, the regime became concerned about leaving Spanish Jews exposed to Germany's anti-semitic legislation. The Spanish concern was that this would alientate the Allies, especially the Unitd States. Although Spain had not enterd the War, as a Fascist country, it was not impossible that the Allies might intervene in Spain. Third, the Spanish government wanted to make ure that Spain and not Germany profited from the assets of Spanish Jews. Jose Maria Doussinague, General Director for Foreign Policy conirms this assessment. [Marquina and Ospina]

Spanish Diplomatic Protection

Spanish officials in NAZI -dominated countries provided diplomaticprotection o aboutt 5,000 Jews. Most of these about (3,500) were in Hungary. The last major action of the NAZIs in the Holocaust was the assault on Hungarian Jews. Spanish diplomat Angel Sanz Briz managed to save thousands of Hungarian Jews while he served as Spanish ambassador in Budapest. [Carcedo]

Sources

Carcedo, Diego. A Spaniard in the Face of the Holocaust.

Fralon, Jose Alain. A Good Man in Evil Times; The Heroic Story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes - The Man who saved the Lives of countless Refugees in World War II trans. Peter Graham (Carroll & Graf, 2001).

Leitz, Christian. Spain and Holocaust.

Lipschitz, Chaim U. Franco, Spain, the Jews, and the Holocaust (Ed. Ira Axelrod, New York, 1984).

Marquina, Antonio and Gloria Ines Ospina Espana y los judios en el siglo XX; la accion exterior (Madrid, 1987).

Michener, James. Iberia (1968).

Rother, Bernd. "Franco und die Judenverfolgung", Vierteljahreshefte fur Zeitgeschichte 46, 1998.

Rother Spanien.






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Created: January 17, 2004
Last updated: 4:39 AM 7/16/2007