The Inquisition & Thereafter

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Spain and the Jews


     Hardly any cursory student of Jewish history is not acquainted with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in August of 1492, the same year and the same month in which Columbus first traveled west and re-discovered The New World.” Three Jews came with Columbus. One of them was Luis de Torres, who spoke Hebrew and became the first Jew to settle in Cuba and therefore the first Jew to settle in America.

     In that year, the Jews of Spain and Portugal were forcibly evicted from their homes and sent by sea to unknown lands.

     Many were drowned and others became the victims of pirates to end up as slaves. Some found homes in North Africa and others in the Netherlands and in Hamburg. Jews were accused of such insane “crimes” as “desecrating the host,” and were subject to a psychotic wish to “purify the blood.” That belief and others had already made life nearly intolerable for the Spanish Jews before 1492, as the “Inquisition” had begun its notorious sadistic activities in 1480. Note that the Nazi obsession  with “Aryan blood” was a replica of that Spanish racism.

    The motive for the expulsion was Catholic Christianity. The King, Ferdinand, and the Queen, Isabella, signed an Edict of Expulsion, which gave Jews four months in which to convert to Christianity or get out. Like the German Jews of the 20th century, the Spanish robbed the Jewish emigrants of all their possessions, so that those who left were destitute. Approximately 165,000 Jews left Spain, while about 50,000 remained and “converted” to Christianity. These “conversos” were hated by the Spanish community and labeled “marranos,” meaning “swine.” That word was of Arabic origin and meant “forbidden” in Arabic until it entered the Spanish language.

     Perhaps the most famous of the descendants of the “marranos” was Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677).  Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He was excommunicated (1656) from the Jewish community  after his wrote a “Treatise on Theology and Politics,” which may be regarded as the first effort to secularize the Jewish religion.

     Over five hundred years have passed since the expulsion of some and the conversion of others of the Spanish Jews to Catholicism. As a result, a large segment of the Spanish population are of Jewish descent. One of these descendants of Jews was Francisco Franco Bahamonde (1892-1975), the dictator of Spain, who dropped his last name (an evident Jewish name). Franco was a great saint who should be remembered by the Jewish community as one of the few who saved thousands of Jews during World War II. After the Germans defeated France, they allowed southern France to be governed by the so-called “Vichy government” under Pierre Laval. The Jews of southern France were imprisoned in French run camps but largely allowed to escape into Spain. Once there, they survived the war despite the demand by Hitler that his ally, Franco, surrender the Jews to the Gestapo and have them transported to the death camps. Franco would not allow it. He knew that he himself was of Jewish descent and that according to Nazi doctrine he would be regarded as having “Jewish blood.”

     This year, another event has occurred in the relationship of Spain to the Jewish people. The current government of Spain announced on March 19, 2014 that any Jews who could prove that they were the descendants of the expelled Jews of 1492 could become Spanish citizens, The Spanish minister of justice, Alberto-Ruiz Galadon, told the world that Spain wished to “right a historic wrong” against the Jewish people. Galadon said that those who sought such citizenship would not be required to move to Spain.

     Galadon claimed that Spain had the toughest laws against Holocaust denial and all forms of “anti-Semitism.” This may be so. Nevertheless, it is important to recognized that at least 150 million of Europe’s 731 million people seek the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of the 1.5 million Jews still in Europe. As a result, ten percent of French Jews have already moved to Israel or the United States and others are on the verge of emigrating from that continent of hate and murder.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Assassination, Anarchy, & Terrorism (2012).

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