By Felipe and Annarose Lopez
We want to share with all of you some information about our recent trip through the Catalonia Province. A real discovery, some by coincidence, others as previously researched, but in the end a wealth of information about Jewish roots in Spain.
We had a chance to visit several cities such as Lleida. By chance, we came across a magnificent exhibition with the title of ‘Catalonia and the Jewish Refugees in the Second World War’.
While viewing the numerous items in this exhibition, we learned that the first anti-Semitic measures in Germany brought about the exodus of thousands of Jews to Catalonia. Many of them settled in Barcelona. Until 1941, the refugees used to arrive with the documents required by the Spanish authorities, which were issued by the Spanish embassies and consulates in Europe, especially the ones in France. This was often done by the personal initiative of Spanish diplomats.
The early years of the Franco regime were characterized by its hostility to the Jews who lived in Spain. For that reason some families left Barcelona and other chose to convert to Catholicism. The members of the Israelite Community of Barcelona, founded in 1918, lived in hiding. After an incident early in 1939 (just before the end of the Spanish Civil War) when a group of Falangists sacked the synagogue on the corner of Carrer de Provenca and Carrer de Balmes, services were then held in private apartments until 1954, when the new synagogue was inaugurated in Carrer del Avenir.
But there was also great solidarity in Catalonia as demonstrated in the town of Les, in the Val d’Aran (valley of Aran), where the town folks helped the Jewish refugees fleeing from the terror. Many of the refugees reached Catalonia thanks to the escape networks set up in France and Andora by the Allied Information Services, with the participation of the people of the Pyrenees and Spanish exiles linked to the parties and organizations in opposition to the Franco regime (CNT, PCE, POUM, FNC, etc.). The guides led them along the difficult paths of the Pyrenees in cold, snowy and foggy environments. But unfortunately, an unknown number of refugees were forced to return to France and were handed over to the French police, and starting in November of 1942, to Nazi Germany.
We were really impressed with scope of this exhibition, which additionally included a number of personal accounts and stories of several Jewish refugees.
We continued with our trip and visited the small town of Tortosa, which is well worth a visit. There we also found Jewish roots, a barrio called 'Juderia', which one can reach via Calle Jerusalem. Menachen ben Saru, a Spanish-Jewish philologist of the 10th Century ce, was a poet and polyglot who produced and early dictionary in Hebrew, was born around 920 in this town.
In the accompanying pictures one can see other cities that also had Jewish roots, with its own history which it was our delight to discover. We hope you enjoy this small display of Jewish roots in Espana.
Click HERE to view the pictures in the Gallery.
Temporarily Suspended until further notice