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Anti-Semitism in Spain

To the Editors:

Since the beginning of the year there has been a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in Spain. In January, after Leon Uris’s series about World War II was shown on Spanish television, the programs were attacked as racist because of their stress on mass killing of the Jews in Nazi concentration camps. One hundred Spaniards brought a collective suit against the television channel, stating that any damages collected would be donated to Palestinian refugees. On April 29, during a weekend in which neo-Nazi youth groups attempted to celebrate a Catholic mass honoring Hitler’s birthday, three stores owned by Jews were burned in Madrid. Several Jewish storeowners were threatened with death and a bomb was found in the Barcelona synagogue on whose walls were scrawled “death to the Jews” and other insults.

Several weeks after those incidents twenty thousand ultra-rightists—many of them belonging to the growing Nazi groups—held an illegal and openly anti-Semitic demonstration in Madrid. In the municipal elections in May, Fuerza Nueva, a fanatical right-wing group which uses anti-Semitic slogans, received 100,000 votes in Madrid alone, far more than had been expected. After a somewhat censored version of the NBC series Holocaust was shown on Spanish television, the Nazi group called CEDADE distributed hundreds of posters reading “Holocaust Lie of Six Million.”

Growing anti-Semitism in Spain can be connected with the proliferation of extremist groups, some calling themselves right-wing, others left-wing. A number of new literary magazines are showing interest in the old nationalistic concepts of “eternal Spain,” which have vaguely fascist overtones. Mean-while, the heavy influx into the Spanish job market of highly skilled Latin American refugees—some of them Jewish—has also helped to revive Spanish xenophobia. Many of the prejudices cultivated during the Franco years persist. Franco never recognized Israel and the present government is firmly opposed to doing so. Many young Spaniards consider support of the PLO a crucial qualification for being identified as “progressive” or leftist.

In June the respected liberal newspaper El País published an article suggesting that Spain’s small number of Jews might eventually become a sinister force connected to the Rothschild financial empire. One caption reads: ISRAEL THE REAL MOTHER, SPAIN THE ADOPTED MOTHER. “They are to be found in all places…they control a wide variety of enterprises but apparently their power isn’t yet dangerous.” This article did not express El País‘s usual editorial policy. But its conspiratorial view is common among younger writers and television journalists. In the television discussion on Holocaust, an ex-Nazi was invited to express his views but no Jews were asked to participate. A few concerned Spaniards such as the philosopher Julian Marías, and the political scientists Haro Tecglan and Antonio Marquina, have tried to give serious accounts of what happened in Germany and in Spain during the Hitler years. But Spanish intellectuals for the most part have shown a marked indifference to the subject, as they do to the Jew-baiting that has been taking place.

Barbara Probst Solomon

New York City

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