General Franco statue
One of the last remaining statues of the late General Francisco Franco being removed by a crane from a military center in Valencia, Spain on April 6, 2010. Photo by AP
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BERLIN - Francisco Franco, the former fascist dictator of Spain, gave the Nazis a list of every Jew in his country in order to facilitate efforts to locate, deport and destroy them, according to a document found recently in a Spanish archive and reported on Sunday by the Spanish daily El Pais.

The paper said that in 1941, Spain prepared a list of all 6,000 Jews in its territory and gave it to the architect of the Nazis' Final Solution, Heinrich Himmler. At the time, Spain and Germany were negotiating over Spain's entry into the Axis alliance.

In the end, however, no alliance was signed, and Spain remained neutral throughout World War II.

After the Nazis' defeat in 1945, the Spanish government tried to destroy all evidence of its cooperation with the Germans. But the document recently found in an archive in the city of Zaragoza, in northeastern Spain, sheds light on what Franco sought to hide.

The document is an official order, dated May 13, 1941, issued by Franco's chief of security, Jose Maria Finat y Escriva de Romani, to all provincial governors. It instructs them to prepare a list of every Jew in their district, both local residents and foreigners, along with details about "their personal and political leanings, their means of supporting themselves, their commercial activity, the level of threat they constitute and their security classification."

Himmler also requested that the list include Jews who had converted to Christianity. And provincial governors were asked to make special efforts to locate Sephardi Jews, descendants of those who were expelled in 1492, since they were able to conceal themselves among the local populace due to their ability to speak Ladino, a Jewish dialect that is largely based on Spanish.

"Their adaptation to our environment and their similar temperament allow them to hide their origin more easily," the order explained. "These people do not stand out, and therefore it is especially hard to foil their efforts at subversion."

The order refers to the Jews as "that infamous race."

Shortly before the list was prepared, Romani and Himmler attended a bullfight in Madrid together. After it was finalized, Romani was appointed Spain's ambassador to Germany, enabling him to deliver it personally to Himmler.

Franco ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. After World War II, he tried to claim that he actually strove to save the Jews of Spain. But historians say that fascist Spain did not stay neutral due to any ideological opposition to joining the Axis, but only because the Spanish Civil War of 1936-9 had left the country in such a bad economic shape.

It is true that Franco built no concentration camps on Spanish territory, nor did he voluntarily hand Jews over to Germany. However, neither did he make the kind of efforts to save Jews that Spain's neutrality would have allowed - and he did send 18,000 Spanish volunteers to fight alongside the Germans on the eastern front from 1941 to 1943.

In contrast, Spanish diplomats throughout Europe did save thousands of Jews. But they were working on their own, at great personal risk, in defiance of Franco's official policy. These diplomats gave transit visas to Jewish refugees - most of them of Spanish descent - and also sheltered many Jews in Spanish consulates and embassies in Hungary, France, Greece, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania.