This Day in Jewish History

1424: Expulsion From Aragon

On this day in 1424, Jews were officially denied the right to live in Barcelona, anticipating the expulsion from Spain in 1492 and the subsequent 400 year exile.

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On December 26, 1424, King Alfonso V of Aragon officially denied Jews the right to live in Barcelona. By that year, it must be said, there were no longer Jews living in the coastal city in northeast Iberia anyway since a pogrom in 1391 in which more than 300 were killed, one of many pogroms that took place across Spain that year. That particular pogrom began with the accusation that Jews had brought the Black Death to the city, and anti-Jewish violence only intensified after the feudal council tried to bring the instigators of the riots to justice. An even larger number of Jews, not only in Barcelona but in Spain in general, accepted conversion to Christianity.  

The following year, in September 1392, Juan I, the king of Aragon, officially abolished Barcelona’s Jewish aljama (community). Two weeks later, however, recognizing the important role played by Jews in the economy, he announced his desire to reestablish the aljama and offered its members the reinstatement of their privileges in addition to having their taxes waived for several years. He even promised a synagogue and a cemetery. No Jews accepted the king’s offer, however, and eventually he allowed the construction of a church at the site designated for the synagogue.

That de facto situation was formalized by Alfonso the Magnanimous on this day in 1424 – 68 years before the expulsion of the Jews from the kingdom of Spain, newly established between Castile and Aragon. Any Jew who was still present in Barcelona had 60 days either to depart or to convert. (Visits to the city, for up to 14 days, were permitted to non-resident Jews on condition they wore their Jew badge and stayed in a hotel.)

By 1492, the ban on unconverted Jews spread to the rest of Spain, and for more than four centuries, there were no openly identifying Jewish resident in the entire Iberian Peninsula. It was not until the 1930s that a large number of Jews returned to Barcelona during the brief period of the Second Republic, which governed the country from 1931 until its overthrow by the forces of Francisco Franco in 1939. In those years, some 7,000 Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany were permitted to settle in Barcelona, and a new synagogue was built for them in the Carrer de l’Avenir.