Commentary Magazine

Spanish Anti-Semitism Today

The man at the next table was once a notorious Belgian fascist. The magazine he is reading contains a glowing feature on the life and work of Adolf Hitler. The journal at my elbow has an advertisement for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (“Judaism's most famous document”), price 125 pesetas, with a thirty per cent discount if you also take its companion volume Anti-España, a revelation of “the conspiracy against Spain by the forces of evil,” this time English as well as Jewish (a favorite and, for Englishmen at least, rather flattering fascist combination). The morning paper reports a right-minded gathering in Madrid to attend a solemn mass for the repose of the immortal soul of Benito Mussolini: guest of honor, Otto Skorzeny . . . It was an effort not to write “the late Otto Skorzeny.” The very thought that such people still exist seems grotesque. But General Franco's Spain is something of a political waxwork museum. As in all such places, one shudders one minute and laughs the next.

Take, for example, this recent issue of Qué Pasa?, an ultra-Catholic right-wing weekly. Its cover-photo shows the back of the head and one shoulder of a mysterious, balding, apparently one-eared man. The photo is captioned: “The men in the shadows.” The cover-story is a two-page spread, the first of a series, headlined starkly: “THE ANTICHRIST IN ACTION. Who promotes confusion and discord? Extract from a sensational secret report . . . revealing to the world the existence of a vast satanic organization.” A long hyperbolic introduction to the story proclaims:

Recently an important secret—“strictly secret”—document has been discovered which . . . throws light on the activities of a group of men who now stand unmasked as mortal enemies of the most precious traditions of Christian civilization. . . . The report reveals that millions of dollars are being spent in order to brainwash the average American and secure control of all information media, schools, labor unions, Protestant churches, etc. . . . Never before has the light of day been shed onto so perfect, so diabolical, so systematic a plot, prepared by the few to dominate the many. Never before have such huge sums of money been available for such catastrophic ends: the waging of an underground war on Christianity . . . war to the death against the Christian world.

The nerve-center of the plot, one learns (after several hundred words of breathless build-up), is in the United States, and Qué Pasa? quotes “an important speech delivered in February 1955 by Senator William E. Jenner” in which Mr. Jenner is alleged to have declared that the United States “has two governments—one visible (the President, Congress, etc.), the other invisible, with its own members and agents inside Congress, the President's office, the Supreme Court and other official bodies.” Who are these invisible plotters? Spinning out the suspense, Qué Pasa? replies: “Neither the Communist party nor the Mafia, though their ramifications extend to both these groups.” The “strictly secret” document which gives the whole show away is “nothing less than the annual report of the American Jewish Committee.”

The villains. are, in short, “the Jews.” The American Jewish Committee merits special attention because it is “the most powerful visible instrument of organized Jewry” and “much can be learned about the Jews' aims and methods by studying its publications: these include a review named Commentary, a year-book, and various secret reports not for general distribution.” The aims of the American Jewish Committee are:

To influence the policy of the United States government;

To control the press, radio, cinema, etc., and exert pressure on writers, film-producers, etc.;

To control the thoughts of Americans by brainwashing and other psychological means;

To control the churches of the United States.

Much is made by Qué Pasa? of Jewish-Protestant cooperation in cultural and social affairs, and the National Council of Churches is stated to be peculiarly vulnerable to Jewish penetration. (This theme is echoed in other papers. Religión reports—under the headline, “Eighty million Catholics in the USA”—that “the so-called National Council of Churches,” representing “nearly two hundred Protestant sects,” has adopted a version of the Bible “edited by two Jews, Simon and Schuster,” and “substantially altered, especially in the passages referring to the virginity of the Most Blessed Virgin and the divinity of Christ.”) Members of the American Jewish Committee will probably be agreeably surprised to learn that they have a “singularly powerful” hold on Methodist women.


On the whole, Jews have had an easier time than Protestants in Spain during General Franco's “quarter-century of peace.” True, early Falangist propagandists tried more than once to popularize the anti-Semitic attitudes of German and Italian fascism. Franco himself denounced in a public speech, in May 1939, “the Judaic spirit which brings about the alliance of capitalism and Marxism”; and official propaganda distributed to the Spanish Blue Division, which fought with the Nazis in Russia, said of the enemy: “Your family names are democracy, Marxism, and plutocracy, but your baptismal name is without doubt Judaism.” But the regime always had a more than ample supply of left-wing, liberal, and anarcho-syndicalist scapegoats, whereas Jews were thin on the ground.

Press and pulpit in Spain have nevertheless exuded a steady drip of anti-Jewish—in particular, anti-Zionist—propaganda over the last twenty-five years. General Franco's postwar ambition to succeed Mussolini as “protector of Islam,” and his efforts to break the Western democracies' partial boycott of his regime between 1945 and 1950, led him to flirt with the Arab League, and his propagandists applauded Arab efforts to destroy Israel. (Interestingly, British broadcasts to the Arabs during this period warned them that their cause would be discredited by association with Franco.)

The flirtation continued throughout the 1950s, and as recently as March 1964, the Caudillo's Minister of Information, Sr. Fraga Iribarne, gushed in Cairo over “the similarity between Egypt's revolution and Spain's” and concluded an agreement for the exchange of news-services and press and television features between Egypt and Spain. The new Arab leaders, Nasserist and Baathist alike, saw in Spain's Falange and government-controlled trade unions models for their own single-party regimes. General Franco withheld diplomatic recognition from Israel, and his press and radio portrayed the Israelis as hard-faced atheists, Marxists, and capitalists. A characteristic three-column headline over an article on Israel published in November 1962 (by the relatively moderate Catholic daily Ya) read: “Atheism is the common denominator of the overwhelming majority of [Israel's] citizens.”

Catholic publicists have been a particularly potent source of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiment in General Franco's Spain. For a representative moderate view one might quote the Rev. Ramón Cué, well-known Jesuit lecturer. Don Ramón praises the Israelis for one achievement: the revival of spoken Hebrew. But he has told audiences in Bilbao and elsewhere: “The Jews are above all materialists. Money is the one thing they respect. Hence their terrible economic power.” He criticizes Orthodox Judaism for being “as always, the enemy of Christianity.” Somewhat inconsistently, he also criticizes “the Jews” for their indifference to religion and the fact that “they consider all the religions of the world to be of the same value.”

Farther out, but more influential, is the Rev. Venancio Marcos, the principal religious commentator of Radio Nacional de España, the official Spanish broadcasting network. Lecturing in San Sebastian earlier this year, Padre Venancio expressed the wish that “the times would permit a revival of the Holy Inquisition.” He warned his packed audience to beware of false legends about the so-called crimes of the Inquisition. “The Spanish Inquisition committed fewer crimes in its whole history than English Protestantism in one year.” And he warned against the enemies of Spain: the Communists, the freemasons, all Protestants, and the Jews. The Jews were dangerous because the world's news-agencies were in their hands. “Isabel the Catholic had to expel the Jews because they were taking over the nation's wealth, occupying key posts, and spreading heresy. They took their revenge by spreading lies about Spain: it is they who have done us the most harm.”


Pope Paul's visit to Jerusalem last winter inspired a more objective approach to Israel. His journey was covered by some of Spain's most competent reporters, and in the articles they sent back, professional conscience generally overcame political and religious prejudice. A current of opinion in favor of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel became perceptible in the Spanish Foreign Ministry, always sensitive to trends within the Vatican. The Catholic medievalist Don Ramón Menéndez Pidal, president of the Spanish Academy, suddenly accepted a long-standing invitation to visit Israel and returned to give the Madrid press an enthusiastic account of Israeli hospitality and to advocate closer cultural ties between Spain and the Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jews. “One Israeli in seven speaks Spanish,” proclaimed Ya and other Catholic papers; “Spain must help the Sephardis to preserve their culture.”

A few weeks after Pope Paul's pilgrimage, a small Catholic lay monthly, El Ciervo, boldly criticized another Catholic paper, the organ of an influential religious order, for having printed an article justifying Hitler's “punishment” of the Jews. (El Ciervo is published by a group of young intellectuals in Barcelona, where the struggle to preserve the cultural identity of Catalonia has generated sympathy for the Israelis and other beleaguered peoples.) In an editorial note that probably has no precedent in Spanish Catholic journalism, but was passed in its entirety by the ecclesiastical censorship, El Ciervo declared:

. . . Anti-Semitism has been nourished for centuries on tortuous, pernicious lies which have attempted to establish a connection between Judaism and freemasonry, the Anti-Christ, and, more recently, Communism. . . . But it is as absurd to condemn all Jews because a few Jews are Communists as it would be to claim that all Jews are divinely inspired because Christ, the Virgin, Saint Joseph, the Apostles and the early Church Fathers were Jews. . . .

When speaking of Catholics who are persecuted by those who hate religion, one cannot overlook the fact that sometimes in the past Catholics have been the persecutors and Jews, among others, the victims.


What of the small hard core of unrepentant pro-Nazis, admirers of the Action française, and other right-wing extremists still to be found in Spain? They are less harmful than priests like Padre Venancio because they are, on the whole, less “respectable” and therefore less likely to corrupt the innocent. But they are still a fecund source of poison, and the Falange's thirty-nine daily newspapers are usually willing to record their views and to interview itinerant ex-fascists and neo-fascists from other countries. The anti-Jewish French writer and former socialist deputy Paul Rassinier, for example, was interviewed during his last vacation in Spain. The press reported him—at length—as denouncing Jewish “lies” about the Nazi concentration camps:

It was the inmates themselves who ran the camps, under the supervision of German and Polish Communists, not the Nazis. . . . The so-called gas-chambers were a propagandist fiction. The one that is exhibited at Dachau was built after the war on the orders of the Allies. . . . The Jews have made a fuss about these camps purely for financial reasons. German reparations are vital to Israel's economy. The more terrible the stories they can tell about Nazi persecution, the more reparations they can get. Hence the myth of the six million murdered Jews; hence the Eichmann trial.1

Several thousand French Algerians, many of extreme right-wing views, have settled in Spain, and some of their money appears to have been invested in one or two small publishing enterprises that produce works by neo-fascist theorists, including Spanish translations of books by M. Rassinier and Dr. Lefévre (the notorious Algiers plotter who played an important role in certain of the conspiracies that brought General de Gaulle to power). French-Algerian funds are also thought to have helped launch the new illustrated fortnightly Juanpérez (an English equivalent of its name would be Johnsmith) which dedicates itself to “anti-Communism, anti-capitalism, Catholicism . . . and the truth, the truth above all things.” As a specimen of the “elemental truths” in which it believes, Juanpérez declares editorially: “We believe that Catholicism will prevail. But it is gravely menaced, for behind Communism is that other powerful enemy of the Catholic Church, Zionism . . . We consider that in the last world war Germany and its allies were defending Europe from Communism, which was able to advance only with the support of the plutocratic democracies.”

Juanpérez has much in common with the French weekly Rivarol. It describes as an historical injustice “the odious treatment the victors inflicted on the vanquished in 1945 and the continual revival of war-crimes charges.” It mourns “the millions of Anna Franks on the German side, coventried—to use that typically English gutter-verb—by Allied bombers.” It claims that in 1940 there were only two million Jews in German-occupied territory and that Hitler and Pétain would have let most of them go to Madagascar had the Allies been willing. It flays the German dramatist Rolf Hochhuth (The Deputy) for promoting anti-clericalism and serving Israel “for an abundant price.”

At first sight, this sort of thing seems aggressive, even mildly alarming. Reading it more carefully, one senses the almost pathetic realization of its authors that they have no future. Fundamentally, like all fascists, neo- and otherwise, they are on the defensive, their eyes fixed obsessively on the past. General Franco's regime is their last major European redoubt, and even its stout walls are at last crumbling.


1 Cf. Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser: “German reparations are the lifeblood of Israel. Yet the lie about the six million murdered Jews is no longer taken seriously by anyone, not even by the simplest man in our country.”

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