- Although it was officially neutral during World War II, Spain’s sympathies were with Germany. After the fall of France in 1940, tens of thousands of refugees, mostly Jews, attempted to enter Spain so as to reach seaports where they hoped to find a ship that would sail them to a safe haven. Spain’s policy was to allow refugees to enter if they possessed entry visas to Portugal or some other country. Despite this restriction, tens of thousands of refugees entered the country in 1940–1941. When it was demanded, however, the Spanish security police handed over refugees to the Germans. Nevertheless, the regular emigration of Jews to Spain continued until October 1941, when it was halted by the Germans.The Spanish government on the whole was concerned about the influx of thousands of refugees into Spain, and in formulating a policy to meet the crisis, it did not discriminate against Jews, nor did it share the racial anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany. In fact, the government countered Germany’s threat to Spanish Jews living in other European countries by issuing a document that protected more than 4,000 Spanish Jews living in various European countries. The Spanish government authorized the use of “protective documents” and issued a special passport that allowed for a person to obtain Spanish citizenship without residing in the country. When the Germans in January 1943 demanded that Spanish Jews living in Western European countries leave by March 31, the Spanish government was positioned to save the lives of thousands of Spanish Jews living in Nazi-occupied countries.The Spanish authorities, however, did limit the number of refugees seeking asylum to enter Spain. They demanded that refugees claiming Spanish citizenship produce complete documentation of their Spanish origins. This requirement resulted in many of the refugees being denied entry into Spain. The government also insisted that refugees who entered Spain depart shortly after their arrival. Toward the implementation of this policy, the Spanish government stipulated that only after one group of refugees left the country would the next group be allowed residence in Spain. As a result of these restrictions, it has been estimated that a total of only 800 Spanish Jews were allowed to enter Spain from 1943 to the end of the war. Similarly, between 1942 and 1943, when refugees fled from France in order to escape deportation, they sought sanctuary in Spain. The Spanish government, at this point, was ready to turn over the Jewish refugees to the Germans, but threats from British prime minister Winston Churchill led it to rescind this decision. In April 1943, the Spanish government announced that the refugees could stay, provided that they were cared for and that they would, as in the case of the Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Germans, leave the country for another destination as soon as possible.Under these circumstances, the number of Jewish refugees who found refuge in Spain between mid-1942 and the fall of 1944 was approximately 7,500. Despite pressure from the Germans, the Jewish refugees in Spain were not singled out for persecution nor were they discriminated against. The Spanish authorities treated Jewish and non-Jewish refugees alike. They permitted Jews to live in towns and in the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, where Jewish relief agencies covered the cost of their upkeep.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.
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