Text size

Indexes of the exhibitions

Of jews and cretans

Discurso contra los judíos, Salamanca, 1631

Between the Decree of expulsion issued 31March 1492 and the death of Fernando VII, marking the end of Absolutism, the Spanish library of Judaica was rather a vast repertoire of anti-Judaica. All anti-Jewish literature is based on quite similar patterns, at least in predominantly Catholic countries, but it is undeniable that Hispanic anti-Judaism possesses some distinguishing particularities in contrast to other Christian varieties (I am of course talking about anti-Jewish literature based on religious factors, not about anti-Semitic literature; the latter presents quite a wide variety of works; as for anti-Jewish literature, it would be undoubtedly convenient to establish some differences between Christian and Islamic anti-Judaism).Many of these aforementioned particularities, to which more attention has been paid in modern historiography, originated in old Christian casticismo and in its concomitant phantasmagoria, the fear of Crypto-Judaism during the 16th-18th centuries and the obsession with another monster conceived amongst the dreams of the meaninglessness: the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy of the 18th and 20th centuries. I read recently in a book written by Luis Suárez, Lo que el mundo le debe a España (Barcelona, 2016), that Franco's regime was forced to employ extremely rigorous discretion and avoid publicity in their diplomatic efforts in order to save the lives of a number of Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis, given that, during the last years of the Second World War, the Spanish population was still exposed to the influence of Hitlerite propaganda about the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy. However, the concept of Judeo-Masonic conspiracy was not invented by the Nazis; it was nothing but a spectre created by the Spanish Catholic right wing, based on French materials from the 18th century. This is in fact one of Spain's unquestionable contributions to world history.

What the Nazis created was the myth of the Judeo-Bolshevik Connivance. They drew parallels between Communism and Judaism and, as is widely known, this served as a pretext for presenting the "Holocaust of bullets" that befell Soviet territories invaded by the Wehrmacht as a crusade against Bolshevism. Tens of thousands of Spanish volunteers belonging to the Blue Division took part in the action, their minds clouded by the reading of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and similar political harangues during the Second Spanish Republic and the Civil War. The famous falsification at the beginning of the 20th century, caused by pamphleteers paid by the Tsarist police, was published by diverse Catholic publishers during the constituent period of the Republic and provided the Spanish right wing factions with a sentiment of anti-Semitism somewhere between traditional religious anti-Judaism and modern secular Judeophobia. This inclined those right-wing sectors to enthusiastically embrace Nazi propaganda and, according to Luis Suárez, to become addicted to it. As there were not many Jews in Spain in the late thirties of the past century, the victors of the Civil War were merciless with Freemasonry, which was still automatically identified with Jews because of the Judeo-Masonic myth, which in fact was slowly disappearing due to the forceful entry of the new Judeo-Bolshevic myth, closely related to Nazi anti-Semitism. As a matter of fact, both myths gave rise to a considerable anti-Jewish book collection, but the present exhibition does not deal with this topic.

Anti-Judaism in the Spain of the Ancien Régime succumbed to the myth of Crypto-Judaism, the origin of which dates back to the final crisis experienced by the Spanish absolutist monarchy, and its subordination to the Church. In the absence of Jews in a country where they were not to be present again until 1834 (there were very few Jews in Spain from that moment until the end of the Spanish Protectorate in the north of Morocco), Freemasonry became the chief enemy of Catholic Spanish right wing factions during the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. The enemies of purism were the Judaizers and the Crypto-Jews or marranos, who were converts or converts' descendants who secretly worshipped the forbidden religion. In any case, actual Judaizers were rather scarce in the metropolis of the Spanish empire. There were more Judaizers in the American colonies, where the prevalent syncretism in the orbe indiano facilitated the camouflage of new Jews (this syncretism is still dominant in quite a few Sephardi communities in Brazil, as it used to be characteristic of Portuguese exiled in France and Holland). In Spain, the Inquisition and the negative discrimination targeted converts and converts' descendants, especially the latter ones, who were called "New Christians" and were always suspicious of Crypto-Judaism.

None of this is new. But in any case, the particularity of Spanish religious anti-Judaism, which made a biological feature off the differences between Old and New Christians (to a much larger extent than Christianity in other countries), may well be because of the influence of Islam, given that Christians lived together with Muslims for eight centuries on the Iberian Peninsula. Let me clarify this: the extreme guilt that Christianity attributed to Jews was referring to the deicide. Killing Jesus Christ would have been the decisive crime committed by the followers of the Law of Moses, as well as the origin of their inevitable dishonour. However, Muslims had a slightly different conception of the crime that the Jews had committed: for them, it was mendacity, lies; according to Muslims, Jews concealed and suppresed the Biblical prophecies concerning Mahoma's advent. From my point of view, this Islamic particularity concerning Jews, whereby they are considered deceitful and mendacious, had a significant impact on the predominant stereotypes surrounding Jews (and Jewish converts as well) and on the mentality of Christians from medieval Spain. Let us have a look at the final verses of Auto de los Reyes Magos from the cathedral of Toledo, composed at the end of the 12th century; it was not considered scholarly literature, it was rather targeted at ordinary folk. In the aforementioned verses (127-147), Herod summons the rabbis to find out where the Messiah was to be born:

RABÍ [1º]Rey, ¿qué te plaze? Henos venidos.
HERODES¿Í traedes vostros escriptos?
RABÍ [1º]Rey, sí traemos,
los mejores que nos avemos.
HERODESPues catad,
dezidme la vertad
si es aquel ome nacido
que esto tres rees m’an dicho.
Dí, rabí, la vertad,
si tú lo as sabido.
RABÍ [1º]Por veras vos lo digo
que no lo fallo escripto.
RABÍ [2º]¡Hamihala. Cúmo eres enartado!
¿Por qué eres rabí clamado?
Non entendes las profecías,
las que nos dixo Jeremías.
¡Por mi ley, nos somos errados!
¿Por qué non somos acordados?
¿Por qué non dezimos vertad?
RABÍ [1º]Yo non la sé, par caridad.
RABÍ [2º]Porque non la avemos usada
Ni en nuestras vocas es fallada.*
Clara luz, Mallorca, 1689

What really baffled any Christian living anywhere beyond the Pyrenees was the fact that rabbis of the Spanish Auto are portrayed as incorrigible criminals, as well as being referred to as fatefully liars even before the death of Jesus Christ. In other words, Spanish Christianity condemned Jews before embracing the idea of deicide. That is indeed what Muslims thought, given that they did not consider Jesus Christ's crucifixion as deicide. Not even as homicide or death, because Isa (Jesus) would never have died. According to the Islamic tradition, his death was only an illusion and a deceitful appearance (Portuguese Crypto-Jews, in their syncretic traditions, believed in the idea of Jesus being sent by God to redeem the world, but he fell asleep and did not manage to do it. This is really a Muslim tradition, widespread among the Spanish Moors). Condemning the Jews prior to the death of Jesus Christ is a revealing indicator of the Hispanic racialisation of religious differences. But above all, it clarifies why Spanish Old Christians considered all converts and their descendants false Christians. It surely happened because they adopted the Islamic concept on Jews' inability to tell the truth -they always lie, just as the Cretans in the Logical Paradox. Therefore, their conversions are fake and it is not worth the effort to convert them by means of theological arguments. Here the virulently anti-Jewish tone (which is not at all apologetic) that can be noted in most of the Spanish library of Judaica that this excellent exhibition displays.

Jon Juaristi
Professor of Spanish Literature

(*) Emphasis added