Cata­lans bat­tle over his­tory

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY DANIEL IGRA

CAT­ALO­NIA'S JEWISH com­mu­nity has voiced con­cern over a new law which of­fi­cially recog­nises all vic­tims of “po­lit­i­cal, ide­o­log­i­cal or re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion” dur­ing Franco’s rule.

Many Jewish Cata­lans fear that the his­tory of their suf­fer­ing will ef­fec­tively be sub­sumed by the Law of His­tor­i­cal Me­mory.

Rabbi Jai An­guita, of Barcelona’s pro­gres­sive Co­mu­ni­tat Bet Shalom, is lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ment to ac­knowl­edge the painful past of the 6,000strong Cat­alo­nian com­mu­nity.

“It is im­por­tant that peo­ple know that, be­cause of the dic­ta­tor­ship, our com­mu­nity lived in se­cret, and that we were per­se­cuted, in cer­tain cases de­ported, at times semi-tol­er­ated, but never able to lead a full Jewish life.”

The break­out of the Civil War in 1936 spelt the end of a brief pe­riod of op­ti­mism for Cat­alo­nia’s Jewish com­mu­nity, who were al­lowed to open a syn­a­gogue only in 1928. Al­though many Jews fled, those who re­mained suf­fered fur­ther when Franco took con­trol of Barcelona in 1939. For the next six years, Rabbi An­guita ex­plained, “com­mu­nity life sim­ply ceased to ex­ist”.

Right up un­til 1978, three years af­ter Franco’s death, Jews were forced to ap­ply for per­mis­sion to pray.

So­cial sci­en­tist Xavier Tor­rens of Barcelona Univer­sity claims that few Spa­niards know any­thing about Jews. “It’s as if Jewish cul­ture was some­thing of the past, when in re­al­ity there are Jews liv­ing in Spain to­day.”

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