During the 1990s, Dr. Lawrence Feldman, at the request of the United States National Holocaust Memorial Museum, conducted research in Spain to determine what role, if any, Spain had played in the destruction of world Jewry by Hitler during World War II. Based on separate trips to relevant Spanish archives in 1995 and 1998, Feldman prepared reports for the Holocaust Museum concluding that the Spanish leader, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, far from abetting the Holocaust, had actually helped to rescue a limited number of Spanish-speaking Jews (Sephardim). When Dr. Feldman initiated his own research into Spain’s role in World War II in 2007–this time in passenger records and state Department records at the U.S. National Archives, as well as newspaper files at the Library of Congress–he discovered that Franco’s role in the rescue of European Jewry was considerably more significant.
In the Introduction to his new book, Franco’s Refugees. Records of the Jews Who Came Through Spain and Portugal to New York City, 1940-1941, Lawrence Feldman provides a historical account, drawn from original sources, of the reasons leading to Franco’s decision to provide safe passage to European Jews. Despite the support he had received from Germany during the Spanish Civil War and the on-again, off-again negotiations between Spain and Germany from the fall of France in June 1940 and Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Franco ultimately entered into a secret treaty with the U.S. and its allies for the duration of the conflict. Franco was also sympathetic to the plight of the Jews inasmuch as he had witnessed the financial and military support given to Spain by Sephardic Jews in Spain’s war with Morocco in the 1920s. Finally, Franco’s ability to assist escaping Jews was limited to the early years of the war (1940-41) before Hitler agreed to Germany’s “final solution” to its Jewish problem.
Volume One of Franco’s Refugees identifies several thousand fortunate escapees. The passenger records are arranged, first, by each vessel’s country of origin and thereunder by port and date of departure and date of arrival in New York. Most of the vessels in Volume One were bound for New York from Lisbon; however, a few left from Haifa and a number completed their journeys from Havana. Dr. Feldman identifies each passenger by name, age, occupation, birthplace, and the place and date his visa was issued.