Introduction to Refuge in Spain


Spain maintained a non-belligerent status throughout World War II.  Hitler was unable to convince Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, to enter the war on the side of the Axis.

Spain was a major transit point from Europe to neutral Portugal.  Tens of thousands of Jews passed through Spain throughout the war.  Many refugees passed through Spain illegally.  Many stayed in Barcelona.

Spain’s leader, Francisco Franco, was ambivalent about Jews using Spain as a safe haven.  As the war turned in favor of the Allies, Allied leaders persuaded Franco to permit a number of Jews to stay until the war ended. 

Spain did not allow Jewish refugee and relief organizations to function openly in the country.  Nonetheless, Jewish rescue organizations were able to cooperate with the staffs of several embassies, including the US and British embassies.  Relief funds were distributed by the wives of the ambassadors.  Samuel Sequerra maintained a clandestine office in Barcelona.  Sequerra and Augusto d’Esaguy were able to channel funds provided by the American Joint and HIAS to Jewish refugees in Spain.

Sequerra and d’Esaguy worked closely with the other American rescue and relief organizations, including the American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers), the Unitarians, and the American Red Cross.  The JDC supplied funds that were distributed by these organizations.

Several thousand Jews were put in the Miranda de Ebero internment camp.

Spanish diplomats in Paris, Athens, Salonika, Budapest and Berlin gave protective documents to several thousand Jews who were of Sephardic (Spanish) descent.


Survival of Jews in Spain


Jews of Spain – As of 1933, 4,000.[1]  By 1936 there was an estimated 6,000 Jews in Spain. After the surrender of France in the Summer of 1940 tens of thousands of refugees entered Spain. With tacit permission of Spanish authorities, 20,000-30,000 Jews escaped to Spain in the early years of the War.   During the war, many thousands of Jewish refugees passed thru Spain on their way to Portugal.[2]  Spanish controlled territories in North Africa had large populations of Jews; Morocco (1941), 14,734 Jews, Tangiers (1940), 8,000 Jews.[3]  4,000 Jews in Europe lived under the protection of the Spanish government.  3,000 Spanish Jews resided in France, 640 in Greece, 107 in Romania, 50 in Hungary, 25 in Yugoslavia and others in Belgium, Bulgaria and Morocco. They were aided by sympathetic consuls.[4]  9 Spaniards have been honored for rescuing Jews.





[1] Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; Benz, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Death Toll,” p. 141

[2] Avni, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, “Spain, General Survey, Jewish Refugees in Spain,” pp. 390-394

[3] Payne in Gutman, 1990, The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Spain”, pp. 1390-1391

[4] Anvi, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Turkey,” pp. 601-603; Payne in Gutman, 1990, The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Spain”, pp. 1390-1391; Leshem, 1969, pp. 231-256

[5] Bender & Weiss, 2007, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v., “Spain,” p. 513



Updated November 5, 2017