SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — A Spanish official has given what is being heralded as the country’s first formal apology for the Inquisition’s killing of Jews.
On the island of Mallorca, where 37 Jews were killed in 1691 for secretly practicing Judaism, the regional president offered the apology at a May 5 memorial service in the city of Palma.
“We have dared to gather here to recognize the grave injustice committed against those Mallorcans who were accused, persecuted, charged and condemned to death for their faith and their beliefs," the Balearic Islands regional president, Francesc Antich, told a crowd of 130, according to an Associated Press report.
Spain’s Jewish federation told reporters it may have been the first such government-sponsored event in Spanish history.
The ceremony was suggested by Michael Freund, the chairman of Shavei Israel, an Israel-based nonprofit that seeks out “lost Jews” around the world, the AP reported. Freund said he hoped it would inspire similar ceremonies elsewhere in Spain.
When the Inquisition was launched in 1492, Spain’s Jews either left the country or converted to Catholicism. Many “conversos” continued to practice Judaism in secret and were punished severely if caught.
On Mallorca, 82 conversos were condemned in 1691. Thirty-four were publicly garroted and their bodies were burned in bonfires. Another three, including a rabbi, were burned alive.
It is believed that about 15,000 descendants of conversos live on Mallorca today. Nearly all are Catholic.