My time spent on the island is part indolence ,being a beach bum eating paella,dancing and singing flamenco in a bar,swimming throughout the day and sipping cortados at seaside at a trendy restaurant .
I admit there is more than that .
It may surprise you to learn that the islands of Ibiza and Formentera where i have been living during the summer months the past 5 years have been the homes of Jews since thousands of years ago .
As it is i am one of a few Jews that live on the island of Formentera as far as i know.
Ibiza and Formentera are the third and fourth largest of the Balearic Islands. They are situated south to south-east of Majorca, equidistant to North Africa and mainland Spain, the islands provided a strong commercial attraction to Jewish traders from the periods of Phoenician and Roman occupation, particularly for their bountiful salt beds.and the dyeing industries. During the Roman time salt was considered “white gold ”
The Jewish history of the Pitiuses Islands spans twenty-seven centuries, with the first recorded Jews coming as traders with the Phoenicians. The commercially-minded Phoenicians were the first developers of the two main islands — Ibiza and Formentera — in 654 B.C.E., just 160 years after the building of Carthage. The Romans were the succeeding conquerors,
For 2,000 years the Ibicencos have been a perfect example of a multi-communal society, living together in peace. Descended from Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Carthaginians and many others, the islanders collectively protected their Jews from all comers.
I am on a mission to find out all i can about the Jews who lived here for thousands of years and i act like a Indiana Jones as i explore pirate caves and chat up elder locals and look for a secret synagogue and ferret out rumors and hunt down a concentration camp.
Yes this island of paradise once held a notorious concentration camp that housed some 1700 prisoners awaiting execution and i discovered that it held mostly Jews who were communists and free masons and in opposition to Franco . Many came from Ibiza and some were locals . 58 were recorded to have died from malnutrition as given the brutal conditions.
During the Civil War bombers would take off from Formentera accompanied by Hitler’s Luftwaffe to conduct bombing raids on the civilian population of Valencia on the Mainland.
In the 30’s the Nazi’s and fascists of Spain and Italy had infiltrated the Balearics primarily Majorca and the Jewish population there was under the microscope.
From the beginning of the German National Socialist Party’s rise to power and subsequent activity in Spain, Majorca, the controlling Balearic Isle, was earmarked by the Nazis as a fertile area from which to propagate their doctrines.
On 25 August 1936, Mussolini gave an audience to Edmondo Rossi, one of his earliest military supporters. Il Duce commanded:
Tomorrow you will leave for Palma… Count Ciano will give you a detailed disposition. I am counting on you. The work you are undertaking is of capital importance for the triumph of Latin and Christian civilization, menanced by the international rabble at Moscow’s orders that wants to Bolshevize the people of the Mediterranean basin.
Mussolini had chosen his man well. Rossi rapidly make his mark. It was Rossi who created the concentration camps in the Balearics in conjunction with the fascists of Spain,Italy and Germany.
On 20 September 1936 with 500 men he landed in Ibiza, camouflaged and took over the island. Next Rossi takes Formentera and Cabrera. Soon after the concentration camp on Formentera is built and lists of Jews are collected for the masters back in Nazi Germany.
Rossi was a despicable red-bearded womanizer, proud of boasting „”that he needed at least a woman a day‟. He drove around in a sports racing car sporting his black shirt decorated with a large white cross. when there was not even fuel for the starving fishermen to take their boats out, Rossi rarely left a village before dead bodies lay on the ground. Within days of the Italians’ arrival in the islands 400 residents whom they saw as Republican sympathizers were rounded up and shot.
It was justifiably reckoned by the Fascists that 20% of Majorcans had a high proportion of Jewish blood in their veins, Such data became sinister in 1942 when the Nazis demanded the latest census lists.
Rossi installed local concentration camps for anybody who even slightly displayed opposition. The remnants of one of the most brutal of such camps can still be seen in Formentera and this is the one i sought out. This isle became the final outpost of ‟ opposition to Franco, the participants mainly consisting of Ibicenco Jews and Freemasons. All suffered most severely, many with death, for their allegiance to anti-fascism.
I walked around the concentration camp ruins and i said the Kaddish ,the Jewish prayer for the dead ,
“Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash shama raba ”
possibly the only time it has been said here. There are no plaques here ,no mention of Jews here being murdered ,just broken down walls and ruins and some stone wells long disused .All hint of brutality have been erased as if the island wishes to forget and forget it does.
In my digging around i discovered some townspeople were instrumental in targeting and turning in their neighbors who were politically against Franco.
Sometimes if the person in question had fled whole extended families were interned.
Quite a secret people would not want to talk about now that Franco has gone as of 1974.
I dug in the ground looking for bullet casings and shells and i found barbed wire . I imagine the bodies of the dead were thrown out to sea ….
How ironic that i find myself on this Spanish island as one of the only Jews and i am involved in a hunt for the ghosts of my ancestors or is it ironic?
One thing that occurs to me as i am living in Spain .
700 years ago if i had been living in the Jewish Quarter in Barcelona i would have been murdered in a terrible pogrom.
500 years ago as a Jew i wouldn’t be allowed to be here and i would have been hunted and burnt alive for being a Jew unless i converted and even then i would be watched and liable to being denounced at some point and probably tortured or burnt alive at the stake. .
300 years ago the same thing.
200 years ago the same thing way up to the 1940’s where i might have been turned over to the SS Nazis . I just read
that in 1936 Franco was toying with reintroducing the Inquisition . None of this is hyperbole. It was only in 1968 that Franco formally ended the decree expelling Jews from Spain. Up until 1966 no Jew could build a place of worship in Spain…
I was arrested by Franco’s police in 1973 for calling them Nazi fascist pigs .
I wonder what would have happened if they found out my religion. To them then i was a filthy Communist hippie. .
Another thought came to me . How many of the people iI have met here in Spain actually have Jewish blood in their veins.
Now it is 2018 and i can do what i like and if anyone calls me a Jew i will say yes i am. If they call me a dirty Jew then i will punch them in the face
Another thought has also occurred to me .
What if Nazi Germany had won the Second World War because America had decided not to get involved.
Again i wouldn’t be able to live here .
Jonathon Lipsin is a writer,adventurer ,poet and blogger passionate about food and cooking travel ,music and nature. He lives between his home in Sonoma County in California near the ocean and Formentera in Spain as well as his hometown of Montreal and also Israel ..
.Check out his website at jonathondlipsin.com