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1492: Spain’s Monarchs Bless Columbus, Expell All Jews

In October of 1492, Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue with the assistance of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella. However, just months before in that same year, 1492, the royal pair also expelled their kingdom’s entire population of Jews. Two-hundred thousand human beings mercilessly ordered out of their homes, schools and all that they loved, simply because they were Jews.

Imagine entire families struggling to escape, their lives at stake, on foot across the formidable Pyrenees Mountains, where untold numbers perished; or on boats, where many captains threw Jewish passengers into the sea.

That monstrous act in human history received -– in my recollection -– not one mention in my Catholic education. Never, in 14 years. I daresay few public schools taught the other side of 1492, either. For us in the United States, 1492 is viewed as the hallmark event of our foundation. For Jews — away from our eyes and suffering in Europe — 1492 visited upon them the massive brutality of a heinous state crime, committed on them in the name of religion.

Their expulsion from Spain came after Jews were excoriated during Ferdinand and Isabella’s quest to secure the dominance of their Catholic faith by means of the Spanish Inquisition, an offshoot of earlier Inquisitions.

This horrific moment in recorded history stands among Jews as second only to the mass genocide of the Holocaust.

Another rarely taught act of treachery against Jews occurred in 1543, when the venerable Martin Luther spewed vicious anti-Semitic rhetoric in his book, The Jews and Their Lies.

So the seeds of the world’s most inconceivable, calculated human slaughter were sown into hateful antisemitic minds well in advance of the 1930s, by means of Martin Luther’s vitriolic pen, and by the forced mass expulsion rendered by the murderous King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

Who will teach our children of these events and writings? Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum — ushmm.org — for the documents which verify this article and for suggested curricular material.

To understand the depth and horror of the Holocaust, hear a survivor’s intimate, first-hand story at one of the Museum’s riveting First Person interviews — from March through mid-August, 2014 — in the Museum’s Washington, D.C., auditorium.

After the Holocaust, Jewish leaders told the world, “Never Again,” a challenge all of people of conscience must embrace.

At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we are urged to teach the Holocaust, so that we, our children, and our fellow citizens will never forget, and never again allow what happened to Jews; when the world merely watched.

Your visit to the museum and to its website will grasp your moral core, and compel you — when the world faces any genocide — to act.

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