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      IN the wild enthusiasms of 1391 neither Christian nor Jew could be expected to consider, much less foresee the long range consequences of mass conversion at the point of the sword. The Christian saw only the final solution of an intolerable problem. The Jew saw only final and hopeless disaster. Yet a whole century was to pass before either result would be achieved.

      As Jews, the children of Israel were being ground down in a new Egypt. As Christians they had the same rights and privileges as all other Christians, and a status higher than anything they had enjoyed even in the palmiest days of their Golden Age. They could live where they

pleased, dress however they liked and enter whatever trade suited their fancy. No office-public, private or ecclesiastical-was closed to them.

      The New Christian, or "Converso" as he was called, prospered as never before, both in the trades and professions of his ancestors and in areas previously denied him as a Jew. He took his place in the law, administration, army and judiciary. He sat in municipal councils and dispensed wisdom in the universities-all places where the sons of Judah had- never been seen before. Converso names dominated the rolls of jurists, historians, poets, scholars and men of letters. They appear as physicians, personal advisers, ambassadors and tutors of the blood of the realm. By the early fifteenth century we find Conversos exercising the offices of vice-chancellor, comptroller- general and royal treasurer of Aragon, while others of their tribe are presiding over both the supreme court of justice and the national Cortes. The admiral of Castile was a Converso, as was the chancellor of that kingdom, and their New Christian kin sat on the royal council.

      If crossbreeding is the solution to the problem of "racial incompatibility," then it must be noted that the Converso made strenuous efforts to homogenize the races. Marriage between Jews and Christians had first been forbidden in Spain ten years after the conversion of Constantine. Sexual intercourse on an ad hoc basis was

1. Converso literally means convert, but from the beginning it was applied to any Christian of Jewish ancestry, no matter how remote. The same is true of the terms New Christian and Marrano (swine), a very popular label as we might expect.


punished by death if the delinquents in the case were a male Jew and a lady Christian. The reverse arrangement, however, was widely tolerated in accordance with a self-indulgent tradition that is supposed to have some connection with prerogative and manliness among the males of the superior "race."

      Under the new arrangement of Christian togetherness, however, the Converso had free access to the Christian marriage bed. Wealthy Conversos began buying either their own way or their children's way into aristocracy by marriage with the Old Christian nobility. Many of the latter, whose pride varied inversely with their income, found nothing dishonorable in this arrangement since the money they received had been purified at the baptismal font. The result was a massive transfusion of Jewish blood into virtually all the noble houses of Spain. In later years, when it was decided that a Jew was a Jew even when he was a Christian, there was a widespread demand for genealogists to trim the family tree, and historians broke out into controversies over family origins which are still going on today. In the fifteenth century, however, nobody realized the trouble they were causing for future generations.

      Among the noble Conversos of the fifteenth century was Luis de Santangel, secretary to the royal household, who persuaded Ferdinand and Isabella to finance the dreams of Columbus. Don Juan Pacheco, marquis of Villena, was a virtual king-maker who aspired to the hand of Isabella of Castile only to lose out to another Converso, Ferdinand of Aragon. Other families, such as the Caballerias, the Santa Fes and the Santa Marias,


specialized in bishops and archbishops, physicians and theologians, and dedicated anti-Semites.1

      The influx of Conversos into the Church of the True Faith reached almost fantastic proportions. Beside the army of Conversos who served the banner of Christ as humble recruits in the priesthood and monastery, there were many others in the higher echelons. A random sample includes the following: royal chaplain. to Henry III; confessor to Henry IV; two confessors to Queen Isabella; physician to the pope; papal nuncio to the court of Castile; general of the Geronomite order; grand masters of the orders of Santiago and Calatrava; bishops of Coria, Cordova, Cartagena, Burgos and Siguenza; archbishops of Granada and Toledo. Perhaps the most eminent of all the Conversos of this era were the cardinal of Saint Sixtus, Juan de Torquemada, and his celebrated nephew Thomas de Torquemada, future Inquisitor General of Spain.2

1. Ferdinand's mother was Juana Enriquez of the Converso family of that name. At least it was widely believed in Ferdinand's day that the Enriquez family had a strain of Jewish blood. Some historians, as recently as 1954, have denied this, although their denials are based as much on indignation as on facts. On the other hand, the supporters of the "Jewish" thesis have no real facts to offer either. I have not taken any votes on the issue, but the more common view seems to be that Ferdinand was a Converso, although a sufficiently diluted one to satisfy (and vex) Jews and Christians alike. The greater number of opinions on one side probably proves nothing in itself except that more people prefer one theory to another. Genealogy is a difficult art under the best of conditions. When it is further complicated by the mystique of blood purity, it becomes a bottomless pit.
2. The same general observations about King Ferdinand (above) apply to the Torquemadas. The stories that the scourge of Judaism himself had Jewish forebears were repeated five


      In the midst of his new freedom and prosperity the Converso often suffered from agonies of despair and guilt for having given up the faith of his ancestors. From the Inquisition trials of the late fifteenth century we get occasional glimpses of the agitated state of mind of some of the New Christians who simply could not adjust themselves to the circumstances forced upon them, despite the material advantages they provided. The conditions under which Inquisition trials were conducted make most testimony suspect. Since the present study is not designed to be a historical novel, therefore, I must resist the temptation to record the many juicy aberrations which crop up in these grim documents and limit myself to evidence which is both well substantiated and plausible.

      In the privacy (and relative safety) of their homes some Conversos begged Jehovah for the deliverance He had granted in the past: "Oh God, deliver us as Thou delivered the people of Israel." "Oh God, deliver us from these oppressors who spy upon us and force us to betray the faith of our fathers." "Oh God, let the Turk come among us as thy avenging arm. Let him destroy the church of our oppressors and slay their holy men who make us live in deception among them."

      centuries later about the sadists around Adolf Hitler and even about Der Fuehrer himself. Historians of all persuasions, when they approach this question, stagger a little. Some appear to be undecided about which view they prefer to take because of the disturbing implications of either view whatever "school" the investigator belongs to. A few resolve the dilemma by ignoring the subject entirely. As for myself, I have no preferences in the matter. Whether or not Torquemada was a full-Jew, half-Jew. fractional Jew. or pure Nordic. has no bearing on the events of his time. The most it can do is provide an interesting conversation piece for amateur psychologists and students of the bizarre.


      Others sought refuge abroad. They sold all their worldly goods as quietly as possible so as not to excite the suspicion of their neighbors. With their families they made their way to the great port cities like Valencia and Barcelona where they sailed away to rejoin the ancestral faith in the ghettos of North Africa and the East. Many were apprehended on the docks and dragged out the rest of their miserable lives in the Spanish galleys. Still others suddenly dropped out of sight to reappear in the ghetto of a strange city where, at the cost of their freedom and privileges as Christians and at the risk of being burned alive, they sought membership in the despised and persecuted minority of Jews. The most pathetic were the great majority who, like most of us, are too frightened to do anything more than torture ourselves for our own fears. "Before the True Messiah can come," said one, "we Conversos will have to make retribution for having betrayed our faith." Every time he recited the mass, a Converso priest confessed, he froze with terror. When he raised the Host and repeated the words of Christ, "This is my Body," he expected at any moment to see the wrath of Jehovah come to melt him down into nothing. " I am neither a Jew, nor a Moor, nor a Christian," lamented another. " I am nothing. I pray God to kill me in some horrible manner."

      In the monastery of La Sisla in Toledo lived a friar Alfonso de Toledo, a second-generation Converso whose father had come over to the True Faith in 1391. Friar Alfonso became a monk because he just did not know what else to do. But from the beginning God chastised


him with a stabbing guilt for the terrible thing he had done. Twice he left the monastery to run far away. Both times his courage failed him and he came crawling back to beg forgiveness of his superiors and to lacerate his soul with meditations on the ancient Maccabees who had died gloriously for the Law of Moses. He would seek out the Jewish janitors when they came to clean, following after them and plucking at their sleeves to tell them he was really one of them at heart. He too loved only the Law of Moses, and he envied them for living honestly in their own faith. He begged them to call him Jacob, after his grandfather, and to flee the country with him, for he did not know how to go about it by himself. When the Inquisition came to Toledo and began burning Judaizing Conversos, he envied the victims as martyrs blessed in the sight of Jehovah. But, much as he wished that he too could be saved through martyrdom, he could not face the horror of the necessary preliminaries. So he fled, this time for good, to live with the greater tortures he carried in his head.

      From the same monastery came another. Converso friar, Juan de Madrid, a man so compulsively bold that he seemed to be deliberately seeking martyrdom. He boasted that he was really a Jew, was proud of it, and that for every Mosaic rule he followed he broke three Christian ones. He became a friar because that was the best way to practice Judaism. In the solitude of the monastery he would be shielded from the prying eyes of the Christian public. Besides, he could use the power of the confessional to lead penitents into Mosaic practices. He scorned to flee when the Inquisitors arrived in Toledo.


      He cursed them openly and from his confessional booty announced to sinners that it was a mortal sin to approve of the Inquisition. As he must have expected, friar Juan was one of the first to be denounced and was burned a the stake. However the Jews themselves felt toward the guilt-ridden Converso, they must have been horrified at the behavior of their former colleagues who now became their persecutors. Whatever their reasons-which I an confident everyone can explain to his own satisfaction-some Conversos were determined to wipe out all reminders of their past. Back in the early fourteenth century a learned Jew named Abner of Burgos was reborn as a Christian at the age of sixty. Under his new name of Alfonso de Valladolid he devoted his remaining fourteen years to a long series of tracts against the Jews which earned him a certain historical fame (usually in footnote form) as an early champion of anti-Semitism in Spain A few years before the Massacres of 1391, Peter IV o Aragon had to restrain some recent converts from making sallies into the ghetto at Mallorca, where the insisted on preaching to their former Jewish friends and stirring up a general ruckus when the Jews failed to respond sympathetically to their exhortations.

      In the fifteenth century this sort of work acquired ; professional status which was greatly enhanced by the special authority people attach to the revelations of the reformed ex-enemy now working for our side. Joshes Lorca, former rabbi and wise in the ways of the Talmud was transformed by baptism into Jerome of the Holy Faith (Geronimo de Santa Fe). He offered his service


to Pope Benedict XIII 1 as personal physician and dialectical wizard against the rabbis. Benedict sponsored a Great Debate at Tortosa in northern Spain in which Geronimo proved, against the arguments of the leading rabbis of Spain, that Jesus Christ was the True Messiah. The accounts of this "debate," recorded by eye witnesses and contemporaries among the Faithful, call to mind another favorite Spanish pastime-the Bullfight. The game was rigged in favor of the Matador. The fourteen rabbis summoned into the ring were warned by the pope that he would not tolerate any nonsense.

      You, the most learned of the Hebrews, (he said) know ye that I am not here in this place, nor have I convened you here to debate whether our religion or yours is the true one. You are here only for Geronimo de Santa Fe who will prove to you that the coming of the Messiah was verified long centuries ago, availing himself of your own Talmud, a book forged by men much more learned than you. Be careful, then, to debate only on this subject and no other.

     Christian dignitaries flocked to Tortosa from all over Spain and northern Europe. Geronimo, aided by the rightness of his cause, demolished the feeble arguments of the rabbis in sixty nine logic-chopping sessions, to the universal edification of the entire, company and of

1. At this moment (1413) there were three popes, resulting from a long series of follies generally dignified under the name of "conflicting political interests." Spain supported Benedict, who guarded the heavenly gates at Avignon in the south of France.


twelve of the fourteen rabbis, who were converted to the True Faith by the inspired eloquence of their former colleague.

      Geronimo followed up his victory at Tortosa with a missionary tour of the northern provinces. A report to the king of Aragon tells of the wondrous preachings of Geronimo, "illuminated by the Holy Spirit." He has made many conversions among the Jews, and the only holdouts have been among persons "of little worth." Even so, the report continues, "we have confidence in our Savior Jesus Christ that they too will come to salvation in a few days." The report concludes with a Scriptural observation about a shepherd and some lost sheep. Some years later Geronimo de Santa Fe summed up his career in a book- "The Scourge of the Hebrews "1 exposing the lewdness and subversions of the Talmud. Other Conversos kept up the literary drumfire against the Jews. Pedro de la Caballeria, in his "Zeal of Christ against the Jews, Saracens and Infidels,"2 maintained that the welfare of Christianity required the destruction in its midst of the "synagogue of Satan" and, of course, of Moors and other infidels. Bishop Paul of Saint Mary (Pablo de Santa Maria) -formerly Rabbi Solomon Halevi-after a careful scrutiny of Scripture,3 concluded that the

1. Hebraeomaatix.
2. Tractatus zelus Christi contra Judaeos, Sarracenos et Infideles.
3. Scrutinium Scripturarum.


Jews were a menace and the Massacres of 1391 had been fashioned by the hand of God.

      The undisputed leader of this inverted crusade was Alonso de Espina, former rabbi turned Franciscan friar. He was a violent blend of his predecessor Ferdinand Martinez, his contemporary Vincent Ferrer, and Thomas de Torquemada who was only one short generation behind him. Like Martinez he preached holy extermination; like Ferrer he thrust the Gospel on stiff-necked Jews, and like Torquemada he called for an Inquisition to purge the Conversos.

      Espina's great masterwork was his "Fortress of the Faith," published in 1459. From the European rubble heaps of Christian hatred and murder, friar Alonso sifts out all the popular legends about Jews who murder Christian children, set fire to Christian houses, put hexes on Christian churches, stab Communion wafers and flog crucifixes, abominate holy images, vomit ritual blasphemies on the Savior and the Apostles and poison the Christian water supply.

      For every Christian he cures the Jewish physician kills fifty others, and he holds regular meetings with the other devils of his trade where they tally up the numbers of their victims in testimony of their obedience to Jewish Law which commands them to slay True Believers. They are waiting only for the coming of the Antichrist to lead them against the Godly. Deep in the bowels of the Caspian Mountains, behind a magic wall, between the castles of Gog and Magog, waits a vast army of Jews

1. Fortalicium Fidei.


which has been growing since the time of the ancient world. They will form the vanguard in the legions of Antichrist, their promised Messiah, when he comes to grind down the enemies of Israel and restore the world to the Jews. There is a great deal more but I see no need to muck about in such a cesspool any longer than is necessary to catch its odor. It is, however, instructive though depressing to note that some historians' judgments are so hedged in by a mechanistic objectivity that they consider it "prejudice" to describe friar Alonso for what he was-a homicidal zealot preaching mass murder.

      For a few happy years the Converso seemed to have the world in his palm. Now he was about to get his comeuppance. Friar Alonso, though a Converso himself, damned the Conversos as Jews at heart, worming their way into high posts to deceive princes and prelates, meanwhile practicing Jewish rites in secret and awaiting the coming of the Antichrist to throw off their disguise and join in the slaughter of the Faithful. This chant was quickly taken up by the Old Christians, who needed no urging. Besides, they were better qualified than friar Alonso to exalt the virtues of racial purity.


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