When former Prime Minister Golda Meir
thanked Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco for his "humanitarian attitude" and for protecting the Jews in his country during the Holocaust, she was not aware that he had ordered his officials to draw up a list of thousands of Jews living in Spain to be handed over to the Nazis.
The list, which was published in the El País newspaper on Sunday, would have sent thousands more Jews to their deaths in the Nazi extermination camps.
Franco, whose apologists and supporters claim he gave protection to the Jews of Spain, ordered his officials during the Second World War to compose a list of some 6,000 Jews, both Spanish and foreign, living in his country.
The list was handed over to the Nazi architect of the "final solution", German SS chief Heinrich Himmler, at a time when the two countries were discussing Spain's possible incorporation into the axis powers that included Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.
The Spanish newspaper published the original order, which was recently unearthed in the Spanish government's archives and instructed provincial governors to provide detailed lists of "all the national and foreign Jews living in the province… showing their personal and political leanings, means of living, commercial activities, degree of danger and security category."
The governors were ordered to keep a close eye on Sephardic Jews, as their language and appearance enabled them to blend in with Spanish society.
"Their adaptation to our environment and their similar temperament allow them to hide their origins more easily," said the order, sent out in May 1941.
The order describes the Jews as a race, and not a religious minority. "This notorious race", the order said, "remained unnoticed, with no opportunity of preventing their easily-carried out attempts at subversion."
The German SS officers stationed in Spain kept a close watch on the local Jews, and were displeased with the fact that some of them had close ties with officials in Franco's regime.
According to El País, the German agents tried to stop Jewish writer Samuel Ros from publishing his works in newspapers and official publications.
With the defeat of the Nazis, Franco tried to conceal his cooperation with Adolf Hitler, and destroyed most of the lists of Jews. Lists that remained in the provincial governors' offices, however, found their way to the Spanish archives.