Madrid Probes Anti-Semitism at Far-Right Commemoration of Spanish Soldiers

MADRID (Reuters) -

Madrid authorities have ordered an investigation into possible anti-Semitic hate crimes committed during a march organized by a far-right collective to honor soldiers from Spain’s Blue Division who fought alongside the Nazis in World War II.

Bearing dictatorship-era flags and fascist insignia, several hundred supporters paraded through central Madrid on Saturday to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the battle of Krasny Bor, in which the division fought against Soviet forces.

Several organizers also gave speeches critical of the Jewish community and supporting Nazi ideology, with one of them proclaiming that “fascism is joy,” according to footage from the Ruptly video agency widely circulated on social media.

The group sang the fascist anthem “Cara al sol,” their right hands elevated in a Nazi salute, the footage showed.

Regional justice chief Enrique Lopez said he had ordered prosecutors to open an investigation to discover whether speeches constituted a hate crime, following complaints from various rights groups.

Spain emerged from decades of fascist dictatorship under General Francisco Franco in 1975. It has since become one of Europe’s most liberal countries, but Franco’s legacy still divides opinions, especially with the rise of the far right in the past few years.

In a study last month, the leftist government said far-right parties incited hate crimes and spread racial stereotypes and xenophobic attitudes which have gained momentum in the political debate.

The ultranationalist, anti-immigrant Vox party became the third-largest force in Parliament in late 2019.