Spanish Jews regret passing of lawyer who fought Nazi collaborator in court

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE), the Jewish Community of Madrid (CJM) and the Violeta Friedman Foundation are deeply saddened by the passing of lawyer Jorge Trías Sagnier.

Trías Sagnier is the architect of a landmark ruling that paved the way for legislation criminalising Holocaust denial in Spain.

Together with B’nai B’rith Spain, chaired at the time by Max Maxin, Jorge Trías Sagnier defended, Violeta Friedman, a Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp living in Spain, against notorious Belgian Nazi collaborator Leon Degrelle.

In August 1985, Degrelle, who had been living in Spain since 1945,  declared in the magazine Tiempo that the extermination of Jews by the Nazis during World War II had never happened.

Violeta Friedman filed a civil suit, which she lost three times: On first instance, on appeal and at the Supreme Court. Since Holocaust denial was legal in Spain at the time, the only way to seek redress was through laws protecting a person’s honour.

Friedman and Trías Sagnier persevered with tenacity for over six years, until the Spanish Constitutional Court finally upheld the complaint against Degrelle

Consequently, the court held that Violeta Friedman honour and those of the victims of the Shoah had been damaged by Degrelle’s words. Through this ruling, Spain recognised the right to honour of an entire people who had been victims of a genocide.

Jorge Trías Sagnier was one of the first people in Spain to raise awareness of Holocaust denial and the rise of Neo-Nazism in Spain. In 1995 he supported campaigns against antisemitism and intolerance. Following the Constitutional Court ruling, Jorge Trías Sagnier gained important international recognition.

In the words of Isaac Querub, former president of the FCJE and CJM, Jorge Trías was “a good man, a first-class lawyer, a courageous friend of the Jewish people whose legal battle defending the honour of Violeta Friedman was fundamental to punishing Nazi war criminal León Degrelle in Spanish courts.”


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