Remembering the Campo residents who were killed in a Nazi concentration camp
The Spanish Government has recently published a list of 4,427 Spanish nationals who were killed in the Nazi concentration camp, Mauthausen-Gusen, during the Second World War.
This list includes 20 people who originated from the Campo de Gibraltar, including 13 people from La Línea, four from San Roque, three from Algeciras and one from Tarifa.
These names were tucked away inside several old books in the Central Civil Registry in Madrid, but the Spanish Government released all its data last week.
The Official State Bulletin (BOE) published all the names, places of birth and deaths of dates linked to the Spanish Mauthausen victims.
These were the people who exiled to France in 1939 after standing up to General Franco’s government during the Civil War.
The Spanish Government has now paid tribute to these Spaniards after all these years, having suffered a great injustice at the hands of the Nazis.
Survivor Rafael Martín, from La Línea, shared some of his horrific accounts of his time in Mauthausen with historian, Alfonso Escuadra, for his book Blue Triangles.
In his heart-breaking testimony, Mr Martín described his entrance to Mauthausen.
“When we arrived we crossed a stone entrance that we were made to complete, where there was an eagle made of stone and there was access to the courtyard of arms,” he said.
“There they made us train, and then told us we would be taken to the showers.”
“We were made to undress, put our things in a sack and go to the showers and then given us a suit with blue stripes to wear.”
This is when the horror of Mauthausen started for them and the Campo resident talked about the suffering the Spaniards endured at the hands of the Nazi soldiers.
“I am sure that there is not much difference between what we hear about what took place in Mauthausen and in other concentration camps,” Mr Escuadra said in his book and in his lectures.
“Thousands of deaths are listed in the ‘Book of Deaths’ which features 5,000 Spaniards.”
This book, together with the stone plaque that was inaugurated in San Roque in 2016, feature some of the first accounts of the repression and the horrors faces by prisoners in Mauthausen-Gusen.
La Línea City Council said it will pay tribute to its 13 residents who were killed by the Nazis during its 150th anniversary celebrations in 2020.
The list of names published in the BOE corresponds with that provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross in the 1950s.
The NGO received this information from the French Government and this was kept in the archives office in Salamanca.
San Roque’s official historian, Antonio Pérez Girón, collected large quantities of information after two visits to France in 1985 and 1987 in an attempt to corroborate the information from the Red Cross with members from Izquierda Republicana and Partido Socialista Obrero de Cataluña.
They stayed in France after their loss in the Spanish Civil War and never returned to Spain even after General Franco’s death.
“I could not find the names of many Republicans who did not return in many lists,” Mr Pérez Girón told the Chronicle.
“The exiles to France provided me with references from their fellow detainees or those who were deported to Mauthausen.”
“Even their families were not informed of the fate of their loved ones because they were left without a nationality after Franco declared them as stateless.”
Many republicans who had exiled to the south-west of France, in the city of Toulouse, after the Spanish Civil War were later arrested during the Nazi invasion.
According to records from the Red Cross, four of them were from San Roque and ended up in Mauthausen-Gusen.
These were Pedro Almagro Coll, Antonio Vilches Gallardo, Antonio Santy Ramos and Manuel Ruiz Castañeda.
Pedro Almagro Coll was arrested and deported to Mauthausen in July, 1944, and was killed just a year before World War Two came to an end.
Antonio Vilches Gallardo was picked up by the Germans as soon as they entered France and was sent to prison in Strasbourg before being sent to Mauthausen on December 13, 1940.
“He was closely linked to the CNT in San Roque and was not even there for a year,” Mr Pérez Girón said.
Meanwhile Antonio Santy Ramos, from Campamento, was sent to a French prison before he was deported to Mauthausen on August 6, 1940, together with Manuel Ruiz Castañeda.
“The two were put on a train to the concentration camp after the Nazis carried out a huge raid supported by the French police,” Mr Pérez Girón added.
“There were arrested along with thousands of other Spanish Republicans who had fled from their homeland.”
“The Nazis got in touch with the Spanish Minister Ramon Serrano Suñer to inform him that they had captured these individuals, but the Spanish Government said they were not Spaniards, that they were stateless and they could do with them what they pleased.”
Antonio Santy died in the concentration camp in April, 1941.
Even though the Spanish Government knew of his fate, his family, who now live in Madrid, were not initially informed of his death.
“When San Roque paid tribute to these men in 2016, his family searched me and gave me a big hug,” Mr Pérez Girón added.
“It was very emotional.”
There is very little information available for Manuel Ruiz Castañeda which indicates the fear that still exists in many Spanish towns for being linked to the Republican cause.
The four names are carved in a memorial plaque at the end of La Alameda in San Roque.
Every year, the men and their fight for democracy is remembered when flowers are laid April 14, marking the day that the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931.
THE 20 CAMPO RESIDENTS
The Spanish Government has now reinstated the Spanish nationalities for the Spaniards who were killed by the Nazis.
Those from La Línea are named as Bernardo Cosas Jiménez, Miguel Crespo Espinoza, Salvador Cuellar García, Juan González Perujo, José Herrera Delgado, Antonio Llovet Ocaña, Juan Luengo Garesse, Rafael Reina Grimaldi, Fernando Sala García, Francisco Sumaquero Oda, Helios Villalba Gómez, José Vivero Ruiz and José Fernández Sarraho.
Manuel Sáez Ayala, Andrés Sánchez Zambrana and Francisco de la Rocha were originally from Algeciras and José Blanco Mesa was from Tarifa.
Amalia Basante, Magistrate of the Civil Registry, said that with the publication of the list of names, it makes reparations to the victims of Nazism.
This initiative seeks to thank and recognise the thousands of Spaniards deported to Nazi concentration camps by General Franco’s Government, with only just half the number surviving to share their experiences.
In addition, the Council of Ministers agreed to recognise May 5 as a day of remembrance to these victims, some 55 years after the US Army liberated the prisoners from Mauthausen.
The Spaniards belonged to a well-organised group within the concentration camps, according to testimonies from Mr Martín and Mr Pérez Girón.
This meant that they received a “certain level” of respect from the Nazi soldiers, who recognised that they had formed part of the resistance against General Franco and also fought against the Italian mercenaries.
“For the SS, the prisoners were scum or even worse, just human waste,” Mr Martín is recorded as having told Mr Escuarda.
“But it was interesting to see that even among the most fanatical of the SS soldiers, there was a certain level of sympathy for the Spanish.”
“This lay in the strange admiration they felt towards the fighter within us.”
“They valued the gallant way in which we fought against Franco’s people. We were not like the Poles of the French who accepted defeat in a short period of time.”
“We resisted the fascists, the Italian mercenaries and the Germans all alone, and this was admired and seen as heroic.”
But, it was the Spanish resilience that was recognised when they were freed from the camp by the American soldiers.
Mr Pérez Girón told the Chronicle: “The Spanish formed part of a very well-organised group and were the first to meet with the Americans when they liberated the camp.”
“They were known for being organised and held many clandestine meetings during their time there.”
“The Republicans who I spoke to in France confirmed that the conditions in these concentration camps were terrible.”
“This was something that survivors from France, England, Spain and Poland all agreed upon.”
“They all shared some of the details from their time there, including some prisoners who had to light the ovens that would later be used to burn their companions.”
The Friends of Mauthausen has described the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camps where the Nazis subjected prisoners to the “most severe of punishments”.
“Thousands of prisoners were killed after being assaulted, shot dead, killed by injections or froze to death,” the charity said.
“At least 10,200 prisoners were killed by lethal gas in the gas chambers.”
“The majority of the deaths were a result of the exploitation where they were made to take part in labour without much food intake, poor clothing and lack of medical care.”
“At least 90,000 people were killed in Mauthausen, Gusen and the smaller camps associated with them, and more than half those people were killed in the last four months before they were liberated.”
Mauthausen-Gusen received its first prisoners in August, 1938, and over the next seven years more than 190,000 prisoners were housed in that camp, until those who survived were liberated on May 5, 1945.