Latest information from hell: 7,500 Spaniards died in Nazi camps | Culture | EUROtoday

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“In the event of death, who do you want to be contacted?” This considerably well mannered query posed by a Nazi focus camp officer is macabre. This is what these deported to Mauthausen had been informed after a reception that consisted of getting to undress, be shaved and provides private data. “Many unhappy people collapse from the cold.” […]. From there they’re taken to the crematorium, they’re now ineffective beings.” It is the testimony of a Spaniard on his first day within the hell created by the Nazis throughout World War II. “From today you stop calling yourself García, your new name is this number that you must always know,” they ordered him. From there they went to choose up the acquainted white and blue striped pajamas and go to the bunkhouse to attempt to relaxation on a small wood mattress that three folks shared. This is how it’s informed within the e book Deported and forgotten. The Spaniards within the Nazi focus camps (The Sphere of Books), by historians Diego Martínez López and Gutmaro Gómez Bravo.

This work affords as its primary novelty an up to date and expanded checklist of the Spanish victims, the Spaniards, as a result of its presence has been traced in numerous fields, the authors emphasize. “We have recorded that about 7,500 died, when a long time ago there was talk of 4,500,” says by telephone Gómez Bravo, professor of Contemporary History on the Complutense University of Madrid and creator of quite a few books on Franco's regime.

As for these deported, they estimate that there have been “about 15,000, when the previous figure was 12,000.” This implies that simply over half of those that ended up within the camps died. An investigation that has been potential because of the documentation consulted from the archives of the Allies, particularly these of the United States (“although they have not declassified everything”); of the Nazi camps (“German sources have been very useful to us”) and the roles of the inmates themselves.

Of the whole variety of deportees, 7,251 had been deported to Mauthausen, “the most terrible camp, known as 'the Spanish camp' by the Germans themselves,” the place prisoners started to reach in August 1940. “The Spaniards were used to build the ovens. crematoriums. Mauthausen once had 50 subcamps and its average mortality rate was 10 points higher than that of other enclosures.” A distinction that lay within the horrible situations as a result of chilly, poor meals and ailments.

“It was a category III camp by the Nazis, which meant that the prisoners sent there were to be exploited to death.” Researchers have counted in Mauthausen “4,747 Spanish deaths, 60% in the Gusen subcamp quarry,” and in simply 9 months. That quarry is unfortunately identified for the testimonies and images of its lethal and irregular staircase of 186 steps, up which the prisoners needed to climb rocks weighing greater than 20 kilos. “The guards did not hesitate to resort to beatings or murder in case of missteps,” the e book reads.

Prisoners carrying rocks in the Mauthausen quarry, in 1942, in an image provided by the authors of the book.
Prisoners carrying rocks within the Mauthausen quarry, in 1942, in a picture supplied by the authors of the e book.Mauthausen Memorial Archives in Austria

There had been additionally Spaniards within the camps of Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück (which was for girls), Buchenwald, Dachau, which had at its entrance the well-known motto “Work units you free” (Work makes us free)… or in Hartheim Castle, scene of sinister medical experiments. “We have counted 445 Spaniards used as guinea pigs, mainly to test vaccines, who died between September 1941 and February 1942,” says Martínez López, doctor in Contemporary History from the Complutense University of Madrid.

The book highlights that the presence of Spaniards in the Nazi camps “is just not resulting from a spinoff of the Civil War, as has often been thought-about, however is a matter that’s inserted in a European course of, which is that of the occupied nations.” in the world war,” says Gómez Bravo. They were swallowed up by the camp system and by the Holocaust, in the case of the Sephardim. “Regarding these, their fate did not depend as much on what Franco did or did not do, as we have wanted to see. In any case, it has been difficult to track them because there were some without Spanish nationality,” adds Martínez López. “In addition, resulting from Spain's personal historical past throughout that interval, it’s one thing that has gone extra unnoticed.”

“We believe that with the Jews the exceptions have been studied more, those carried out by several Spanish diplomats in their personal capacity who saved lives,” says Gómez Bravo. “After the world war, Francoism said that it had helped the Jews, but that was not the case. According to the German archives themselves, even beyond the Normandy Landings [6 de junio de 1944], Spain does not show opposition to what is happening with the Sephardim in Europe. The Germans treat them like Jews, but being from friendly countries they have some consideration towards them, such as delaying the deportation process or, when they do, sending them to Bergen-Belsen, which within the horror was a less terrible camp.

File of the Spanish prisoner Juan Andreu Adelantado in Mauthausen.
File of the Spanish prisoner Juan Andreu Adelantado in Mauthausen.AROLSEN ARCHIVES

His companion adds: “When the Franco regime responds to German requisitions, sometimes six months have passed, by which time those people had already been murdered. The usual response was administrative silence. “Franco only allowed the transit of Jews through Spain to other countries.” This historian assures that “the idea of ​​Franco's neutrality in World War II is increasingly discussed” by consultants.

As for the Spanish, they were sent mainly to Ravensbrück. “These were mainly women who had gone to France after the Civil War and who did not comply with the legislation of the collaborationist Vichy regime. Therefore, they are sent to work. There they do it for the company Siemens, something that we have known thanks to the localized receipts of this company,” says Gómez Bravo.

Finally, on May 5, 1945, 22 soldiers from the US 11th Armored Division entered Mauthausen through the main gate. A historical moment recorded with the famous photograph of the survivors receiving the military with a banner at one of the entrances that said in Spanish: “The anti-fascist Spaniards salute the liberating forces.” Reports from American soldiers spoke of up to six people sharing a bed in some barracks and that injections of benzene or throwing from the top of the quarry were part of the methods of annihilation in the aftermath of the horror.

Spanish prisoners working in the Mauthausen concentration camp, in an undated image.
Spanish prisoners working in the Mauthausen concentration camp, in an undated image.EFE

After the world war, the International Refugee Organization of the United Nations recognized the Spaniards as “victims of the Falangist regime in Spain,” says Martínez López. However, it was not until 1951 that the Geneva Convention (on international humanitarian law) established a legal framework. “There were a few dozen prisoners who returned to Spain but we don't know what happened to them.” In parallel, a diaspora occurs between France, where the majority go; Austria and other European countries, and then there are those that ship to America, especially Argentina. A dispersion that prevented any type of recognition of these people in Spain. It was not until 2019 when the Government of Pedro Sánchez approved that May 5 of each year be established as a day of tribute to the Spanish victims of Nazism.

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