SPANISH DEPORTEES, WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM BEFORE THEIR ARRIVAL IN DACHAU.

One of the events held in celebration of the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp was the awarding of the Stavnislaw Zámêcnik prize to Johannes Meerwald for his research work entitled "Spanish prisoners in the Dachau Concentration Camp (1940-1944), deportation, detention, consequences".

This study on the Spanish deportees has once again highlighted their uniqueness. It is true that it was not a very large group compared with other groups of deportees of other nationalities. Around 750 people entered the camp (and it should be noted that some Spaniards were registered as having French nationality when they entered the camp, even though they were of Spanish origin).

Spanish Dachau survivors

Image: cedida por la Fundación Pablo Iglesias. Madrid

But as a group in itself it has a singularity that makes it different from all the other deportees, and that singularity lies in the fact that its anti-fascist history began in July 1936 to defend the legitimacy of the Second Spanish Republic after the military coup that gave rise to the Spanish war between 1936 and April 1939.

Spain was the first European theatre where a struggle against the advance of fascism and Nazism was initiated and fought. German and Italian support for General Francisco Franco's military coup, together with the neutrality of France and the United Kingdom, led to the collapse of the Second Republic. These two countries also forced the dissolution of the International Brigades that had arrived in Spain to support and defend the legitimacy of the Republican government. Europe did not understand that it had begun what years later would lead to the invasion of Poland and all that this action entailed.

Johannes Meerwald's work has led me to evoke and put into words what happened to a majority of Spaniards before their arrival in Dachau. I have wanted to use a short text to describe what happened to many families after that fateful 18 July 1936. This date marked the beginning for a large majority of women, men and children of events that led them years later, in January and February 1939, to cross the border into France in the hope of being free, but it became an exodus, an exile and an imprisonment behind barbed wire. In labour camps in France, in North Africa and in the Channel Islands... and finally being deported to the concentration camps of Nazi-ruled Germany.

To know what happened to this group of deportees before their arrival in Dachau is an act of Reparation with their Memory, it is to give word to their Silence and it is to transform Forgetting into Memory, and it is undoubtedly an improvement in the understanding of their lives.

Cristina Cristóbal Mechó

President of the Asociación Amical Dachau-AAD

(Granddaughter of Fermín Cristóbal López 94139. Deported and died in Dachau)

 

Read more: BEFORE DACHAU..Web CID Spanish page. .

The Spaniards in transit: war, retreat, deportation, and silence.