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Closure: Spanish Nazi concentration camp victims identified, 80 years on
By thinkSPAIN Team Sat, Aug 10, 2019
SPAIN'S Law of Historic Memory seeks to revive and commemorate the lives and times of those who perished under régimes of extreme violence, cruelty and fascist beliefs - and the latest move in line with this legislation dating from 2007 has been to name all Spaniards who died in Nazi concentration camps.
Even though Spain was not actively involved as a country in World War II, which started in the same year as the bloodthirsty Civil War came to an end, its dictatorial leader General Francisco Franco was an ally of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and of Mussolini's Fascist Italy, and conditions for the vast majority in Spain in the post-war years were intolerable: those who opposed Franco's régime could mysteriously 'disappear', and poverty and unemployment were rife.
Many fled over the border to France, to escape the dictatorship, to find work, or both, and were frequently rounded up and sent to horror camps such as Mauthausen and Dachau.
Although thousands survived – including Neus Català, from Tarragona, who passed away recently aged 103, and the father of Paquita Jourdà, who has just been reunited with the childhood photograph of her which was confiscated from her dad when he was captured - an estimated 5,000-plus did not make it out of the labour camps alive.
This weekend, the State Official Bulletin (BOE), a daily government announcement publication, has printed a list of 4,427 names of Spaniards known to have lost their lives in Nazi concentration camps.
The names, who include men and women, are of those who died in Mauthausen and Gusen, both in Austria, although the magistrate in charge of the Central Civil Register says another nearly 700 identities remain unconfirmed.
It is hoped they, too, will be revealed as soon as possible thanks to ongoing research into the atrocities of the last World War.
According to the Friends of Mauthausen Association, which has been working alongside the ministry of justice, the total comes to 5,120, meaning another 693 names are still to be uncovered - but the research will continue until they are found.
The Association believes these people may have died in Dachau, in Munich, the roll-call of which is still under investigation.
"Very few families were told," says Juan Manuel Calvo of the Association, set up for relatives of Spanish Nazi victims, and also a historian by profession.
"At the end of the 1950s, France sent Spain's then ministry of justice a copy of its death register for the concentration camps, but only a handful of relatives were ever notified.
"And the register from France was not necessarily accurate, because details of the deceased were normally only taken by other prisoners of other nationalities."
As for why the list was not published earlier, the Association's Concha Díaz says: "It was partly because during the dictatorship [Franco's reign, which ended with his death in 1975] the government was not interested. And partly because of the lack of a budget to do so, and partly because victims of the Nazis were seen as out of sight and out of mind, so they have fallen into oblivion."
Mauthausen was liberated and its prisoners released on May 5, 1945, and the second photograph here of those captive being freed comes from the archives held at Madrid's Complutense University.
The first photograph shows a team of Spaniards at Mauthausen dragging a consignment of soil - part of the hard labour prisoners were subjected to after their capture.
Government spokeswoman Isabel Celaá: "My mum's brother is on the list"
The idea is so relatives of those who perished can get closure, find out what happened to their loved ones, recover personal belongings, visit their last resting places, and any other actions that may help them commemorate their lost family members - if they wish to do so.
Its purpose is also to give an identity to the anonymous masses, stop their being no more than statistics and give them back their condition as individual humans with lives, families, feelings, and a story to tell.
Families or others linked to the names published have up to a month to write to the Central Civil Registry and request amendments, corrections, or make allegations - for example, if they consider a mistake has been made, a name reported incorrectly, or that the person in question did, in fact, survive his or her ordeal and has been wrongly recorded as lost.
But this is probably unlikely, since the BOE list has been compared with all other databases in existence.
Spain's ministry of justice says it wants to 'thank' and 'repair the memories of' the more than 10,000 Spaniards who were deported to concentration camps from France, or by Franco's government in collaboration with Hitler's régime - the survivors as well as the more than 50% who never went home again.
Acting government spokeswoman Isabel Celaá says she 'understands the emotions' many Spaniards will go through seeing these names in print at last - not least because her uncle is one of them.
"I feel it personally, because my mum's brother was one of the victims of Mauthausen," Sra Celaá admitted.
"We want to break an 80-year silence. There are families who, until very recently, have never known anything about what happened to their lost relatives.
"This process has given them an identity that was denied to them.
"These concentration camp victims were classed as 'stateless', so no country ever tried to protect them."
"It's a duty of justice we owe them," announced the acting minister of said, Dolores Delgado.
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