and welcome to the history page as we take up the final thread of our war chronicles.
Our area of scrutiny this week centres on the systematic witch-hunts that swept
across the Pitiuses immediately following the National takeover of the islands.
In the space of a single month, these midnight exterminations had become so frequent
and so despotic that even staunch National supporters decried the slaughter. The
moral objections of such eminent figures as Bishop Antoni Cardona quickly led
to the removal of the top military honcho in charge of the newly occupied islands,
Commandant Montis. That fact that Montis rule lasted a mere twenty-three
days (from 20th September to 13th October) is as revealing a fact as it is chilling.
In the words of Artur Parron, The Majorcan troops
that disembarked in Ibiza Town on 20th September initiated a repression that was
excessively indiscriminate, bloody and arbitrary, and in which the many Franco-friendly
sectors of Ibiza and Formentera played a leading role. This early and extrajudicial
repression was characterized by the free reign of personal vendettas, anonymous
reports, impunity toward the repressors and, above all, by the complicity of local
authorities who promoted an ethos legitimizing the physical elimination of the
enemy. In effect, during the initial months after the National occupation,
the ways and means of dealing with Republican supporters had not yet been institutionalized.
Its practice was therefore devoid of any legally established guidelines that might
distinguish it from, say, targeted assassination. As a result, those who had been
accused of colluding against Franco, whether justly or unjustly were not given
even the pretence of a trial. They were simply yanked out of their beds in the
middle of the night and taken for a passejo, i.e. a walk to the nearest cemetery.
Parron writes that, the pathways and walls of almost all of Ibiza and Formenteras
cemeteries witnessed daily executions in the final months of 1936 and well
The Pros and Cons of Murder
also includes an interesting comment on the ethical differences between National
and Republican repression tactics as these were carried out in the Pitiuses. He
argues that, while both parties were equally guilty of gross abuse towards the
civilian population, the Republican rampages were harshly condemned, albeit posterior
to the event, by the Anti-Fascist Committee. Thus, while no less destructive,
Parron claims that the red river of blood that ran through the Pitiuses during
the summer of 36 resulted not from any plan or design but rather from the
inability of the crumbling Republican institutions to maintain law and order.
That incidents such as the Castle Massacre were acts of blood-thirst is undeniable.
They were not, however, pre-meditated political purgings that had been quietly
thought-out and quietly executed in the dark of night. In essence, I suppose what
he is saying is that the Republican repression was born of hot blood, while the
National repression was hatched, reptilian-style, in cold blood. Whether the degree
of redeeming value attached to one mode of conduct can be gauged as nobler or
meaner than that attached to the other is a question I will let each reader decide
The Institutionalization of Repression
the arrival of Montis replacement, the Commandant of Infantry, Gonzalo Arnica
Ferrer, a military court was set up at the Grand Hotel, today the Montesol. In
theory, standards of morality, legality and justice were assigned to the practices
of political investigation so that only those individuals actively engaged in
subversion against the New State were liable to indictment. On the
plus side, the implementation of a military court added an element of local control
to the issue whereby the islands municipal authorities and their native
law-keeping forces collaborated in the search for transgressors. On the minus
side, Ibiza and Formentera still lived under the shadow of wartime rule, which
is to say, it was a time when rules were stretched, bent and broken with almost
total impunity - by outsiders and islanders alike.
local population was fully expected to collaborate with the military court by
supplying names and information and making accusations against neighbours, acquaintances
and even family members. Reportage on the political behaviour of any and all citizens,
no matter how close to the bosom, became an act of patriotic duty. Under no circumstance
was anyone ever encouraged to mind his own business. Parron reminds us that: Whether
passively or actively, the Pitiusan population came to witness the repression,
the arrests, the executions as a daily, almost normal occurrence.
Inquisition Leaves No Stone Unturned
Toward the end
of the war, in February of 1939, the Law of Political Responsibilities was enacted.
The measure was intended as a final clean-out of the potentially subversive elements
that still remained within Spanish society. It stipulated that not only was an
individuals wartime behaviour subject to investigation, but that any suspicious
behaviour, attitudes or affiliations dating back to the year 1934 could also be
used as grounds for indictment. As concerns the Pitiuses however, Ibiza and Formentera
were essentially apolitical prior to the war, so that it was not necessary to
backtrack any farther than the five weeks of Republican occupation in the summer
of 36 to trump up evidence of subversion. Indeed, even those members of
society who were publicly known to be rightwing supporters found themselves under
the iron scrutiny of Political Responsibility.
case was that of the historian-priest Isidor Macabich (1884-1973). Because of
his active participation in the unionization of workers under the banner of the
Catholic-Agrarian Federation, the Canon was accused of working in the interests
of the Reds and was incarcerated for several months. Fortunately,
he was eventually exempt from charges and freed. One can only shudder at what
might have been our present state of historical knowledge regarding the Pitiuses
had Macabich not been spared. His great opus, the Encyclopaedia of Ibiza and Formentera
would have never been written.
Another case of post-bellum
retaliation was that levied against Miquell Tuells, the lieutenant in charge of
the small National detachment in Formentera at the time of Bayos invasion.
Readers will remember that Tuells, upon seeing the vast superiority of the approaching
Republican forces, ceded Formentera without a fight. For that crime he was never
forgiven, and the lieutenant met his death in front of a firing squad.
leave off here for this time, as usual, on a dismal note. Without trying to sound
too optimistic, next week may prove to be our final instalment in the Civil War
series. Join us then as we consider the fates of those anti-fascist supporters
who did managed to escape the islands and became political refugees in France,
Britain or Latin America. Until then, Emily Kaufman