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History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

The Spanish Civil War In The Pitiuses
Part Twelve

Spanish Wars

Hello 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 Formentera’s cemeteries witnessed daily executions” in the final months of 1936 and well into 1937.

The Pros and Cons of Murder

Parron 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 for himself.

The Institutionalization of Repression

With 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.

The 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.”

Military 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 individual’s 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.

One such 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 Bayo’s 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.


I’ll 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