Last week, on November the 11th, it was the anniversary of the end of World War I. That date changed Europe’s map forever and meant the birth of several European states linke Finland, Poland or Hungary.
On that day and under the motto “I’m Catalan I love freedom” a group of Catalans flew to Brussels to give every eurodeputy a copy of the book “10000 Catalans a Brusel.les” (10000 Catalans in Brussels). A photobook about the demonstration that happened in Brussels earlier this year where thousands of Catalans flew over to Brussels to say that we also want a state.
After giving the book they also had some things to say. First they played a video of Pau Casals’ speech in the UN and later Toni Strubell delivered an inspiring speech of which I have reproduced a fragment here:
“… Catalans are here today because they have always been present where the cause of Freedom has been an issue. They were amongst the first nations to oppose feudalism. They opposed absolute monarchy in the War of Spanish Succession. They were amonst the first to face Fascism in the mid-19 thirties. There were more Catalan victims at Auschwitz and Mauthausen than there were of many other European Union countries and it was a Catalan photographer, Francesc Boix, who made known to the world the horrors of the latter camp. Catalans have always seen humanitarian causes and their national freedom as one cause.
Last Monday, popular Catalan journalist Joan Barril wrote in his El Periódico column: “We are happy that the (Berlín) wall fell, but the Valle de los Caídos –the State tomb of Franco– still stands” with all its honours. “We are emoted by the heroic stories of fugitive German escaping from East Berlin” wrote Barril “but Spanish judges still fail to do justice to the Historic Memory. We love to proclaim our hate for Hitler, but in many Spanish cities there continue to be avenues bearing the name of Francisco Franco, a dictator who had no qualms about sending his troops to fight on the Russian front”. Some even have the doubtful distinction of having street names dedicated to military units that fought against the Allies in World War II.
Some may say this is accidental and anecdotic. They may point to a Law has just been passed, allegedly to correct this. But this is no accident. The Law they are referring to fails to make any real enforcement for democratic regeneration as was conducted in Germany, Argentina or South Africa once democracy returned. To start with, this Law does not annul, albeit symbolically, the death and prison penalties applied against hundreds of thousands of Republicans after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Incredible though it may seem to any democrat, the State Attorney in whose hands the decision to annul these laws was put, is actually the grandson of one of the most cruel Military Attorneys of Franco’s bloodiest reprisal period. Even more worrying is the fact that Spanish president Zapatero should have publicly stated that to annul these sentences would be tantamount to questioning the foundation on which Constitutional Spain is now built. Amongst the thousands of death sentences that are still in force – sixty-nine years later- is that of Catalan President Lluís Companys. For him and others, the afore-mentioned Law forsees that his “rehabilitation” must be based on the issue of a humiliating good conduct certificate for those presenting “exonerating proof” for their relatives. Can anyone imagine Angela Merkel stooping to such connivence with the heirs of Hitler and Mussolini in enacting the pseudo-rehabilitation of their German or Italian democratic opponents today? This is only possible in Spain where Franco’s granddaughter appears on TV chat shows and where negationism is not a crime but a regular media practice as has recently been reported by Alex Rietman on Holand’s Radio1.
No. This is no accident. This is the very stuff Spain’s democratic deficit is made of. The world should know that the only individual facing charges associated with the mass graves of Franco -the vast majority of which, including Valencia’s, with over 26,000 known victims, are still uninvestigated- is the one judge who took steps to enable their possible investigation. Europe should know this. Why is Spain so absolutely unable to overcome its authoritarian past? And why does Europe turn a blind eye to this in contrast with the recommendations of the Committee for Human Rights of the United Nations, which in October 2008 brought out a document urging Spain to do justice to Franco’s victims, denouncing the fact that a law of 1977 should have granted amnesty for all crimes committed during the Dictatorship? …”