Anarchist Spanish civil war veteran in Bolivia


This is an interview in Spanish with Antonio García Barón, survivor of Hitler’s Mauthausen death camp.

From the BBC:

Hours after flying on a rickety 19-seater propeller plane and landing on a dirt strip, you get to the village of San Buenaventura in the heart of the Bolivian Amazon.

Here, in a simple one-storey brick house next to a row of wooden shacks, is the home of Antonio Garcia Baron.

He is the only survivor still alive of the anarchist Durruti column which held Francoist forces at bay in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the founder of an anarchist community in the heart of the jungle.

Mr Baron, 87, was wearing a hat and heavy dark glasses. He later explained that they were to protect his eyes, which were damaged when he drank a cup of coffee containing poison nine years ago.

It was, he said, the last of more than 100 attempts on his life, which began in Paris, where he moved in 1945 after five years in the Mauthausen Nazi concentration camp, and continued in Bolivia, his home since the early 1950s.

Stateless

He was keen to share his views on 20th Century Spanish history with a wider audience.

“The Spanish press has covered up that the (Catholic) Church masterminded the death of two million Republicans during the civil war, not one million as they maintain,” Mr Baron said before launching into one of his many anecdotes.

On the walls of Mr Baron’s house is a picture of him taken in the camp. Next to it is a blue triangle with the number 3422 and letter S inside, marking the prisoners considered stateless.

Spain took away my nationality when I entered Mauthausen, they wanted the Nazis to exterminate us in silence. The Spanish government has offered to return my nationality but why should I request something that was stolen from me and 150,000 others?” he said angrily.

Mr Baron arrived in Bolivia on the advice of his friend, the French anarchist writer Gaston Leval.

“I asked him for a sparsely populated place, without services like water and electricity, where people lived like 100 years ago – because where you have civilisation you’ll find priests.” …

Recently they moved back to the village for health reasons and to be closer to their children. They live with a daughter, 47, while their other three children, Violeta, 52, Iris, 31, and 27-year-old Marco Antonio work in Spain.

They also share the few simple rooms arranged around an internal patio with three Cuban doctors who are part of a contingent sent to help provide medical care in Bolivia.

The hours passed and it was time to take the small plane back to La Paz before the torrential rain isolated the area again.

Only then, as time was running out, did Mr Baron begin speaking in detail about Mauthausen and the war – as if wishing to fulfill a promise to fallen comrades.

How the Nazis threw prisoners from a cliff, how some of them clung to the mesh wire to avoid their inevitable death, how the Jews were targeted for harsh treatment and did not survive long.

His memory also took him to Dunkirk where he had arrived in 1940, before he was caught and imprisoned in Mauthausen.

“I arrived in the morning but the British fleet was some 6km from the coast. I asked a young English soldier if it would return.

“I saw that he was eating with a spoon in one hand and firing an anti-aircraft gun with the other,” he laughed.

“‘Eat if you wish’, I told him. ‘Do you know how to use it?’ he asked since I didn’t have military uniform and was very young.

“‘Don’t worry,’ I said. I grabbed the gun and shot down two planes. He was dumbstruck.

“I’ll never forget the determination of the British fighting stranded on the beach.”

Mr Baron commissioned paintings of a concentration camp victim to hang in his house. Paintings of scenes from the camp are a visual reminder of his past.

THIS book’s subtitle — “the extraordinary story of the Britons who fought for Spain” — is certainly no exaggeration: here.

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