SPANISH GUERRILLAS IN THE RESISTANCE AND LIBERATION by Louis Stein

22 August 1944: Spanish Republican guerrillas liberate Toulouse

GENERAL CHARLES DE GAULLE was fond of asking Maquis how long they had been in the Resistance. Since the question was ritual in nature, he wanted and expected a ritual response: “Since June 18, 1940, General,” the date of his famous appeal to the French nation to continue the struggle against Hitler. In Limoges, in September 1944, the General asked the question of a colonel of the Francs Tireurs et Partisans (FTP). “With all respect, General,” came the reply, “before you.” Seeing de Gaulle’s surprised reaction the colonel continued, Yes, I fought against the Germans during the war in Spain.”1

Perhaps the fact that the FTP was the communist arm of the Resistance motivated the Colonel’s reply, but the Spanish saw the war against the fascists as a continuing struggle dating from July 1936. It was true, as General de Gaulle said on another occasion, that the participation and sufferings of Spanish refugees in the Resistance had made them heroes of France and Spain.2 The sense of solidarity felt by Spaniards with Frenchmen in the common combat was expressed by Cristino Garcia Grandas, an outstanding Spanish guerrilla, when he noted that men and women of both nations had fought together for four years. “If I am proud of being a son of Spain I am not less proud of having helped in the liberation of France.” Cristino Garcia’s own career gave powerful affirmation to the basic Spanish idea that the war against fascism would not end until the victorious Allies helped the Spanish Republicans oust Francisco Franco. After the defeat of Ger-many, Cristino Garcia returned to Spain to organize a guerrilla campaign to achieve this end. He was captured and executed by the nationalist government.3

To understand the Resistance movement from 1943 until the liberation in 1944, one must first of all recognize the close collaboration between the French and Spanish fighters. Although the Spaniards were organized in their own formations, they were part and parcel of the French Resistance movement during that time. Where such organization was not possible, Spaniards fought in the ranks of the French Maquis. The extent of Resistance operations can be better appreciated when one realizes that no Allied troops appeared south of a line drawn from Nantes to Orleans to Dijon, and west of a line from Dijon to Avignon. Yet many of the territories within these limits were liberated before Paris and almost entirely by Resistance forces. Although they were particularly active in the Massif Central, the Alps, and the south and southeast, Spanish forces fought in forty-one departments in almost every region of France. The liberation of forty-nine cities in France was accomplished totally or in part by Spanish Maquis. In some instances, they were instrumental in liberating entire departments. The order of battle of Spanish guerrilla units in August 1944 demonstrates the extent of their infusion into the battle for France. They were behind the barricades in Paris, blew up bridges and railroads, and attacked retreating German forces and inflicted thousands of casualties upon them. Spanish guerrillas were present in the sacrificial battles of the Plateau of Glières, Vercors, and Mont-Mouchet. They also distinguished themselves in the ill-fated breakout attempt from the prison of Eysses. Incorporated into the regular French forces at the end of 1944, many Spaniards also took a large part in the only mass battle fought by men of the Resistance, the reduction of the last German Atlantic strongholds of Lorient, Royan (Charente-Maritime), Le Verdon (Gironde), and Pointe de Grave (Gironde). Thousands of Spaniards also fought in the regular forces of the new French army, notably in the First and Second Armored Divisions and in the Foreign Legion. Spanish tank crews of General Leclerc’s Second French Armored Division were the first to penetrate Paris and reach the Hôtel de Ville.4 In addition, the escape networks continued to rescue Allied soldiers and civilians. General de Gaulle noted that twelve thousand Frenchmen escaped the country through the French and Spanish networks.5

Spanish exploits were recognized by General de Gaulle and other high-ranking officers of the French liberation movement in the awarding of hundreds of citations to Spanish guerrillas. The Legion of Honor was conferred upon numerous Spaniards, including forty-two for their roles in the liberation of Toulouse and other southern cities, and six for being the first to penetrate the center of Lyon. Six Spanish guerrilla officers also won the War Cross for their actions in the liberation of Toulouse. Enrique Marco Nadal, ex-captain of the Spanish republican army, who, ironically enough, had escaped from a French concentration camp in 1939 and later joined the French army, was decorated on two occasions by General de Gaulle. In 1949, the General interceded with Spanish nationalist authorities to secure a commutation of the death sentence passed upon Nadal, who had returned to Spain to continue the battle and was captured.6 The presence of the Spanish Maquis in the ranks of the French resistance “constituted an important contribution to the cause of the Allies,” according to Colonel Serge Ravanel, chief of the Forces Francaises de l’Interieur for the Toulouse Region. “Valorous among the most valorous resistants, they sacrificed themselves with heroism and courage,” he said.7 Watching more than three thousand Spanish guerrillas pass in review before General de Gaulle in the victory parade at Toulouse, on September 17, 1944, Ravanel asked himself: “When will they be able to enter their own country? When will they be able to celebrate the liberty for which they fought so much at our side? What will the French nation do to help them, responding to the so-generous aid they gave us?” Twenty-four years later, when Ravanel wrote a preface for a book on the Spanish Maquis, the questions were still unanswered, he noted.8

At the beginning of 1943, however, victory parades in Paris or Toulouse—not to mention Madrid and Barcelona—were still far from realization. Throughout that year the influx of fugitives from forced labor in Germany presented the Maquis with growing challenges of supply and organization. By February 1944, the consolidation of Resistance forces was partly realized by the Comite National de la Resistance (CNR), which created the Forces Francaises de l’Interieur (FFI) as an umbrella over the numerous resistance groups that had evolved. The component elements of the FFI were the Armée Secrète (AS), which regrouped various Maquis elements in the southern zone under the title of Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR); the Francs Tireurs et Partisans Francais (FTPF), and the Front National (FN), both dominated by the communists; the Organization de Résistance de l’Armée (ORA), composed of officers and men from the demobilized armistice army; and the Main d’Ouevre Immigrants (MOI), composed of foreigners fighting in France. Each department had a military leader, usually selected from the AS or FTP, and a chief of staff, generally assigned from the ranks of the ORA. The entire apparatus was linked to the CNR through the Commission d’Action Militaire (COMAC). Parallel to this organization was an administrative hierarchy, imposed by the Gaullist headquarters in London, to guard against the possibility of Communist hegemony and to coordinate the parachuting of supplies to the Resistance forces. The instrumentalities for this control were the Délegués Militaires National (DMN), Délegués Militaires Zonal (DMZ), and the Délegués Militaires Régional (DMR).9

Spanish units that had been working with the FFI as the Organización Militar Española of the Union Nacional Española (UNE), the communist-led coalition, changed their designation in May 1944, becoming the Agrupación Guerrillera Espanola. In July 1943, command was decentralized into divisions and brigades based on regions and departments. Miguel Angel was appointed to represent the Spanish guerrillas at FFI headquarters, and Albert Luís Fernández was made joint commander with Ljubomir Hitch of the MOI. It was understood by all concerned that the Spaniards would continue to operate in their own formations and under their own officers, although generally under the orders of the FTP and the FFI.10 The UNE built a broad coalition grouped around the Spanish Communist Party. It included such disparate elements as monarchists, Navarrese traditionalists, and Gil Robles’ Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA), a federation of small, independent rightist parties.

Successfully resisting the efforts of the UNE to bring them within its political and military orbit, the Spanish anarchists remained an independent fighting force within the French Resistance. Indeed, they organized their own coalition, the Alianza Democratica Española. Besides the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (the labour federation of the Anarchists), the Alliance consisted of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Socialist Workers Party of Spain); the Union General de Trabajadores (the trade union federation of the Socialist Party), Izquierda Republicana (the Left Republicans, a fusion of republican parties led by Manuel Azaña), the Independent Republicans of Felipe Sánchez Roman, the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI), the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (Nationalist Basque Party), and Esquerra Catalan (the Catalan Left, which had been led by Luís Companys).11

The anarchists developed a separate understanding with the French Comité National de la Résistance and cooperated with the FFI and the confédération Générale du Travail, the French labor federation. Although committed to a strategy of sabotage rather than massive confrontation, they pledged to engage in the latter when an Allied land-ing occurred and the French people rose in national insurrection. Anarchist participants in the campaign would fight in their own units, commanded by their own leaders. They also reserved the right to regain their liberty of action when the war had been won, so that they could turn their full attention to liberating the Spanish homeland. In establishing official connection with the French, the anarchists felt that they had broken the communist “encirclement” of their movement and had preserved the separate identity and integrity of their organization. They had secured the cooperation of the FFI and gained the means to provide haven and support to those comrades who daily fled the threat of forced labor in Germany and wished to fight under their own banner.12 Only in the regular French army and in predominantly French Resistance units would the anarchists submit to authority other than their own.

It has already been noted that requisition of French and Spanish labor for work in the Todt Organization or in German factories was perhaps the single greatest recruitment device for the burgeoning Resistance movement. In 1943 and the first half of 1944 the occupier’s demands increased greatly, and the predictable result was that a great number of fugitives found their way into the Resistance. The labor requisitions had the effect of embittering the French population and turning it increasingly against Marshal Petain’s government. A secret report from the Direction de la Securité Militaire in Algiers, May 26, 1943, declared that “un vent de pillage souffle sur la France” (“a pillaging wind is blowing over France”). The country was being looted of its goods, its food, and, increasingly, of its men. There was a growing hostility to the labour requisitions—especially of the military classes of 1940, 1941, and 1942—and overt demonstrations against the departure of transports. In a single week in April, the document declared, only 6 out of 239 Mâcon men called for transportation had reported, 17 out of 120 men at Toulon (Var), and none of the 15 called at Lons-le-Saunier (Jura). That antideportation agitation had an effect on the growth of the number of fugitives was acknowledged by the Office of Renseignements Généraux of Lot. From March 12 to June 12, 1943, 168 members of the class of 1942 in Lot had been called for labor in Germany, and 148 had answered the requisition. But the following week, of 494 called, 139 failed to report. By August 25, only four out of eighty-five summoned at Cahors (Lot) responded, and on September 3, only two out of forty-six.13 Another Algiers report in August 1943 said that there were strong indications that the gendarmerie did not appear anxious to escalate its struggle against refractaires. There were numerous instances where French gendarmes informed the Maquis of impending arrests or of requisitions for labor in Germany, thus permitting the intended victims to escape. “The intelligence service of the French Maquis functioned so well,” Berruezo said, “that orders of detention emanating from Vichy were known to the Spaniards before they were received by the subprefecture.” La Defense de la France, an underground newspaper, listed large-scale refusals to report for deportation in June 1943. In the department of l’Herault, 30 percent had failed to report, in Savoie 38 percent, in the Drôme 50 percent, in the Rhone 90 percent, in Isère 34 percent, in Haute-Savoie 42 percent, in the Haute-Garonne 63 percent, and in Correèze 90 percent. These figures, the newspaper said, constituted a definitive answer to those who argued against resistance on the grounds that it was useless and impossible. A report issued by the American Office of Strategic Services in July 1943 noted that resistance to deportation had been vigorous from the very beginning. “Numerous strikes broke out, in spite of extremely severe punishment,” the OSS observed, “In many cases, angry crowds freed the arrested workers.” It asserted that the French peasantry, which had been told by Pierre Laval that the deportation of the workers would result in the return of their sons from German prisoner-of-war camps, was actively feeding and sheltering dissidents who fled to the countryside.14 French officials in communes near the Spanish border were also perturbed by the discovery of large-scale distributions of Combat, a Resistance newspaper. The paper called for refusal to go to Germany, the formation of Resistance units, and death to Petain and Laval, the subprefect of Prades suggested that the gendarmerie be instructed to inspect all mail boxes before dawn and remove copies of Combat. “In this fashion,” he observed, the population will not be touched by such propaganda.”15

The Travailleurs Etrangers were particularly vulnerable to requisitions for the Organization Todt and they responded with mass desertions. Reports in 1943 and 1944 from subprefects are replete with complaints from TE commanders and from private entrepreneurs who employed Spanish workers on a contract basis. Increasingly, such reports ended with the comment, “Je suppose que ces étrangers ont gagné le maquis” (“I suppose these foreigners have joined the Maquis”).18 The chief of the 427th Group of Travailleurs Etrangers, based at Perpignan, pointed out that of the 1,600 workers in his unit, 300 were on detached service for work in the forests and another 100 were employed in mines. He stated that he did not have enough police at his disposal to control these men. An idea of the profound resistance encountered in effectuating requisitions from the Travailleurs Etrangers may be gleaned from a report by Commandant Perramond of the 427th TE Group. A convoy of 165 TE’s was slated to depart on December 30, 1943, for work in the northern ports of Calais, Lorient, Cherbourg, and Brest. Only sixteen were actually entrained. The rest avoided the requisition in a variety of ways. A total of eighty-six were exempted: twelve by the Prefecture, thirty-six by the German Placement Office, fifteen for “diverse reasons,” and twenty-three because of illness. Sixty-three were listed as refractaires. The document provided a personnel report of the 427th Group for the last trimester of 1943. It listed the incorporation of sixty-four new members and the dispatch of forty-four workers to the Organization Todt. But it also noted 189 desertions, leaving the mean enrollment at 1,645.17

The predictable response to increased Maquis activity and to mass avoidance of labor service with the Germans was progressively more severe repression. With the elimination of the unoccupied zone in December 1942, the Vichy armistice army was dissolved and the German Gestapo and police extended their activities into the south. The Vichy government cooperated fully with the occupier. Moreover, having from the very beginning equated Resistance with communism and antinational sentiment, it entered into full collaboration with the Ger-mans in attempts to suppress the Maquis. This effort was directed by Joseph Darnand, who became secretary-general for the maintenance of order in December 1943. Darnand, a declared fascist, waged an aggressive campaign against the Resistance, utilizing the Milice, a 45,000 man national police force. The Milice had been organized in January 1943 from the paramilitary arm of the Veterans’ Legion, the Service d’Ordre Légionnaire. Under his leadership it engaged in virtual civil war against all who represented a threat to German victory, and it succeeded in decimating many Maquis organizations. It took part in the German reduction of a large Maquis force on the Plateau of Glières (Haute-Savoie). Miguel Angel related that a special force of Spanish Maquis in l’Ariège was betrayed to the Milice and thirty-four were captured in a surprise attack near Foix on April 22, 1944.18

But the Milice and other Vichy police forces also suffered heavy casualties, becoming the symbols of a constantly growing anti-Vichy feeling. An OSS report of March 15, 1944, received from a source in Switzerland, said that the vehemence of the Maquis attacks against the Milice was causing that body to lose some of its original enthusiasm, “because they are suffering heavily, and every member . . . knows that he is likely to have a bullet in his back at any moment.” The report added that Vichy repressive efforts, which always began with great violence and then petered out, were destined for defeat by the very magnitude of the task. The informant noted that the French police and the gardes mobiles reserves were being used with less frequency because they were “either half-hearted or even in sympathy with the Resistance, and their action was generally quite ineffective.”19

Controlling the activities of the Travailleurs Etrangers and the Maquis in the south proved particularly difficult because of the dis-persed nature of their work, the inacessability of their strongholds in the Pyrenees, and the support of the local population. The prefect of Pyrénées-Orientales exhorted his commissaire central to greater efforts: “In this period it is more important than ever to impose a rigorous control and a particularly vigilant surveillance.” In another letter to the regional prefect at Montpellier he urged a series of searches of private homes and sweeps throughout the region.20 But despite these efforts and the increasing number of arrests, the authorities felt inadequate to the task and complained about the lack of sufficient police.21 There was general agreement that in a situation of outright insurrection the vast majority of Spanish workers would constitute a dangerous force at the disposal of the Resistance. At least one official urged that they be evacuated from the Pyrenees border area. But this solution ran counter to the economic needs of the employers of the region, who found the Spaniards to be excellent workers: “They form an important part of the agricultural work force . . . If they were to depart in large numbers there would be quite a dislocation of the local economy.”22 As an alternative it was suggested that known or suspected resisters be imprisoned. A list of fifty-four such suspects, six of them women, fur-nishes an idea of what activities were considered dangerous by the Vichy authorities: the most common descriptions were “communist” (or variants) and “anarchist.” But it was enough to be “considered as communist” or “engaged in procommunist activity “ Other labels applied to suspects were “concubine of S—,” “former member of International Brigade,” “political commissar in Spain,” “communist sympathizer,” “ex-revolutionary,” “suspect from the national point of view,” “noted as anarchist,” “dangerous,” “aided by Mexico,” “accused by neighbours,” and “listens to Gaullist radio.”23 In a report at the beginning of 1944 the commissaire principal of the Pyrénées-Orientales commented on thirteen Spaniards who were either arrested pr interned. In addition to those labeled communist or anarchist, others had been detained for clandestine border passage, carrying a firearm, or voicing antinational sentiments.24 Another letter noted the internment of twenty-five Spaniards in Le Vernet, and the arrest of fifty-four suspects.25

Despite the heavy damage inflected upon its groups in all parts of the country, the Resistance absorbed growing numbers of recruits, increased the pace and scope of its attacks upon the enemy, consolidated its organization, and played a considerable part in the liberation of France. Robert Aron said that the official number of maquisards armed by the Allies was 140,000, but he added that an unknown number of resisters acquired arms elsewhere. The official total of those killed in battle was 24,000, although Cookridge gives a figure of 30,000, and, in addition, lists 24,000 Resistance fighters executed by the Nazis and 115,000 deported to German concentration camps.26 How many Spaniards fought in the Maquis, the French Foreign Legion, and the army is unknown. Anthony Eden declared that three out of five maquisards were Spanish republicans, but this proportion appears too high. Pierre Bertaux’s estimate of 60,000 Spanish guerrillas is probably the closest approximation.27 About 25,000 Spaniards died in the struggle, including those in concentration camps and regular army service as well as in the Maquis.28

The heaviest concentration of Spanish Maquis was in the southwest and the Pyrenees, but there were strong formations of them in many other areas. In the Alps, Spaniards fought in the departments of Haute-Savoie, Savoie, Isère, Ain, Jura, and Drôme. They participated in three of the largest Resistance engagements of the war—the Plateau of Glières, the Vercors (Isère and Drôme), and Mont-Mouchet (Auvergne) —as well as in hundreds of other actions.

Manuel Gutiérrez Vicente fought in the Spanish Civil War and was captured near its end. Escaping from a Franco prison he went to France and was interned in Argelès and Bram. Taken to Brest by the)Organization Todt, he escaped and made his way to Dole (Jura), where he joined an FTP Maquis group commanded by the Frenchman Maurice Pagnon. One of the four companies in this group, “Pasteur,” was manned entirely by Spaniards, and they were represented in each of the other companies. Always acompanied by Spaniards in his night forays, Pagnon began sabotage operations in October 1943. The Pasteur company was responsible for thirty-seven assassinations in the Dole area during this period. A railroad bombing engineered by the Spaniards resulted in eighty German troop deaths at Besançon. On February 24, 1944, Pagnon was wounded and captured, dying on March 10, 1944, at Dijon. Henri Guignard suceeded to the command and Gutiérrez became leader of the Pasteur Company, taking at this time the alias of Pierre de Castro. His first action in this capacity was the destruction of gasoline supplies at a German airfield, an operation carried out by himself and one other man. On May 24, 1944, Gutiérrez was appointed to lead two new groups, with five hundred men, which eventually became the Batallon Maurice Pagnon. From this date to August 29, 1944, when Gutiérrez was caught by the Germans, the group engineered no less than one hundred and forty operations. These included cutting telephone lines, damaging railway roadbeds, punishing collaborators and spies, attacking German patrols and military convoys, and stealing ration tickets, tobacco, food, and money. Perhaps the most spectacular exploits of Gutiérrez’s group were the destruction of the electrical generating station at Chambéry and of twenty thousand tons of aviation bombs and artillery shells in the munitions magazine at Crissey (Saone-et-Loire); Gutierrez was apprehended by a German patrol on August 29, 1944, tortured, sent to Mauthausen, from which he was liberated in May 1945.29

The success of men like Gutierrez demonstrated the effectiveness of the classic guerrilla pattern, wherein small, highly mobile groups at-tacked the enemy on their own terms, usually in surprise maneuvers. The negative dictum, that of avoiding at all costs the amalgamation of large groups of men in static positions and engaging the enemy in frontal combat, was to be disregarded by the Resistance in two instances—once in the Alps and once in the Massif Central—with catastrophic results.

The rapid growth of the Maquis, their contacts with London and Algiers, the parachuting of arms and materiel, the provision of funds that allowed units to pay their men ten francs per day and purchase their food and clothes, and the establishment of six training schools—all these may have contributed to a sense of aggrandizement and a tendency to minimize small group actions in favor of large-scale confrontations with the enemy. Misunderstanding of the strategic planning of the French headquarters in London and Algiers also contributed to the disasters. In Maquis circles it was believed that the Free French forces based in England and Africa had been divided into three groups: Force A would participate in the cross-Channel invasion, Force B was to be assigned to General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny for a landing on the southern coast, and Force C would be used for a parachute descent somewhere in the interior of occupied France. The latter force, once it had liberated and fortified a sizable zone, would establish Free French government and authority in the country even before it had been completely emptied of Germans. The general plan had originated in the Resistance and had been reviewed in London, which had refused to put it into operation. The maquisards, however, were never apprised of this decision and based their plans upon its activation.30

In January 1944 the Maquis, against the advice of the Spaniards and some French leaders, began to concentrate large numbers of men on the Plateau of Glières. Situated twenty kilometers from Annecy in Haute Savoie, the plateau, a rugged outcropping rising eighteen hundred feet above sea level, offered a strong defensive position and, in the eyes of De Gaulle’s headquarters, could be converted into an offensive springboard at the proper moment, perhaps in support of an Allied Mediterranean landing later in the year. Under the command of a twenty-five year old FTP captain, Theodore Morel, between 456 and 650 FTP and Armée Secrète men gathered on the plateau and built a fortified camp. Of this number, between fifty-six and eighty were Spaniards, organized as the Ebro Section.31 In mid-February the Vichy government became aware of this unusual concentration of resisters, and Joseph Darnand sent 800 Milice and gardes mobiles to destroy them. In two battles the Vichy men were defeated, but Morel was killed and replaced by Captain Anjot. The failure of the Vichyites to control the situation led the Germans to send 8,000 men of an Alpine division to Glières. The reinforcement of the Milice and gardes mobiles to a strength of 1,500 men gave the enemy an overwhelming superiority, and on March 23, 1944, they launched an all-out attack. German planes saturated the plateau with bombs and machine-gun fire, and the infantry moved in behind the bombardment. The Maquis fought stubbornly until the evening of March 26, when the order to retreat was given. Reverting to guerrilla tactics, the survivors filtered down from the plateau in small groups. Casualties were extremely heavy, with 155 dead, including five Spaniards. One hundred and seventy-five maquisards were taken prisoner. The number of wounded is unknown, Of the six Spaniards among the prisoners, only one survived the torture, execution, and deportation that followed their capture. Shattered for the moment, the Resistance movement later revived and was instrumental in the liberation of Annecy and other towns in the area.32

Larger in scope than Glières, the Battle of Vercors involved 3,000 to 3,500 maquisards against a force of 15,000 to 20,000 Germans. Once again it underscored the controversy between those who saw the Maquis as a potential mass army and those who believed it should operate only in small, offensive, continuously mobile groups. Vercors is a thousand-meter high mountain, interlaced with almost inaccessable crags, ravines, cliffs, and grottos. Situated between Valence and Grenoble, it is sixty kilometers long by twenty kilometres wide and is dotted with a number of farming villages. Lying athwart the potential Allied invasion route to the German frontier, it proved an irresistible magnet to French Maquis, who envisioned planting a powerful force on its heights which, augmented by Allied paratroopers, could serve as a platform to pinion the enemy between Vercors and an Allied army advancing from the south. The plan was approved by Jean Moulin (“Max”), chief of the National Council of the Resistance, and General Delestraint (“Vidal”), chief of the Secret Army It was forwarded to London for approval, but there is some confusion as to whether it was ever approved there and in Algiers. At least one important French Maquis leader decried the plan: Albert Chambonnier, regional chief of the MUR and the FFI opposed it on several grounds. The Maquis in the Vercors region, he said, were much too important to be used in a manner that did not correspond to the capabilities of the Resistance. It was dangerous to concentrate so many men on the plateau and to lock them into a defensive posture. He disputed the notion that Vercors was indestructible: “an impregnable fortress does not exist.”33

However, the enthusiasts went ahead, believing that London had approved the plan and would furnish additional men and materiel at the proper time. Two guerrilla groups, comprising four hundred Maquis, fifty of whom were Spaniards, were already based on the mountain.34

Between early March and June 6, 1944, the guerrilla population increased steadily. On the latter day, when word came of the invasion of Normandy, it brought with it a widespread belief that a simultaneous landing would occur in the Marseille area. A call went out for all maquisards to concentrate on Vercors. General Pierre Joseph Koenig, supreme chief of the FFI, radioed from London on June 10 to apply the brake to this movement. He ordered the Maquis to break contact with the enemy, to avoid concentration of a large force, and to reorganize into small groups. It was impossible to provide sufficient arms and supplies for the Maquis, he said. But his message arrived too late. The mobilization was in full swing and 3,000 to 3,500 men were swarming over the mountain. Another 1,500 men, unarmed, also stood by, waiting for a parachute drop of supplies.35

The first German attack, on June 13, was repelled. Another Nazi assault on June 18 produced twenty-four Maquis deaths and a retreat from exposed positions in the lower reaches of the mountain. Arms and supplies were dropped to the Maquis on June 23, but they did not include artillery or the all-important mortar. At the beginning of July a small group of Allied officers and an American paratroop detachment parachuted into the area. Now the defenders of Vercors received reports of an ominous buildup of German bomber and fighter aircraft at a nearby airfield, but their plea for an immediate air strike was denied. Another large parachute drop of supplies was only partially recovered because of intense German bombardment of the area, and on July 20 the Maquis made a final plea for artillery. The next day the Germans launched simultaneous air and ground attacks, with a sizable force of glider troops establishing a position near the top of the mountain. For two days the area was bombarded almost ceaselessly while ground combat continued. By the evening of the twenty-third, Vercors was completely surrounded. As evening fell on July 24, the order to evacuate was given and the surviving maquis made their way to safety as best they could. The Germans were harsh in their treatment of maquisards and civilians. Five towns were burned and 250 civilians were executed. A number of wounded maquisards, a priest, four German wounded, and an American lieutenant recovering from an operation were discovered where they had been hidden in the grotto of Liure: the American lieutenant was treated as a prisoner of war, but the twenty-four maquis, the priest, and two doctors were shot. Seven nurses were arrested and deported to Ravensbruck. In all, the Maquis suffered 750 deaths, including those of 62 Spaniards.36

In light of Maquis expectations of major assistance, Glières and Vercors, as well as the Auvergne battle of Mont-Mouchet, may have been thought to represent the beginning of the national insurrection. Mont-Mouchet, pitting 10,000 maquis, of whom only 2,700 to 3,000 were armed, against 20,000 heavily armed Germans, was the third instance in 1944 where classic guerrilla warfare was abandoned for the tactic of mass combat.37 Mont-Mouchet is situated at the juncture of the departments of the Haute-Loire, Cantal, and Lozere, and the Maquis felt that this rugged portion of the Massif Central could support three powerful redoubts. The levée-en-masse was ordered on May 20, 1944, and the Germans launched their first attack on June 2 with 800 men. It was repelled by a force of 3,000, including several hundred Spaniards. On June 10, eleven thousand Germans, supported by armored cars and a GMR unit, attacked again. Although the enemy was driven off it was clear that retreat was necessary, and on the next day the Maquis moved to a new position in the Truyère massif. The engagement had cost the Germans 1,400 dead and 1,700 wounded. At Truyere, there were 6,000 new maquis, but arms for only 800 of them. A parachute delivery made it possible to equip a total of 4,000 men, divided into thirty companies, but with ammunition for only one day of fighting. The heaviest German attack, consisting of 20,000 men with artillery, tanks, and aircraft was launched on June 20, and that night the Maquis were ordered to retreat as best they could toward the Lioran massif. The Spanish guerrillas distinguished themselves in the retreat by covering the withdrawal of several units.38

Throughout the central zone of France, Spaniards were numerous and active in many Maquis groups. Soleil, the French commander of a Resistance unit in the Dordogne, lauded their “unequaled valor” in combat and added that with them he was never afraid of treason or defection.39 The career of Ramón, known as Raymond in the Resistance, created a legend that still finds people in the Rochechouart (Haute-Vienne) area referring to him as “the Spanish devil.” After a short stay in a French concentration camp in February 1939, he returned to Spain and organized a guerrilla group. On one of his trips to Perpignan he was arrested and sent to work with the Todt Organization at Bedarieux (l’Herault). Notified by the French Resistance that the Gestapo was planning to arrest him, he escaped and, after working with several Maquis units, finally came to Rochechouart and organized an eighteen-man group. By the time of the liberation the unit had grown to over two hundred guerrillas. The list of his actions is long, but he is remembered for three major operations. Near Angouleme his group blew up a train, killing many German soldiers and coming into possession of the only antiaircraft gun known to have been captured. The unit also ambushed an entire armored train, taking hundreds of prisoners and a large quantity of machine-guns, rifles, and ammunition. Ramón’s third major action resulted indirectly in the reprisal massacre at Oradour-sur- Glane (Haute-Vienne). Shortly after the June 6 invasion, a train filled with German soldiers was crossing a bridge over the Vienne River, near St. Junien (Haute-Vienne). Bridge and train were destroyed by Ramón and his men. The troops were on their way to Normandy. In reprisal, an entire village, Oradour-sur Glane, was destroyed. Many of its inhabitants were either machine-gunned in the plaza or burned in the locked church. Six hundred and forty-two people were killed, including two hundred and fifty-two children. Among the dead were eighteen Spanish refugees. Ramón’s revenge came swiftly The village of Oradour-sur-Vayres (Haute-Vienne) was surrounded, and the German garrison was decimated: many were burned to death in a house, in the same fashion as the victims of Oradour-sur-Glane.40

Anarchist workers, as previously noted, were numerous in the Massif Central, and they organized resistance within the Travailleurs Etrangers groups working on the great L’Aigle hydroelectric dam project. Under the leadership of J. Montoliú and Manuel Barbosa, they formed four guerrilla groups, each consisting of fifteen men. Later, the groups were augmented by one hundred Spaniards and were active as the Battalion de la Barrage de l’Aigle, which was instrumental in the sabotage of roads and railroad tunnels and the liberation of a number of towns in the area. Apparently, anarchist refusal to join the UNE resulted in political strife for a time. The communists labeled the anarchists “bandits” in their regional newspaper, Le Cantal Libre, and attempted to incorporate a company of anarchist guerrillas stationed in Feixac (Lot) into the communist-dominated military organization. This move was successfully resisted.41

Other Spanish Maquis units were active throughout the central zone. A Spanish guerrilla group was among the first to enter Vichy and its initial act was to ocupy the Spanish embassy and replace the nationalist flag with the republican. Emilio Alvarez Canossa (“Pinocho”) led a Dordogne guerrilla group that was responsible for numerous sabotages, including the destruction of twenty-seven locomotives in the repair shops at Perigueux and persistent dynamitings of railroads. On May 1, 1944, he led an attack that liberated eighty political prisoners from the jail at Nontron, including five members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of France. In August his units, having distinguished themselves in blocking German troops from moving northward, participated in the liberation of Perigueux and Angoulême. In 1945 they joined other Maquis in the battles to reduce the last German strongholds on the Atlantic coast. Alvarez Canossa was named commandant of the 471st Brigade of Guerrilleros, and the French government made him a chevalier of the Legion of Honor and awarded him the War Cross with palm.42 A Spanish unit, working with French Maquis, attacked the prison of Riom (Puy-de-Dôme) on August 22, 1944, and liberated 160 prisoners. Another Spanish force participated in the liberation of Limoges.43

Spanish Maquis organization and operations were perhaps most intense in the southwest of France. Bertaux observed that Spanish guerrillas had been in existence there even before the declaration of war, but their faces had been turned to the south until that event.44 Nevertheless, these nuclei had formed the basis for a proliferation of Spanish republican combat against the Germans and the Vichy government. The Travailleurs Etrangers escaping from deportation found the Pyrenees and adjacent departments honeycombed with countrymen willing to take up arms in the Resistance movement. And it was in this region that the politics of the Resistance were most in evidence. Gaullists and French communists jockeyed for control against a background that had seen the Resistance movement, greatly influenced by communists, liberate the area largely through its own efforts and manpower. The Spanish communists, ubiquitous in nearly all of the Resistance groups, lent solid support to their French counterparts. Robert Aron, in one of his few references to the Spanish exiles, said that in the trial of strength between communists and noncommunists, the Spanish Reds had thrown their support to the former. He cited the presence of six thousand Spanish guerrillas in Toulouse who “were still imbued with the revolutionary spirit they had brought from beyond the Pyrenees.” They were still estranged from the anarchists and were not prepared to accept the authority of General de Gaulle. “In August 1944,” Aron wrote, “there was a great risk of revolution.”45 The general himself took cognizance of the Spanish guerrillas and remarked that they had stirred up a “considerable disturbance” in Toulouse.46 Eventually, he succeeded in controlling the area, but he had acknowledged the pervasive character of the Spanish Resistance. Charles Foltz, Jr., noted the Spanish presence in a different way In February 1939 he had seen the campfires of the Spanish refugees in the hills of southern France and again in the dark days of June 1940 he had seen the remnants of workers’ companies camped before the Swiss border in attempts to reach safety Now, in August 1944, he watched the German army departing from the Hendaye-Biarritz area. Again, he saw camp-fires in the hills and heard the sound of predawn maquisard rifle fire. When he investigated he found that the fires belonged to those same Spaniards. It was their only taste of victory in eight years of war and exile.47

Bertaux, who was appointed as de Gaulle:is commissaire de la republique in the Toulouse area, lauded the Spaniards for their role in liberating the city and for playing “the most important part” in Maquis action throughout the Pyrenees. But, he maintained, the liberation of Toulouse five days before that of Paris was not due exclusively to their efforts, nor those of the FFI. It was not even the result of a spontaneous rising of the people. If anyone deserved the credit, he said, it was the Germans themselves. When the Allies threw a column southeast of Paris and the Mediterranean coast was stormed on August 15, the Germans in Toulouse were imperiled by the possibility of a link-up between these two forces. Therefore, on August 19, they evacuated the city. Previously, however, the French and Spanish Maquis had maintained a consistent pressure on the enemy with bombings, assassinations, destruction of Germany convoys, disruption of communications, and industrial sabotage. On August 19, just before liberation of the city, the Spanish guerrillas had mounted a daring rescue of political prisoners in the Rempart Saint Etienne.48

Nowhere was the fighting more savage than in the department of l’Ariège, home of the punishment camp of Le Vernet and birthplace of the Spanish Corps of Guerrilleros in April 1942. In 1943 and 1944 the Third Brigade of the First Division, commanded by the Spaniard Royo, was very much in evidence in the department. Action escalated constantly during 1943, and key attacks destroyed an aluminum factory at Tarascon and a metal works at Pamiers. Resistance reached its peak after the Allied invasion of Normandy Between June 6, 1944, and July 12, the Spanish Maquis executed seven major operations, which included blasting of railroad lines, attacks on two German convoys—resulting in seventy enemy killed or wounded—siege of a gendarmerie school and capture of a supply-laden truck, and breakouts from two German and Milice ambushes without loss.49

Between August 18 and 23 the Spanish guerrillas mounted their peak effort in l’Ariège, at the same time as their comrades and French. Maquis were liberating other areas in the southwest. The official communique of the guerrillas listed their actions: August 18: under Spanish pressure, the enemy evacuated Pamiers, Varilhes, and Lavelanet. August 19: Spanish Maquis attacked Foix, headquarters of the German army in l’Ariège. The enemy retreated into a lycée after a brief street combat. With reinforcement from the Second Battalion, the school was assaulted and the Germans surrendered; 27 officers and 120 men were captured. In addition, ten vehicles and a large quantity of supplies were seized. August 20: A twenty-truck convoy was ambushed and, after a thirteen-hour battle, surrendered with fifty prisoners: twenty Germans were killed. August 21-22: the largest battle of the l’Ariège campaign was fought when the Germans attempted to retake Foix. In the late afternoon of the twenty-first, the Third Spanish Battalion and some French Maquis made contact with a strong German column near Rimont. The Second Battalion was called for reinforcements and the attack began. The enemy retreated, reorganized, and counterattacked. With its incontestable numerical and arms superiority it forced the Maquis to retreat. At midnight, the German column attempted to break out of the ambush and continue its movement, but it was stopped by constant machine-gun fire from a point directly ahead on the road. Thus, the guerrillas again suceeded in their main objective, that of forcing the enemy into immobility in an exposed position. Again, the Germans counterattacked a wing of the Maquis line, forcing a pullback. Sixty French reinforcements arrived and a new line was established. At 4:30 P.M. on August 22 the enemy made a last attempt to move, but suffered great losses. Frozen into immobility and thoroughly demoralized, the Germans surrendered. They had suffered 150 dead and wounded; 1,200 Germans were captured. Bertaux noted that the key action of the engagement, the harrassing machine-gun fire that had prevented the German breakout at midnight of August 21, was accomplished by a single Spaniard emplaced on the road. Alone, “firing like a crazy one,” he had stopped the progress of thirteen hundred men. “But he was a Spaniard,” Bertaux wrote, “a guerrillero.” Liberación, a Maquis newspaper, published the official commendation of the Third Brigade for the action. An Allied mission, having observed the battle, termed the Spaniards “uniquely perfect guerrillas.”50

The no-quarters savagery of the fighting in l’Ariège applied to both sides. During the two-day battle on the road to Foix, the Germans destroyed the village of Rimont, killing many of its inhabitants. On June 21, gendarmes discovered a large hole being hacked through the prison wall at Foix. Pincemin, chief of the gendarmes, decided to launch a reprisal raid on the Maquis at Roquefixade. A warning note, passed from inside the prison, failed to reach the Maquis in time, and thirty-two were massacred. When l’Ariège was liberated the victors exhibited a revolutionary violence which alarmed the Gaullist officials. A tribunal of the people was organized. At Pamiers, sixty to eighty people were condemned and executed within a few days. Mass arrests were made throughout the area. Bertaux finally appointed Ernest de Nattes as prefect. He immediately declared the tribunals illegal and liberated many prisoners taken by the Maquis. He received a letter on August 30 from the officers of the FTP of Saint Girons, who had arrested a number of Milice men and members of the Parti Populaire Francais. “These traitors,” the letter said, “having fought against France, arms in hand, ought to be killed by arms within twenty-four hours.” If the provisional prefect was not willing to carry out this request the prisoners should be delivered to the FTP. The prefect later persuaded the FTP to withdraw the letter.51

Miguel Angel served as commander of the Fourth Division, which operated in the vast territory of the Pyrénées-Orientales, l’Aude, Tarn, Aveyron, and l’Herault. He described the key roles played by women. Nati and Carmen took many dangerous missions as couriers and later earned War Crosses. Mesdames Claudin and Consuela operated their homes as Maquis headquarters. The hotel of Madame Assezat in Perpignan was the workshop for creating false papers of all types. At one time Angel possessed three nationality cards and Wehrmacht stamps, which validated travel anywhere. In Carcassonne, Rafaela and Mercedes Nuñez coordinated communications and supervised the establishment for providing false papers. A Maquis succeeded in securing a number of Spanish nationality cards from the nationalist consulate. Gestapo and Milice activity was all-embracing in this area, and they made frequent raids that disrupted Maquis operations. In mid-1943 the Gestapo arrested the members of two escape networks. In April 1944 many Maquis were captured in Carcassonne, and on May 10 the false papers workshop was seized, along with pictures of many leaders. Angel and others were forced to transfer their operations to new places. In l’Aude, Tarn, and l’Herault the repression was also severe. Despite the intensity of counter-Maquis activity, the guerrillas succeeded in pressing home a continuing flow of attacks. In late July and August 1944 they liberated much of this vast area. Enric Melich, known as Corporal Sanz, was typical of those fighting in the Resistance. An anarchist, he fought with the Jean Robert Maquis, which blew up the bridge at Saint Paul-de-Fenouilledes, the viaduct of Axat, and a German train at Quillan all in Pyrénées-Orientales. At the end of August 1944 the unit organized itself as the Bataillon Muriel and was incorporated into the Eighty-first Regiment of Alpine Infantry, First French Army It then fought in Alsace and participated in the invasion of Germany. 52

In other departments of the Southwest the Maquis carried out extensive operations that hindered the German war effort and severely damaged waning Vichy prestige. Their sabotage of railroads, in the south as elsewhere, was so effective that when General Revers, head of the Organization Resistance de l’Armée, took the train from Paris to Toulouse on June 6, 1944, to ascertain just how quickly the Germans might be expected to move troops to the north, it took him three days to complete the journey Between June 1943 and May 1944, 1,822 locomotives and 200 passenger cars were destroyed or heavily damaged. In the single month of October 25 to November 25, 1943, the Vichy police reported 3,000 attempts against the railway system; of this number, 427 resulted in heavy damage and 132 caused derailment of trains.53 Francisco Valentín, a Spanish anarchist, made the hundred mile journey from Mauriac to Limoges in eighteen hours on that same day. The train moved cautiously, and twice made wide detours because of bridges that had been dynamited.54 In the Tarn-et-Garonne the Fourth Brigade, commanded by Ortiz de la Torre, specialized in railroad sabotage but also attacked German convoys and industrial targets. From April 6 to July 20, 1944, the group mounted nineteen major attacks, six of them in a single day.55 In the Basses-Pyrénées, the Spaniards under Commandant Oria, known as Julio, harrassed German installations. At one point the Maquis were betrayed and the Germans raided a house where fourteen wounded resisters were recovering; all were shot. On August 21 the guerrillas surrounded a German force that was trying to escape into Spain. The Germans were willing to surrender, but not to Spanish guerrillas; they had been told that the Spaniards would torture them. Angel claimed that their fears were unfounded: Prisoners were never harmed and were always turned over to the French authorities.56 Tomás Guerrero Ortega, whose pseudonym was Camilo, escaped from the Le Vernet prison camp and organized a Maquis group of the department of Gers. Raymond Escholier, a French Maquis who fought with Camilo, described him as “a gloomy, dark Madrileño with eyes like hot coals, and only one leg—the other had been lost in the [Spanish] Civil War.” He noted the delight of the four hundred Spaniards of Camilo when they were furnished with arms: “They were hard and audacious soldiers They sustained the war against the Nazis without quarter Nothing discouraged them. They were as tenacious in defense as in the attack.” This group liberated Castelnau, (Landes), killing 250 Germans and wounding 350. The maquis suffered seventeen killed and twenty-nine wounded.57

In the south anarchists either fought with their own units or integrated into French groups because of their antipathy to communist control. Jose Cervera lauded the French command in the department of Lot, which greeted them cordially and respected their philosophy A special Spanish unit of thirty-one men earned the respect of Soleil, the French commander, in a variety of missions. At one point, Cervera was suggested for a lieutenancy The French communists objected, pointing out that Cervera was an anarchist, a member of the CNT, and that it was humilating for Frenchmen to serve under a Spaniard. Soleil replied that such considerations had no place in the Resistance. He cited Cervera’s record of combat and the fact that he had volunteered for the most dangerous missions. Despite Soleil’s stand, the promotion failed to materialize. Cervera and his group later joined the Libertad Battalion, an all-anarchist unit under the command of Santos, and took an active part in liberating Cahors and other towns.58 Spanish guerrillas also fought in every department of southwestern France, participating in the liberation of Marseille and Toulon and harassing German troops retreating northward.59 During 1943 and 1944 the Maquis managed to mount 535 missions in the Bouches-du-Rhone, including 98 military sabotages, 110 attacks against industrial and supply targets, and 74 assaults on German personnel. The Resistance movement had survived severe repression, including the gigantic round-up of citizens in Marseille on January 24, 1944, which had resulted in 2,000 deportations to Germany.

The departments of Lozère and the Gard, potential escape routes for the German army, saw heavy fighting. It was in Lozère that the Maquis group Bir Hakeim was betrayed, ambushed, and murdered. Cristino Garcia Grandas operated in the Gard, participating in the rescue of political prisoners from the prison of Nîmes and in the classic guerrilla battle of La Madeleine.

Bir Hakeim was a mixed French-Spanish unit led by the French commandant Barreau. On May 28, 1944, it was assigned to receive a parachute drop of arms in the woods near Carnac. Betrayed by collaborators, the Spaniards who had taken up defensive positions around the drop area were attacked by German troops. In the battle that followed, Barreau was killed and the Spanish chief, Miguel López, took command. He was gravely wounded and the Germans captured almost the entire unit. Ninety-three French maquisards and twenty-three Spanish guerrillas were killed during the combat or executed afterward.60

After the capture of Marseille, interdiction of the German forces retreating through the Gard became the prime mission of the Area Resistance, and the Maquis pursued it with great vigor. Perhaps the most notable example of this guerrilla activity was the encounter between a predominantly Spanish group and a German column at the crossroads of La Madeleine, seventeen kilometres southwest of Ales. On August 22, 1944, Cristino Garcia Grandas led thirty-two Spaniards and four Frenchmen in an ambush of a German convoy of 1,300 men, sixty trucks, six tanks, and two self-propelled cannons. At La Madeleine, the motor road and a railroad bridge passed over a stream. Both were dynamited. Some guerrillas then took positions on a hill near the Chateau de Tornac, which commanded the road, while others emplaced machine-guns for some distance along the ridge. At 3:00 p.m. the German column appeared and was halted by the roadblock. After a battle that lasted until noon of the next day, the Germans surrendered unconditionally. The struggle had resulted in three wounded maquis, against 110 Germans killed, 200 wounded, and more than 1,000 taken prisoner. The German commander, Konrad Nietzsche, committed suicide. Numerous actions of this type later caused the American General Jacob Devers to state that the support of the FFI during the northward advance of the American Seventh Army had been worth four or five divisions to him.61

Cristino Garcia and Carlos Alonso were also responsible for planning and executing the rescue of fifty political prisoners from the jail at Nímes on February 4, 1944. The resisters were awaiting shipment to Germany.62 Prison rescues and breakouts, such as those at Nîmes, Toulouse, and Nontron, were frequent occurrences. The insurrection at the prison of Eysses (Lot-et-Garonne) was perhaps the most spectacular attempt of this nature, although it failed in its objective. Eysses was a regional facility for political recalcitrants and common criminals. In late 1943 it held twelve hundred prisoners, the majority French, but including eighty-two Spaniards and an unknown number of Russians, Poles, Englishmen, and Italians. One hundred and fifty-six political prisoners formed the Bataillon d’Eysses, with the intention of organizing a mass breakout. Assistance was given by local adherents of the National Front, who provided machine guns, small arms, grenades, and ammunition. A few guards were among the friendly forces.63 Francois Bernard, an ex-International Brigader, was chosen as commander. It was agreed that the next prominent official to visit the prison would be isolated, captured, and held hostage. The prisoners would exchange garb with the guards and immobilize additional prison personnel. Several squads of rebels would assault the watchtowers. The balance of the resisters would appropriate some trucks and rush the main gate. Then they would storm past the gardes mobiles headquarters, situated about fifty yards from the gate, and escape into the nearby forest.

On February 19, 1944, the long-awaited opportunity arrived. An inspector from the prison bureau at Vichy visited Eysses and was taken on a tour of the facility by the commandant, Colonel Schivo. At 3:00 P.M. Schivo’s group entered the kitchen and observed a number of prisoners preparing a Catalan pudding. Schivo inquired about a crude painting on the wall, a rooster imposed on a map of France, with rays of a rising sun illuminating the scene. He asked what it meant and a Spaniard responded: “It represents the sun that will rise tomorrow on a liberated France.” Schivo took a backward step, drew his pistol, but did not fire. Quickly, the prisoners surrounded the officials, seized them, and disarmed them. The transfer of clothing was made. Other guards were captured and divested of their uniforms. Firearms were brought from their secret hiding place in the carpentry shop: twelve machine guns, some revolvers, and thirty-five hand grenades. The chapel was occupied and converted into what was named the “rat trap,” to hold the newly-made prisoners. Those insurrectionists who were dressed in guards’ uniforms began to infiltrate the courtyard, moving toward the five watchtowers. The plan was proceeding swiftly and efficiently At this point the unforeseen happened. A group of common criminals who had been working outside the walls were marched back into the prison, two hours before their scheduled time. Upon seeing the rebels in guard uniforms, some of them began to shout. The alarm was given. The gardes mobiles went into action.64 From every watch-tower, machine-guns swept the main courtyard and the four prisoner blocks. Grenades were lofted: Spaniards picked them up and threw them back. Some pickaxes were found and a Spanish crew attempted to dig a hole through the wall; after a half-hour they abandoned the project. German reinforcements arrived. Francois Bernard was wounded. A council was held in the chapel. French survivors later re-called the parley:

The Spanish comrades propose to assault the northwest watchtower. They were all “volunteers of death” in the sister Republic, from 1936 to 1939. Their group comprises a dozen men. Whoever knows a Spanish brother in these difficult moments has a unique privilege. Is it our common struggle that has bound us more strongly still?

The following minutes are moving. Each wishes to shake the hands of these brave men. Do not some think that this attack is a folly and that it is insane to believe in its success? In this instant, before the calm confidence of these Asturians, these Castilians, these Catalans, one wishes above all to say thanks and to share their faith.65

Five times the Spaniards attempted to storm the watchtower, through the hail of machine-gun fire and grenade explosions. Some tried with pickaxes to enlarge the hole they had opened in the wall. But every effort failed. Serot, a key Spaniard, was wounded—six of his brothers had been killed, either by Franco or in the Resistance; soon he too would die. Finally, the Spaniards were prevailed upon to abandon their desperate attempts. Llanos, who had participated in the attacks, said simply, “We have done all we could. We have used a battering-ram against the walls, but dynamite is needed.”66

It was now noon of February 20. The battle had raged since 3:00 P.M. of the previous day and the Bataillon d’Eysses was nearly out of ammunition. The insurrectionists tried to negotiate a surrender, but the Germans refused. Joseph Darnand arrived to take personal charge of the situation. Colonel Schivo telephoned his headquarters and said that he and the other hostages had been treated decently and he had given his word that there would be no reprisals. After the surrender, Darnand interrogated the insurrectionists personally, and a hastily-convened court-martial on February 23 condemned to death twelve resisters who had been wounded, including two Spaniards. Sentence was carried out immediately. On May 18, thirty-six members of the batallion were deported to Dachau, and during the next two months the remaining conspirators were deported to other concentration camps. Paris-Soir, on February 24, reported that “some prisoners, composed in the main of communists, foreign anarchists, and Spanish terrorists,” had rebelled at Eysses. Having failed to achieve their objective they had been tried by a French court and sentenced to death.67

The spirit of the French and Spanish Resistance fighters, as exemplified by the Bataillon d’Eysses, had enabled them to survive ferocious repression from Germans and collaborationist French, to grow stronger in numbers and material, and finally to accomplish the liberation of the south virtually by themselves.68 In the north and west of France, the character of the Resistance was to be somewhat different, tied as it was to the great military effort of the Allies. But in those areas too, Spaniards were to play a meaningful role in ridding France of the two masters who had ruled it so harshly from 1940 to 1944.

NOTES:

  1. Pierre Bertaux, Libération de Toulouse et de sa Région (Paris: Hachette, 1973), p. 90.
  2. General Charles de Gaulle, in presenting two medals to Garcia Calero at a victory parade in Toulouse, September 17, 1944; Alberto Fernández, Emigración repúblicana española 1939-1945 (Alcorta: Ediciones Zero, 1972), quoted by Pons Prades, p. 83.
  3. Colonel Rol-Tanguy, Regional Chief of the Forces Françaises de l’Interieur, Ile-de-France, in preface to Angel, p. 9.
  4. Vilanova, pp. 310-315; Angel, pp. 7, 9, 85-87, Bertaux, p. 57 Vilanova lists Spaniards as fighting in more than fifty departments. Pons Prades quotes Nogueres, p. 66, as saying that Spaniards fought in three-quarters of the departments.
  5. Charles de Gaulle, The Complete War Memoirs of Charles de Gaulle (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), vol. 2, p. 581.
  6. Vilanova, pp. 311-12; Pike, p. 113n.
  7. Colonel Serge Ravanel, in prefatory note, Angel, p. 11.
  8. Ibid., p. 13; Pons Prades, p. 19, quoting a letter from Captain Dronne. See also Vernant, p. 221.
  9. Robert Aron, France Reborn: The History of the Liberation, trans. Humphrey Hare (New York: Scribner’s, 1964), pp. 163-65.
  10. Pons Prades, p. 65; Angel, pp. 74, 82, 85, 91.
  11. Berruezo, p. 248; Jackson, pp. ix—x; Manifiesto of the Spanish refugees of Draguignan (n.d.); A Todos Los Antifascistas, manifesto announcing formation of Alianza Democratica Española in Marseilles (October 1944). Luis Companys, as noted previously, had been handed over to Franco and executed.
  12. Berruezo, pp. 108-112.
  13. Report of Direction de la Securité Militaire, Algiers, May 26, 1943, marked SECRET 38267, from National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Bertaux, p. 37
  14. Report of Direction de la Securité Militaire, Algiers, August 31, 1943, marked SECRET 44115, National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Berruezo, pp. 110, 154; Report of Office of Strategic Services, “Labor Deportations and Resistance,” CONFIDENTIAL 39014, written June 19, 1943 and distributed July 19, 1943, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  15. Report from Captain Leveque, commandant of Gendarmerie, Ceret, to prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, SECRET, no. 68/4, May 15, 1943; Letter from subprefect of Prades, to prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, no number, May 25, 1943. Both citations from departmental archives, Perpignan.
  16. Letter from M. Lazare Perramond, chief of 427th Group, Travailleurs Etrangers, to the prefect, Pyrenees-Orientales, no. 6553 MO/ AM, August 2, 1944, on “Desertion Massive de Travailleurs Etrangers,” reported the desertion of twelve Spaniards from a forest work crew; thirty-five desertions were reported from another forest gang near Ballestavy, in a letter from the prefect of the Pyrénées-Orientales to the secretary general of the Maintenance of Order, no. 288, August 2, 1944. The same letter reports on the desertion of twenty-eight Spaniards from an unnamed location on June 7, 1944, and relates the disappearance of seventeen Spanish miners who apparently re-ceived word that they were scheduled for arrest and transfer to a punishment camp. See also the memo from the secretary-general of the Vichy police to the prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, no. 15176 Police Sureté 6/ RB, December 18, 1943, which expresses annoyance at reports of mass desertions from the Organization Todt and demands a comprehensive inquiry and decisive action. Another letter from Perramond to the prefect of Pyrénées-Orientales, no. 6429 MO/ AM, July 27, 1944, reports the desertion of twenty-one workers, all Spaniards. All from departmental archives, Perpignan.
  17. Note de Renseignements, from Commandant Lazare Perramond, 427th Travailleurs Etrangers Group, to prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, no. 153, January 12, 1944, departmental archives, Perpignan.
  18. Paxton, p. 298, says that under Darnand French-German collaboration against the Resistance reached it’s climax. See also Angel, p. 196. Angel, pp. 72-73, cites the report of the Eighth Brigade of Security Police to the principal commissioner at Toulouse, no. 2.38/436, May 8, 1943.
  19. Report no. TB-104, Office of Strategic Services, “Darnand Campaign Against the French Resistance,” SECRET 62365, March 16, 1944, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  20. Letter from prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, to central commissioner, Perpignan, no number, January 25, 1944; letter from prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, to prefect, Regional Office for the Maintenance of Order, Montpellier, no. 213 Cabinet, May 22, 1944; both from departmental archives, Perpignan.
  21. Letter from Second Group of Travailleurs Etrangers, Toulouse, to regional prefect, Toulouse, no. 1002/ AP, March 4, 1943. The commandant complained that Spanish miners working near the Col de Puymorens were virtually unreachable because the snow blocked access to their locale. He was aware that they were stealing dynamite and arms and conveying them to Andorra, which was only four kilometers away; departmental archives, Perpignan.
  22. Letter from principal commissioner of General Information, Pyrénées-Orientales, to divisional commissioner, Montpellier, no. 3493, January 6, 1944; Letter from principal commissioner of General Information, Le Perthus, to subprefect, Ceret, no. 641, March 10, 1943; Letter from Joseph Landi, police inspector, Criminal Investigation Department, no number, May 21, 1943.
  23. Letter from principal commissioner, Perpignan, to prefect Pyrénées-Orientales, no. 4440, August 20, 1943, departmental archives, Perpignan.
  24. Letter from principal commissioner, Pyrénées-Orientales, to prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, “Repression of Subversive Menaces on Our Territory,” no. 84, January 22, 1944, departmental archives, Perpignan.
  25. Letter from principal commissioner to prefect, Pyrénées-Orientales, no. 3582, June 18, 1943, departmental archives, Perpignan.
  26. Aron, 208; Cookridge, pp. 197, 246.
  27. Espana Libre, January 2, 1963, quoted by Nancy Macdonald, “Spanish Refugees: Waiting,” New York Times, January 30, 1976; Bertaux, p. 57
  28. Vernant, p. 279; Le Socialiste (Paris), December 29, 1966. The newspaper’s figure of 25,000 includes 10,000 to 12,000 Spaniards who died in German concentration camps.
  29. Pons Prades, pp. 240-246. On November 8, 1945, Gutiérrez (Castro) was commended by Colonel Claude Monod, chief of -FFI, Burgundy, Franche Comte, for refusing to divulge information about his Resistance group despite German torture. See also Vilanova, pp. 260-264.
  30. Aron, pp. 171-174.
  31. The narrative on the Battle of Glières was drawn from the accounts of participants who related their experiences to Montseny, pp. 172-178; Vilanova, pp. 303-305; Pons Prades, pp. 254-261; and Angel, pp. 90, 156-158. The figure of 56 Spanish participants out of a total of 465 is given by Vilanova, p. 303, and is in near agreement with the projection of Angel, p. 156, who put the number of Spaniards at 60 out of the total of 457 J. Barba, who participated in the battle, said there were 80 Spanish Maquis on the plateau and a total of 650 maquisards.
  32. Ibid. Barba, in Montseny, p. 177, said that there were 115 graves in the cemetery near the plateau, but he added that others who were killed in action were buried elsewhere.
  33. This account is based mainly on the full-scale treatment by Paul Dreyfus, Histoire de la Résistance en Vercors (Paris: Arthaud, 1975), and those of Pons Prades, pp. 262-269; Vilanova, pp. 301-2; and R. Aron, pp. 171-208. Dreyfus and Aron mention Spanish participation minimally. Chambonnet’s objection to the Vercors plan appears in Dreyfus, p. 89. Hugh Dalton, head of the British Board of Economic Warfare, which supervised the SOE, had enunciated the policy to guide Resistance fighters. While acting with sufficient vigor to cause constant embarrassment to the enemy, they should avoid any attempt at large-scale risings or ambitious paramilitary operations; Cook-ridge, p. 17
  34. Pons Prades, p. 262.
  35. Dreyfus, p. 130-31.
  36. Dreyfus, pp. 153-239; Pons Prades, pp. 262-269; Vilanova, pp. 301-2; R. Aron, pp. 171-208.
  37. Amicale Nationale des Anciens Combattants de la Resistance, La France des Maquis (Paris: Editions Denoal, 1964), cited by Pons Prades, p. 200.
  38. R. Aron, pp. 177-182; Pons Prades, pp. 200-202; Amicale National, p. 167, cited by Germaine Willard, et al., eds., Le Parti Communiste Française dans la Resistance (Paris: l’Institut Maurice Thorez, 1967), p. 300; Vilanova, p. 305, claimed that 68 Spaniards were killed in the battle.
  39. Vilanova, p. 292. Pedro Alba, a sergeant of the first battalion of the Dordogne Brigade, won the War Cross with bronze star for heroism at Saint Astier, August 20, 1944. A direct shell hit on his position killed two Spaniards and wounded six, but Alba maintained fire in spite of constant bombardment.
  40. Vilanova, pp. 287-289; Pons Prades, pp. 224-226; Montseny, pp. 147-151. Cookridge, p. 219, says that the massacre was in retaliation for the killing of a German officer in Oradour-sur-Vayres. He also notes that the Das Reich Division arrived in Normandy ten days behind schedule.
  41. J. Montoliú in Montseny, pp. 138-140; Berruezo, p. 121; Vilanova, p. 281.
  42. Vilanova, pp. 289, 265-268; Pons Prades, pp. 184-185.
  43. Angel, p. 171; Casto Ballesta, in Montseny, pp. 141-144.
  44. Bertaux, p. 55.
  45. Aron, pp. 375, 387-88. 46. De Gaulle, pp. 682-83.
  46. Charles Foltz, Jr., The Masquerade in Spain (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948), pp. 57-58.
  47. Bertaux, pp. 99, 34-35; Angel, pp. 95-96.
  48. Angel, p. 96; Bertaux, pp. 57-58.
  49. Bertaux, pp. 58-59; Fernández, pp. 46-49; Angel, pp. 101-108.
  50. Bertaux, pp. 58-59, 64-67 Pon Prades, p. 69, related that Captain Miguel Sanz Clemente was captured by the Gestapo while transporting arms. He was ordered to be shot. While awaiting execution by firing squad he suddenly seized a machine-gun from a truck and killed his firing squad. Then he escaped into the forest. For this exploit he was awarded the Medal of Resistance and the War Cross. Pons Prades (p. 102) told the story of Manolo Morato, who was captured in Carcassonne and ordered deported to Germany. Before crossing the French border he managed to dislodge some floor boards in the train and drop to the roadbed. Badly injured, he dragged himself into forest where he was found by guerrillas. He recovered and fought with them until the liberation.
  51. Angel, pp. 136-152; Pons Prades, p. 95.
  52. R. Aron, p. 143; “Les Resultats de l’action de la Resistance dans la SNCF, l’Histoire de le FFI,” unpublished mss. by Major R. A. Bourne-Paterson, Captain Lucien Galimard, and Captain Marcel Vigeras, quoted by Cookridge, p. 198; Report of Vichy minister of interior, quoted by Cookridge, p. 198.
  53. Berruezo, pp. 113-117
  54. Angel, pp. 110-112.
  55. Ibid., pp. 115-119.

57 Angel, pp. 120-122; Raymond Escholier, Maquis de Gascogne (Geneva: Editions Milieu du Monde, 1945), cited by Angel, p. 121, and Pons Prades, pp. 121-123. Guerrero Ortega (“Camilo”) received the War Cross and the Liberation Medal.

  1. Jose Cervera, in Montseny, pp. 199-203.
  2. Pierre Guiral, Liberation de Marseille (Paris: Hachette, 1974), pp. 79-99. The German troops wished to surrender but were afraid of civilian and Maquis reprisals. They were assured that they would be treated as prisoners of war and protected from mob action.
  3. Pons Prades, pp. 116-117; Angel, pp. 129-130.
  4. Charles Tillon, Les FTP: la guerrilla en France (Paris: Editions Julliard, 1962), p. 249; Pons Prades, pp. 110-111; Angel, pp. 134-135; Vilanova, pp. 272-276. On October 25, 1946, the commander of the Ninth Military Region, General 011eris, issued a posthumous citation for Lieutenant Colonel Cristino Garcia Grandas. In lauding his achivements, the general said that Garcia’s men had taken thirteen hundred prisoners and killed six hundred Germans; Vilanova, p. 276. There is some disagreement as to the rank held by the German commander. Tillon, p. 249, and Angel, p. 35, said he was a lieutenant general, but Pons Prades, p. 111, and Vilanova, p. 275, called him a lieutenant colonel. R. Aron, p. 317.
  5. Angel, p. 132.
  6. L Amicale d’Eysses, L’Insurrection d’Eysses (Paris, Editions Sociales, 1974), pp. 47 64-66; Pons Prades, p. 167.
  7. Amicale, pp. 94-97; Pons Prades, pp. 171-72.
  8. Amicale, pp. 114-117
  9. Ibid., p. 117

67 Amicale, pp. 118, 129-135, 137-140; Pons Prades, p. 172; Angel, pp. 212-215.

  1. Alberto Fernandez, La España de los Maquis (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 971), p. 141, gives what he calls an incomplete table of Spanish republican guerrilla activities during the Resistance in France. Spanish units engaged in combat with enemy forces 512 times, took 9,800 prisoners, killed 3,000, liberated 200 political prisoners, destroyed 80 locomotives, downed 150 railroad bridges, cut 600 electrical lines, demolished six central electrical stations, dynamited 20 factories, and sabotaged or inundated 22 mines.
4 Shares