Anarchists in La Cerdanya — SEGUNDO JODRA GIL (1907-1943) by Antonio Gascón/ Agustin Guillamón. Translated by Paul Sharkey

Puigcerdà,1939: Retreating Republican forces destroy Puigcerdà’s arsenal

Segundo Jodra Gil, unmarried carpenter and CNT member, was born in 1907 in Pálmaces de Jadraque (Guadalajara). In October 1934, he was briefly jailed in Puigcerdá, together with Antonio Martín. He was acquitted of the charge of killing a policeman. In 1936, he was appointed Economy sub-delegate for the Cerdanya by the Generalidad government and was actively involved in the running of the Puigcerdá People’s Co-operative, a leading libertarian experiment in the Cerdanya. After the war ended, he was arrested in 1942 and shot in Gerona cemetery on 12 July 1943.

Segundo Jodra Gil (1907-1943)

The bourgeoisie’s Sacred History (SH), peddled on this occasion by Pous and Solé[1], has ‘Catalan-ified’ Segundo’s surname mistakenly to Segundo Jordá Gil and represented him as an anarchist serial killer. There is a thread of hatred and blood that ties the fascist justice of the 1940s intellectually and in terms of repression to SH; the former murdered and the latter defamed and still defames those who were murdered, by imposing a sort of a second death penalty, as it remains necessary that the memory of revolutionaries and the revolution of 1936 be murdered.

The true personal story of Segundo would have been overshadowed and left in disgrace forever but for the efforts of family members who strove over many years to redeem his memory. That fight for family memory began back in 1943 when Segundo bade his family farewell in a letter penned just hours before he was shot.

The under-signed authors[2] were honoured to make a modest contribution to family efforts to learn how his life ended and where he was buried, by reconstructing his part in the libertarian experiment carried out in Puigcerdá. Thanks to the good offices of a humble parish priest in the little village of Jadraque (Guadalajara)[3], we have managed to discover the human side of Segundo Jodra Gil, the revolutionary. That priest generously and amiably provided us with the phone number of Segundo’s niece, Katia Ruiz Jodra. It was Katia who let us in on the part of history we needed if we were to understand the totality of her uncle’s life story.

As to Segundo’s childhood, we know nothing beyond what is recorded in what we might describe as the civil register of the little village of Pálmaces de Jadraque[4], wherein it is stated “that at 12.00 on 30 March 1907 … Bernardo Jodra Sánchez, 35 year old, married native of this place, employed as clerk of this town council, dropped by to register a boy child … said child having been born in the deponent’s home at 12.00 yesterday, the legitimate son of the deponent and his wife Ángela Gil Llorente, 25 year old native of this village, employed in the activities appropriate to her sex ..”

In the left-hand margin of that record, there is an entry for the death of that very same child some 36 years on. That note coldly states: “died in Gerona on 12 July 1943 according to entry No 27, page 23 of section three of that Civil Register … entered in the Pálmaces de Jadraque civil register on 28 July 1943.” A note that falls short in terms of detail as to the manner or motive of his death and the place of burial.

It was many years later that the family got wind of that note, since no one thought to notify them of it at the time. At which point, they realized that Segundo’s death had come the day after he penned his farewell letter to them. And it was at that point also that they discovered that his death had come in Gerona. They assumed that he had been shot, as was the dismal practice of the day, since the entry in the register included neither the cause of death nor the place of burial, or what was behind his untimely demise, since all they were aware of from his correspondence was that he had appeared before a court martial in Puigcerdá, albeit that the family had no idea of the actual charges on which he had been tried and convicted.

In fact, all that the family had was some vague news received through his sister Julia, since deceased in exile in France; at some point, it appears she had had news of Segundo’s political activities from some old French newspaper, the name and date of which she could not recall. Anything else was just whatever elderly people in Pálmaces could remember.

The only part of those memories the family could account for was the unseemly tale of one Santos Morena Iliana, foreman at the Pálmaces dam which was then under construction; Segundo worked and lived there following his return to the village, after the war; this Santos had dispatched Segundo to work on a dam in Barcelona (?), allegedly to get him offside, since this Santos finished up marrying a certain Eugenia on 19 April 1941. According to his elders, Eugenia had been Segundo’s girlfriend or partner.[5]

So, the only legacy left behind by Segundo, apart from his work-tools, some shoes and about 150 pesetas, was a handful of family letters written from Burgos, Zaragoza, Lérida, Gerona, Figueras and then Gerona again, a real via dolorosa of imprisonment, between his arrest by police in Burgos in August 1942 and his death in Gereona in July 1943.

From the letters it is plain that Segundo explained to his cousins: “I’ve written to two gentlemen who, thanks to my sway over others, had their lives spared and they sent a response saying they were looking out for me, but I have heard nothing since …”[6]

In the same letter he thanked his relations “for your efforts on my behalf and for writing to Santos[7], but he, I must concede, is a monster with nothing human about him, save his physical form (although) I am not expecting anything of him, he and his father having done enough for me, having been the people primarily responsible for my predicament, followed later by other people from where I was …”[8]

A few points need to be made at this point. The first being that, if Segundo was arrested in Burgos by the police in late August 1942, then, given that the war had been over since 1 April 1939, there is every suggestion that, once the war ended, Segundo returned to his home town where he lived peacefully, unmolested by anyone, for at least three years, working on the Pálmaces dam, where his boss was Santos and, rather than moving away to Barcelona as rumoured, he did so assuredly on the recommendation of his ex-boss; he had to move away to Burgos to work on some project, thereby putting some distance between himself and the wedding of his partner to Santos, an individual who must have , as Segundo alleged, exploited his absence to denounce him to the Francoist authorities, which explains his arrest.

In later letters from Burgos prison, it is evident that even in misfortune Segundo remained optimistic as he asked his cousins back in the village to have a word with Pedro (the Catalan) “to see if he can bring influence to bear upon some acquaintance of his with regard to my case”, since it looked like he might have a future ahead of him “as I am learning the watch-making trade, with a friend who is in the trade, and when I get out I’ll be joining him, as there is a good living to be made.[9]

This was a month before he arrived in Gerona. He left, Gerona-bound, on 9 October 1943, although, given the poor communications at the time, his journey took him first to Zaragoza, where he was held for five days, leaving on 16 October 1942, bound for Lérida, where he spent seven days and thence on to Barcelona, the stop-over prior to Gerona, where he arrived on 25 October 1942 and was assigned to No 3 landing, Block 1, Gerona prison, and was immediately made amenable to the Puigcerdá court martial.

In all, the trip took him 17 days[10], travelling as part of a chain gang of prisoners under Civil Guard escort, none of which gets a mention in his letters, since it was hardly a pleasure outing.

On 17 May the following year, he was taken to Figueras cellular prison, from where he wrote: “that I reckon I may getting out of jail very soon and put in an appearance at parties in the village”. We do not know if these references were sincere or just meant to offer some comfort to his family. His distant family, that is, as he was corresponding with cousins but not with his parents or siblings. And it stayed like that right to the end, as it was the cousins who delivered his last letter to those closer relations (parents and siblings).

In fact, though, Ordinary Summary Trial Proceedings No 30625 had been under way since 11 September 1942 in Burgos; he faced charges of “aiding and abetting rebellion.” This was a macabre joke since the real rebels were the Francoists themselves, rather than the civilians who rallied to the defence of the rightful government of the Republic. We now know that as early as 10 September 1942, Segundo was claimed by the Puigcerdá Police Inspectorate, to face allegations that he was an extremist from the FAI, a former member of the local revolutionary committee, had been involved in many murders and had had a hand in the commandeering of buildings, as well as smuggling weapons into (sic) France.

In another Civil Guard report from October 1942, there was additional data and details. It was alleged that prior to the “Glorious Nationalist Uprising”, Segundo had been a CNT and FAI propagandist and, on their behalf, had taken part in the revolutionary events of October 1934[11] and, for that reason, been jailed up until the advent of the Popular Front government, at which point he was released.[12] It was claimed in passing that he was a badly behaved individual with the worst record. It was claimed that once the ‘Movimiento’ was under way, he had set himself up as deputy head of the Red committee, and that he was rumoured to have replaced Antonio Martín as anarchist leader at the time of the rash of killings on 9 September 1936[13] and that, as such, he had been actively involved in murders and looting. These were things of which Segundo must have been aware, but he never mentioned them to his family.

Actually, the only source for this string of phoney charges was a man tried in another case, one Rogelio Sáez López, who, following “questioning” by the Civil Guard from Bellver stated that he had been a militiaman in Puigcerdá; that, while on duty, he had arrested five persons attempting to cross the border, persons whom he took to be priests; that, on the committee’s orders, they had been taken to “La Collada”, although he had had no hand in the shooting of them and had not fired a single shot; that he remembered the killers were “the Málaga gimp”, Flores, Gordillo, El Vasco, Segundo and El Aragonés.

But the Figueras court, due to the witness’s inconsistency and spotting that there was nothing to be gained by following up that trial, started to direct things along a different path, namely, turning Segundo into “the chief promoter of the collectivization of private property, the Co-operative being launched shorty afterwards”, and asked those dispossessed to come forwards. Which is how the main injured parties to’ed and fro’ed from the court; they ranged from two confectioners to some drapers; he stood accused of having threatened their persons with a “machine pistol” that he conventionally carried; naturally, their estimates of their losses were high.

On 22 January 1943, Segundo Jodra Gil declared that he had been active within the CNT from about March 1936, having stepped down and ceased paying his dues in 1937, after which he was an “associate” holding no {organizational) post. That he had met Antonio Martín when they were in jail together, both of them having been arrested during the October 1934 incidents, in that they had been suspected of having taken part in them. That he knew nothing about the matter of the police officer murdered. That he had not served on any committee, let alone a War Committee. That the only body on which he had served was the Co-operative Commission. That that Co-operative took its orders from the Committee. That the Committee forced the Co-operative to confiscate assets from some private individuals. That he did not known whether these had been compensated or not.

What goes unmentioned in any statement was that family members of the injured parties had worked for the Co-operative and been paid appropriate salaries, just like everyone else.

A few days later, on 30 January 1943, Segundo was called upon to make a further statement. There is a physical description available of him at this point: “1.73 [metres] in height; healthy complexion; receding hair; brown eyes; Roman nose; regular mouth; bushy beard; wearing civilian clothing and wearing a military greatcoat.” In this statement, Segundo confirmed and signed the claim that he had not been part of the Puigcerdá Revolutionary Committee and, thus, had had no hand in the (alleged criminal) acts that were carried out, but acknowledging that he was part of the Co-operative, but under the direction of the Committee.

On 17 April 1943, Andrés Cuesta Zamora, an adjutant-engineer from No.3 Fortifications Regiment and defence counsel to Segundo Jordá (sic) Gil delivered his two-page final argument, arguing that the charges had not been substantiated. He complained that statements had not been taken from witnesses in Pálaces de Jadraque, his home town, nor from two witnesses from Llivia, not to mention two people from Madrid whom Segundo had saved, and from whom nothing more was heard.

It was all to no avail, just as the plea for clemency tabled by the defence counsel on 31 May proved pointless too. On 2 July 1943, the captain-general finally endorsed the death sentence imposed on Segundo. On the 9th, he was handed over to the Civil Guard who were charged with transferring him to the provincial prison to await the carrying out of his sentence. On 12 July 1943, the final report was signed off, to the effect that Segundo Jordá “was shot at six o’clock this morning, his body being identified by the doctor (illegible) Agustín Riera

But, as Segundo himself wrote on 9 July 1943: “They can break me but they cannot make me bend., thereby explaining the reasons behind his death: “A pal said to me last night, they’re not killing you because of our struggles, but for your ideas, and that’s how it is.”

The crime for which Segundo Jodra Gil was sentenced to death was having played a very modest part in Puigcerdá’s libertarian experiment through the commission of the People’s Co-operative.

He was not a hero, not a leader, merely an anonymous member of the CNT, like so many others; he was an unknown revolutionary ignored by all and above all, a sound man who fought for his own and for collective dignity.

They broke him, but they could not make him bend.

Antonio Gascón/ Agustin Guillamón

 

[1] See Joan Pous and Josep M Solé Sabaté: Anarquia I República a la Cerdanya (1936-1939). El ‘Cojo de Málagas’ i els Fets de Bellver (Publicacions Abadia de Monttserrat, 1988)

[2] Gascón/Guillamón Nacionalistas contra anarquistas en la Cerdaña (1936-1937). Antonio Martín, la experiencia libertaria de Puigcerdá y el sagrado mito de Bellver (Descontrol, Barcelona 2018)

[3] Our thanks here to Juan Mínguez, parish priest of Jadraque.

[4] A hamlet in Guadalajara, current population, 45. Spain the empty!

[5] Letter from the family to the Association for Recovery of Historical Memory.

[6] These were Celestino Mata and Luis Mediero, residents of Calle Fortuny and Calle Desengaño, Madrid, respectively. Segundo seems to have saved their lives through his efforts. No further details of the matter known.

[7] He was foreman on the Pálmaces dam project, completed in 1954.

[8] It is not known if this remark referred to folk with whom he worked in his home village, or to folk from Puigcerdá, where Segundo lived from 1934 to 1939 at least, and it is also unknown if he crossed over into France at the end of the war, before coming back to Spain and his village. Letter dated Burgos, 27 August 1942.

[9] Burgos, 23 September 1942

[10] A line of prisoners chained together for transfer, often on foot, for exhausting treks or, on occasion, on endless train journeys.

[11] That report accused Segundo and Antonio Martín of having murdered a police detective, a false charge on which they were acquitted.

[12] This is a mistaken claim and must be the basis for the legend that Segundo Jordá and Antonio Martín had been in prison on 18 July 1936.

[13] This is demonstrably false, as is shown in the Gascón/Guillamón book cited above. The list of those killed on 9 September 1936 in Puigcerdá was worked out and approved in the Casal de ERC (Esquerra Club).