dilluns, 13 de gener de 2014

13 de gener 1939 #Franco #Tortosa

Avui fa 75 anys que Franco va ocupar Tortosa. Segons  l'excel·lent exposició que vam visitar ahir al Museu de Tortosa, va ser despres de 9 mesos de bombardejos, amb tota la gent fugida a les muntanyes i la ciutat destruida. Mirant les fotos i els numeros, sembla ser que tota la ciutat va quedar afectada i un 15% dels edificis totalment destruides. L'anecdota del video que vam vore és quan expliquen que fins i tot un dels bombardejos més feroços va passar el dia del Divendres Sant - per part de gent que despres rebrien el recolsament de l'esglesia.
La guerra civil encara durari uns mesos més - o per l'incompetencia de Franco o per les ganes de Franco de fer patir al maxim els seus oponents i la gent inocenta, i aixi assegurar un futur amb la gent (que havia sobreviscuda) callada i atemorida.
Poca cosa més puc afegir, a abanda de la tristesa i desconcert que vam sentir en sortir del Museu. La primera cosa que veus és el riu, amb el Monument que Franco hi va posar, encara en peu - 38 anys despres del seu mort.
75 years ago today, 13th January 1939, Franco took Tortosa after a 9-month siege.
 The so-called Spanish Civil War was in fact a military uprising and/or (deliberately?) incompetent coup d'etat. Franco rose up against the democratically elected government of Spain on 17th July 1936 and it dragged on into a civil war which continued until April 1939 with thousands of deaths on each side, and especially of innocent people who didn't even realise they were on anybody's side. Some believe that Franco deliberately fought a slow war so that the deaths and suffering would be drawn out as a reprisal (for what?) and as a lesson which Spaniards would not forget - shown through Franco then enjoying a long dictatorship before dying at home in bed in 1975.

Anyway, yesterday by coincidence we went to Tortosa's local museum to see an excellent exhibition relating to the battle for Tortosa. Photos, objects, and a video of survivor's recollections all gave a very clear idea of this "battle". Basically Franco's troops worked their way up through the Spanish peninsula and eventually arrived to the south of the river Ebro in mid 1938, but did not cross immediately to take Tortosa. Instead both sides dug in while Franco ordered his German and Italian planes (kindly lent by Hitler and Mussolini as a test run for their own future plans) to bomb Tortosa to bits. Most local citizens fled to the mountains, living in caves and make-shift shelters for 9 months while a few republican soldiers tried to hold the fort. The bombs destroyed Tortosa - apparently 75% of buildings were affected with 15% being completely flattened. When Franco finally decided to cross the Ebro, little opposition did he find here. The following short video is a fascinating English news reel from those days.

The war had already dragged on. Apart from Franco's slowness, there had been a lot of fighting around the Ebro further inland. In July 1938 the Republicans had foolishly/bravely crossed the Ebro further upriver which led to the infamous Battle of the Ebro. While they tried to hold their positions in the hills, Franco bombed them to pieces - many conscripts as young as 15 years old as all the older generations had already been called up. The mountains where this battle took place are a 30-minute drive away from Tortosa and offer a tragic picture. A wonderful countryside, but still scattered with bones and shrapnel - you can't imagine that just 75 years ago thousands of people died meaninglessly here. Anyway, Franco won the Battle, and eventually crossed the Ebro in Tortosa in January 1939, before going on to "win" the war in April 1939. The world would soon forget about Spain as that year it had other things on its mind, but Franco's dictatorship led to more hardship, cruelty, repression and deaths all the way up to 1975 - in the heart of Europe. 
Not much else I can add, except the feeling of bewilderment when we come out of the museum and the first thing we see is the monument Franco erected in the middle of the river to celebrate his victory. 2014 and the monument still stands - for more info see my previous rants!
                                                                                Photo in the exhibition.

                                                                Franco's monument - still standing.

4 comentaris:

  1. Thank you for this insight. It is strange how such awfulness can be largely buried by time. Only seventy five years ago. Why haven't the citizens of Tortosa blown up that victory monument? Perhaps you should paddle over there late one night in your tight stockings and suspender belt with a big stick of gelignite concealed about your person and blow the monument to smithereens!

    1. It's a fascinating story, one of many tragic episodes in the Spanish Civil War - a war well worth reading up on if you're into history. Orwell's Homage to Catalonia gives a good idea of the hopelessness, incompetence and futility of it all; and anything by Paul Preston gives you the historical facts and nitty gritty.
      Tortosa has never really recovered. It was an important city pre-Franco, but it was blasted to bits and half its people never came back. Those who stayed learned their lesson - keep your head down and say nothing. While other parts of Spain and Catalonia eventually regained their vibrance, some say you can still breathe the sadness and fear in the Tortosa-citizens' characters even today.
      The monument - I've struggled on previous posts to understand it (check out the tag "monument"), I suppose it's a kind-of Stockholm Syndrome. There was a plan post-Franco, by some locals to blow it up but I think they never made it out of the bar! (I mean, the plan didn't make it, not that they were caught à la Guy Fawkes. In fact I know a couple of the ringleaders).

  2. I love museums. I have often thought about going back and doing studies to become a museum education officer. So many stories to be told ~ this is a sad one indeed.

  3. Yes, a tragedy and still alive in many people's memories. My mother-in-law remembers vividly growing up post-Civil War and the hardships they had to suffer, not to mention the years of repression if anyone spoke out of place.