Catalonia remembers Holocaust victims on 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

Survivors' association among those paying tribute to millions murdered in Nazi concentration camps, 1,094 of which were Catalan

Image of Auschwitz concentration camp (by Amical Mauthausen)
Image of Auschwitz concentration camp (by Amical Mauthausen) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 27, 2020 01:08 PM

Holocaust survivors and delegates from over 50 countries came together at the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Monday to mark the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation by Soviet troops.

Over a million people, mostly Jews, were murdered at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland before it was liberated in January 1945. Nine of those victims were Catalan, out of a total of 1,094 Catalans killed in Nazi camps.

A Catalan delegation from the Amical Mauthausen memorial association were among those at Auschwitz on Monday, as part of a series of commemorations that the group has organized at other camps, such as Mauthausen and Buchenwald, in 2020.

Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War in 1939 saw some 300,000 Catalans on the Republican side go into exile in France. It was there that some of them fell into the hands of the Gestapo, with most of them sent to the Mauthausen-Gusen camp complex.

In fact, some 999 Catalans died in Mauthausen-Gusen, a quarter of all the Republicans from Spain who were murdered there. In all, a total of 4,427 Spaniards out of some 10,000 would die in Nazi camps, of which 1,094, or 24.7%, were Catalan.

At the end of last year, the Spanish authorities published a list of all the victims of the Nazi camps, which showed that Catalans died in 23 different camps, and that the only Catalan woman on the list, Carmen Gardell Carola, was murdered in Ravensbrück.

Catalonia's Holocaust survivors

Ravensbrück, which was a camp exclusively for women in northern Germany, was also the camp where Neus Català was sent, the penultimate survivor of the Catalans interred in the camp, who died last year at the age of 103.

Català became a celebrated figure in the fight against fascism, and received many distinctions, such as the Catalan government's Sant Jordi Cross, and France's Croix de Guerre, while last year the Paris city council voted to name a street after her.

Yet, Català was not the only Catalan woman to survive Ravensbrück. Last year, on August 27, Conxita Grangé passed away aged 94. She was the last of the Catalan Ravensbrück survivors, and like Català, continued the fight against fascism after the war.

Francesc Boix also survived the Holocaust, a photographer imprisoned in Mauthausen, whose photographs helped convict Nazi war criminals. Boix was remembered last year in the film, The Photographer of Mauthausen, by Barcelona director, Mar Targarona.

Meanwhile, Catalan writer and politician, Joaquim Amat-Piniella, survived for five years in Mauthausen, later relating his experiences in the novel, K.L. Reich (1984). Amat-Piniella also founded the Amical Mauthausen association with other survivors in 1962.

A year of commemorative events

While the Amical Mauthausen association was present at Auschwitz on Monday, the group's events to remember the liberation of the Nazi camps have already begun, with commemorations planned throughout 2020 in places all over Catalonia and Spain.

On Sunday, a day of reflection was held at Barcelona's El Born cultural center, which included a roundtable with history professor, Rosa Toran, and Tuesday will see an official commemoration by Barcelona city council and the Catalan government.

Commemorative events, tributes and conferences will continue to take place as the anniversary year continues, with all the details available on the Amical Mauthausen association website: