Paris names avenue after concentration camp survivor Neus Català

Anti-fascist activist who died aged 103 earlier this year also posthumously receives city's highest honor, the Grand Vermeil Medal

Singer Marina Rossell performs in Paris at the event inaugurating a street named after Resistance fighter and Ravensbrück survivor Neus Català (by Nazaret Romero)
Singer Marina Rossell performs in Paris at the event inaugurating a street named after Resistance fighter and Ravensbrück survivor Neus Català (by Nazaret Romero) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 4, 2019 05:14 PM

Neus Català, the only Catalan survivor of the Ravensbrück Nazi concentration camp, was recognized in Paris on Friday when an avenue was named after her in the city's 11th arrondissement (district).

At a ceremony to inaugurate the newly named avenue, Català, who died aged 103 in April this year, was also awarded the city's highest honor, the Grand Vermeil Medal, which was collected on her behalf by her daughter.

Margarita Català also accepted the distinction on behalf of all the women like her mother who were deported by the Nazis and who Neus, who was devoted to recovering their stories, called "the forgotten of the forgotten."

Margarita Català highlighted her mother's social commitment from an early age, and pointed to her defense of historical memory as a "requirement" and "civic duty," especially in the case of the deported women and those who fought in the Resistance.

La Rambla of Paris

The Neus Català boulevard, on the border of the 11th and 20th arrondissements, will aim to be for Paris "what La Rambla is for Barcelona," in the words of Catherine Vieu-Charier, the city council official in charge of historical memory.

Vieu-Charier described Català as a "free and republican woman," and she pointed out that the decision to dedicate an avenue to the Catalan anti-fascist activist was unanimous, something she said happens very rarely.

The council official also regretted that France "left an ailing country to fall," in reference to the Spanish Republic that was overrun by the Franco regime, and praised Català as a "source of inspiration" in her struggle against fascism.

"Courageous" Català 

Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, was unable to attend the ceremony, but in a speech read out on her behalf by Margarita Català, she described Neus Català as "courageous" in her "defense of freedom, human rights, and justice."

Representing the Catalan government, foreign action minister, Alfred Bosch, called Neus Català an example for "never abandoning the struggle for democracy, fundamental rights, and social justice."

A life of struggle and resistance

Català was born in the southern Priorat region in 1915 but moved to Barcelona to study nursing. At the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, she went into exile in France, taking 180 refugee children with her, and in 1940 joined the Resistance with her husband.

She was captured by the Nazis three years later and was taken to the Ravensbrück women's concentration camp in northern Germany. Neus was later transferred to Czechoslovakia to make weapons and was liberated by the allies in 1945.

Català continued fighting after WWII

After the Second World War, Català returned to France, where she continued to fight the Franco dictatorship, while also working to keep alive the memory of women who were deported and died in the Nazi camps, along with those who served in the Resistance.

Català received many awards in her life, such as the Catalan government's Sant Jordi Cross in 2005, and the Golden Medal of Civic Merit from Barcelona in 2014. She was named Catalan of the Year in 2006, while Catalonia also dedicated 2015 to her.