You can always tell a person by the friends they keep – for Spain`s fascist ruler, the dictator Franco, his best friends who helped him come and stay in power were Hitler and Mussolini.
Nowhere in Europe can one proclaim openly that one supports either of these murderous miscreants with impunity – however in Spain today fascist Francisco Franco lies buried in state, just outside Madrid at the Valle de los Caídos, a Catholic basilica and a monumental memorial built by Franco to honor Spain’s fascists.
The existence of this monument to Franco is an offensive affront to all democratic people in Europe and especially those who gave their lives to fight the scourge of fascism – it is in fact a provocation and a call for action.
The internationally well-known and hard-working Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón has been in the forefront to tackle this problem head-on. He is a fearless seeker of truth, and always willing to take on hard cases, and because of this has himself become a victum and been charged by conservatives in Spain`s so-called Supreme Court`.
It seems that this was done with the full backing if not the full urging of the new right-wing government of PM Mariano Rajoy and if true, seriously compromises the independence of the judiciary and democracy in Spain.
The popular and high-profile Spanish judge is best known for having launched a human-rights case against former Chilean dictator Pinochet and has sought to bring justice in Spain, where a 1977 amnesty law allowed all kinds of Franco murderers to go free.
Human rights activists around the world and also in Germany are coming to the same conclusion – they see a planned and concerted conspiracy by right-wing former colleagues who were opposed to his daring to honestly dig-up, in both the literal and figurative sense, one of Spain’s most sensitive, gaping wounds namely the 40 year rule of the fascist dictator Franco.
Judge Baltasar Garzón swept aside this `amnesty law`- made by Franco supporters to protect Franco supporters – and he over-rode an unwritten but de facto accord that Spaniards should not bring up their bloody civil war or the Franco`s 40 years of dictatorship that ended only in 1975.
But circumventing amnesty laws to prosecute the guilty is exactly what Garzón also did in 1998 when he had Pinochet arrested in the UK to be extradited to Spain for the killing of 3,000 Chileans.
Two UK law Lords’ ruled to allow extradition – effectively agreeing that Chile’s laws would allow other countries to claim jurisdiction. The Labor government in the UK at the time, as is there wont, did not have the courage to carry through and actually send Pinochet on to Spain and the hated Pinochet was able to return home on convenient bogus ‘bad-health’ grounds.
But a momentous precedent was set because of Garzón`s work and the Pinochet case became an important human rights case, and along with the precedent of the Nuremberg trials in 1945, leaves the practitioners of genocide and torture with very limited options as to where they can hide – Bush & Blair please take note!
His supporters, in Spain and abroad, say he has being attempted to be brought down because of personal vendettas from the Spanish judiciary and his decision in 2009 to arrest some suspects in a corruption scandal which involved the very same recently elected right-wing `Popular Party`.
Garzón will fight this and other cases being brought against him even as high up the European Court of Human Rights if he has to. He has famously said the if fear or cowardice take root in a judge, then society is lost. All democrats and those who respect justice hereby wish him strength and fortitude in the trials ahead.
Regarding Spain just after WWII; by 1946, there were probably hundreds of war criminals in Spain, and thousands of former Nazis and fascists.
Spain and the Vatican were the primary movers of a so-called ‘ratline’ after WWII – an activity that facilitated the escape of Nazi war criminals which included - inter alia -Adolf Eichmann , Klaus Barbie and Josef Mengele.
Ratlines were a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe at the end of World War II. These escape routes mainly led toward havens in South America, particularly Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile. Other destinations included the United States and Canada.
Following the defeat of Germany in 1945, the Spanish government attempted to destroy all evidence of cooperation with the Nazis. However, an official request from Himmler and the lap-dog response of Franco have survived – because they were found in Germany after the war!
The list of six thousand Jews living in Spain was requested by Himmler and Jose Maria Finat y Escriva de Romani, Franco’s chief of security issued an official order dated May 13, 1941 to all provincial governors requesting a list of all Jews, both local and foreign, present in their districts. After the list was compiled, Romani was appointed Spain’s ambassador to Germany, enabling him to deliver it personally to Himmler.
Although the Spanish State remained officially neutral` throughout World War II, it `sent about 45,000 so-called volunteers to fight with the Nazis against the Soviet Union – 4954 of these Franco crusaders the Red Army killed outright and 8,700 were wounded.
The Soviets wanted to punish the Franco regime after the war and seek some kind of compensation for what was really an undeclared war on the USSR by Franco Spain, but were frustrated at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 by Harry Truman and Winston Churchill who had cold-war interests and not justice at the top of their agendas.
and a book review about “The Spanish Holocaust” by Paul Preston – http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/mar/09/spanish-holocaust-paul-preston-review?newsfeed=true
Judge Garcon at the Berlinale film festival last year - http://berlin.cafebabel.com/en/post/2011/02/16/Berlin-film-festival-2011%3A-Spanish-documentary-Listening-to-Judge-Garzon
and previous OTA-Berlin Blog article – http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/11/27/65-years-since-nurnberg-trials-exhibition-opens/
and Der Spiegel – http://www.spiegel.de/thema/baltasar_garzon/
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of OTA-Berlin but of the contributor – in this case Mr Emil Hoogensteyn. OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ is part of OTA-Berlin ‘……the intelligent Apartment-Alternative to Hotels in Berlin’.The Blog provides OTA-Berlin guests a quick overview of the cultural, sports, social and other related activities taking place in Berlin during their stay. ‘OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ has existed since May 2008 and its entries are displayed in reverse-chronological order.
Support Judge Baltasar Garzón – Germany has dealt with its WWII past – Spain has not – by contributor Mr Emil Hoogensteyn from OTA Berlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License. If you use this article or parts of it, please refer to http://www.ota-berlin.de.
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