Neus Català in Ravensbrück – and who else?

As a means of paying homage to Neus Català, we are including in the  database of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco Regime a dataset of the 8,263 Spanish people who were deported to Nazi extermination camps.  We are also doing this because there are still people such as Lola, who, thanks to 15MPedia, only discovered a year a year ago that her grandfather had died in the camp of Gusen –part of the Mauthausen complex– in 1942, rather than at the battlefront in 1937. This data comes from a list taken from the Base de datos Españoles deportados a campos de concentración nazis (1940-1945) of the Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte which is in turn based on the contents of the publication Libro Memorial. Españoles deportados a los campos nazis (1940-1945) , which was edited by the Ministerio de Cultura in 2006,  following extensive research by Benito Bermejo and Sandra Checa [for a description follow this link here].  This data brings us to a total of 680,000 individual case files all of which are referenced to archive sources or research material.

We are publishing this data because this is what we have been able to obtain. We are aware that this list is in need of updating. According to Carlos Hernández, an expert on the subject: “The number of Spanish who were held in Nazi concentration camps, of whom there are documental evidence, rises to 9,328.  Of those 5,185 died, 3,809 survived and 334 count as having disappeared.”  Our numbers  are lower than this in all of these categories. In addition we account for only 68 women, of whom 29 were in Ravensbrück. 

We are also aware of the existence of another relevant database; this was put together by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the organisation Amical de Mauthausen. This is in the hands of Memorial Democràtic de Catalunya under the terms of an agreement signed in October 2015, according to which it was going to be made available to the public .  However, so far this has not happened.

Neus Català

When Neus Català was aged sixteen she experienced the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic (1931).  Her death, on 13 April this year, at the age of 103, occurred on the eve of the anniversary of republic.  Born in Guiamets (Tarragona province), during the Civil War she worked as a nurse. In 1939 she crossed the French frontier with 180 orphan children from the children’s home Las Acacias de Premià de Dalt.  She joined the French Resistance and, in 1943, was arrested by the Nazis and deported, in 1944, to Ravensbrück. She was transferred to Flossenburg, where she was part of a work brigade responsible for making munitions, which she and others attempted to sabotage.

Following the liberation, she stayed in France where she continued the struggle against the Franco Regime.  Having been affiliated to the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (the United Socialist Youth)  during the Civil War, she afterwards became a member of the Partido Comunista de Cataluña (PCC) and, later of Izquierda Unida y Alternativa (EUiA).

In 1978 she was interviewed (in Catalan)  for Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) in the programme Personatges by the journalist Montserrat Roig,  the author of Los catalanes en los campos nazis (for our review of this book follow this link)

Here are a few extracts:

– Why were you deported?

– It was a miracle that they did not shoot me –said Català with half a smile-  . That was the strange part. I was sentenced to life imprisonment […] When we joined the (French) Resistance we knew the risk we were taking, we were fully aware; we knew what we had to do, and we did it.

– What was your first impression of Ravensbrück?

– No one could ever explain that. It was indescribable. We arrived at Ravensbrück as one thousand women at three o’clock in the morning when the temperature was 22 C degrees below zero. The guards drove us out of the train by beating us with clubs. We got out of the wagons with the women who were ill because if they had not come with us they would have been killed by the blows from the two lines of SS [officers].  As we passed the huts we could see women leaning out of some of the windows and we thought that they were the dead falling out of their tombs. Only their eyes showed any life. The rest of them were cadavers. I recall the camp in black and white: the camp was black and everything was covered in snow. The cold was terrible. (…)  I have one vision of Ravensbrück: a woman electrocuted.

If you wish to find out more about the life of Neus Català you may consult her archive , which is catalogued in the CRAI Biblioteca del Pavelló de la República of the Universitat de Barcelona.

Picture Women working at the Ravensbrück concentration camp CC BY-SA 3.0