dilluns, 4 de febrer de 2008

Battle of the Pyrenees. Intelligence and evasion networks during the Second World War

From 2nd to 12th February 2008
85, avenue des Minimes
31200 Toulouse (France)
Tel. 05 61 47 08 87
Opening: Monday to Saturday: 14 pm - 18 pm

diumenge, 18 de novembre de 2007

Battle of the Pyrenees. Intelligence and evasion networks during the Second World War

From November 22th 2007 to January 31th 2008
Museu del Tabac - Antiga Fàbrica Reig
c/ Doctor Palau, 17
Sant Julià de Lòria (Principat d'Andorra)
Tel. +376 741 545
Opening: Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am - 8 pm
Last visit at 6'30 pm.
Sunday: 10 am - 2'30 pm.
Last visit at 1 pm
Monday: closed

The exhibition in Sant Julià de Lòria

Link to the exhibition texts
Itinerant exhibition

Josep Ibern, a republican in the allied evasion networks

By Fredi Ribó

Josep Ibern Eroles was born on 20th May 1921 in Àger (La Noguera, Catalunya). His parents were farmers. When he was 13 years old he went to Lleida to become a baker. Before the Spanish Civil War he was in touch with several people belonging to the circles of Joventut Republicana(Republican Youth party) and Estat Català (Catalan State party) in Lleida city.
In August 1936, when he only was 15 years old, he enlisted himself in the “Macià-Companys” column. He took part in the Battle of Belchite and Teruel (Aragón). When the Civil War finished in 1939, Josep was a young lieutenant of 17 years old
On February 1939, Josep and a group of war mates exiled to France. First, they were hidden in the mountains during a few days and after they surrendered to the French authorities in the Voló village (Pyrénées-Roussillon, France), then they were imprisoned in Saint Cyprien concentration camp. After they escape from Saint Cyprien, they were arrested by the French police because they were without identification, so they were imprisoned in Bacarés concentration camp. There, they were compelled to enlist to the French Legion on 1st March 1939 and they were sent to Algeria. In June 1939 they were moved to the border between French and Switzerland to do vigilance works. On September 1939, they were to Saint Avold (Mosella, France), close to the German border. In May 1940 they were demobilized after they had been fighting during the German invasion in France
A few months after, Josep decided to return to Catalunya, he was 19 years old and he already had taken part in two wars. But when he arrived to Spain, he was arrested and imprisoned because he had been an official in the republican army. On 23rd December 1940, he was judged in Barcelona by a military court; he had to serve a 12 years sentence. To serve his sentence he was moved to Son Servera (Mallorca, Illes Balears) where he belonged to the Disciplinary Workers Company number 93 dedicated to fortify the coast. In January 1941, Josep succeeded in send a letter to a lawyer from Madrid, named Antonio Delvado. Delvado was a man from the Right who was helped by Josep during the Civil War. On 10th May 1941, Josep was liberated thanks to the lawyer negotiation. Delvado didn’t charge anything for his help and he found a job for Josep in the enterprise Sociedad de Carbones Industriales Oller, in a mine recently opened near Àger.

Mines, smuggling and evasion networks
Alter working during a few months in the Ager’s mine, in 1942 he started to work in the enterprise Carbones Pedraforca in Saldes village (Berguedà, Catalunya). Some of the miners who worked there complemented their scarce wage smuggling tobacco from Andorra. At the end of October 1942, Josep did his first journey to Andorra. He crossed the border through the Port Negre way (Alt Urgell, Catalunya) with 10 experienced mates.
In one of his smuggling journeys to Toulouse, at the end of 1943, he found Gonzàlez, a Spanish Civil War and French Legion mate. Gonzàlez belonged to a French Resistance group. His job in the network consisted in help the Jews escapers to arrive to Great Britain but he needed someone to organize a path through the Pyrenees. For Josep, this was the beginning of his participation in the British escape lines. The day after, a member of the British secret services, a Jew named Rizan Ritter, gave to Josep an envelope with several photos that he had to carry to the British Consulate in Barcelona and gave to Miss Collins. In Barcelona, Miss Collins gave to Josep to envelopes. The smallest was for Francesc Viadiu, a Catalan agent in Andorra. The biggest one contained ten British passports made with the photos and it had to be carried to Toulouse.
Josep came from Barcelona to Guardiola (Berguedà, Catalunya) by train. Then he went to Saldes with a coal truck. From Saldes to Andorra he travelled with Isidre Campmajó, Josa de Cadí (Alt Urgell, Catalunya), his partner in the smuggling business and also in the evasion network. They usually left Saldes and went to Gósol (el Berguedà, Catalunya), then they climbed the Cadí Mountains and descended by the Canal del Cristall or the Canal Baridana to go to Arsèguel (Alt Urgell, Catalunya). They came into Andorra crossing through the Port Negre pass since they arrive to the Roca Hotel in Escaldes (Andorra) where the two friends had rented a room from where they organized their smuggling activities.
Josep and Isidre went to France crossing through the place named El Serrat (Ordino, Andorra). They went to Muret (Haute-Garonne, France) to take in charge the Jews group who were hidden in the church and in the police chief’s home. They guide the group to the Mas d’Azil (Ariège, France) and they spent five days to arrive to the Serrat’s Hotel. Then, the refugees were moved to the Mirador Hotel in Andorra village (Andorra la Vella, Andorra) with a taxi drove by Joan de la Sort. That time, Josep and Isidre hadn’t to guide the group to Spain, but there were other groups that the two friends guided to Barcelona.

After the Second World War
Josep married a Spanish woman and they had three child. During the fifties, Josep and his family established Sant Julià (Sant Julià de Lòria, Andorra) where he worked in the Reig tobacco factory during twenty years. In 1976 he participated in the foundation of the El Castell Hotel of Castellciutat (Alt Urgell, Catalunya). During the last years of his life, he spent his time writing and remembering his experiences lived in the Spanish Civil War and the post-war. He died in 2003 and he was buried in Andorra to respect his last wish.

dimarts, 6 de novembre de 2007

Itinerant exhibition

Battle of the Pyrenees. Intelligence and evasion networks during the Second World War

From July 8th 2007 to February 29th 2008
Ecomuseu de les Valls d'Àneu
c/ del Camp, 22-2425580 Esterri d'Àneu (Pallars Sobirà, Catalunya)Tel. 973 62 64 36
The exhibition in Esterri d'Àneu

From November 20th 2007 to January 30th 2008
Museu del Tabac - Antiga Fàbrica Reig
c/ Doctor Palau, 17
Sant Julià de Lòria (Principat d'Andorra)
Tel. +376 741 545
The exhibition in Sant Julià

From 2nd to 12th February 2008
Casa España
85, avenue des Minimes
31200 Toulouse (France)
Tel. 05 61 47 08 87
The exhibition in Toulouse

From 29th February to 18th April 2008
Maison du Chemin de la Liberté
09200 Saint Girons (France)
The exhibition in Saint Girons

From 19th April to 17th Mai 2008
Médiathèque du canton d'Oust
09140 Seix (France)
Tel.: 05-34-09-88-31
The exhibition in Seix

Link to the exhibition texts

diumenge, 19 d’agost de 2007

Joan Garcia Rabascall: representative of the British Consulate of Barcelona in Lleida during the Second World War

By Noemí Riudor

Joan Garcia Rabascall was born in Lleida on 11th December 1900. He was the youngest of four brothers. His father was Francesc Garcia Boronat and his mother was Carme Rabascall Martí, both were been born in Cornudella (Tarragona). When Joan was so young, he began to work in the Public Works department of the Generalitat of Catalonia because he had a brother working there.
Regarding his political thinking, he was a republican person. He was related with Esquerra Republicana circles in Lleida. He and his friends were linked to a group called “La Petera” it was a political group and perhaps ludic too. Joan didn’t go to the Spanish Civil War and when it finished he was disqualify from being a public official and he had to work for several insurance agents as an autonomous worker.
On 21st November 1941 he married Dolors Solà Alberich. On 16th August 1946 they had their only daughter, M. Carme Garcia Solà.
Concerning with his job for the British Consulate in Barcelona, we have a little information. We have a document forward for the Consulate on 4th July 1943 where we can read he was the person designated for the Consulate to do the administrative tasks related with the British subjects who were in Lérida or Huesca provinces. Joan Garcia had an identity card (22nd July 1943) as a representative of the British Consulate of Barcelona.
In the book Paso clandestino. Las otras listas (2004), by Alberto Poveda, Joan Garcia apperared as a representative of the British Consulate in Lleida town:

“El Consulado general británico en Barcelona designó como representante para las relaciones con el Gobierno Civil a Juan Garcia (…) Era también joven, resuelto, eficaz. Fue precisamente el coautor de una solución de alivio para los refugiados, para sus «canadienses», con efecto sobre los demás: un balneario.” (POVEDA 2004, 167)

Alberto Poveda Longo was a young man from Madrid who was studied journalism. He sat an examination for the Ministry of the Interior and he was sent to the Civil Government in Lleida where he arrived in September 1942, he was 27 years old. In Lleida, his work consisted in took care of the refugiees who arrived in the Lérida province; Poveda spoke French and a bit of English.
One day Joan Garcia Rabascall went to the Civil Government in Lleida to get an appointment with Poveda. Garcia presented himself as the consular agent who was in charge of the British and Canadian citizen imprisoned in the Seminari Vell (Lleida). Since this moment, Garcia sent to the Civil Government several documents to require the freedom of British and Canadian people imprisoned in Lleida. The British Consulate in Barcelona took charge of their maintenance and transfer to Barcelona.
Joan Garcia had a good appearance, he was a tall and elegant man with polite manners. Poveda thought he was educated in a British environment. But Garcia never went to the Great Britain and in according with his niece Joana Garcia Sisteré, he learned a bit of English in 1943, thanks to an English teacher (probably payed for the Consulate) who went to his home to give him some lessons.
Sometimes, Poveda and Garcia met in the Palace Hotel in Lleida. This place was one of the hotels where the British Consulate lodged refugees. The way that Joan Garcia stayed at the hotel, confused Poveda who thought Garcia was lodged there. Perhaps Joan Garcia needed to be unnoticed.
Because of the interest of Joan Garcia and other consular agents to freedom the refugees imprisoned in the Seminari Vell, and because of the increasing number of people took prisoner there, the authorities of the Civil Government had to search a solution to reduce the boarders’ number in the prison. So that, on 7th May 1943, Joan Garcia could release a group of 70 people which were moved to the Rocallaura health resort (POVEDA 2004, 180-181). Since this moment, Rocallaura became a place where the refugees of several nationalities waited for their departure from Spain. The British Consulate paid the lodging and maintenance expenses, and the person in charge of the payment was Joan Garcia. Thanks to a document guarded in the Historical Archive of Lleida Province (provided by Josep Calvet) we know that the British Consulate assumed the lodging and maintenance expenses of the British foreigners. This document was written by Garcia on 15th December 1943; Garcia informed to the owner of an unknown hotel about a bill payment. The British Consulate paid the amount of 2,150 pesetas as lodging and maintenance of John Gordon Covington and his family, Bob Tibbatts and Freddy Duncan.
The appointments between Poveda and Garcia, since the middle of 1943, were less frequents than before. Perhaps liberate the prisoners was easier since the moment when the Spanish authorities allowed their lodging in Rocallaura. At any rate, Poveda thinks that between 1943 and 1944 the networks members in Catalonia were able to create a direct way between the Pyrenees and Barcelona, so that there were minus aircrews imprisoned in the Seminari Vell. During 1944, Poveda and Garcia didn’t meet more.
On 6th April 1944 a Halifax bomber of 644 Squadron RAF based on Tarrant Rushton in Dorset, took of. A few hours after, the plane was shot down by the Germans near Cognac. One of the six Halifax crews died, another one was captured and the other four succeeded in escape but not together. John Franklin fell near Ray Hindle and thanks to the Pat O’Leary evasion network, the two crews arrived to Spain crossing the border above the Pont de Rei, on 4th May 1944 (GOODALL 2005, 33-38). They were arrested in Vielha and moved to the Seminari Vell prison in Lleida.
On 20th July 2006, John Franklin recognized Joan Garcia in a photo. Garcia was the representative of the British Consulate who liberated him twice. The first time, Franklin and Hindle, were liberated following the regular procedure. First, the consular representatives must to identify, inside the prison, the British subjects. Then they must to notify to the Civil Government the name of the British people to liberate and guarantee their lodgement and maintenance in a hotel of the city before they move to Barcelona.
The two English mates, during their last journey stage between France and Catalonia, had met an American aircrew named John Betolatti. The stay in a hotel in Lleida was, for the three young men, a little holiday after the last months running away through the occupied France.
The refugees liberated from the Seminari Vell prison were lodged in several hotels in Lleida. They were on probation and they had to respect the curfew rules. Alberto Poveda says in his book that the foreigners shouldn’t have been in the street from 9 p.m. but during the summer they could be in the street until 11 p.m. (POVEDA 2004, 172-173).
In spite of the curfew rules, on day the three friends decided to visit the local cinema. When the film had finished, a couple of civil guard were waiting for them to move the three young men to the prison again: “three of us having broken the curfew rules from the hotel to visit the local cinema. We were escorted to jail through the main street, I thought with some satisfaction by the civil guard” (mail from John Frederick Franklin, 20th July 2006)
John Franklin, Ray Hindle and John Betolatti were in prison again but thanks to Joan Garcia they were liberated: “with the small stone cell and the tiny grill window we were released with your grandfather in the background. You can imagine our relief next morning” (mail from John Frederick Franklin, 20th July 2006).
About the time while Joan Garcia Rabascall was working for the British Consulate, I know some unconnected family stories. His daughter M. Carme Garcia Solà remembered a story about an evader who was a prince; Joan Garcia had bought him some coins of gold because the aristocrat needed more money than the allowance given by the Consulate to every refugee. She also remembered a situation happened in the Palace Hotel in Lleida when a couple of German police came in to inspect. Joan Garcia had to face up to the refugees complaints; surely they been frightened with these unexpected visitors. Garcia only could say to them: “in this country is more legal the presence of these Germans that the British Consulate activities”. Poveda also describes in his book this situation:

“Cierto día, visitaron al nuevo Gobernador Civil dos oficiales alemanes de la guardia fronteriza, perfectamente uniformados, altos, fuertes y con aire de arrogancia. No supe nada relacionado con el propósito de la visita y pensé que se trataba de una cortesía protocolaria hacia la autoridad española vecina.
Horas más tarde, cuando me dirigía a la oficina de Correos, los vi salir del Hotel Palacio, zona muy céntrica de la ciudad y, consiguientemente, algún refugiado tuvo que advertir su presencia y comunicarlo rápidamente a otros. Así ocurrió, sin duda, pues cuando regresaba de mi gestión por el mismo camino, cuatro refugiados se me acercaron con muestras de nerviosismo y me preguntaron qué peligro podría representar aquella visita. Les tranquilicé diciendo que, en todo caso, no se vería alterado el statu quo establecido y del que se derivaba su situación de libertad. La inquietud se me manifestó en otro encuentro a continuación.” (POVEDA 2004, 174).

M. Carme Garcia remembered his father talking about once when he took care of Alexander Fleming’s wife. The last family story we have is perhaps the more distressed. Joan Garcia was inside a car with a Consular official when they were shot. We think there weren’t any dead person in this attempt.
Joan Garcia had a nightmare repeatedly during his life. He dreamed somebody was persecuting him and he shouted demanding help. When he woke up he said he didn’t remember anything. Maybe this nightmare hasn’t any relation with the situation in the car but these are some details about the troubles lived during these hard years.
Joan Garcia Rabascall died in Lleida on 5th January 1985. He was 84 years old.

Some Consular representatives and Red Cross representatives in charge of the refugees in Lleida during the Second World War:

Garcia Rabascall, Joan. British Consulate in Barcelona. Documentation of Family Riudor-Ros / (POVEDA 2004, 167, 180-181) / Documentation of the Arxiu Històric Provincial provided by Josep Calvet.
Tous Gironès, Josep. Dutch Consulate. Documentation of the Arxiu Històric Provincial provided by Josep Calvet.
Revelly, Yves. International Red Cross. French delegation. (POVEDA 2004, 111).
Scherer, Marc. French Red Cross. (POVEDA 2004, 114).
Reyes, Alicia. Belgian Consulate in Barcelona. (POVEDA 2004, 162).
García, Roberto. American Consulate in Barcelona. (POVEDA 2004, 166).
Gomand, Norbert. Luxembourg Red Cross. (POVEDA 2004, 167).


GOODALL, Scott, The Freedom Trail, Inchmere Design, 2005.

POVEDA LONGO, Alberto, Paso clandestino. Las otras listas, Ed. Alberto Poveda Longo, Madrid, 2004.