October 28, 2020

from a Leon town to the Nazi death camps


A Spaniard ends up in the Nazi death camps. And there were thousands. As in the case of Elpidio González, the last republican mayor of Palacios del Sil (León), who died in Gusen (sub-camp of Mauthausen) in 1941. The politician is the common thread of the book Anatomy of a Discord, by Víctor del Reguero, a text that describes the historical journey from a Leonese town to the Austrian concentration camp and also provides the profile of 50 other victims who were sentenced in Francoist prisons.

Anatomy of a Discord it is “a book in which the microhistory is intertwined with the history of the world”, says the author. The portrait of an era through the vital remnants of a corner of León and that extends the testimony to Laciana and El Bierzo, Asturias, Catalonia, France. And the Nazi horror.

More of 9,000 Spaniards They passed through Nazi concentration camps between 1940 and 1945. Names such as the last survivor of Mauthausen, Juan Romero, for first time honored by the Government of Spain. Or those of 4,427 who died in extermination centers with the complicity of the Francisco Franco regime and published a year ago by the Official State Gazette (BOE). And, to the shame, there are names like Auschwitz or Buchenwald.

The “microhistory” that portrays an era

Elpidio González González (Palacios del Sil, León, 1905 – Mauthausen-Gusen, Austria, 1941) “at the height of 1931 he assumed the role of leader of the republicans in the area,” says Víctor del Reguero. The “disenchantment” with the monarchy of Alfonso XIII made him enter fully into political life.

But the son of the municipal secretary ended up thus becoming “an enemy of a group of neighbors with a right-wing and monarchical tendency,” according to the author. Some “encounters” with the doctor José Sabugo attest to these episodes that end up spinning Elpidio’s misfortune to the Nazi camps, where he will be the prisoner “number 4,180, with the blue triangle of stateless persons with the” S “with which he distinguished himself to the Spanish “.

Some “disagreements incubated in the final stage of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship.” With “special care” in a “conflict” associated with a reality that marked the life of Palacios del Sil: hunting. “The mountains in the area were home to one of the most important game reserves in the Cantabrian Mountains, which was a coveted object,” he says.

The “microhistory” associated with hunting portrays an era, and its social conflicts, from the daily and political life of a corner of León. The “clashes” arose “in the heat of the evolution of events and, in the end, the episodes of violence that took place between the political antagonists during the year prior to the outbreak of the war.”

From French exile to Mauthausen

The Republicans could “smear the Popular Action posters with cow excrement days before the February 1936 elections,” as Victor del Reguero writes. On the other hand, “the rightists were organized around the Popular Action Youth, which had one of its most important organizations in the province in Palacios del Sil.”

The victory of the Popular Front made Elpidio González mayor. The last republican mayor of the town. Just four months in office, “between March 25 and the uprising of July 18, 1936.” In just two weeks, the coup plotters were imposing their force in León, says the author.

Elpidio and his family, along with other republicans, “took refuge in the mountains to escape from there to Asturias.” The story follows in his footsteps with the collapse of the Asturian front in the autumn of 1937, the flight by sea to France and from there to Catalonia, from where in 1939 he managed to cross the border. With the decimated family, as the book says, which offers “a profile of fifty detained, walked, executed, disappeared, convicted and killed in the regime’s prisons, many of whom appear with their photograph.”

Anatomy of a Discord, turned into a “human geography” that “portrays the entire local society and its protagonists”. A reality that derives in a “context of death” which Elpidio González does not escape, who passes through refugee camps in France such as Cognac and Angouleme and, after the German invasion, ends up becoming “one of the 927 occupants of the famous convoy that, in August 1940, he led those who were the first Spaniards deported to the Nazi regime to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. ”

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