December 4, 2020

The story of the anti-Franco singer-songwriter who discovered that his father had belonged to the Nazi party


The silences born of fear, an anti-Franco singer-songwriter and a Nazi

How can someone spend a good part of their life without talking about the fundamental issues that run through their existence? This question haunts Isabel Cadenas, promoter of the podcast project That is not talked about, in which he analyzes the silences and recovers memories. Why does a person not address essential issues that define them with their loved ones or with their family? It is, probably, a question that many of us in Spain could ask ourselves, because “this is a country of silences”, silences embedded in the codes of collective sociability. “I think too often silence is mistaken for a sign of respect,” reflects Cadenas.

In That is not talked about has investigated several accounts of silences, such as the history of the eleven of Basauri, those women who aborted and were tried for it, or the musician and composer Bernardo Fuster, anti-Franco singer-songwriter who performed and recorded clandestine tapes under the pseudonym Pedro Faura, who later would play with Luis Pastor, Aute or Sabina and founded the Suburbano group with Luis Mendo, creator of songs such as Puerta de Alcalá, La Tierra se moves, Arde Paris or Maki Navaja.

What are the silences of Fuster? His clandestine activity as Pedro Faura was almost a secret for thirty years. And the identity of his father, a German living in Spain, was unknown to his own son: “One day I began to realize that my father was more than just a music teacher.”

Both, Cadenas and Fuster, talk with elDiario.es in Madrid.

“My father played various instruments, many mornings he woke us up playing the accordion, he had a mandolin, guitars, everything. I went to the German school and there I began to sing in the choir. I always liked music, “recalls Fuster.

His father enrolled him in Valencia in the Jose Antonio Doctrinal Circles, founded in 1960 with the aim of maintaining Falangist orthodoxy. There he met, paradoxically, several leftist militants, opposed to the regime, infiltrated in the Circles to attract the youngest. And so he developed his own political ideas.

It was then when he began to keep silence towards his father and began his militancy in groups of the anti-Franco left. First, with the anarchists. Then with the communists.

“My father had been in the Second World War and had ended up in Spain. He knew that he had fought with the Nazis, he did not deny it. But that was it. Or so I thought ”, he relates. In Fuster’s house there were swastika crosses and medals, some with the swastika.

“Strange guys passed by. I remember one, in a raincoat and hat, who gave my father a magnificent record player. Nothing seemed strange to me then. I had several friends from the left like me whose parents were also great supporters of the Franco regime, sometimes we commented on it, joking, but in passing. I didn’t stop to think about it too much, I saw it as normal ”.

As a rank-and-file member of the FRAP, Fuster had his moment of secrecy. He hid in his grandmother’s house in Madrid, where he kept suitcases full of anti-regime propaganda. He composed several songs with political content, recorded them on tape and this began to be distributed clandestinely in activist circles in Madrid:

“One day the leadership of my organization suggested that I go to Europe as a singer-songwriter to perform in the rallies that were organized against Francoism. I was clandestinely in Spain, the Political-Social Brigade was looking for me, so I decided that yes, I was going. It was a way of combining militancy and music ”. When asked to choose a pseudonym, he chose the name Pedro Faura. In this way, he toured the entire continent, met intellectuals, writers and politicians, received applause on stage:

“I always traveled by train from one city to another. I remember the last station in West Germany, when they told us over the loudspeaker: ‘You are leaving free Germany.’ And the first from East Germany: ‘You are entering workers’ Germany.’

Fuster, aka Faura, really enjoyed that time. He met exiled Spanish guerrillas, an ex-soldier who had been in the Nine liberating Paris from the Nazis, Carlos Palacio, a republican singer-songwriter who had sounded a lot during the war or the military Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, strategist of the Portuguese Carnation Revolution . His vindictive lyrics spoke of exile, impunity, dictatorship, the need for freedom: “The support in Europe for the resistance against Francoism was incredible.”

Until on July 25, 1976, he decided to leave the FRAP for sharing the line adopted by the organization, in defense of violent actions: “I did not agree with that and I left. It was Sunday”. He has it written down in a notebook that he still has, full of notes and scraps with names, places, dates. That meant his return to Spain.

When he returned he had an identity crisis. He chose not to tell almost anyone that he had been Pedro Faura, that clandestine anti-Franco singer-songwriter from FRAP, who performed in European capitals and whose recordings had circulated hand in hand in militant circles in Madrid or Barcelona.

First he made his first steps in the theater, with the group Tábano: “He was terrible as an actor, but they were looking for a character who spoke German and I needed to earn a living.” Later, he began his successful stage as a founding musician and composer of the Suburbano group.

“The Transition had arrived, probably the recent time when there has been the greatest silence. I chose to bury that part of my life as Pedro Faura. On the one hand, there were extreme right groups out there dancing, it was a screwed up situation. On the other hand, I had ended up very badly with the FRAP, they had persecuted me for leaving. So I said to myself: ‘For now I better shut it up.’ And that ‘for now’ was thirty years ”.

He never told it publicly, until in 2006 a friend organized an exhibition on anti-Franco singer-songwriters and asked him for permission to include one of his albums as Pedro Faura. His father had already passed away. They never got to talk about it. Not him with his father, not his father with him. Somehow they were both suspicious of each other’s secrets, but chose not to put them on the table.

“I recently remembered that, while I was wanted by the Political-Social Brigade, my father offered to go to the police station one day to ask for some documents that I needed. Now I think about it and I realize that he had to know what I was up to, that he did it because he knew I couldn’t allow myself to go, ”he recalls. On another occasion, a policeman who arrested him, upon seeing his surnames, commented: “What a family”: “The police services knew who my father was, for sure.”

And who exactly was Fuster’s father, apart from a German music teacher living in Spain who had fought in World War II?

One day, not long ago, Bernardo Fuster discovered in his family home an album with the swastika on the cover. Inside he found photographs of all kinds: Nazi soldiers marching in Madrid, children’s choirs in German schools in Spain with Nazi flags, bullfights with German soldiers, in Las Ventas: “There they were before his eyes the ties always denied between Nazism and Francoism ”, relates Cadenas.

In the last pages of the album he found an invitation in which the name of his father appeared presented as the head of the Hitler Youth in Spain, an organization whose objective was to indoctrinate German children and young people in Nazi ideology through activities and camps in our country, where the German population had tripled since the start of the Second World War.

He also found a newspaper clipping in which it was reported that the allies were asking the Franco government to hand over a series of refugees in Spain who belonged to the Nazi party. Among them was the name of Bernardo’s father.

The network of concealment of Nazis in Spain, directed by Clara Stauffer Loewe [destacada militante de la Sección Femenina de Falange]He had given Fuster’s father a false, Spanish identity. He went from having a German name and surname -Feuerriegel- to being called Bernardo Fernández: “He dyed his hair -it was too blond- and grew a Spanish mustache.” He was like this for four years, with a German accent but with the Fernández on a card that indicated that he was a native of Tarragona and a mechanical expert. The document was issued by the Falange, signed by Miguel Primo de Rivera.

Stauffer’s network managed to get some 800 Nazis to take refuge in Spain. When the Allies requested some 1,600 Germans suspected of belonging to or collaborating with Nazism, the Franco regime only deported 265. The rest, including Bernardo’s father, managed to stay and rebuild their lives without being persecuted.

“So thirty years apart, my father and I had been in hiding for some time, each on one side,” says Fuster. After four years his father, he doesn’t know how, got his German passport back and his real identity, after the allies considered that he had not committed blood crimes.

“I think my father was from the middle sector, I’m not saying it to excuse him. What I don’t understand is why he was sent here to Spain to be head of the Hitler Youth. He was the party member [nazi] eight million something. The number of affiliates there was is impressive, when they reached a certain military rank they were forced to join the party. I wonder if he was already a music teacher there. I imagine that he would have formed a military choir ”.

There are many unanswered questions, because father and son never spoke of their respective secrets. “He didn’t speak it so as not to seek confrontation, I deduce. And I do the same ”.

Isabel Cadenas reflects on this by comparing the contexts of Spain and Germany: “There a process was approached in which the responsibility that each person had was analyzed. Not here. There a generation of Germans devoted themselves to confronting their parents. Silence was kept here ”.

“Silence has always accompanied us in this country. It’s a chore, because when you want to speak, your memory remains, but it is selective when time passes, ”reflects the musician, who is preparing the recording and publication of several compositions by Pedro Faura, some unpublished, others released in his day.

“Really the history of all of us is built on silence. With the country so noisy that we are, on the other hand ”, adds Cadenas.

That is not talked about, already awarded with a special mention of the Ondas, has yet to publish four more chapters, in which its promoter and your team -they are all women- they will continue to rescue memories, even their own.

Cadenas says that silences are full of inherited fears – “don’t mean that, don’t talk, what they told us” – and also of presences. There are those who try to break them by digging the earth, literally drilling it, breaking the ground, to rescue the disappeared from oblivion. She does the same, but not with picks and shovels, but with words, the weapon with which to name the unnameable, with which to recover the hidden, with which to mobilize the stagnant. The word serves to inquire. Unblock. And now it’s her turn. The last chapter of That is not talked about she will address, “if I can gather the strength”, her own story, that of her mother, who died when she was 8 years old, that of her family, her look as a child. Their own silences.

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