He rapidly re-organised and expanded the force, ordering the appointment of 28, new policemen within two months. Republican establishment and the bulk of the Socialist and Communist parties stood out against it [the terror] because they understood that the Republic needed the backing of the Western democracies and that required law and order.
Accordingly, they tried to recreate the structures that would permit a multi-class democracy. However, the determination of the extremists rendered the task immensely difficult.
Indeed at times Preston seems to place the blame for the terror on the victims themselves: While it was certainly the case that there were criminal elements at work in the Republican rearguard, some of the robberies and other abuses were the work of right-wing agents provocateurs. Preston, nevertheless will only concede that as late as the first days of October there was no properly structured fifth column, but nocturnal snipers, saboteurs and agents provocateurs were active. As Geoffrey Cox, the British newspaper correspondent, wrote later: La ciudad clandestina Madrid: The significance of Atadell is two-fold.
Captured in the Nationalist-held Canary Islands en route to Cuba with loot taken from his victims, Atadell was tried in Seville and garrotted in July He introduces Atadell thus: This was far from the truth and was not why he was recommended for the job. He certainly knew Prieto but merely because he had been part of his armed escort during the February election campaign.
He would betray the trust placed in him. Through his nefarious activities, he was to become the most celebrated example of a man turned into a criminal by the temptations of his role. He cites as his sources my article and the s memoirs of David Dato, a Falangist hidden in Madrid during He attempts to minimise the political significance of Atadell before the Civil War, calling him a mere bodyguard during the February election campaign.
What he does not tell the reader despite the material being in my article , is that Atadell was a leading figure within the 73 Julius Ruiz, 'Defending the Republic: Siglo XXI, , More notably, his group was credited with the break-up of 79 Ibid. Civil War in the French Revolution, London: This was the worst Republican atrocity of the conflict and one that was neither spontaneous nor ill- organised. Preston accordingly devotes an entire chapter to it in The Spanish Holocaust, and it constitutes the first detailed account of the massacre in English.
At this stage, the fifth column was far from being the organised network that it became in and the exploits of snipers, saboteurs and defeatists were relatively random. This would be the most crucial factor in the eventual fate of prisoners throughout November He claims that the killing began with Francoist troops on the brink of liberating the prisoners: According to my calculations, based largely on contemporary prison records, the figure is more likely to be nearer 10, Ruiz, El terror rojo, However, only about three hundred arrived.
He does however provide the correct date later on in his chapter, on pages Part of the problem is the insistence that the operation was fundamentally a genuine transfer of prisoners east: Whoever signed the orders, in the midst of administrative collapse and widespread popular panic, the evacuation of eight thousand prisoners seemed impossible… In the event, the evacuation became a massacre.
Thanks to the efforts of foreign diplomats and the Red Cross, no female inmate was shot as part of the Paracuellos operation.
Moreover, he does not seem to recognise the importance of a key minute taken from a CNT-FAI leadership meeting on 8 November that described what the modus operandi was to be in some detail. As Preston himself writes later, this minute stated that: The second group, of prisoners considered to be supporters of the military rising but, because of age or profession, less dangerous, were to be evacuated to Chinchilla, near Albacete.
But the claim that Paracuellos was an evacuation gone awry cannot be sustained. But it is on this false premise that Preston determines responsibilities for the executions. He concludes that it was organised within the Junta de Defensa, an emergency body created to organise the defence of Madrid following the departure of the Republican government to Valencia on 6 November. Among those pushing for the evacuation- not necessarily the execution- of the prisoners were the Republican military authorities, General Miaja [the head of the Junta de Defensa] and his chief of staff, Vicente Rojo, the senior Russians present in Madrid and the Communist hierarchy.
Given the crucial military assistance being provided by the Soviet personnel, and their own experience of the siege of St Petersburg sic in the Russian Civil War, it was natural that their advice should be sought.
Certainly, it [the prison evacuations] required the go-ahead from [Pedro] Checa [Spanish Communist Party organisational secretary] and [Antonio] Mije [Communist member of the Junta de Defensa] who, in turn, needed the approval of Miaja and probably of the Russian advisers. It is true that he makes use of Soviet material albeit cited from secondary sources , but this is mainly used to provide information about the Soviet advisors themselves, rather than their role in the Paracuellos massacres. The only references used by 99 Ibid. It is possible to know that meetings took place at which evacuation and elimination were almost certainly discussed and authorization almost certainly given.
However, there is little or nothing by way of records of those conversations… Accordingly, there will always be an element of deduction if not speculation about the collective responsibility. By the time the government left Madrid on 6 November, the CPIP had taken out prisoners from different jails and shot them at various places in the outskirts of Madrid. Paracuellos was therefore an escalation of an operation that had been initiated by Communists, Socialists, and anarchists who had been bloodily eliminating the internal enemy since the summer of Historiographically, this is not a controversial claim as no serious account of the killings has suggested that he was ignorant of the operation.
However, Carrillo, who later became Communist Party leader and played a key role in the transition to democracy in the s, always denied that he played a part in Paracuellos. This does not simply show that the Interior Minister- and a close Preston, Spanish Holocaust, As we noted above, the death transports to Paracuellos were temporarily halted on 9 November as the battle for Madrid intensified. He rescinded the appointment and the killings resumed on 18 November.
Yet this is given perfunctory treatment in The Ibid. A proper account is in Ruiz, El terror rojo, The actual termination of the massacres is only discussed in one brief paragraph.
In any case, although Irujo repeatedly defended his record as Justice Minister during the Civil War until his death in , no reference to a wartime judicial enquiry into the worst Republican atrocity during the conflict has surfaced in his writings. This would have been politically impossible, for as we have seen, the Largo Caballero government itself was implicated in the massacres. The alleged Paracuellos judicial investigation is but one example that Preston uses to support his thesis of Part 5 of The Spanish Holocaust: Failing to mention the brutal camps run by the military secret police in Madrid, he claims that from … April , the SIM ran six work camps in Catalonia where the conditions were reputed to be harsh and the discipline fierce.
There were cases of prisoners shot for trying to escape. Nonetheless, in stark contrast with the rebel zone, literacy and other educational classes were provided and prisoners were freed at the end of their sentences.
This system was applied on occasion in Catalan work camps, except camps number 1 and 6. The Spanish Holocaust ends its narrative on the Spanish Civil War with the following unreferenced assertion: Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, , The author clearly wants to give an impression of a defeated but still defiant antifascist Madrid.
As a foreign historian sympathetic to the Spanish left, Preston has received much abuse from Francoist and neo-Francoist writers. Based on a methodology that prioritises memoirs over contemporary archival sources, this examination of barely a quarter of the book has uncovered multiple errors that have been deployed to support some of his most important theses on the revolutionary terror in the Republican zone. Similarly, his claim that terror was partly a response to Nationalist air-raids in the summer of rests on two imaginary bombings of the capital.
Indeed, for Preston, government ministers were the real victims of the terror in , as they were powerless to prevent sadists, psychopaths and anarchists from carrying out criminal acts that discredited the Republican cause. In sum, The Spanish Holocaust is a depressing indication that the historicization of the Spanish civil war is as far away as ever nearly eighty years after its outbreak.
Given the flaws which undermine its arguments and vitiate its conclusions, it is worrying that some of its advocates argue that it should serve as the basis for future understanding of the most controversial issue of the Spanish civil war. Remember me on this computer. Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link.
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