This article was translated by John R. Bopp
I’ve been thinking about the articles and reports popping up about “The Basque Swastika”, which was presented at the San Sebastian Film Festival, all day. And yes, today, I’m writing in the singular, because what is going to be told here is an opinion and personal experience. So, for once, I’ll speak not as a collective, but as an individual.
I was thinking about how my aitite Luis, a gudari, republican, nationalist, and anti-fascist, would have reacted upon reading the conclusions that this story of radical unionists reaches, conclusions based on half-truths, insinuations, veiled lies, omissions, deformations, which claim that there was a secret pact between Basque nationalists and Nazi authorities during the Second World War.
How would this man, who was part of the Arana Goiri Batallion, as a volunteer, reacted? He was 35, with two daughters; he could have stayed at home, comfortably. But he decided to join the fight for Freedom, the Republic, Euzkadi, and against the Totalitarianism, under the orders of one government and one authority: the Basque Government with Lehendakari Aguirre at the helm. He, who fought in the Intxortas, who had to leave with his family in exile, who had to suffer the sacking of all his belongings by the fascists, including their wedding rings and the sheets his wife, my amama Carmen, had sewn as a wedding dowry. He who spent years in jail, and many more under political persecution, arrests, beatings, and discrimination at work.
There is no doubt in my mind that his reaction would have been one of contempt; the same contempt he felt for the ideology that caused forty years of pain and misery for Spain and for the Lower Basque Country. That doesn’t mean that he held the people in contempt, but rather the ideas, because he was a man raised in a deeply Christian humanism. That’s what set him apart from the fascists: they saw their enemies as subhuman, with no value as people, only worthy of a shot in the back of the head and a common grave on the roadside, or in a forest clearing. These people are still with us, though unarmed, but they still attack with their words, insulting and mudslinging the memory of many good men, to sully the ideology and feelings that these people defended with such extreme dignity.
He would have looked at them, with those deep, gray eyes, and given those claims all the value they had: none. Then, he would have moved on. Yes, he was guilty of all of this: of being Basque, a democrat, an abertzale, a gudari, an anti-fascits, and a BNP/PNV member. Of being a Nationalist-Separatist.
Guilty, like thousands and thousands of Basques who gave it all: their lives, their homes, their future, their freedom, only for the chance to not be, even if by omission, allies with the traitors, perjurers, vile, murderous, fascist oppressors, who imposed their dictatorship at gunpoint, a dictatorship which still survives in the sewers of Spain, because it was never fully gotten rid of.
Now, today, in these days when we have to see the lies in the headlines of the Spanish radical media, who see everyone who doesn’t believe in the sacrosanct unity of the Spain they defend as enemies to be beaten, we still have what is most important: their memory, and their example.
At my aitite‘s funeral, on leaving the church, a lady who lives near my parents came up to my mom, downcast and a bit scandalized. She looked at her, serious and sad, and said, “How shameful of that priest, to say your father was in jail in public!” She brought this up because the priest, who had been a good father of my aitite‘s, had detailed his exemplary commitment to Freedom, to the Basque Country, and to the Working Class. My mom, with a look of pride like I’d rarely seen in her, responded, “Yes, he was in jail, and that’s one of the things we’re most proud of.”
That’s why, in these days of lies and cowardice, we are lucky enough to be able to remember them, my aitite and the tens of thousands of Basques, who gave up being workers, farmers, teachers, office workers, businessmen, lawyers, engineers, and students, to turn into defenders of Freedom, Democracy, and the Cause of the Basque People.
Agur eta ohore