This article was translated by John R. Bopp

Recently, La Estrella de Panamá published an article discussing the pivotal role played by Consul Germán Gil Guardia Jaén in the complicated escape that allowed Lehendakari Aguirre to slip through the hands of the Francoists and Nazis and reach the Americas, which was his land of refuge for thousands and thousands of Basques who fled totalitarianism.

The article was penned by Mónica Guardia, the granddaughter of that good man who stuck his neck out in very complicated times to help another good man.  As we always say, times of great conflict bring bout the best in the best and the worst in the worst.

Jose Antonio Agirre disguised as José Andrés Álvarez de la Lastra, Panamanian citizen, to escape from the Nazis
Jose Antonio Agirre disguised as José Andrés Álvarez de la Lastra, Panamanian citizen, to escape from the Nazis

Our Lehendakari was lucky enough to find himself with a handful of good people along his tortuous journey from his Francoist- and Nazi-occupied homeland to the shores of the New World.  There, he was received properly, as the president of a government that had faced up to the monster that was trying to “devour the world”.  It was an unequal fight that happened when the whole world thought it would never affect them (or was trying to, anyway).  What they didn’t realize is that that struggle between the Basques and Spanish Republicans on one side was just the first chapter in a tragedy that would end up touching all, and would change the world, destroying the lives of millions and millions of families across the globe.

One of those men who was willing to help was Germán Gil Guardia.  Throughout that conflict, there were people who laid the groundwork with whatever they could to help those persecuted.  In cases like this, a passport from a non-conflict country was a key survival tool.  And that’s exactly what Aguirre got from Guardia; that, and an enduring friendship.

It’s definitely worth it to read this story, especially about just how are those terrible years were, times which many now seek to downplay or hide.  It’s also worth reading to remember just how many “friends” of the Basques there have been, and are, doing things out of solidarity along, expecting nothing in return.

At times like this, we usually complain about how we Basques tend to not recognize these gestures.  We’re thankful, but we rarely transmit it clearly, directly, and publicly.  Not this time.  Not too long ago, the Basque Government paid a visit to Panama, and paid homage to Consul Guardia Jaén, through his son, Laurencio Guardia, who also got to meet the Lehendakari.

We should never forget or stop thanking all those who made it possible for the New World to be a land of hope for so many Basques, or those who, during the darkest years of the war, committed to supporting the fight against totalitarianism.

La Estrella de Panamá – 9/6/2019 – Panama

Panamá en el árbol de Gernika; la historia de una amistad

Uno era cónsul panameño en la Alemania de la II Guerra Mundial. El otro, el primer lehendakari del País Vasco. Los unió una historia llena de peligros e intrigas, digna de una película o de una novela policíaca. De hecho, fue el tema del último gran trabajo de la novelista panameño nicaragüense Gloria Guardia, En el corazón de la noche , publicado en 2014.

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Gobierno Vasco – 28/5/2019 – Euskadi

Homenaje a Germán Gil Guardia Jaén

El consejero de Cultura y Política Lingüística, Bingen Zupiria, ha partido esta mañana a Panamá con el objetivo de asistir y apoyar a la Euskal Selekzioa en el encuentro que disputará mañana contra la selección centroamericana. Al margen del plano deportivo, el consejero se reunirá con representantes políticos y participará en el homenaje que el Gobierno Vasco ofrecerá a Germán Gil Guardia Jaén, cónsul que ayudó al Lehendakari Agirre a partir de Europa a América tras la Guerra Civil. El director de Actividad Física y Deporte del Gobierno Vasco, Jon Redondo, acompaña al consejero Zupiria en este viaje.

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