The Time In Between

AUTHOR: Maria Duenas
SETTING: Spain and Morocco

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Brief Summary

On April 14, 1931 the Spanish monarchy was declared overthrown and a provisional government took power. In the ensuing years, the government became increasingly divided between the socialists of the extreme left and the monarchists of the extreme right. In the elections of February 1936 the left won a clear majority. The right reacted with fervor. Generals Goded, Mola, and Francisco Franco disagreed with the leftist efforts at army reform, and viewed with distaste the violence and anarchy which reigned in the streets of Spain. They decided to overthrow the government.

Mola organized for military action in Pamplona, while Franco traveled to Morocco to lead the African installment of the Spanish army against the republic. The military Nationalists pronounced their intentions on July 17, 1936. The rebels stirred by the Nationalists were easily defeated in many cities where the loyal Civil Guard was present. However, in cities unprotected by the Civil Guard, the Nationalists took control quickly, in many cases aided by supplies from Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. The Republicans, aided by the Soviet Union, consolidated support for the republic, and by May 1937 were entrenched in defensive positions in a triangle of cities with the points in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona.

The Republicans tried to turn their rag-tag militia into an effective fighting force, beginning in October 1936 with the creation of the Popular Army, which, while better organized than the militias, was chronically short of arms and ammunition, and was beset by incompetent junior officers and political factions within the ranks. With only limited support from France, and none at all from Britain, The Spanish Republicans turned to the Soviet Union for support. Soviet tanks, superior to the German Mark IIs, arrived in October, along with advanced aircraft and Soviet military advisors. One source of support for the Republicans was the presence of the International Brigades. These groups of leftist volunteers were made up mostly of workers, who volunteered out of boredom, disillusionment, or a desire for adventure as often as genuine political idealism. The protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls is such an international brigadier. However, this support was not enough.

On April 25, 1937, the small northern town of Guernica was bombed by the Nationalists, and civilians were gunned down as they fled the scene. In this brutal massacre 1500 died and 800 were wounded, but the military targets in the town remained intact. As the bloody conflict escalated, the Republican government fell prey to corruption and faction, and support and organization steadily waned. Under the barrage of nationalist attack Barcelona fell, during January 1939. Catalonia fell during February, and Valencia and Madrid collapsed by the end of March. Franco’s ensuing rein was one of oppression and tradition. He imprisoned and many upon coming to power–up to a million according to some estimates. Many fled Spain, becoming refugees and awaiting the toppling of the Franco government. They would wait for 36 years, for Franco remained in power until his death in 1975.


One major difference setting the Nationalists apart from the Republicans was leadership. Nationalist, fascist leadership proved more effective at carrying out the war than the clumsy democratic government of the Republicans. The Republican government in Madrid under Largo Cabellero was divided within itself, confused about its identity and ideology. The Nationalists had no such difficulties. When Franco was proclaimed head of the Nationalist government on September 29, 1936, there was no one to challenge his authority. Franco’s wing of the army was the most successful of the nationalist forces, and he was a respected and very professional soldier. The Nationalists did experience some military problems similar to those of the Republicans. The command structure of the army had been destroyed by the division of the nation. Thus, the Nationalists suffered from incompetent junior officers, but not to the same extent as the Republicans.

Mussolini had been involved to some extent in Spanish affairs before the revolt, but he knew nothing of the generals’ plans. He supported the rebels against the judgment of his military advisors, sending bombers and soldiers to Spain in great quantity. There were 50,000 Italian soldiers in Spain at the height of their involvement, and hundreds of airplanes were sent, along with tanks and artillery. The Germans were far less generous, but sent the famous Condor Legion of about 100 planes, which was largely responsible for the Guernica bombing. Germany also made a great contribution in the form of specialists and instructors.

Comparatively, the Republicans received inadequate support. The French Popular Front was sympathetic to the republic, but Leon Blum’s hands were tied by conservatives in the government, who did not want to get involved in a foreign war. Most important was the stance taken by Britain, which was more concerned about the spread of communism than fascism. The British urged the French not to get involved, and remained detached from the situation themselves. This attitude amounted to tacit support for Franco, and forced the Republicans into the arms of the Soviets. Stalin aided Spain in efforts to strengthen his position against Germany, to appear as the defender of legitimate government, and to divert attention away from the purge trials in Moscow. Soviet intervention gave the Republicans superior technology early in the conflict, but the republicans never capitalized on this advantage.

Added to unbalanced sources of support was the unbalanced zeal of the two contending groups. As the Cabellero government slipped further and further into uncertainty, many begun to question if it was worth fighting for. Morale was low throughout the republican forces, while it remained fairly high in the Nationalist ranks. The bombing of Guernica, while the casualty figures pale in comparison to later numbers, was crucial in crushing the spirit of the Republicans and convincing many that to resist the Nationalists was to open the doors to bloodbath. Morally crushed, the Republicans collapsed in front of the Nationalist effort.

The Spanish Civil War is sometimes referred to as a dress rehearsal for World War II. In military terms this was far from true. Both sides were starved for material, fighting with outdated weapons on flexible fronts with limited communication and little air support. Civilians were bombed, but the destruction in Spain did not compare to the assault unleashed upon all of Europe shortly after.


Some Historic Events and Characters in Novel

Spain: Repeat Performance? Time Magazine March 1, 1943

Virtually unnoticed by the U.S. press last week was the arrival in Washington of tall, thin Colonel Juan Beigbeder, emissary of Franco’s Government in Spain. Ex-Foreign Minister, ex-High Commissioner of Spanish Morocco and present member of Franco’s General Staff, he was welcomed by the State Department as a United Nations friend and an indicator that Fascist General Franco now expects a United Nations victory. His purpose: to discuss with U.S. military chiefs the situation in North Africa.

The thought of Hitler’s taking over Spain lies heavily on Allied minds. Colonel Beigbeder  was known as anti-Nazi and pro-Allied, and his experience as Moroccan administrator made his advice valuable. But Franco is cagey, and he has carefully watched the events in French North Africa since the Allied landing. In Washington a story circulate that Colonel Beigbeder  had cone to lay the foundations of a “Free Spain” in case the Nazis invaded his home country. If he succeeded, and the Nazis did take over Spain, the parallel with North Africa would be complete.,9171,932941,00.html#ixzz285lfZnn

Franco’s Request to the Third  Reich for Military Assistance  by Angel Vina and Carlos Collado Seidel

On the evening of 25 July 1936 Adolf Hitler received in Bayreuth, where he was attending the Wagner festival, two German citizens who were residents of Spanish Morocco. They were accompanied by a member of the Auslandsorganisation (AO: foreign organization) of the Nazi party. The two Germans had arrived in Berlin the previous day in one of the Lufthansa planes (D-APOK) which plied the postal routes of the south Atlantic. The plane had been sequestered by rebellious Spanish military in the Canary Islands and was pressed into service to  ̄y to Tetuan. One of the passengers was Adolf P. Langenheim, a 64-year-old mining engineer, who had spent most of his lifetime in Morocco. The second was Johannes E. F. Bernhardt, a 39-year-old former Army of®cer in the Great War, and manager of a small trading company whose activities included the supply of goods to the Spanish military. Within the then minuscule Nazi party in Spanish Morocco (around thirty-®ve members) Langenheim was, as the Tetuan local chief, the highest authority. Bernhardt dealt with commercial questions and press relations, but there was more to him than met the eye. Langenheim and Bernhardt brought a message from General Francisco Franco to Hitler. Their escort, Wolfgang Kraneck, was the head of the AO legal department.

Franco had begun a military rebellion in the Canary Islands a week earlier and taken command of the rising in Spanish Morocco, where the Spanish army’s crack troops were deployed. However, many of the Spanish naval ships had remained loyal to the government. The powerful African army could not easily be transported to southern Spain, where the rebels were making headway against a weak and disorganised opposition.

Franco’s request was predicated upon a long history of contacts between Germany and some of the military conspirators. The rebel general trod new ground although he had no reason to believe in the success of Bernhardt and Langenheim, two utterly insigni®cant members of the Nazi party in forgotten Morocco. Surprisingly, the FuÈhrer met Franco’s wishes and in so doing contributed to transforming a failed military coup into a bloody civil war. Franco’s stature rose to unexpected heights.

The Spanish conspirators aimed at a co-ordinated, rapid and extremely violent rebellion against the left-liberal Republican government. An improvised uprising under General Jose Sanjurjo had been easily defeated in August 1932. Subsequently, the Republic had steered, under a succession of conservative governments, a less intense reformist course. This had lessened military temptations to intervene actively in politics not least because Sanjurjo was exiled to Portugal….. If you are interested in reading more, go to this Web site:

Contemporary European History, 11, 2 (2002), pp. 191±210 5 2002 Cambridge University Press DOI:10.1017/S0960777302002011 Printed in the United Kingdom


COMPLACENT DICTATOR, by Sir Samuel Hoare (Viscount Templewood); Knopf. 319 pp. $3.50.

NThe appointment, early in 1940, of Sir Samuel Hoare as British Ambassador to Franco Spain evoked cries of protest not only from Liberal Englishmen, but from many Americans as well. With a long record of innocuous service in various Cabinet posts, and with the memory of his Italy-appeasing agreement with Laval in 1935 still rankling in the national breast, Hoare was denounced by many as too half-hearted and vacillating for the straight talking, firm-handed brand of diplomacy required in the Spanish mission.

During his four-and-a-half year wartime sojourn in Madrid, Hoare evidently was neither hesitant nor mercurial in his attitude to the Falange and its “fat, smug, complacent” leader, as he calls Franco. For once, there were no complaints of indecisiveness raised against him at home. In this first volume of his memoirs, the British Ambassador reviews these years, and draws from their experience a few striking and forceful, if not novel, conclusions. His complete condemnation of Franco as an inept dictator is the most vigorously expressed of these conclusions.

Obviously not a convert to Spanish Republicanism, he nevertheless repudiates in most emphatic and explicit tones the entire administration of the Caudillo and would substitute for it a constitutional monarchy. As forceful as his dislike of Franco is Hoare’s hearty endorsement of Count Francisco Jordana, who was for two years Franco’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. He credits the success of the North African invasion operations partly to Jordana’s co-operative and discreet attitude–“pro-Ally to the core.”

Hoare’s book is in spots awkwardly written and, indeed, reads more like a diplomat’s memoranda than a historian’s account. The occasional unhappy phrasing and general lack of literary polish, however, is not conspicuous in a work such as this, and should not annoy students of modern Spain, for whom it should be required reading.


Alan Hillgarth, A Spy Novel

He came to Mallorca to write and was caught in the stormy world of espionage between the Civil War and the world war

I OLAIZOLA. PALMA. “He was tremendously thick eyebrows and his name was Jason, but Hillgarth. Alan Hillgarth, naval attache to the British Embassy in Madrid and coordinator of the activities of the Secret Service in Spain. Broad face, high forehead and dark hair, with stripe straight and slicked back with pomade. He came dressed in a gray suit whose quality alpaca sensed even in the distance. walked insurance, holding a black leather briefcase in his left hand. ”
This is the description that Maria Dueñas does in his novel English diplomat and spy on their first encounter with Sira Quiroga, the protagonist of the fictional plot, before inserting it into a network of spies in Madrid under the command of the British Empire. It is a portrait quite consistent with one of the few images that can be found today this elusive consul who, ignoring the obvious, was a real character in a novel.
Hugh Alan Hillgarth a London born June 7, 1899. In 1911 he joined the Royal Navy breaking the family tradition as their ancestors had practiced medicine. He participated in the First World War and, after the war ended, he studied at King’s College, Cambridge.
He returned to active duty between 1919 and 1927, when removed to the level of lieutenant commander. Start writing adventure novels. In 1929 he married Mary Sidney Katharine Almina, third daughter of Baron Burghclere, and he and his wife took up residence in Spain. In 1932 he bought one of the most emblematic possesions of the island, the Son Torrella, in Santa Maria, and was appointed honorary vice consul in Palma, possibly the only declared function of drunken British sailors out of prisons.
“He was a novelist and retired to Mallorca to rest and write and, of overnight, became the most important elements of British intelligence infiltrated the Franco regime,” says Josep Massot i Muntaner, historian and Palma one of the most knowledgeable people about the Civil War in Mallorca. Since it can not be otherwise because of their links with the island, the figure of the English diplomat-spy was extensively studied by Massot in his retreat at the Abbey of Montserrat. Result of this research was released the book The Consol Alan Hilgarth i Balearic Islands (1936-1939).
“Hillgarth was a diplomat and, therefore, had no friends, but he knew elbow interest and maintain relationships with influential people of his time,” says Massot character of this character.
Intimate with the banker Juan March – “I do not know how they met,” admits historian and Winston Churchill became involved with before the outbreak of World War II, in the spring of 1936, when it became the premier tight British and held up his people against the Third Reich stopped in Palma with his wife Clementine in a journey to Marrakech.
Apparently Hillgarth invited to eat his illustrious partner Torrella estate Son and gave them lodging there for some days. The intimate coexistence in those days marked the beginning of a long friendship between two people with the same adventurous spirit.
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War to Hillgarth caught off Mallorca but returned and began work as an agent of the British Government on an island where the Italians called by the coup forces after a failed attempt to recapture by the Republic, had landed in late August 1936 Arconovaldo commanding Bonaccorsi, better known as Count Rossi.
“Hillgarth was the first to inform the Foreign Office (British Foreign Office) on the activities of Count Rossi in Mallorca and caused his departure from the island in December 1936 after the mediation of Ramón Franco at his brother in Salamanca” Massot said.
Shortly later, France and England, who saw with misgivings transalpine presence as a strategic location in the Mediterranean and Italy itself, reached a “gentlemen’s agreement” in January 1937 by the Italians undertook not stay Mallorca following his collaboration with the rebels. Franco himself was welcomed British intervention and perhaps conducive for fear that Mussolini wanted to annex the island. Possibly for these services was promoted to consul Hillgarth officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1937.
Also actively participated in the surrender of Minorca to Franco’s troops and the evacuation of tens of Shipboard Menorcans English Devonshire, key ship later in the evacuation of British citizens of Barcelona. The captain of this ship, JHGodfrey, met in these episodes to Hillgarth and something of his personality should captivate because, later, with World War II underway and in his new role as director of Naval Intelligence, gets to name the consul Mallorca naval attache at the British Embassy in Madrid.
A prize or a commitment Hillgarth effectiveness in its work related to spyware either Spanish authorities issued new military coup? Maybe both. But what is clear is that Churchill had it for a more ambitious plan: bribery of several generals Franco to keep Spain’s entry into World War II. “Britain could not afford to lose control of Gibraltar which assured their supply lines with India. Was key to their interests and their loss could have changed the sign of the Second World War,” says Pere Ferrer, historian of the time and in the figure of Juan March. Hence the presence of Hillgarth in Madrid. He had the confidence of Churchill and March, two key pieces to achieving this goal.
“Hillgarth was a very quiet, did not stand out and it seemed that he did nothing but intervinera in all matters. All we did was done in secret. Their own son, Jocelyn Hillgarth, I denied that his father was a spy. Was convinced that he was a diplomat who had helped many people with their work in the stools of Menorca and Barcelona. Later, he spoke with an uncle who was also carrying a diplomatic career and he confirmed that work in those days war, carried with it the obligation of passing information, “reveals the historian Josep Massot.
“And Hillgarth reports were not wasted. Intervene After the surrender of Menorca, the Foreign Office sent a lengthy document detailing the exact location of all coastal batteries on this island, so that an English squadron knew where to attack hostile “says the specialist.
Now Duenas’s novel sheds some light on this person who’s just pictures on a real spy, discreet, effective and adventure lover. A word may now hollow and content Hillgarth defined himself in one of his books as something that “was once a lofty name proudly carried by men such as Raleigh and Drake … (but now) reserved for best dressed members of the criminal classes. ” 

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris


“I die for my fatherland. I have a clear conscience. I only did my duty to my country when I tried to oppose the criminal folly of Hitler.” – Admiral Wilhelm Canaris

The man behind the Nazi Abwehr spy network, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, was a shrewd, brilliant spymaster who not only managed to keep control of the Abwehr. He outwitted the slipperyHimmler at almost every turn, while joined with other high-ranking German officers in a dangerous plot to eliminate Hitler and make a separate peace with the Allies.

Still, today, Wilhelm Canaris is the number one mystery man of the Nazi regime under Hitler – a man historians hardly can classify. A man who only seldomly came out of his shell, who didn’t talk much but was rather a listener. Almost everybody who knew him didn’t really know exactly what his purpose and intentions were.

On the one hand he was the great protector of the German opposition against Hitler – on the other hand he was at the same time the one who prepared all the big expansion plans for the acts and crimes of Hitler in the Third Reich. While he highly protected and motivated the opposition members who were eager to fight against Hitler, he was also hunting them as conspirators – one of the many contradictions he was forced to live with to stay in control of the Abwehr.

Wilhelm Canaris, born January 1, 1887, in Aplerbeck, Germany, was celebrated as a war hero during the First World War for his exploits as a submarine captain, and he later became a top military spy for Germany. Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr Military Intelligence in 1935.

In 1938, he made efforts to hinder Hitler from attacking Czechoslovakia and later he played an active role as a peace keeper. Canaris personally went to Franco and told him not to allow passage to the Germans for the purpose of capturing Gibraltar. Canaris was directly involved in the 1938 and 1939 coup attempts.

Admiral Canaris was an eye-witness to the killing of civilians in Poland. At Bedzin, SS troops pushed 200 Jews into a synagogue and then set it aflame. They all burned to death. Canaris was shocked. On 10 September, 1939, he had traveled to the front to watch the German Army in action. Wherever he went, his intelligence officers told him of an orgy of massacre. Two days later, he went to Hitler’s headquarters train, the Amerika, in Upper Silesia, to protest. He first saw General Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command. “I have information,” Canaris told Keitel, “that mass executions are being planned in Poland and that members of the Polish nobility and the clergy have been singled out for extermination.”

Canaris told Keitel, “The world will one day hold the Wehrmacht responsible for these methods since these things are taking place under its nose.” But Keitel urged Canaris to take the matter no further.

Soon the Vatican began to receive regular, detailed reports of Nazi atrocities in Poland. The information had been gathered by agents of the Abwehr by order of Canaris, who passed them on to Dr. Josef Muller, a devout Catholic and a leading figure in the Catholic resistance to Hitler. And Muller got the reports safely to Rome.

Canaris sent another of his colleagues, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on a flight to Sweden to meet secretly with Bishop Bell of Chichester. Bonhoeffer told Bell of the crimes his nation was committing, and assured Bell of growing resistance in Germany to such acts.

In March 1943, Canaris personally flied to Smolensk to plan Hitler’s assassination with conspirators on the staff of Army Group Center.

The Nuremburg Trials reveal Canaris’s strenuous efforts in trying to put a stop to the crimes of war and genocide committed in Russia by Reinhard Heydrich’s Einsatzgruppen forces. It is also revealed that Canaris prevented the killing of captured French officers in Tunisia just as he saved hundreds of Jews during the war.

In one instance he saved seven Jews from being sent to a concentration camp and certain death by going personally to Himmler, complaining that his Gestapo was arresting his agents. The seven were turned over to the Abwehr and taught a few codes, then smuggled out of Germany.

And Admiral Canaris underlined the Swiss will of resistance and Switzerland’s economic strength and geographic advantages. It was due to the views of Canaris that Hitler gave up his plans to incorporate Switzerland into his New Europe. Shortly before Canaris left office, he paid a visit to Bern, where he expressed to the German Ambassador his satisfaction about the success of their reports.

Canaris appointed his friend, the anti-Nazi Hans Oster, to the number two in the Abwehr agency. From his post, Oster contacted enemies of the regime and turned them into Abwehr agents. The most important of these were Hans Von Dohnanyi, the catholic lawyer Joseph Muller and the protestant priest Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Oster created an anti-Nazi hierarchy in the Abwehr, and soon he directed all of the military plans of the resistance. He used the Abwehr to save people from the Gestapo, to cover resistance actions, to help Jews escape from Germany, and to communicate between the different circles of the resistance.

All of his actions were approved by Admiral Canaris. The commander in chief of the Abwehr supported the resistance, although he claimed that he was too old to take an active part.

Admiral Canaris, along with his second-in-command, Hans Oster, actually helped the Allies while supervising all German espionage, counterespionage, and sabotage. Canaris was revealing almost all of the important German strategy and battle plans to the Allies – from Hitler’s impending western offensive against the Low countries and France to Hitler’s plan to invade Britain. He also misled Hitler into believing that the Allies would not land at Anzio in 1943.

In April that same year, Canaris made contact with the former governor of Pennsylvania, Commander George H. Earle, Roosevelt’s personal representative for the Balkans, stationed in Istanbul. One morning there was a knock on Earle’s hotel room door and there stood – in civilian clothes – Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. The head of the German Secret Service told Earle there were many sensible German people feeling that Hitler was leading their nation down a destructive path. Admiral Canaris continued that an honorable surrender from the German army to the American forces could be arranged.

Earle was convinced of the sincerity of Admiral Canaris and immediately sent an urgent message to Washington via diplomatic pouch, requesting a prompt reply. A month later, Canaris phoned, as had been agreed, but Earle could only say “I am waiting for news, but have none today.”

In the summer of 1943 Canaris met secretly with General Stuart Menzies, Chief of British Intelligence, and William J. Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services, at Santander, Spain. Canaris presented Menzies and Donovan with his peace plan: a cease fire in the West, Hitler to be eliminated or handed over, and continuation of the War in the East.

But though Donovan, Menzies and Canaris reached an agreement on the basis of Canaris’ proposal, President Roosevelt flatly declined to negotiate with “these East German Junkers” and called his presumptuous OSS chief to heel. Canaris’ peace offer was rejected .

That he was being misled by Canaris became evident to Hitler only after the conspirators attempted to kill him in July 1944. Canaris and many others were arrested. The principal prisoners were finally confined at Gestapo cellars at Prinz Albrechtstrasse, where Canaris was kept in solitary confinement, and in chains.

In The Canaris Conspiracy, Manvell and Fraenkel tell, how his cell door was permanently open, and the light burned continually, day and night. He was given only one third of the normal prison rations, and as the winter set in his starved body suffered cruelly from the cold. Occasionally he was humiliated by being forced to do menial jobs, such as scrubbing the prison floor, the SS men mocking him.

On February 7, 1945, Canaris was brought to the Flossenburg concentration camp but he was still ill-treated and often endured having his face slapped by the SS guards. But for months Canaris baffled the SS interrogators with one ruse after another, and he denied all personal complicity in the conspiracy. He never betrayed his fellow participants in the Resistance Movement.

During the waning weeks of the Nazi era, SS Obersturmbannführer Walter Huppenkothen and Sturmbannführer Otto Thorbeckwere detailed to Flossenburg to eliminate Canaris and the otherresistance figures. The SS men staged a bogus “trial” before their men hung the victims.

In the closing days of World War II, in the gray morning hours of April 9, 1945, gallows were erected hastily in the courtyard. Wilhelm Canaris, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Major General Hans Oster, Judge Advocate General Carl Sack, Captain Ludwig Gehre – all were ordered to remove their clothing and were led down the steps under the trees to the secluded place of execution before hooting SS guards. Naked under the scaffold, they knelt for the last time to pray – they were hanged, their corpses left to rot.

Two weeks later the camp was liberated by American troops – on 23 April 1945.

One of Canaris’ fellow-prisoners, the Danish Colonel Lunding, former Director of Danish Military Intelligence, was imprisoned in the cell next to Canaris. He had contact with Canaris shortly before he watched the naked figure of the Admiral being led to execution. Through tapping on the wall of his cell Canaris told him: “This is the end. Badly mishandled. My nose broken. I have done nothing against Germany. If you survive, please tell my wife ..”

After the war, Huppenkothen and Thorbeck stood trial on three occasions, but the courts were never able to satisfactorily dispose of their case. In 1956, the German High Court ruled that this ceremony had been enough to render the murders “legal.” The high court judges also held that the killings were “legal” because the Nazi regime had possessed the right to execute “traitors.” The court, in effect, reconvicted the victims.

One of Canaris’ friends, Hans Bernd Gisevius, tells about the Admiral in his book from 1947 To the Bitter End:

“Canaris hated not only Hitler and Himmler, but the entire Nazi system as a political phenomenon .. He was everywhere and nowhere at once. Everywhere he traveled, at home and abroad and to the front, he always left a whirl of confusion behind him .. In reality this small, frail, and somewhat timid man was a vibrating bundle of nerves. Extremely well read, oversensitive, Canaris was an outsider in every respect. In bearing and manner of work he was the most unmilitary of persons ..”

The secret Spanish evasion routes to save refugee Jews from the holocaust

Names that are bolded….people mentioned in the novel

This is above all, a love story. A true story of love in times of war. Of love for humanity, of love between fellow beings and – why not say so – a story of love between a newly wed Spanish couple: my parents, Eduardo and Ramona.

The setbacks they suffered during their wedding days escaping from the Gestapo in Spain due to their link with one of the greatest political secrets that covered the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar during WWII.

The clandestine organization of the escape routes zigzagging Spain north to south, east to west, to help the victims of Nazism. Those who had started their fleight in Warsaw, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam or Munich, to end up in Gibraltar, Lisbon or in our Summer house in Redondela, by the Bay of Vigo, in Galicia, from where the victims of the Nazi persecution could finally be evacuated, astonishingly avoiding the paraphernalia of Franco’s bureaucracy.

In spite of the difficulties and the intense anxieties of the participants, this is nevertheless the kind side of war. The side that regards life and hope. I’m referring then to one of the clandestine European MI6 humanitarian organizations that allowed thousands of victims to escape from persecution, humiliation, starvation, ill health – and death – outside the battle fields. To a unique team of women and men supervised from Whitehall and centralized in the British Embassy in Madrid between 1940 and 1945. A group of Spanish and English women and men, who after this heroic collaboration never mentioned it outside their most intimate circle of acquaintances. Aloof to the danger involved in their altruistic participatión in the operations that helped to escape thousands of people through the Iberian Peninsula.

Sixty years later, already in the year 2000, and guided by the oral testimonies of my mother, Ramona de Vicente, and by my father’s diary, Eduardo Martínez Alonso, – who had been closely involved with these events as doctor to the British Embassy in Madrid, and to the Spanish Red Cross simultaneously, – backed by several historical publications and documents registered at the Public Records Office in Surrey, and the Foreign Office in Madrid, I managed to gather enough information to form the backbone of these unknown adventures and publish them in ”Embassy y la Inteligencia de Mambrú” in 2003. Finally, I was able – and glad – to announce to the new generations that other positive events had happened behind the scenes of the barbaric past of their grandparents.

Ever since 1945, and for years to come, it was well known that Sweden and Switzerland as neutral countries had been fundamental escape routes for all sorts of war refugees. Countries traditionally concerned with the cause of humanitarian help, and not only since the Nazis took power in 1933, but more so after the open Jewish persecution, when the world began to discover that thousands of Jews disappeared mysteriously, with no justified cause. Until their executions became so obvious that by 1942 the news spread that a dramatic Holocaust was in process in parallel with the IIWW.

Those were the times too, when very few people understood the strategic geographical and political situation of Spain and its significant role in the whole humanitarian process during the war. Mainly because its organization was linked to the British Intelligence, the MI6, under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

With the advance of the Nazi invasion, after 1939 and in less than a year, Berne and Lisbon, traditionally the centers of wartime British Intelligence in the Continent, were forced to divert their porspects somewhere else. Politicians such as Lord Halifax or Chamberlain, and thereafter Winston Churchill, soon understood that due to its strategic situation, Madrid should substitute the former European capitals; it should remain in the limelight, but active in their secret activitis. The obsolete wartime Intelligence teams of WWI were renewed and the experts were sent to Spain. The German Gestapo was a serious threat. Too much would be at risk if drastic measures were not taken soon.

Spain was neutral and it had a conservative government, – certainly anti-Bolchevich,- in spite of the drawback of a totalitarian Head of State and his well-known sympathies with the Axis. And they were starving.

This meant exceptional triangular arrangements with either Portugal or Argentina could be made to alleviate their needs, by forcing their neutrality. There was not much choice either. Neutral Spain seemed safer for the Allied humanitarian purposes than any other European country already under the boot of Nazism. Geographically too, Spain was protected by the Pyrenees, it was a natural escape route to and from the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean and on the way to 2 vital ports: Lisbon and Gibraltar. According to Nigel West, 164 British agents and 22 consuls, supported by their active vice-consuls, were soon spread around the country to back several areas of Whitehall’s plans.

It may be a coincidence that the new ambassador, Samuel Hoare had formerly been chief of the Secret Service in Russia, but after 1940, from him down, a combination of Intelligence and politics at the Madrid Embassy ran all through WWII.

And here I quote Ambassador Hoare to explain in his own words what the situation was.

How can it be that such an important political and historial fact as the rescue of prisioners of war, and the diversion of 30,000 European refugees – Jews and gentile – through Spain, according to S.S. Hoare (pag. 238) – ( I myself think there were at least 100,000 more, off the record ) – under the heroic guidance of the staff at the British Embassy in Madrid has been ignored by historians and politicians for so long? It is striking that two generations later this aspect has not yet been studied in depth, in spite of Samuel Hoare’s explanations published in 1946, together with the further confirmatións of historians such as Nigel West or David Stafford.

I myself must admit that until I saw captain Allan Hillgarth’s photo in David Stafford’s ”Churchill & Secret Service” neither my mother nor I – who knew him for over 40 years -, knew either that he had been Wartime Intelligence Officer appointed to the British Embassy in Madrid. A post he combined with his ”official” job as Naval Attaché and coinciding with my father as house doctor in the 1940’s, a collaboration he had started after graduating in Madrid and Liverpool in the late 20’s.

This discovery was fundamental in encouraging me to continue investigating.

Why was there so much mystery and secrecy behind this extraordinary story for so long? Certainly because the British Secret Service was behind the Spanish escape routes. The real reason why we haven’ t been able to disentangle this interesting war project till now.

The reorganised team of the MI6, MI5, M21, M9, the SIS, of the 1940’s, worked extra hours behind the Spanish Government’s back, mainly since they alternated neutrality with non-belligerance in a pro-axís environemnt. This also ment that they were well trained and forced to keep secrets.

Although S. Hoare doesn’t mention of it specifically, in the explosive atmosphere of 1941 (to use his own words), the diplomats and the Allied experts in Madrid, with the strong collaboration of the British Consulate in Barcelona, inevitably had to trust discreet external collaborators besides their 164 agents, if they were to use the Iberian Peninsula as main support of the humanitarian agreements, ALWAYS keeping the secret. No wonder then that the small but patriotic British colony in Madrid were their main external supporters.

I have my personal doubts that any of these unofficial collaborators ever signed the Secret Service Act, while supporting the Allied cause, but a curious sociological reaction occured once the war was over. Margarita Kearney Taylor, Juan Bourgignon, Janet Logie, (formerly Hoyter), Marjorie Hill, matron at the Hospital Hispano-Inglés, (later the Anglo-American Hospital), Michael Thompson, Tom Harris, Jim Morrison, Michael Creswell, Clayton-Ray, Ben Wyatt, Walter Starkie, Eddie Knoblaugh,- press correspondent in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War – and doctors Fernando Rico, Alfonso Peña, Francisco Luque – director of the Red Cross Hospital in Madrid, -. Eduardo Martínez Alonso, with the help of his nurse Carmen Zafra in Madrid and his brother Bill in Vigo, and the discreet support of a certain Sr. Pan de Soraluce at the Foreign Ministry (mentioned by S.Hoare in passing) and few others, unanimously felt that their clandestine chores had been altogether too secret and dangerous to mention when it was all over. And no one spoke a word. Even the illiterate Galician sailors, Faustino Otero and his sons Faustino and Moncho who rowed many refugees in their modest rowing boat from our house in Redondela to the British Navy ships waiting at the Bay of Vigo, remained silent till their death. Those repressive Franco days lasted 40 years and by the time I decided to spread the news giving details and names, more than 60 years had passed and there weren’t many witnesses left to remember, or ready to speak as openly as my mother.

I agree with Ambassador Hoare that the British Embassy in Madrid wouldn’t have taken their own action in these rescue operations, if the Spanish Government hadn’t placed so many obstacles and delays on the way. But when he insisted that those without papers, the stateless anti-Nazis, the German, French, or European Jews were an insoluble problem if they were not allowed to cross Spain into Gibraltar or Lisbon, at least the Spanish Administration accepted their entrance on condition that the Allies undertook the responsibility of their evacuation. (S. Hoare, page 237). A crucial point in the whole of the humanitarian program where my father and his close firends participated so actively.

Both parties gave for granted then that the ”official” permission from the Spanish Government also ment most evacuations had to be clandestine. Both governments knew too, how strong the German interference was on the internal Ministerial matters and how well informed the Gestapo was of most activities, not to mention one as risky as the rescue of Jews through Spain.

All that responsibility centered in Spain would have been more relaxed, too, if the Allies and the Axis had followed more closely the 1907 Hague Convention. But the war enemies could not center themselves in the ambiguous art. 13 referring to the release or exchange of prisoners of war, the injured and the refugees, – aggravated by the Jewish underground persecution not contemplated anywhere. All this forced the Allies to take what we call in Spanish: ”el camino de en medio” (a middle road). Therefore the humanitarian cause, unfortunately considered much less important than other vital wartime activities, was dealt with: ”a la que te crió” – by improvisation – under the strenous supervision of a smart, professional British Intelligence team placed almost by chance at the corner of the Monte-Esquinza and Fernando el Santo streets in Madrid.

It was not until 1943 that 2,000 prisoners of war were exchanged simultaneously in the port of Barcelona. But many others had already crossed the Spanish borders behind the dictator’s back, and more still were to do so, through pathless routes.
When the Irish lady Margarita Taylor decided to settle in Spain and open her Tea-Room ”Embassy” (from where my book takes its title) in the most elegant street in Madrid, Pº de la Castellana, 12 on the corner with Ayala, in 1931, she chose to live in the most provincial European capital.Therefore, Margarita, a well known woman of the world, must have had other things in mind by then. Only two blocks away from the British Embassy and openly showing its name in English to the aristocrats living in the neighbourhood palaces, she deliverately wanted to gather the upper classes and the monarchist remains of these influential people in Spain’s social, economic and political spheres, around her, after royalty was sent into exile.

The last, exclusively Spanish romantic monarchists visited ”Embassy” in a kind of sentimental ritual to evoke, without mentioning, the British-Spanish queen Victoria Eugenia married to Alphonse XIII. Margarita’s intentión was to mix these aristocrats and elitist bourgeoisie of the Barrio Salamanca with the foreign diplomats from the American, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch or Norwegian embassies nearby. As well as the British businessmen arriving in Spain, attracted by the indirect benefits they could obtain out of the former Battemberg princess.

That happened about a hundred years ago.

These were the same group of people who later started the English Club, the Anglo Spanish Hospital, the Bank of London, the rubgy teams amongst university students, the first flying schools; they spread the railways across the country, exploited the Minas de Rio Tinto, founded the British Institute and most important of all: the Spanish Red Cross inaugurated and closely sustained by Queen Victoria-Eugenia since 1926.

It was a variety of conservative, upperclass people, both foreign and Spanish, who, like Margarita, were already well settled in Madrid by the 1940’s. THESE where precisely the ones who didn’t hesitate to join and help when the war started. And as soon as they found out that hands were needed they were ready to risk themselves and share their homes, money, clothes and rationed food, that is to say: they joined in solidarity to help as they could.

So the most frivolous madrileños and international snobs in town, therefore, the most unimaginable people for the Spanish Authorities, formed a small but close network of clandestine resistance, without hidding.Totally ignoring those Francoists whose distorted idea of Catholic charity, generosity, or compassion, meant almost the contrary to what it did to a Protestant. The culture of the majority of ”Embassy’s” clients.

This is how, thanks to the heroic, warm-hearted Margarita Taylor, her Tea Room became one of the main supports of the British Embassy among the Allied European centres, to attend the refugees – Jews, stateless people, soldiers and desertors of the European armies taken by Nazism and escaping from Barbarity.

Spanish neutrality could favour these unexpected cooperators, but due to their privileged social situation, they also knew how influential the Gestapo was in the Ministry of Interior,- the Spanish equivalent to the Home Office, – under the fierce, tight control of Serrano-Suñer, also closely scrutinized by Lazar, the obscure German activist in charge of spreading German propaganda in the Spanish media very well situated at the German Embassy in Madrid.

The discreet heroes gathered socially in el Pº de la Castellana, 12, paid no attention to such manipulations, while they occupied themselves in opening the way out to thousands upon thousands of victims escaping through different Spanish frontiers to Portugal or Gibraltar. Many of whom had crossed the Pyrenees illegally and were picked up from the Figueras prison, or the concentation camp in Miranda de Ebro, either in Spanish Red Cross ambulances, (sent by Dr. Francisco Luque from Madrid) under false medical pretenses signed by my father, or diplomatic cars flying small Union Jacks.

Other refugees were able to relax in a friendly atmosphere at Margarita’s home above her tea-room and would later to end up – perhaps – escaping through our Galician house in Faustino’s rowing boat towards the Bay of Vigo. All this after my father had signed their false death certificates at our kitchen table and Michael Creswell (in charge of MI9, Escape & Evasion Service) had handed them a new and ready-made identity, prepared by David Thompson at the Madrid British Embassy to avoid any possible further persecution.

I think it is convenient to clarify too that the rescue of Jews from 1940-42 through this particular escape route that I know of, was, as I said before, organized: ”a la que te crió”, mostly improvised and not well-organized for this particular purpose. In this first phase of war, the MI6 may have planned their Spanish escape routes for military prisoners of war, crashed airmen and stranded submarine sailors connected to the French resistance, BUT the aid to Jewish refugees was added due to Winston Churchill’s personal interest in helping the parallel victims of war, and the only way to do so was by disguising certain information.

This meant that the rescued people were treated as Poles, Czechs, Austrians or Germans. Their religion or race was avoided for extra protection. It would have been impossible to do so as Jews. We have to remember Israel did not exist as a country until 1948 and the only way to avoid their Jewish condition was to link them to their country of origin. Certainly a double risk for the rescuers, but it remains as a confusing matter amongst Jewish people today.

Most of these Anglo-Spanish WWII adventures had a happy ending thanks to the good will, sensibility, compassion and respect to their fellow beings – irrelevant to their ideology, origins or race – of these curious group of friends unoficially organized in Spain and who understood the importance of helping the needed in times of war. And how important it was too, to keep it in secret and to themselves. They all had lived long enough in Spain to understand that in those Franco days an indiscretion could cost many lives.

Although far from the dramas of the battle fields, they felt committed with this international war, more for humanitarian purposes than due to a specific political inclination.
God bless them all.

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The Seamstress (Title in the UK) by Maria Duenas

Comments by Kirsty Hooper

Kirsty Hooper  is a specialist in Spanish and Galician Studies at the University of Liverpool, where she’s worked since 2004. She specialises above all in the culture and literature of Galicia, but is now branching out to work on the Basque Country and the Canary Islands too. She’s especially interested in Anglophone communities in Spain and Hispanic communities in the UK, and her ‘Hispanic Liverpool’ project ( has traced some 2000 Liverpudlians of Hispanic origin.


The Seamstress is the new English translation by Daniel Hahn of María Dueñas’s blockbuster 2009 novel El tiempo entre costuras (literally: The Time Between Seams). And what a blockbuster it is! Since its publication in June 2009, it has barely been out of the bestseller lists – more than two years later, in September 2011, it was still at no. 4 in the fiction ‘top ten’ published by ¿Qué Leer? And, as I write this review in February 2012, Spanish audiences are eagerly awaiting the forthcoming Antena Tres TV series, starring Adriana Ugarte, Tristán Ulloa, and Raúl Arévalo.

The Seamstress is an enthralling example of the current boom in Spanish historical novels that walk the delicate line between fiction, memory and national history. Since the start of the new millennium, as Spaniards strive to come to terms with the repercussions of their country’s turbulent 20th century, they have increasingly turned to novelists such as Dulce Chacón (La voz dormida, 2002; translated as The Sleeping Voice), Julia Navarro (Dime quien soy, 2009) and Almudena Grandes (Corazón helado, 2007; Inés y la alegría, 2010). Usually told from the perspective of a single individual or family, these novels have torn open the Pandora’s box of collective memory, which had been firmly shut in 1978 by thepacto del olvido (pact of forgetting) that underpinned Spain’s post-Franco transition to democracy.

Dueñas’s negotiation of this delicate line is informed by her professional background as a Professor of English at the University of Murcia. Like Chacón, who drew on interviews carried out with surviving Republican ex-prisoners, Dueñas has gone back to the source in her desire to recreate the fabric of daily life in Spanish Morocco during the war-torn 1930… In researching this wide-ranging background, Dueñas made use of a substantial scholarly bibliography (which appears at the end of the novel), but she also worked with the La Medina Association of former residents of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco and the Tetouan-Asmir Association that works for the city’s current development, as well as drawing on the ‘Moroccan recollections’ unearthed by her own mother and aunts.…


Rosalinda Powell Fox, daughter of the Raj and Spain A woman has not lived, unless she has been loved and hated, envied and talked about

Japanese proverb used by Rosalinda Powell Fox in her book.
I have been lucky enough to have spent many hours talking, asking questions and passing many a warm afternoon in the shade of the flower scented patio at the home of this great aristocratic and beautiful woman who passed away at the enviable age of ninety six.
Rosalinda daughter of the Raj spent most of her youth in India where she married at the tender age of 16.   After given birth to her only child Jonny, she developed bovine tuberculosis. Diagnosed as incurable her husband lost interest in his ailing wife and with a pension of 30 pounds a month she rejoined her family in Britain.  Her mother and sisters concerned for her feeble health sent her to Switzerland to be treated by a family friend and well known doctor. Strapped to her bed with her small son by her side and a typewriter gently resting on her chest, she began to write her enchanting book later to be published under the title “The Grass and the Asphalt” Bored and jaded Rosalinda called her medic and posed the question about her life expectancy.  ‘Seven to eight years if you stay in bed’  ‘Bring me my clothes she ordered’ and in 1935 headed to warmer climates.  Spain and Portugal would be more beneficial for her delicate health.  With the intimidation of her mortality always present she began her mysterious adventures.
Whilst attending the German Olympics in 1936 she met the then Spanish military attaché in Berlin, Colonel Juan Luis Beigbeder who would later become her lover and subsequently minister for the exterior in the Government of Francisco Franco.  Her relationship with this interesting man, many years her senior was to have serious repercussions on Rosalinda’s life.  During World War II Franco suspected her of spying for the British.  Britain took the opposing view and she was refused entry into Gibraltar.  Undeniably she had a great influence on Col. Beigbeder, one of the motives for which Franco had Beigbeder put under house arrest in Ronda. Rumour has it that Churchill stated ‘the war might have taken a very different course where it not for Rosalinda’ Spain had courted the Axis powers during Franco’s rule. Rosalinda was also arrested in Morocco by the French when she alleged that she was an unwilling witness to the French army’s intention to invade the Spanish zone. It leaves little to the imagination as to why this robust voyager had driven miles to the French area on a road hardly fit for donkeys.
This most unusual and valiant lady was indeed a bizarre sight driving around Spain in a Rolls Royce. She also spent time in the famous cafes of Madrid frequented by members of Franco’s government and high society.    She travelled to Portugal when it became too dangerous for anyone implicated with the regime to stay in Spain. There she was known to have collaborated with the American intelligence services.
With the end of the war, Rosalinda headed to Guadarranque where she bought a property to await the release of her cherished Juan. Here he would live out the rest of his life enjoying the views across the bay to his much beloved Africa.  Their personal house was built and the interior refurbished with exquisite carved wood from their residence in Tetuan. To this day it had been rather painful for me to have learnt that the present habitants of the property have removed some of these wooden panels.
On the shore of the bay of Gibraltar, this little haven comprised of several chozas (huts) where few locals resided. Rosalinda immediately ordered the building of brick houses, which to this day have the British bulldog above their entrances.  She also had a small wall erected to prevent the river flooding the village and planted many trees. This articulate personality planned and spoke about her plans for a book about her existence in this locality.   Unfortunately she was never to write the book and to this day the facts relating to her life and properties, in what is still a small hamlet are obscured by intrigue and mystery.


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