Separatists' Treatment Of Hostages
Headless Bodies Washed Up On Sea Coast Of France
One man in ten, it has been said, inherits instincts that, given the opportunity, will transform hint into an animal more cruel than .the most feared inhab itant of the jungle. When to a cruel nature is added the ingenuity of a normal human intellect the result could almost surpass the bounds of imagination.
This is the kindest interpretation of the behaviour of the Basque Separatists since the beginning of the war. The Marquis Merry del Val describes below the terrible tales of hardship, torture and death that has been meted out by the Basque Minority to supporters of the Nationalist cause. Ten per cent. only of the Basques have allied themselves with the Reds under the leadership of Senor Aguirre.
From the MARQUIS MERRY DEL VAL
Jute, 18, 1937. To the Editor, the Catholic Herald. Ste.—On January 8, you were good enough to publish a letter signed by myself. In that communication which you entitled "Basque Behaviour " accounts were given of the treatment meted out to 58 women hostages on board the steamer Aranzazu Mendi in the port of Bilbao and of the desecration of churches in the towns of Durango and Amorebieta.
Now that Bilbao has been taken by force of arms—for the town did not surrender as certain Separatists would have us believe—my narrative has been fully confirmed on both respects.
I have given the Catholic Herald to several women who spent that horrible month on board the Aranzazu Mendi. They have recognised the absolute accuracy of the description of the life of intense and incessant suffering related to me by one of their number.
The families of Don Jorge de Satrtistegui, of Lieutenant Colonel Don Felix de Churruca and 'Marquis de Arriluce de lbarra insist on ascribing their assassination to the Separatists Basques and not to the Socialists, Communists or Anarchists. All three gentlemen belonged to conspicuous Basque families like Don Victor Pradere and his son and Senor Beunza, shot at Fort Guadalupe near Fuenterrabia. They were all exemplary Catholics. All were defenders of King Alfonso, or, in the case of the three latter, of the Carlist cause. This was their only crime. for every one of them was a public spirited citizen.
Catalogued for Assassination In the case of Marquis de Arriluce de Ibarra, his eldest son and two members of the well-known family of Zubiria, conspicuous business-men and captains of industry, their murder was staged so that it might appear to be the unpremeditated act of a band of Communist sailors from the battleship Jaime / who, incited by women belonging to the dregs of the population, had boarded the hostage-ship, Cabo Quilates, pistol and knife in hand, to avenge the sinking of a Red cruiser in the Mediterranean by Franco's seamen.
It is now known, however, that these mutineers stained with the blood of their own officers were provided with lists and that they called up their prospective victims one by one from the holds of which they read out the numbers.
Who are the moral authors of this dread ful crime? Who moved the assassin s arm? The murdered men, whose names make up a long list, had many trade rivals among the Basque Separatists and were conspicuous by their love of Spain and their activities in favour of the King. A day will come in which the responsibility of their cruel death will be fixed on the guilty parties. "Murder will out," says the proverb, and it will be known whether the killing was done as many already assert by order of President Aguirre and his Ministers or not.
Durango as it Really was In the same way the vile desecration of the churches of Santa Maria and Santa Ana at Durango described by me has been fully confirmed. A Basque pamphlet Euzko Deya (The voice of the Basques, published in Paris by one known for his obsequiousness to Queen Maria Christina and King Alfonso X111th in days of yore, accuses me in three tongues of deliberate mendacity inasmuch as a priest was killed by one of General Franco's bombs at Santa Maria in the act of saying Mass.
This fact, unfortunately true, is quoted as a proof that the church was never disaffected from its proper use.
For my challenger's greater confusion I have many connections at Durango. And exactly as I received the information of the sacrilegious conversion to military purposes of the two churches in question, from inhabitants of the town so am I now I assured by the same persons and others that on January 8 last, and long after, one was used by the militiamen for a barracks and later an ammunition-dump; the other for housing military stores.
Only a few days before the advance of General Mola's forces were the three different above-mentioned places of worship restored to their proper destination too late for the change to be known to the enemy. Hence the bombardment with its dire consequences, for Durango was an advanced base and district H.Q. As the humane and Catholic Basque Separatists had not removed the population from the approaching firing line, perhaps because many belonged to the Carlist party, which stands for a united Spain, the loss of life was also considerable.
Young Carlists Murdered
The Separatists did not hesitate, in spite of their Catholicity, to execute in cold blood every young Carlist they caught on his way to join Saint Ignatius's Regiment and other units when they rose for God, Spain and the King in the wake of Mola's banners. On one day alone fourteen young men were led away to the cemetery in a batch there to be shot without trial. And these young heroes went to their death chanting the Rosary through the streets.
So much for Durango. Let us now turn again to Basque Behaviour.
Two Descriptions A Catholic newspaper, El Diario Vasco, of San Sebastian in its editions of 23rd, 25th, 26th and 27th of last June and again on 2nd and 3rd of July of this year publishes two accounts of the life of misery and torture led by the male hostages at Bilbao from August 9, 1936 to June 15, 1937.
The first of these descriptions was from Don Juan Gomez Acebo, Marquis de Zurgena. a Madrid business man. He was passing the summer at Zarauz, a Basque bathing beach about twenty-five miles to the west of Sari Sebastian when arrested with his wife. mother and other members of his family last July.
The old lady obtained her liberty with difficulty but the Marques and Marquesa were imprisoned at San Sebastian and later put on board the hostage-ship Aranzazu Mendi. This boat was under the authority of Basque Separatists, a circumstance to which the Marquis probably owes his life.
Santander Soviet Dictator
The second narrative flows from the pen of Don Manuel Miguel a native of Santander, the only important port of Castile situated to the west of Bilbao. Here, outside the Basque country, a Soviet Republic has been established in connection with, but separated from, Valencia. It is ruled by one Bruno Alonso, a man of the type of Largo Caballero and Prieto, a Socialist extremist, practically undistinguishable from a Communist. This individual has put the administration of the town of Santander itself in the hands of Juan Ruiz,
former waiter in a local cafe. It would appear that Aguirre, President of the microscopic " Republic of Eueltadi," and one or two of his former Ministers, have taken
refuge at Santander and are housed in the Palace of la Magdalena, King Alfonso XIIIth's summer residence.
Aguirre's position is that of the Negus of Abyssinia when he fled his country
and took refuge in Jerusalem. Like the Negus he will be dropped by the Powers which support the Spanish Popular Front as soon as they haven° more use for him. About 30,000 men of his army have managed to escape from General Franco's onslaught and retreat with their President from Bilbao. A certain number are said to be concentrated at the little sea-port of Laredo in the province of Santander. There they have been obliged to defend themselves against the Communists and Anarchists who are masters of the capital.
Headless Bodies in French Seas
Crimes of indiscribable cruelty have been committed under the reign of Red Terror all over Spain. None worse than at San tander. Details are not yet available but the whole of France has been horrified by the number of headless and mutilated corpses washed up all through the Winter, Spring and early Summer on the beaches of the western coast. As their arrival did not coincide with the Bilbao massacres it is safe to conclude that they were borne on the strong current running along the north coast of Spain and the Atlantic coast of France.
According to the opinion of the physicians who have examined them, these remains are those of men and women of the upper classes who must have been imprisoned in a single place of detention, and eaten exactly the same food. The remnants of clothing still clinging to the bodies are of Spanish origin.
It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that they are those of hostages shut up in the hull of the steamer, Alfonso Perez, in the bay of Santander. It Ls known that nany of these have been tnassacred to make room for new arrivals on this vessel where 800 people were confined in a space calculated for half that number.
Many others of their fellow citizens have been thrown down from the local lighthouse on the rocks below.
Impression Hastily Amended
Senor Miguel's first impression on his arrival at Bilbao after these experiences was one of peace and quiet, because at that time people were not being murdered in their houses nor were Communists and Anarchists fighting pitched battles in the streets.
He was soon to change his mind, however, when he became acquainted with the happenings on board the steamer Cabo Quilate.s. which, he relates, in a fashion, that tallies with Marquis de Zurgena's story of what he witnessed and suffered on the Aranzazu Mendi.
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