BOOKS - The Center for Basque Studies Reader's Club

Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times

The experience of ordinary people in the exceptional circumstances that predominated from the start of the Spanish Civil War to the liberation of Europe and end of World War II is the subject of War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936–1946, edited by Sandra Ott. Here are just a few of the stories taken from the book:

Nazario Sarasola from Lekeitio, Bizkaia, a priest who supported the Basque nationalists against Franco’s uprising and who was, upon Franco’s troops conquering Bizkaia, denounced to Falangist (fascist) authorities by three of his neighbors: a baker, a carpenter, and a businessman as being a “fervent nationalist” and “an enemy of the New Spain.” Arrested in 1937, he was held in prison until 1940, when he was released but banished to internal exile in Almería. His case demonstrates the particular ferocity that the Franco regime held for priests—the supposed defenders of the traditional and conservative Spain—who declared themselves for the republic and who defended Basque autonomy. See chapter 2 by Peter Anderson, “From the Pulpit to the Dock”

Charles Mitzflicker, an Eastern European Jew and illegal French immigrant who endured a five-day train ride hidden in an egg-filled freight car—surviving on raw eggs—to escape Anti-Semitism in his native country as Fascism overtook Europe. When Paris was captured by the Nazis he became a member of the famous FTP-MOI, a resistance group made up mainly of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. He recounts, in a documentary by Mosco Boucault, his experience fighting the Nazis and his remorse that he could not do more. He also shares with the camera the more human and less heroic acts of resistance: stuffing an elongated bomb into his pants sausage-style and a bout with hemorrhoids on a mission that gave a new meaning to the term “explosion.” For more on the FTP-MOI, see Wikipedia, and these videos from the French-language show newsreels shot by the Nazi occupiers about the activity of the FTP-MOI. Video 1, Video 2, Video 3. See chapter 8 by Brett Bowles, “Historiography, Memory, and the Politics of Form in Mosco Boucault’s ‘Terrorists in Retirement’”

Rudolph “Rudi” Mosaner, a Tyrolean-Austrian-German soldier in the German Army. His tape-recorded memoir, passed down through his family, present him as an ironic participant in the war more concerned with living the “good life” than fighting for the German cause. As he travels through war-torn Europe (France, Greece, Hungary, Russia, to name a bit), his eigensinnig (unruly) personality and distancing from events—even in his telling of them—create a vivid portrait of life “on top” in occupied Europe and the disintegration of the Third Reich from the bottom up. See chapter 11 by Andrew Stuart Bergerson and Maria Stehle, “Rudolph Mosaner’s ‘Wanderjahre’: Irony and Impunity in Nazi Europe”