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13 de gen. 2016


In defence of Carles Rahola and Carles Puigdemont
Ignasi Aragay

I was moved on re-reading, at a single sitting, "Carles Rahola, afusellat" (Carles Rahola, executed), a book by Josep Benet, published in 1999.

I was saddened and angered at Franco's unjust decision, on 15 March 1939, to have that good man shot, and at the ignominious use that some media and some politicians have now made of his memory. How dare they? Do they really know who Carles Rahola was, what he thought, what he did? Democracy cannot be defended with lies and forgetfulness. Democracy cannot be defended by distorting the figure of a peaceful, democratic and deeply human civic example of tolerance, as many letting figues have left testimony, from Tomàs Garcés to Josep Pla, or as corroborated by the failed efforts by conspicuous Franco supporter who tried to prevent his supposedly legal murder, such as historian Fernando Valls Taberner and soldier Antonio Correa Véglison (at that moment civil governor of Girona), Miquel Mateu i Pla (mayor of Barcelona at the time) or bishop Josep Cartañà.
To no avail: the Caudillo signed the order.  In a farcical court martial, with no legal guarantee, the fact that Carles Rahola had helped save priests during the war years was ignored. He was sentenced to death for something he was not: a "separatist". One of the pieces of the incriminating evidence was an article that has now been used to brutally attack the new president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, a man who loves Girona and Catalonia, just like Rahola.

He was a leftist, Republican catalanist, a profoundly believer, a man of letters and a family man who never belonged to any party, and above all an excellent person . Even the president of the military court, in an unusual gesture for that time, he disagreed with the conviction, with a dissenting vote.

He was a member of the Royal Academy of History in Madrid and the Royal Academy of Literature in Barcelona, overwhelmed by the revolution and war, in those years of war Rahola had virtually stopped writing in the press. He had been buried himself in his work, his files, in his home. Given his spirit of concord and peace, everything had been shaken up. He only published a few texts of historical dissemination, with just two exceptions.  
When in 1938 Franco's aviation, consisting mainly of Italian and German pilots, intensified their bombing he broke his silence to write against these barbaric acts. On 8 February 1938 he published in "L'Autònom", a Girona newspaper run by his brother Darius, the article "Shelters and gardens" in which he decried the renovar of a garden for children to make an air raid shelter. And on August 6 of the same year he wrote "Heroism", in which he used the prologue written years earliest for the translation of the homonymous work by Maeterlinck and in which, as explained by Josep Benet, he spoke of the heroic behaviour of the Belgian people in the face of the invasion of their country by the German armies during the First World War. The article ended with a brief reference to the peoples suffering from the war in Spain.
It read: "Using the same methods, the Germans, along with the Italians, are today engaged in the methodical, scientific and systematic destruction of Catalonia and other sister lands. And today, as yesterday, our hope is firm and fervent. The invaders will be expelled from Catalonia, as they were from the peaceful Belgium, and our land will, under the Republic, once again, in work in peace, bé master of its freedom and its destiny." Puigdemont has now been reproached for the last sentence of this quote, taken quite out of context. Is any comment required? The two articles were the main pieces of evidence used to get Rahola executed.

In 1934 Rahola had published a historical monograph on the death penalty in Girona in the 18th and 19th centuries . It ended as follows: "It is to be hoped, on the grounds of humanity and with a Christian spirit [...] , that the gallows will never again be erected in the august space of the noble and beloved Girona." Two years later there were executions once again (three soldiers accused of having taken part in the Franco uprising). During the war the Republicans executed 15 more. At the beginning of the dictatorship executions soared. They peaked at 69 in a single day.

Hours before his execution, on death row, Rahola, 58, wrote to his family: "My dearest Rosa, my beloved children, Ferran, Maria and Carolina: I take leave of you for eternity. You all know how pure and bright my life has been; you all know how honestly I have lived; how I have worked with faith; how intensely I have loved you. I go towards the afterlife, quietly and serenely. [...] I do not leave any enemy in this land, in the beatiful Catalonia that I loved, in my beloved Girona, nor outside it."
Let us show respect for this great man.

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