Fieldnotes: pink lists and the pink triangle

A few short notes on why I chose to use male protagonists and antagonists in my Los Nefilim series, and maybe a few historical facts that not many people know. There are women in the novel, as well, and I adore writing them, because they’re all so vicious (Carme, Sofia, and the Corvo twins to name a few).

The thing is, though, the books originally started with Guillermo as the protagonist. As I became more involved with different people online, I realized that my novel with Guillermo, Diago, and Miquel followed every terrible trope out there. In my case, multiple rejections became a second chance.

I considered flipping the genders and making them all women. Then I spent some time studying the various time periods. As I did, I found that laws against homosexuality were generally written against men, going back to the Visigothic Code, which specifically addressed sodomy and no other form of same-sex love. The code itself states that anyone accused of sodomy “not only suffer emasculation, but also the penalty prescribed by ecclesiastical decree for such offences.” [1] Ecclesiastical decrees during the 13th century dictated the death penalty for sodomy. [2]

Women, on the other hand, were (and quite often still are) seen under the false assumptions that they are either: a) naturally affectionate or b) not in control of their own desires. There is the added perspective that, seen through the male gaze, f/f copulation can be arousing to males, and therefore less likely to be seen as a punishable offence.

Regardless of the reasoning, as time moved on, the persecution against gay men remained in place. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that both psychologists and physicians began to study sex and gender associations more openly. One of the most renowned was Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a German physician who founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, which pioneered “the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights.” [3]

Hirschfeld believed that "homosexuality was part of the plan of nature and creation" like other forms of love and affection. In 1919, he co-wrote and acted in the film Anders als die Andern ("Different From the Others"). Conrad Veidt, a prominent German actor who makes a cameo in Where Oblivion Lives, played one of the first homosexual characters ever written for cinema in this film. Because of this, he is Rudi Grier’s hero.

Hirschfeld, for his part, uses his role to play himself and makes an attempt to educate his audience. A portion of the film is devoted to Hirschfeld testifying in court that “the persecution of homosexuals belongs to the same sad chapter of history in which the persecutions of witches and heretics is inscribed."

Unfortunately, Hirschfeld became a Nazi target in the early 1930s. He escaped arrest only because he was on a book tour when the library at Hirschfeld's Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute of Sexology) was raided on 10 May 1933. The Nazis burned thousands of books.

In Spain, France, and Germany (where the majority of the Los Nefilim series takes place), police kept lists of known homosexuals. Pierre Seel, a young Frenchman, frequented Steinbach Square in Alsace, which was a place where men went to meet for sexual encounters. Unfortunately for him, he one day lost a treasured watch to a thief. He went to a police station to report the theft and found himself on the receiving end of a lecture from the detective. Seel didn’t know for certain, but based on later action by the Gestapo, he realized the detective must have placed his name on a list of known homosexuals. [4]

In Germany, these were known as "Pink Lists." When the Nazis seized power, they rounded up these men and told them to report to Gestapo headquarters. Seventeen year old Pierre Seel was likewise summoned by the Gestapo to be interred in a concentration camp.

After the murder of Ernst Röhm, the laws against homosexuality (women were still exempt) became stricter. The obsessively homophobic Heinrich Himmler had the Gestapo step up their raids. In 1937, he told SS leaders that “it was regrettable that gay men could not be killed, but at least they could be detained.” [5]

According to Richard Plant, in his book, The Pink Triangle, between the years 1933-1944 between 50,000 to 63,000 men, 4,000 of whom were juveniles, were convicted of homosexuality under Germany’s infamous Paragraph 175. [6] Forced to wear a pink triangle, these men were detained in the concentration camps and suffered harsh treatment from both the guards and the inmates.

While German law required consent for castration, several gay men were castrated against their will. In order to “cure” the men of their homosexuality, men wearing the pink triangle were forced into particularly hard labor. They were often isolated in separate barracks, where they were forced to sleep with the lights on and their hands above the blankets at all times.

At the end of World War II, gay men were prohibited from seeking reparations for their time in the concentration camps, because homosexuality was still against the law. The laws in most countries didn't change until the mid- to late-60s. Even then many men were too ashamed to come forward. Where the Nazis failed to kill them, society turned them into pariahs. Some, such as Pierre Seel, married and forced themselves into heterosexual marriages. (Seel's ended in divorce.)

In spite of numerous books and studies of the holocaust, I was able to find only three or four books devoted entirely to the men who wore the pink triangle (these are just the ones that I’ve read):

  • Herger, Heinz [trans. by David Fernbach]. The men with the pink triangle: the true, life-and-death story of homosexuals in the Nazi death camps. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 1980.

  • Plant, Richard. The pink triangle: the Nazi war against homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt, 1988.

  • Seel, Pierre. I, Pierre Seel, deported homosexual. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

So what does all of this have to do with Los Nefilim?

Well, it all sort of goes back to my decision to do things differently with the original story. You see, Guillermo started as the protagonist for the Los Nefilim world, but the more I wrote, the more I realized this was Diago’s story. If I changed his gender, then I cheated him of his story, one that has been little more than a footnote in most history books.

Writing Los Nefilim from a woman's point of view would have drastically changed the characters' perception of the rapidly changing world. By keeping the male point of view in these books, I can balance Miquel’s hope for a more tolerant world with Diago’s pragmatism. Later, in Where Oblivion Lives, Diago's actions with a young German man take on more poignancy because both must remain hidden from the other for different reasons.

More than anything, I want to show you what Hirschfeld wanted to show his audience with Anders als die Andern ("Different From the Others"). That is why my cast is predominantly male.

If you're looking for kick-ass women, I can direct you to a ton of good books, but I'm keeping my boys, because they have a story to tell, too. It begins in 1931 in Barcelona, in a novella called In Midnight’s Silence …
__________
[1] FLAVIUS EGICA, KING. Book III, Title V, Section VI. Concerning Sodomy, and the Manner in which the Law should be Enforced.

[2] Michael Goodrich Ph.D. (1976) Sodomy in Medieval Secular Law, Journal of Homosexuality, 1:3, 295-302.

[3] Goltz, Dustin. "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Movements", In Lind, Amy; Brzuzy, Stephanie (eds.). Battleground: Women, Gender, and Sexuality: Volume 2. Greenwood Publishing Group: Westport, CT, 2008.

[4] Seel, Pierre. I, Pierre Seel, deported homosexual. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

[5] Wachsmann, Nikolaus. KL: a history of the Nazi concentration camps. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

[6] Plant also notes that six lesbians were arrested, which is considered a "bewildering statistic, since sex between women was not against the law."

Hey, hey, it's release day for Where Oblivion Lives!

It’s finally release day for Where Oblivion Lives, and the book kicks off with an awesome review at RockStarLit Book Asylum!

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“I would have given this book six stars if GoodReads would have let me. Well worth checking out and quite easy to jump in at this point. But, I can guarantee if you’re like me, you’ll want to go back and catch this series from the start.” —Jennifer (BunnyReads)

I’ve got an interview coming up on Thursday at the Fantasy Hive, where I’ll be talking about the novel, and I’ll be at MystiCon this weekend for a ton of excellent panels. You can find all my comings and goings at my Events page.

If you didn’t pre0rder, you can still get a copy at:

Scuppernong Books HarperCollins | IndieBound

The talented Vikas Adam narrates the audiobook, which is available from Audible.

I've got news: MystiCon, Greensboro Bound, and ConCarolinas

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Time got away from me during the final half of 2018. I had so many things happen—some were quite wonderful and others not so much. The upshot of it is that I simply didn’t have a lot of time to blog. The next Los Nefilim novel was due on February 8, 2019, and due to many circumstances beyond my control, I was woefully behind in writing it. Likewise, the deadlines for helping my Pitch Wars mentee, Elvin Bala, were also falling roughly into that time frame. Working with Elvin took no time at all … the novel, Carved from Stone and Dream, almost killed me.

Emerson inspecting early copies of where oblivion lives and she gives them black cat approval.

Emerson inspecting early copies of where oblivion lives and she gives them black cat approval.

So I essentially dropped everything that wasn’t novel or Pitch Wars related and disappeared to get ‘er done, and I did, we did, everything worked out, and I took this past weekend off and died ded and rested. Now I’m back to tell you about Where Oblivion Lives and gear up for promo and cons in 2019.

I spent a little time tweaking the webpage to make things easier to find. You can see a list of categories in the righthand sidebar.

I’m working on an interview for the Fantasy Hive and a couple of guest posts this week. In preparation for upcoming conventions, I’m devising panel topics to submit. Speaking of conventions, I’m also getting geared up to hit the con trail in 2019.

Cons and festivals

On February 22-24, I’ll be attending MystiCon in Roanoke, Virginia (you can find my full schedule here), and on April 5-7, I’ll be at RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia

May is going to be a busy month. I’m very excited that I will be attending Greensboro Bound (May 16-19), a local literary festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. Then I will be at ConCarolinas, which is hosting Deep South Con 57 (May 31-June 2) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

November 22-24 will find me back in sweet Charleston, South Carolina for AtomaCon. I lived in Charleston during the mid-to-late 1980s and haven’t visited the city in my years, so I’m greatly looking forward to heading south again.

So that’s it for now. There will be a lot more in the coming weeks.

Watch for me …

A reminder: Goodreads giveaway for advance copies of WHERE OBLIVION LIVES

Just a reminder, in case you missed the first blitz of tweets, my publisher is hosting a Goodreads giveaway from December 3, 2018 - January 1, 2019 for copies of Where Oblivion Lives. This giveaway is U.S. only.

For those of you who don’t know: I’m very excited about this novel. It’s a mixture of all the things I love: a 1930s noir vibe, a Gothic haunted house, and historical fantasy all swirled together.

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I also love writing about Diago and Miquel, because they have something I crave in my fiction: an emotionally healthy relationship. All people are broken to some extent. It’s how we prop one another up during those bad times that makes us healthy. And I wanted to write something that I’ve seen other authors do successfully: that couples can be tender and loving with one another without robbing the story of tension.

If you want to read about some of the historical background for Where Oblivion Lives, you can check out the Fieldnotes category in the sidebar. I’ve written several articles about the historical settings in Where Oblivion Lives and will be adding to that category periodically as I move through the next two books.

I’ve been working on the blog and fixing a lot of the categories so that things will be easier to find. I’m also hard at work on the next novel in the Los Nefilim series, Carved from Stone and Dream.

I’ll be around.

Watch for me …

a poem, a title, and how all this works in publishing

A very quick note on book titles. When I pitched the Los Nefilim series, I wrote a proposal that consisted of the first ten thousand words of the first book, a three-page synopsis (roughly … okay, three and a quarter, so what?), and two very brief proposals, meaning a paragraph each, for the how I envisioned the next two books in the series to play out.

As part of the proposal, I gave titles to all three books. That is because this is usually how proposals are submitted, although I’m sure some authors list Book #2 and Book #3, as well, who knows? I’m just speaking from my own experience.

Ask any author, and they will most often tell you that they hate coming up with a title for their books. It’s serious torture. We’re trying to think of something unique enough to stand out while remaining brief enough for readers to remember. It’s a lot like writing poetry, except you only get to write one line and it can’t be too many words, because it has to fit on the cover of a book, and it also has to essentially capture the essence of your story and SURE THAT’S EASY! NOT!

In my case, the original titles that I proposed for the Los Nefilim novels were: Where Oblivion Dwells; Carved from Stone and Dream; and A Song with Teeth. These are the titles that wound up in the contract, for yea, this is how contracts are written—with titles, because publishers and agents and writers and editors and lawyers love details, because legal and binding and all that.

Of the three titles, I’m only going to talk about the first book for the purposes of this post. I got the title from a poem by Luis Cernuda entitled: “Donde Habite el Olvido.” I’ve seen the title translated to both “Where Oblivion Dwells” and “Where Oblivion Lives,” depending on the translator.

For those who are unfamiliar with Cernuda’s work, the poem is:

I

Forbidden Pleasures: Luis Cernuda New Selected Poems [1924-1949] , translated by Stephen Kessler. Boston: Black Widow Press, 2015.

Forbidden Pleasures: Luis Cernuda New Selected Poems [1924-1949], translated by Stephen Kessler. Boston: Black Widow Press, 2015.

Where oblivion lives,
In the vast gardens of darkness;
Where I will be no more
Than the memory of a stone lost in spiky weeds
Where the wind goes to escape its insomnia.

Where my name leaves
Its body destined for the arms of the centuries,
Where desire has ceased to exist.

In that great realm where I love, terrible angel,
Doesn’t slip its wing
Into my chest like a knifeblade,
Smiling airily as my torment grows.

Out there where this passion demands a master in its own image,
Submitting its life to another life,
With no more horizon than a face with other eyes.

Where sorrows and joys are nothing more than names,
Native land and sky around a memory;
Where at last I’ll be free without even knowing it,
Mist in the fog, an absence,
A light absence like a child’s flesh.

Out there, far away,
Where oblivion lives.

The imagery and themes Cernuda expressed in this poem simply ignited my imagination and heavily influenced some of the ideas in my novel. Which made this a rare time when choosing a title wasn’t difficult at all.

When I first read the poem, translated by a different individual, it was entitled “Where Oblivion Dwells.” I loved the sound of “dwells” and decided to go with that as my initial title: Where Oblivion Dwells. I did all the due diligence of running the title through Google, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble and I couldn’t find another similarly title novel in their databases. This proposal was submitted to and purchased by Harper Voyager in April of 2017.

MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE, COMPLETELY UNBEKNOWNST TO ME, SOMETHING COMPLETELY SIMILAR WAS GOING ON:

So one fine day, I was busy checking my links and did a quick name search in Google to make sure a certain link was appearing correctly, when low and behold but what did my wondering eyes see: they’d listed me as the co-author of a completely different novel entitled Where Oblivion Dwells by Lorena Franco.

Of course, I’m all: wut?

It seems that Ms. Franco’s novel was originally published in Spanish and it was entitled … wait for it … Donde Habite el Olvido. The novel had recently been translated into English in May 2017 and given the title: Where Oblivion Dwells, about a month after I’d done all of my searches for books with that title.

Google’s algorithms apparently decided that since two women had written a book with and identical title, we must therefore be co-authors, because algorithms without human intervention are notoriously stupid. Out of curiosity, I looked at Franco's book, which is also Gothic and has supernatural elements. That put us in similar categories. However, other than the titles, our themes and stories are very distinct.

This next part of this saga is very important, because at the point I discovered this SNAFU of minor proportions—which was some time in the late summer of 2017, I think—we had put zero work into the cover art for my novel. Timelines in publishing can be tight, and you don’t want to make a title change that is going to affect the work of the cover artist, who has spent effort in coming up with the right design. Not to mention the fact that the title was already beginning to show up in online searches through Amazon, etc. and is probably what caused the initial algorithm co-author issues in Google books. Someone would have to go back and make any changes to those databases.

If we had gone even a month more into the process for my book, we couldn't have done what we did. As it was, we were drawing a tight line and creating more work for people, who are, like everyone else, maxed out to the max in their jobs, too.

Knowing this, I emailed my editor and agent and outlined my thoughts. I wanted to see if was too late to change the title to eliminate confusion. Fortunately, David was fine with it. We decided to go with Where Oblivion LIVES, as this would cause the least disruption to the title change, and which spellcheck sometimes calls Where Oblivion LIES just for shits and giggles, I guess—I don’t know; I’ve just learned to roll with these things.

So the thing with titles and the sheer number of books being published means there will be some, nay, maybe a lot of crossover in book titles. No matter how diligently you search for your novel’s title or series, someone else may be rolling in with the exact same title within days, months, or years of one another.

And it’s okay. The people who are going to buy Franco’s novel, are going to buy her books. Likewise, the people who are looking for Los Nefilim stories know where to find me. Neither of us are taking anything from the other.

As a matter of fact, if someone buys Franco’s novel, thinking that it’s mine, they might find themselves turned on to a new author they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. I think that’s a win a for all of us.

Full Dark, No Stars Netflix's 1922: a review

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This is, quite unintentionally, turning into the Stephen King fan blog. What can I say? It's been a banner year for the release of several movies based on King's works, I'm learning to hear again, and so here we are.

While I enjoyed both It and The Dark Tower at the movies, 1922 came by way of a Netflix original. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you'll know that Netflix originals have been kind of hit or miss for me until recently.

Needless to say, I held my breath when I saw they were taking the helm for one of my favorite King novellas, 1922. This is the kind of story that can easily be botched by overacting or a poorly paced film. Fortunately, Zak Hilditch delivers a pitch perfect film that is intense and the epitome of an excellently rendered horror tale.

Thomas Jane plays Wilfred James, a farmer hellbent on keeping his farmland intact, even if it means murdering his headstrong wife (Molly Parker as Arlette James), who wants to take her inheritance and live the city-life. What could have devolved into an angsty morality tale turns into a ghost-tale worthy of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.

The film is true to the novella, and the acting simply makes the story sing. This should be on your must see list, regardless of the time of year.

A return to the blog

I don’t know about anyone else, but the very nature of social media is beginning to exhaust me. Some days I feel spread quite thin. I have a novel to write, and I’m thoroughly enjoying working with my Pitch Wars mentee, Elvin Bala. I also have all the tiny behind-the-scenes maneuvering that goes on prior to a publication, in addition to normal life events such as my day-job and family.

None of this is complaining, by the way. I love all these varied aspects of my life. However, I also know when stress is beginning to affect my body, and when I have to slow down, or at least unplug somewhat. Facebook has been the first to go. I haven’t disappeared entirely there, because I belong to some public groups that I enjoy, and a private group of extraordinary fellows of arcane society and another of Harper Voyager authors, both of which have saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

I’m still on Twitter, frankly because it’s easy to blurt short bursts than it is to sit down and compose a blog post. However, whenever I find myself doing a thread, I wonder why I didn’t take the time to blog. Social media demands you be there in the moment, and blogs are somewhat more static. My newsletter goes out much more randomly, but that’s because newsletters can seem kind of spammy, especially this time of year, so I tend to keep those for special announcements.

In the sidebar there is a link to get the blog posts via email, in case you want to sign up there.

I’ll run my blog posts through Twitter, Tumblr, and my author Facebook page. I’ll be around, but engagement on social media might be spotty for a bit. I hope you’ll understand.

Schedule for World Fantasy Convention 2018

I’m going to be at World Fantasy Con this coming weekend! This is my first World Fantasy Con, so I’m super excited to be attending. Thus far, it’s been a very positive experience and the programming committee has been very kind and bent over backwards to find a place for me.

I’m taking the train for the first time ever and if everything runs on time, I’ll be arriving at the hotel sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. on Thursday. I will be tired and ravenous but don’t let that scare you. Actually, it should frighten you just a little; however, I usually settle down once I’ve made it to my room and have been fed and watered.

Depending on my energy level, I’m hoping to get signed in and hang out for a bit Thursday evening.

On Friday morning, I have a breakfast meeting with my agent. After that, I have nothing else planned, so I’ll be hanging out at the con and attending panels. Saturday morning is currently free, as well.

If I’m just hanging out in the lobby with some free time, I’ll shoot a quick tweet.

Saturday 4:00 p.m., I’ll be on the Monsters and the Monstrous panel along with Julie C. Day, Aliette de Bodard, Hannah Strom-Martin (M), and John Wiswell.

Description: Monsters have existed as long as humans have made myths. But what makes a monster truly horrifying? A look at the lines between myth, horror, privilege, class, gender, and more.

I do have a planned Saturday evening dinner, and then I will have to leave very early Sunday morning, so I can be back in North Carolina for my day job on Monday.

A few notes for folks who haven’t met me:

I’m deaf, but I have a cochlear implant in my right ear. This means that if you approach me from behind or from my left, I might not hear you speak. If you say something to me and I don’t acknowledge you, it’s okay to touch my shoulder or arm to get my attention.

When we do speak, it might take me a moment or two to fully understand you, especially if you’re soft-spoken or if you have an accent. This is because of the way I hear through the implant. It usually only takes me a few moments before my brain begins to connect the sound coming from your mouth as words and when it does, we should be able to communicate without a problem.

In large crowds with lots of ambient noise, I’ll resort to lip-reading to supplement the sound coming in through my processor. This means I may frown a lot while I’m listening to you. It doesn’t mean I disagree with you, it’s just my listening face, because concentration.

If you see me reach for a small remote, I’m adjusting my microphones to shut out background noise. This helps me focus on the person in front of me.

Some of you might know sign language. I don’t. I do occasionally find it helpful, but at other times, it can confuse me even more, because my brain is hearing you through the implant and I’m lip-reading, so the added stimulation of attempting to translate hand movements can cause me to short-circuit. Trust me when I say it’s me, not you.

I don’t expect anyone to remember all of this, and I’m fine with letting people know what’s going on over and over if necessary.

I’m looking forward to a great con and meeting a lot of my online friends in real life. Be safe in your travels and I hope to see you there.

Notes from THE LABYRINTH OF SPIRITS read-along, pt. 1

I’m reading the final book in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s cycle of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, The Labyrinth of the Spirits. I had wanted to leave notes on Goodreads, but the Goodreads comments section truncates my responses, so it’s kind of hard to do. I’ll carry on there and come here to elaborate when I can.

What I want to do is give my American readers some historical context, which might help people who are unfamiliar with the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath understand some of the story’s nuance.

page 23: The novel opens in March of 1938, when Barcelona was mercilessly bombed by the rebels and their allies (the Italians and the Germans). These were civilian targets, not military, and only stopped after international outcry. Hitler’s Condor Legion was heavily involved in the Spanish Civil War and the German air force perfected the blitzkrieg in Spain. They primarily targeted civilians.

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page 83: The character of Joaquin Maura seems to be something of a composite of many people who suffered during the Franco’s war of annihilation. Zafón doesn’t mention Maura’s specific crime, but it most likely consisted of supporting the Republican government, or even belonging to a union. When the Spanish Civil War ended, the Francoists used union or political lists to round up any Republicans, who might stand opposed to Franco and his rebels.

Writers, schoolteachers, and doctors were imprisoned solely based on their occupation. So when you see the word “criminal” in The Labyrinth of the Spirits, read it with tongue firmly in cheek.

Maura’s “crime” and subsequent imprisonment caused him to lose his family & his livelihood. His encounter with his adult daughter speaks to how many children were brainwashed into believing their fathers were criminals.

Maura resides in the Hotel Hispania with other "criminals,” awaiting death.

The fact that the novel’s protagonist, Alicia Gris (gris is gray in Spanish), resides in the Hotel Hispania is a clue to Alicia's political leanings. Her thoughts seem more in line with those of the defeated Republican government rather than those of her employer, a branch of Franco's secret police. Alicia is a hard bite of defiance in a world that hates women. God, I love her.

page 115: Alicia is paired with agent Vargas from a different unit. In their first scene together, Vargas asks Alicia if she can drive.

She replies: “I can barely open a bank account in this country without permission from a husband or father.”

Vargas says, “I see.”

“Allow me to doubt that.”

It's important to understand that one of the first things Franco's fascist regime did was severely curtail women's rights. Fascists have always feared powerful women. They still do.

page 126: Doña Mariana speaks of “national reconciliation,” which is a term meant to gloss over the memories of Franco's on-going brutalities. She becomes extremely miffed when Alicia challenges her on the subject.

Franco was big on “national reconciliation," which essentially amounted to “I won, so let's all get along,” or in 21st century jargon: “both sides.”

“National reconciliation” eventually became Spain's Amnesty Law, which was enacted in 1977, two years after Franco's death. The law freed political prisoners and allowed exiles to return to Spain, but it did nothing to prosecute Franco's regime for its human rights violations.

It was sort of Spain's way of saying BYGONES in the hopes that everyone would conveniently put the past behind them and move toward Spain's future. This is hard to do when you can’t turn soil in Spain without hitting mass graves full of Republicans shot by the fascists.

I’m on page 133. I’ll post again when I’ve collected a few more notes.

Fieldnotes: Fascism, women, and the Spanish Civil War

WARNING: If you’re upset by violence, you might want to skip this post, because this one is ugly.

In order to simplify the opposing forces in the Spanish Civil War for my American readers:

The elected Republican government was roughly the equivalent to today’s Democratic Party. Franco’s fascists referred to the Republicans as “leftists,” or as “reds” even though most Republicans did not consider themselves to be communists.

The rebels (Franco and his military junta) were backed by the Church, industrialists, the rich, and fascists, which can be likened to today’s evangelicals, the one percent, and Trump’s fascist party, the GOP. They consisted of members of the hard-right and fascists.

Before anyone accuses me of misrepresenting the GOP’s fascist mentality, their current philosophy was initially made clear in a speech by one of Franco’s more flamboyant generals, Juan Yagüe y Blanco (more commonly known as the Butcher of Badajoz):

“… We have decided to redeem you and we will redeem you whether you want to be redeemed or not. Do we need you for anything? No, there will never again be any elections, so why would we need your vote? The first thing to do is to redeem the enemy. We are going to impose our civilization on them and if they don’t accept it willingly, we will impose it by force …”

That attitude, expressed by Yagüe in October of 1937, exemplified the rhetoric behind Franco’s war of annihilation, which was especially brutal on women. Republicans, who weren’t able to flee Franco’s advancing forces, were shot or taken into custody, not as prisoners of war but as common criminals. If the men couldn’t be found, their mothers, wives, and daughters were imprisoned in their stead. In Huesca, seventy-four women were executed for the crime of being the wives of men who had either fled or been shot.

Falangists (fascists) raped Republican women at will. They were also known to brand their victims’ breasts with the Falangist symbol of yoke and arrows. In one case, Falangists raped two women and when they were done, they placed hand grenades between the women’s legs and pulled the pins.

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Executions were commonplace and had no regard to either gender or age. In Madrid on 5 August 1939, “fifty-six prisoners were executed including a fourteen-year-old boy and thirteen women, seven of whom were under the age of twenty-one. They came to be known as the Trece Rosas, thirteen roses whose fate symbolized the cruelty of the Franco regime. They were members of the United Socialist Youth, the JSU. Their capture in the spring of 1939 had been facilitated because the Casado Junta had seized JSU membership lists then left them for the Francoists. The excuse for the executions was a non-existent plot to murder Franco.”

The repression in Jaca was exceptionally brutal and was quite often led, not by the military, but by the priests. One in particular, Father de Fustiñana, who was the Chaplain to the local Requetés and liked to walk the streets carrying a gun, was especially feared. Called a ‘bird of ill omen,’ the prisoners knew that when he entered the prison, death followed. On 6 August 1936, Fustiñana, an army captain, and two Falangists “seized two women from the Jaca prison, took them out into the countryside and shot them.” The women were Pilar Vizcarra, who was twenty-eight-years old and pregnant, and Desideria Giménez, a member of the Socialist Youth. Giménez was sixteen.

Fustiñana enjoyed these executions. “He offered confession and the last rites to those about to be shot. Then, his shoes caked with blood, he would visit the families of the few that accepted.” Fustiñana maintained lists of those executed and whether or not the condemned decided to make confession at the end. Over four hundred people from Jaca and its surrounding villages were murdered during this purge.

Those arrested were often members of the Republican middle class, especially doctors and schoolteachers. Women weren’t allowed to take children older than three into prison with them. Since family members were also either imprisoned, executed, or in exile, the women had no one to care for their children. In other cases, babies were taken away (often by force) from their mothers immediately after birth in prison.

The Republican children were placed orphanages, often while the parents still lived.

The justification for removing children from their parents was precipitated by Major Antonio Vallejo Nágera, who was appointed by Franco to oversee the Psychiatric Services of the rebel army. Vallejo spent his time searching for the “‘red gene’ and the links between Marxism and mental deficiency on Republican prisoners.” He justified “the sequestration of Republican children in a book entitled The Eugenics of Spanishness and the Regeneration of the Race.” Vallejo’s theory was that race “was constituted by a series of cultural values” such as hierarchical, military, and patriotic.

Of course Vallejo noted that the values of “the left” were inimical to the fascist idea of Spanishness, and therefore had to be eradicated. “Obsessed with what he called ‘the transcendent task of cleansing of our race’, his model was the Inquisition, which had protected Spain from poisonous doctrines in the past.” To his way of thinking, the “health of the race required that children be separated from their ‘red’ mothers.”

His work eventually led to the 1941 law that “legalized the changing of the names of Republican orphans.”

After the war, roughly twelve thousand children were placed in state or religious orphanages. These orphanages brainwashed the children by telling them that their parents were criminals. One woman recounts how her husband was shot before her and her small daughter. She was arrested and the child was given to a Catholic orphanage. “The mother wrote regularly until one day her daughter replied saying, ‘Don’t write to me any more about papa. I know he was a criminal. I am taking the veil.’”

Likewise, other children were brainwashed into denouncing their fathers as assassins. They were “forced to sing the songs of the murderers of their father; to wear the uniform of those who have executed him, and to curse the dead and to blaspheme his memory.”

When women were allowed to take their small children with them into prison, it usually resulted in a death sentence for the child. In Ventas, Paz Azatí recounted that each day “on the floor of the Ventas infirmary you would see the corpses of fifteen to twenty children dead from meningitis.” The notorious prison in Saturrarán prison in the Basque Country murdered more than one hundred women and fifty children with disease alone.

Rather than outcry, the Francoists applauded his atrocities at every turn. Propagandists “presented the executions, the overflowing prisons and camps, the slave-labour battalions and the fate of the exiles as the scrupulous yet compassionate justice of a benevolent Caudillo. In 1964, they launched a highly choreographed, nationwide celebration of the ‘Twenty-Five Years of Peace’ since the end of the war. Every town in Spain was bedecked with posters rejoicing in the purging of the atheistic hordes of the left.”

In an interview with ABC, Franco “made it clear that the celebrations were not for peace but for victory … The unspoken message of the elaborate celebrations was that the return on Franco’s investment in terror could not have been more successful.”

For the sake of ourselves and our children, we should take care the past does not become the present.

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All quotes taken from The Spanish Holocaust: inquisition and extermination in twentieth-century Spain by Paul Preston.