Category: Basques in World War II (page 1 of 2)

May 29, 1893: Birth of Basque adventurer Marga d’Andurain

On May 29, 1893, Marguerite Clérisse was born in Baiona. Known by her married name, Marga d’Andurain, she would go on to gain a certain degree of fame and even notoriety  in interwar Europe as a libertine adventurer.

Born into a bourgeois family in the capital of Lapurdi, she received a religious education, including some time spent at the Ursuline institute in Hondarribia, Gipuzkoa. In 1911 she married her cousin, Pierre d’Andurain, a member of the Andurain family, owners of the Château de Maÿtie or Château d’Andurain in Maule, Zuberoa. Pierre was a lover of exotic travels and on marrying the couple immediately traversed Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria. In 1912 they embarked on a journey to Latin America, where they intended to take up cattle ranching. However, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 brought Pierre back to Europe to enlist in the French army and he was wounded in 1916.

After the war, the couple, now with two sons, Jean-Pierre and Jacques, settled in Cairo where they were involved in trade and commerce. With Pierre unable to travel because of his war wounds, Marga decided to carry on exploring the world on her own. In the company of an Englishwoman, Baroness Brault and a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service, she visited Palestine (under a British mandate after World War I) and Syria (under French Mandate), falling in love with the Syrian city of Palmyra. She relocated the family there in 1927, with the intention once more of establishing a cattle ranch. However, the couple ended up running a local hotel there. Here, in the context of the escalating tension of interwar Europe and in a highly sensitive geopolitical area, rumor has it that she was involved in espionage on behalf of Britain, although nothing seems to have been verified on that count. Visitors to the hotel included Agatha Christie and King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

In 1933, she came up with a daring plan to be the first Western woman to visit Mecca, the holiest city in Islam and only accessible to Muslims. In order to do so, she legally divorced Pierre and entered into a marriage of convenience in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a Bedouin, Sulaiman Abdulaziz Dikmari, although he died soon after. Subsequently, her plans to visit Mecca, Medina, and Unaizah, before crossing six hundred miles of desert to Hofuf and going on to the island of Bahrain, turned into a nightmare. She was arrested in Jeddah and accused of having killed her new “husband.” In the trial under Koranic law the prosecution demanded that she be stoned to death, but ultimately she was declared innocent and, through French diplomatic pressure, released. The trial itself was somewhat of a cause célèbre, attracting press attention from all over Europe and the US.

On her release, she remarried Pierre but after he died, she returned to France in 1937. One of the many rumors that surround her life there is the allegation that she was an opium dealer in Nazi-occupied Paris during the 1940s, as a cover for her spying duties. She died in 1948, very much in the same kind of circumstances in which she had lived her life. While sailing off of the coast of Morocco, which some observers allege also had to do with drugs smuggling, she was reputedly thrown overboard by the skipper of her yacht in November that year. She was fifty-five years old and her body was never recovered.

Many stories have circulated about Andurain, most of them unverified. In texts she penned herself, she claimed to have inherited the adventurous spirit of the Basques. Sh spoke fluent Arabic and wrote especially about women’s lives in the Muslim world she knew so well.

The Andurain family name lived on, though. Her son Jacques is said to have fired the first shot in anger on the part of the French Resistance in World War II: on August 13, 1941, from a Baby Browning 6.35 mm gun that actually belonged to his mother.  And her granddaughter, Julie d’Andurain, is a well-known French historian.

 

April 9, 1914: Birth of Feminist Anarchist Militant “Kaxilda”

On April 9, 1914, Soledad Casilda Hernáez Vargas was born to a single mother in Zizurkil, Gipuzkoa. In the 1930s she became a well-known feminist political activist and anarchist militant in Gipuzkoa, taking an active part in fighting at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War as well as later in the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France.

Kasilda (1914-1992)

Subsequently known as Kasilda, Kaxilda, Kasi, or “la Miliciana,” she was raised in  Donostia-San Sebastián in a Bohemian family with strong connections to the anarchist movement. As a young woman in the early 1930s she caused a scandal by bathing nude on the Zurriola Beach in Donostia. Becoming an activist in the anarchist movement, she was arrested in 1934 for distributing propaganda and possessing explosives during the revolutionary strike of October that year.  She was, though, released in 1936 as part of a general amnesty conceded by the newly elected Popular Front coalition government in Madrid. On leaving prison prison, she met fellow Basque anarchist activist Felix Likiano (1909-1982), her partner for the rest of her life.

When the Civil War broke out in July 1936, she joined Likiano in the anarchist militia formed to defend Donostia against the attack of the rebel troops, seeing active service in the Battle of Irun (Aug. 27 – Sep. 5, 1936) and, later, after the fall of her home city, also as part of the Hilario-Zamora Column on the Aragon and Ebro Fronts in 1938. With the triumph of the rebels, however, she and Likiano fled to France, where they were subsequently arrested and sent to the Argelès-sur-Mer and Gurs concentration camps. Released in 1940, the couple then moved first to Baiona in Lapurdi, but ultimately settled in Bordeaux, where their home–nicknamed the “Basque Consulate”–became a well-known meeting place for exiled Spanish Republicans. With the Nazi occupation of France they collaborated actively with the French Resistance.

After a spell in Paris, they returned to the Basque Country, settling in Biarritz. She died in 1992 and on her gravestone one can read the inscription “Andra! Zu zera bukatzen ez den sua!” (Woman! You’re the fire that never goes out!).

March 27, 1944: Bombing of Biarritz by US Air Force

At 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday, March 27, 1944, toward then end of World War II, the Basque towns of Biarritz and Angelu in Lapurdi was bombed by 44 Consolidated B-24 Liberators in the 458th and 466th Bomb Groups.  In eight minutes they dropped 44 tonnes of bombs on the Nazi-occupied town, resulting in 117 casualties and around 250 injuries.

The official aim of the mission that day–according to the archives–was to destroy the nearby Parma airfield and the Latécoère aircraft company factory, although it is also likely that it included the target of a German base there storing V-1 doodlebugs and V-2 rockets. Moreover, the Nazis had constructed a major command center in bunkers beneath Biarritz. The mission was part of the conclusion of a more general strategy to bomb occupied France on the part of the Allies between June 1940 and May 1945; and served as a prelude to the D-Day landings of June 1944 in Normandy. However, lacking the necessary precision technology, many devices went astray in the carpet bombing and hit the civilian population as well as the Nazi occupiers, with approximately one hundred German soldiers among the dead, and destroying 375 residential homes in the process too.

See “Les mystères du bombardement de Biarritz” in Sud-Ouest, March 26, 2013 (in French) and “70 urte, AEBko hegazkinek Biarritz eta Angelu bonbardatu zituztela” at EITB, March 27, 2014 (in Basque). Check out a video report on the bombing by ETB, the Basque public broadcaster, here (in Basque) and listen to a fascinating piece of oral history in this first-hand account by people who experienced the bombing (in Basque).

The Center’s own Sandra Ott has written extensively on the German occupation of the Basque Country during World War II. Check out her War, Judgment, And Memory In The Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945 and Living With the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940–1948as well as her edited work, War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946.

Note (from Wikipedia): At the end of World War II in Europe, the U.S. Army’s Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in Biarritz. Under General Samuel L. McCroskey, the hotels and casinos of Biarritz were converted into quarters, labs, and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The University opened August 10, 1945 and about 10,000 students attended an eight-week term. This campus was set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the US, so students attended for just one term. After three successful terms, the G.I. University closed in March 1946.

CBS Seminar Series: “The Basque Swastika”

CBS Seminar Series Presents Santi de Pablo`s “The Basque Swastika”

Santi de Pablo is professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country. He specializes in history of the Basque Country and in film history. His last book is Creadores de sombras: ETA y el nacionalismo vasco a través del cine (Originally published in English by the CBS as The Basque Nation on Screen: Cinema, Nationalism and Political Violence in the Basque Country). He enjoyed the opportunity of being William Douglass visiting scholar at our Center in 2009-2010, and now he is researching in the CBS thanks to a USAC grant.

On October 17th he presented in the Center the documentary The Basque Swastika (Una esvástica sobre el Bidasoa), a film produced in 2013 by the Basque film-company EsRec Productions, and directed by Javier Barajas and Javier de Andrés. Santi himself worked as historical advisor to the film, along with professor Ludger Mees.

He explained that the origin of the movie was an academic paper he wrote in 2008 together with a professor of the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. One day he received a phone-call at his University office from the aforementioned film-company proposing to make a movie about the topic of the paper. Two years later, the film premiered in the San Sebastian Film Festival, one of the most prestigious cinema festivals in Europe.

It’s quite unusual for an academic paper to become a film, but in this case the topic of the article inspired curiosity. The authors had discovered in the Berlin Film Archive a German Nazi documentary from 1944 about the Basque Country (Im Lande der basken), which nobody knew of until that moment. This discovery was stunning because it disclosed the interest of Nazis in Basque culture during the Second World War.

On the one hand, The Basque Swastika is cinema about cinema, as it uncovers the story of Im Lande der basken. On the other hand, it’s a film about the history of the Basques, the Nazis and the Second World War. The documentary recalls that the Basque Government and its president Aguirre and the Basque Nationalist Party fought for the Allies and against the Nazis during World War Two, but also that there were some contacts with occupation forces in France. Both the filmmakers and the historical advisers were aware of the controversy surrounding this topic, but they attempted to explain it in an unbiased way. Actually, both Spanish and Basque public televisions co-produced the film, which was well received, and obtained awards at such international documentary film festivals as Nantes (France) and Guadalajara (México).

The screening inspired a fruitful and interesting debate with the audience. Many thanks, Santi, and zorionak!

 

Faculty News 2017: Sandy Ott

Cambridge University Press published Sandy Ott’s book, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948. In his endorsement of the book, John Merriman (Yale) observes that “her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated ‘hidden’ story of the German occupation…in the Basque Country.” Sandy also contributed to The Oxford Companion to Cheese (Oxford University Press). Sandy conducted further archival research on German POWs in the French Basque Country (1945-1948) and gave a paper on the topic at the annual conference of the Society for French Historical Studies in Washington, D.C. She also lectured at the University of Southampton (UK) on the intersections of anthropology and micro-history. In July, Sandy joined Advisory Board members in the Basque Country for their weeklong excursion. She also (unexpectedly) became interim chair of Communication Studies at UNR, alongside her regular duties in teaching, research and service in Basque Studies. She is also the local organizer of a major French history conference that takes place in Reno soon.

 

    

Dr. Ott’s new book, Living with the Enemy

We’d like to congratulate Professor Ott for her new publication, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration, and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948, published last month by Cambridge University Press. As many of you know, Dr. Ott is a leading expert on the Basques in Iparralde and has spent many years of research on the German occupation of France, specifically the Western Pyrenees. Combining ethnography and history, she brings out the complicated relationships between the occupiers and the occupied. For any of you who have taken her “War, Occupation, and Memory” class, you will remember how passionate she is and her ability to bring this period of history to light. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get a copy of this.

He’s the description from the publisher:

In post-liberation France, the French courts judged the cases of more than one hundred thousand people accused of aiding and abetting the enemy during the Second World War. In this fascinating book, Sandra Ott uncovers the hidden history of collaboration in the Pyrenean borderlands of the Basques and the Béarnais in southwestern France through nine stories of human folly, uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, desire, vengeance, duplicity, greed, self-interest, opportunism and betrayal. Covering both the occupation and liberation periods, she reveals how the book’s characters became involved with the occupiers for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to settle scores and to gain access to power, money and material rewards, to love, friendship, fear and desperation. These wartime lives and subsequent postwar reckonings provide us with a new lens through which to understand human behavior under the difficult conditions of occupation, and the subsequent search for retribution and justice.

  • Reconstructs the richness of wartime social life in nine narratives about ordinary but colorful individuals
  • Takes a unique ethnographic approach to the trial dossiers of suspected collaborators, appealing to anthropologists and historians alike
  • Detailed archival research reveals the role of German prisoners of war as insiders in a post-liberation court of justice, a phenomenon that has not been reported by other historians of the period

Reviews from the back cover text:

Sandra Ott, one of the leading experts on the history of the French Basques, offers an important and wonderfully readable study of the region during the Vichy Years. In Living with the Enemy, her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated “hidden” story of the German occupation and Vichy collaboration in the Basque country. Ott’s compelling narrative and thoughtful conclusions nuance what we know about French collaboration with the Nazis during the Vichy years.

  • John Merriman, Charles Seymour Professor of History, Yale University.

A subtle and enthralling exploration of the myriad ways in which Germans and French were drawn together in complex webs of greed and vengeance, generosity and betrayal under the occupation. A magnificent contribution to the historiography.

  • Robert Gildea, Professor of Modern History, Worcester College, Oxford

This engaging and important book sees the big questions of France in the Second World War (questions of occupation and collaboration) refracted through the lives of individuals in one particular, and particularly interesting, region. It will be of special interest to those who study twentieth-century France or the Second World War, but it deserves a wider readership as well because it lives up to Marc Bloch’s injunction that the historian should be like ogre in the fairy tale who finds his prey “by the smell of human flesh.”

  • Richard Vinen, Professor of History, King’s College London

If these reviews don’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will. Zorionak, Professor Ott!

June 26, 1921: Birth of choreographer and writer Filipe Oihanburu

On June 26, 1921 the influential choreographer and writer Filipe Oihanburu (also spelled Philippe Oyhamburu) was born in Argelèrs de Gasòst (Argelèrs de Gasòst in Occitan) in Béarn/Biarn.

At age 3 his family moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, and in 1930 relocated to Paris, but he always took an interest in his Basque family roots (his father was from Biarrritz, and while his mother was from Béarn, she also had Basque roots) and started learning Euskara, the Basque language, at an early age while vacationing on the coast of Lapurdi. He also took a growing interest in dance, and on moving to Biarritz, in 1944, he took over the direction of the Olaeta ballet company. In 1945 it changed its name to Oldarra and for much of the next decade offered a plethora of performances. In 1953 he founded the professional music and dance group Etorki, which eventually traveled the world promoting Basque music and dance.

He combined his work as a choreographer with writing books, mostly on Basque politics and culture. More recently, he wrote his memoirs about living in Nazi-occupied Paris during the 1940s.

Check out an interview (in Basque) with Oihanburu here.

The Incredible Story of Margot Duhalde: World War II Veteran and Combat Pilot

Continuing with our celebration of Women’s History Month, today we bring you a quite amazing story in many respects; certainly an untold story for us here at the Center. It concerns Margot Duhalde, a Chilean-born woman of Basque descent who saw active service in both the British Royal Air Force and the French Air Force.

Margot Duhalde (c. 1944). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Margot Duhalde Sotomayor was born in Chile in 1920. Her paternal family originally came from Luhuso (Louhossoa), Lapurdi, in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country. In her own words (all citations from the wonderful article by Palmira Oyanguren cited below): “When my grandfather died, I would have been nine years old. He was an imposing Basque who used to sport some tremendous mustaches and who loved to recount his stories in song.” Growing up in a farming family in Río Bueno in southern Chile, her destiny appeared to be that of a rural life. However, she became fascinated at an early age with the planes that would fly over the family ranch to take the mail to the far corners of Chile.  When the family relocated to Santiago de Chile so that their children could receive the best education possible, she implored her parents to be able to take flying lessons; and, at age sixteen, she began to learn to fly at the Club Aéreo de Chile. As she recalled, “It was tough finding someone who was willing to teach a young half-farm girl to fly.” But she succeeded in her dream and by the late 1930s was a qualified pilot.

When World War II broke out in 1939, she went to the French Consulate in Santiago to volunteer, on the basis of her paternal family connections with France, for the Free French Forces led by Charles De Gaulle, who was based in London. She was not yet twenty-one and therefore not of legal age, so to get around this she had to invent a story for her parents (who would undoubtedly have refused any permission for her to take part in the war). She told them she would be going to Canada as an instructor, which they accepted. She subsequently sailed from the port of Valparaíso for Liverpool, in the company of thirteen other volunteers, including two young Basques with whom she made great friends, Juan Cotano and “some Ibarra”: “Because I was quite useless and knew nothing about any kind of domestic chores, they ironed my clothes, did my laundry … they affectionately nicknamed me ‘blockhead’.”

On arriving in the UK, she was immediately arrested on suspicion of being a spy and spent five days in a London jail. When she was finally released she ran into yet more obstacles when it came time to presenting herself at the headquarters of the Free French Forces: “The truth is that the French … didn’t know what to do with me. They’d mixed up my name with that of Marcel, in other words, they thought I was a man.” She waited three long months without hearing any word and then a post was assigned her helping out with domestic chores at a recovery center for injured pilots. While there, she unexpectedly received a letter from a French second lieutenant who had lived in southern Chile and had seen interviews with her in the press there. He told her to forget about the French ever allowing her to fly and try her luck elsewhere. This led to her decision to apply to the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), an organization that helped ferry aircraft to different destinations. Despite having practically no English, she was accepted for the ATA, initially working as a mechanic while she learned English. Soon after, however, she began a tough training schedule learning to fly both single and twin-engine aircraft, and both British and American machines. This eventually led to her flying over a hundred different types of planes (including both fighter planes and bombers) throughout the war for the ATA from bases in England to combat zones in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. She eventually rose in rank to become a first officer in the Women’s Section of the ATA.

Margot Duhalde in retirement.

At the end of the war, she was finally accepted into the French Air Force, in which she now flew warplanes officially, becoming France’s first woman combat pilot.  She also completed a public relations tour of Latin America for the French Air Force, demonstrating French aircraft in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Having eventually served her time and achieved her goal of becoming a combat pilot, she then returned to Chile in 1947, where she remained for the rest of her life and worked as a commercial pilot, instructor, and even air traffic controller, retiring at age eighty-one.

She married three times, and had one son. In the 2003 interview cited here she states: “Nowadays I live in an apartment accompanied by my dog Maite, who is as old as me, and by my young cat. Whenever I can, I get in gear and go to the land of my ancestors, Luhuso; or to Baiona, where I still have family with whom I maintain excellent relations.”

In 1946 Duhalde was made a Knight of France’s Legion of Honor and in 2007 she was made a Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honor; in 2009 she was awarded the Veteran’s Badge from the British Ambassador in Santiago for her work with the ATA during World War II; and she has also been honored officially by the Chilean Air Force, which bestowed the rank of colonel on her.

Further Reading

Palmira Oyanguren M., “Margot Duhalde: Confesiones de una aviadora,”  Eusko News & Media (2003).

 

Fall 2016 Basque Multidisciplinary Seminar Series

We would like to invite you to attend the Center for Basque Studies’ Fall 2016 Basque Multidisciplinary Seminar Series. It is usually held every Wednesday at 5:00 PM at the Basque Studies Conference Room (MIKC 305), located at UNR’s Knowledge Center. We are delighted to present graduate student and faculty research interests, recent publications, and upcoming graduate dissertations.

The first two lectures were held on October 10 and 12, kicking off the series with Edurne Arostegui’s presentation on “The Creation of Basque-American Identity,” which is part of her dissertation topic. Dr. Louis Forline, professor of Anthropology at UNR, then gave a talk on “Anthropological Perspectives on Race and Identity in Brazil and the U.S.” As you can see, the topics are varied in content, giving graduate students and faculty the chance to present on research in progress. It’s a great way to get to know what we’re up to at the CBS and in UNR’s community more broadly.

Tomorrow, October 19 at 4:30, Dr. Pedro J. Oiarzabal will be giving a talk entitled “The Fighting Basques Project: Basques of Nevada in W.W.II,” based on research by Guillermo Tabernilla, a military historian from the Sancho de Beurko Association. It deals with Basque participation in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, and has  recently been published in Saibigain, available at the following website: http://www.fightingbasques.net/en-us/Saibigain-Magazine

Dr. Oiarzabal is a researcher at the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute at the University of Deusto and holds the Jon Bilbao Research Fellowship on the Basque Diaspora at UNR. He also coordinates, alongside Nerea Mujika, the director of the Institute for Basque Studies at Deusto, the “Ondare Bizia” or Living Heritage Project. For more information visit:  http://dkh.deusto.es/en/community/ondarebizia

Check out the poster for upcoming lectures. We look forward to seeing you there!

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-7-56-03-pm

Irun and Hendaia commemorate bridges linking the two towns

A series of acts were held over the weekend of September 2 to 4 on and around the Avenida and Santiago/Saint-Jacques bridges that link Irun (Gipuzkoa) to Hendaia (Lapurdi). The acts were held in commemoration of both the people that used these bridges to flee the horrors of war, but also in celebration of these vital points of connection between the two towns.

On September 2 the two mayors of the respective towns took part, on the Avenida bridge (also known as the International bridge) and on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary, in an act remembering all the people who had crossed the bridge–in both directions–to flee war and save their lives.

640px-American_Prisioners_released_in_Spain,_Hendaya_-_Google_Art_Project

American prisoners who had fought as volunteers on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War released by Franco’s forces via the Avenida bridge, walking from Irun to Hendaia (1938). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On September 4, meanwhile, another act was held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the burning of Irun at the outset of he Spanish Civil War, a specific occasion on which people used the bridges en masse to escape the conflict.

DSCF0001

The Santiago/Saint-Jacques bridge today.

A plaque will be installed at some point this year on the Avenida bridge to remember all the people who crossed the bridge to save their lives.

The impact of war on ordinary people’s lives, and particularly in the intense period between the Spanish Civil War and World War II, is explored in War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott.

Older posts