El cas MissPye i els refugiats del 39

Refugiats 1939

16 de febrer de 1939
Informe d’una particular, Miss E.M.Pye, del Friends Service Council
[NA: FO 371/24154, pp.71-74]

The immensity of the tragedy of the flight from Spain must have been seen at first hand to
be believed. It takes on the character of a natural cataclysm such as a typhoon or an
earthquake when the numbers involved and the rapidity with events followed each other are concerned, but it is, alas, a definite product of a policy conceived and executed by man.
Those who are ignorant of the character of the war in Spain and of the method of the
Nationalists, have questioned the wisdom of evacuating children’s colonies, etc. Our
workers who were among them point out that the bombardments from the air which forced the inhabitants to leave the ruins of their houses, leaving them nothing to live in, and the descent of the aeroplanes almost to roof level to machine-gun the fleeing inhabitants, left them no choice. They were bombed out of Gerona, which was packed with refugees who then fled to Figueras. I myself saw the market square there on January 31st, in which people were so tightly wedged that they coulfd hardly move, two days before its destruction in the same way, in a series of raids on the refugees and civilian population in which hundreds were killed.
No doubt is left bin any of our minds that a systematic policy of terrorism and destruction,
added to prolonged food shortage, succeeded in producing the panic rush towards France
which some of us foretold.
For days, while only a meagre trickle of civilians were allowed to pass the frontier, there
were literally thousands standing in queues between one village and another, or camped
without any shelter on the hillsides on each side of the road to the frontier in deadly fear of
bombardment from the air. Of these frontier posts there are three in which there is road
through: Port-Bou/Cerbere; Puigcerdà/Boug Madame; and La Jonquera/Perthus, where
the greatest number came over. There is also a road on the Spanish side but only paths over the mountain at Prats de Mollo, which is above the snow line, and there were pitiful cases of women and children lost in a snowstorm and being picked up half frozen.
Intellectuals and peasants all alike suffered the same fate -the latter perharps suffered less
since many of them brought their mules and a certain amount of bread with them. Some had a sheep or two tied by a string- here and there one saw a cow or goats, and even hens
carried by their leg, as uncomplaining as their owners.
The first three nights there was heavy cold rain in which it was stated that there were many deaths from exposure, especially among the children and the wounded. The frost that succeeded must have been as hard to bear.
On February a last convoy of eleven trucks took in a large consignment of food, and Dr.
Audrey Russell, Richard Rees and William Brebner spent the next few days arranging for
its distribution by Spanish Government Organisations over the whole area of Catalonia still in Government hands, where food had run very short. In some of the villages there was no milk left at all when the trucks arrived. They were able to see almost the whole amount distributed to the civil population before the rapid advance made closing of the canteens inevitable. They remained until the last, when they brought out the transport with the help of our two Spanish chauffeurs, having taken 19 hours to drive the last few kilometres owing to the crush of people. Domingo Ricart came out with a children’s colony 24 hours earlier. He had been helping with a children’s centre in Figueras. They remained until the opening of the frontiers took place and gave a vivid account of the thankfulness and even joy among the refugees when the sending back of the men from the frontier ceased. They also told us of the disgust of the Spanish people at finding black troups (senegalais) guarding the frontier. These men were rougher and less understanding, and Dr. Audrey Russell received a blow on the chest from one of them in the course of passing the frontier.
There was an extraordinary state of nervousness and agitation among the French at the
frontier and this led to quite unnecessary roughness.
The surging flood of people which came pouring over every frontier found their troubles
were by no means over. There was no shelter of any kind available. The French
authorities by a tremendous feat of organisation succeeded in getting 45,000 women and
children sent into the interior in the first three days. They were brought down after
several days at the frontier with no possibility of washing or of proper food in lorries and
buses, vaccinated, given something to eat and sent straight off in trainload after trainload
to destinations apparently quite unknown. The separation from their men-folk, the
shipping of them off to unknown destinations, produced despair among the refugees, but
they accepted everything with remarkable dignity and resignation. Obviously with such
overwhelming numbers, lists of names and destinations were impossible.
But many thousands more spent another five nights on the hillsides on the French side,
where there was some attempt to provides canteens with hot drinks for them, both by the
authorities and by private effort. Improvised hospitals, for which we helped to provided
equipment, were set up to take cases of illness and childbirth -there were six infants born
in one of these wayside shelters- but requests for army field kitchens and hospital tents
were refused. The misery and helplessness of these crowds, harried by French cavalry to
keep them form straying, is indescribable.
They were finally placed in trains and sent on into the interior, destination unknown, and
it must necessarily be a long time before the different parts of a family find each other
again, though we understand that the Ministry of the Interior27 is creating a central
Four canteens on lorries were organised by us, each having a boiler to provide hot
drinks, and these followed up the streams of refugees, giving hot milk and bread, with
some cases the addition of cheese or chocolate. In all some 96,000 rations were given out
in this way on the French side of the frontier, and 100,000 rations through the Spanish
Government organisation supervised by us on the Spanish side of the frontiers before they
were opened to the refugees. As soon as the streams of refugees dried up the canteens
were established near the temporary hospitals, which then began, as first-aid stations, to
receive the wounded, and also at the men’s camp at Argeles, where a large number of
women and small children were discovered and where, thanks to the kindness of the
military commander, a villa was provided in which we set up a bath house and washing
station for whem, as well as a canteen. The Catalonians are naturally a very clean
people, and they suffered horriby from not being able to wash or take their clothes off for
ten days. The children after a bath were quite unrecognisable!
[L’informe segueix parlant de les colònies d’infants i dels esforços del International Commission Aid to refugee children in Spain per establir cantines i seguir tenint cura de les colònies de nens amb les quals havien travessat la frontera, bo i treballant conjuntament amb el Friends Service Council i el National Joint Committee.
Annexa dades estadístiques d’aquesta International Commission Aid to Refugee Children in Spain sobre les cantines establertes i les racions lliurades, així com dels subministres efectuats a hospitals improvisats en els camps de refugiats. Finalment, annexa una altra llista de la mateixa International Commission de les colònies d’infants a Catalunya que van haver d’evacuar per escapar dels bombardeigs i metrallaments (n’esmenta 21)]

1. Fes un llistat dels fets i situacions que presentava aquest
2. Qui eren els quàquers?



25 de febrer de 1939
Confidential. Not for publication
[NA: FO 371/24154, pages 30-38]

Memorandum on conditions in concentration camps.
There was no means of communicating with the outside world, as most of the men have
neither paper nor pencil. Intellectuals, writers, artists, workers in the government, all
are herded together with the others. One of them, who had escaped, said that he had
had nothing to eat for 4 days, since he first arrived. The men were treated as prisoners
of war, ridden down by the Algerians if they strayed beyond their beat, and given none
of the facilities if civilised life. There are a certain number of wounded and sick
(dysentery chiefly) for whom practically nothing can be done. They are lying in the
sand, though the serious cases are now being evacuated as places are found for them.
Copy of a letter from Dr.Audrey Russell.
Dear Miss Pye,
The conditions in the camps here have not materially altered except that the men get
two issues a day of dried vegetables or rice and a little meat which they have to cook
themselves. You can imagine the difficulties with so little fuel and a strong wind
blowing, and the fact that the most of the civilians at least have no cooking equipment. I
went to the medical tents with Mr.Rodd and Richard Rees and there we saw some men
cutting up a dead mule in the sand and the sick men in the tents were holding lumps of
raw meat in their hands without any means of cooking. Some were chewing the raw
flesh. There was one man lying in the sand moaning, with a sub-phrenic abscess (I
think, from a very hasty examination that I was able to do) from an appendix that had
been removed in Barcelona ten days ago.
The Spanish doctor was in despair as he had asked fifteen times for a stretcher to take
him up to the main medical station. Fortunately, our young friend the French M.O.
came along, and although he was very annoyed with us for being there at all he was
suitably contrite and said an ambulance would be sent at once.
The medical service is still practically non-existent, except that the very sick are
removed to the hospital ships. But the ordinary camp routine is appalling, still no
proper latrines -there no spades to dig them with- and the water comes from shallow
pumps, said to be about 12 feet deep, directly under the filth and garbage of the camp.
For instance, I went to see the civilian camp at Argeles as there appeared from the
outside to be a number of women there. I went to the Spanish administration of that
section, and found a very capable administration under the leadership of an exmagistrate
of Madrid. They were trying to compile a list of refugees in that section, on
bits of paper blown in by the wind, with no ink, and a typewriter full of sand with ribbon
tied together every few inches. We bought them paper, pens, typewriter ribbon and files
to keep their lists out of the sand, as well as medicaments.(…)

Here are some photographs, some from a post-card shop and some that Charlie
Sevetsco took. I think Mr. Pilkington should have the one of his lorry and I have written
its record on the back. In the postcard of the signpost LE PERTHUS you can just see
yourself, al least your black hat with the point, and me just to the right of it. In the
foreground is a man with both legs amputated. How can he have managed to get there?
Yours sincerely,
Audrey Russell.

3. Qui escriu aquestes cartes? Què reflecteixen?


Aid to Spain

28 de febrer de 1939
De Lord Cecil a Sir A. Cadogan
[NA: FO 371/24154, pages135-143]

(Nota manuscrita i informe mecanografiat)
4th March 1939.
My Dear Alec I venture to trouble you with this horrible paper given to me by a young woman just back from Perpignan. Is there nothing that can be done? We seem to be taking
elaborate plains by every means in our power to throw Spain and Spaniards into the
arms of Hitler and Musso. Forgive violence!
Yours ever,
“Report on conditions in Spanish refugee camps near Perpignan.
I left Perpignan on the night of February 24th. There are 200,000 men in these camps.
The conditions in the camps of Arles-sur-Tech and St.Cyprien were as follows:
Arles-sur-Tech is about seven kilometres from the frontier, the camp lies three
kilometres from the town and half-way to Amelies-les-Bains. It is situated under the
high snow mountains of the Pyrenees on a piece of bare stony ground which descends
sharply at one end to a stony river. It is surrounded by barbed wire and palings and
guarded by armed soldiers and garde mobile. On this stony place one sees sitting and
standing thousands of men. They have been sitting and standing there like that for
weeks. There are no shelters of any kind, except here and there a tiny tent made of a
blanket and four sticks.
Across the road were several small tents. Three of them were for the sick and wounded.
(one tent was given by the International Joint Committee and two by the Anciens
Combattants) – none of the tents were supplied by the French Government. The sick and
wounded men were lying on the ground in straw and crowded as close as possible down
both sides of the tents which were of the long kind in which one can only just stand
upright when in the very middle.
A doctor I talked with told me that illnesses were increasing very rapidly, he told me
that the worst cases were taken to the Hospital at Arles-sur-Tech and that their places
in the tents were immediately filled by others from the camp. He said forty-three had
been taken to the Hospital the day before.
Men who had stood all the trials of a retreat, first under fire and then over high snowy
mountains, and who arrived in a state of health are now falling ill in hundreds from
inernal complaints (caused by insufficient and bad water, lack of shelter and cold and
wet) skin diseases of a most virulent kind caused by lack of all sanitation and washing
St.Cyprien is camp on the beach by the sea. It is on sand. The same barbed wire, but here the guards are Senegalese. The wind is very cold and strong. The men try and dig holes to shelter in, but they come to water very quickly. There are some huts but only enough to
hold a few hundred men, whereas there are somewhere near 50,000 in the camp, 15,000 of which are said to be ill.
The conditions here are worse than at Arles-sur-Tech. Water is almost non-existent and
what there is, very contaminated. Water could be obtained from the town, but the
permission to go and get it could not be obtained.
Argeles is another camp of this kind on the sea shore. The death rate is very heavily.
There seems to be no organised burial ground, the dead are being in holes scraped in
the sand by their companions. Seventeen had died during the night before I left.

The general impression I got was that a great deal of unnecessary suffering had been
and was being caused by bad organisation. That there was increasing danger of some
grave epidemic breaking out, and also that there might be danger of mutinies and riots
if the conditions were not improved, quickly.
The Spaniards seem to have behaved with the greatest courage and patience, but they
have had a long dose of suffering. Few people would have stood it for so long.
Wouldn’t it be possible for the English to take over some at least of the camps and run
them, in co-operation with French Authorities?
Speed is to be recommended as the weather broke the night before I left and it had
rained for twenty four hours. Perhaps it is still raining. Rain is what Spaniards fear
most as there is no shelter or means of changing their clothes, or drying them. The
Authorities must fear the rain just as much.
The problem of where these men are to go looks like being a long affair. The feeling I
had was that Franco doesn’t want them at the moment, he has enough to think about.
Neither do the French want them. But something must be done to improve their
condition until the problem of their future is solved, otherwise there will be no problem
because they will all be dead.
It would almost seem as though that is what both sides would consider as the best way
out of a difficult situation.
The lack of organisation and inefficiency of the Military staff and Authorities. The
closing up of all entries and exits for outside help, whether financial or otherwise. The
silence of the French press. The difference between it and the English papers was
striking. No criticism in the French papers for days now. Only praise for the “New
Plans” and camps.”

4. Què considera Lord Cecil que s’ha fet amb els republicans
5. Quins camps de refugiats són descrits en la carta?
6. Com es tracta el tema en la premsa francesa?


7. Elabora una reflexió personal d’entorn 100 paraules sobre
aquesta situació que es va donar fa 60 anys.

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L'adreça electrònica no es publicarà Els camps necessaris estan marcats amb *