Snippet: Clara Sánchez'”What your name conceals” (Nazi war criminals Spain)

Lo que esconde tu nombre

Clara Sánchez, Lo que esconde tu nombre [What your name conceals], 201o,  427 p.

Nadal prize 2010.

More information on the novel in English can be found on Planeta’s foreign rights page (short summary) and in an article by Martyn Richard Jones from The Guardian, August 2010.

A novel with numerous weaknesses but an interesting topic: the hunt for Nazis who had sought and found refuge in Spain’s Costa Blanca region.  It is difficult to situate exactly in time: cheap mobile phones had been invented but none of the protagonists uses them, there is no reference to internet; a former concentration camp inmate from Argentina has got the energy and the means to pay a hotel stay of several weeks (months?) in Spain, etc. Its main weakness: the central story is very long, the end too short and abrupt; and it should have been written 30 years earlier, when the war criminals were still alive.

Despite all its weaknesses, the book is gripping and provides a pleasurable, though haunting reading experience. The end is somewhat disappointing (apologies for spoiling), but that is maybe the point: the hunt for Nazis who fled from justice often was a very disappointing endeavour as many either managed to keep in hiding and die peacefully there, or they were too old and weak to be judged once found and brought before a court.

In 2016, this blogger read Toni Orensanz’ non-fiction work El Nazi de Siurana [The Nazi from Siurana], about a Belgian former SS member who fled from justice and lived a quiet life in the beautiful mountains off the Catalan Golden Coast (“Costa Daurada”, Tarragona); Orensanz also discovered this only after the Nazi had died. The author names a few books as references of works that deal with Nazis who found refuge in Spain after World War II:

Simon Wiesenthal, The Murderers Among Us, 1967

José Maria Irujo, La lista negra: Los nazis que salvaron a Franco y la Iglesia [The black list: the Nazis who saved Franco and the Church], 2003, 264 p.

During World War II, while the German troops invaded Europe, hundreds of Gestapo, Abwehr and SD agents worked freely in cities all over Spain. Diplomates, journalists, businessmen, cinema producers and professional agents formed an extensive net with branches and contacts inside the administration and the elites dominating society.

In 1997, the journalist José María Irujo found the list presented by the Allies in which they asked for the repatriation of 104 alleged German spies who hid all over Spain. During five years, the author rummaged in their past in an attempt to reconstruct their lives and report their adventures. None of them was handed over: a lot of them found refuges in houses of Spaniards, while others remained hidden under the protection of the [Roman Catholic] Church and fled to South America.

The fascinating adventures of these spies of Hitler, some of whose families are still amongst us, are a faithful example of the protection the Nazis enjoyed in Franco Spain.

Javier Juárez, La guarida del lobo [The wolf’s lair], 2007, 423 p.

This work, fruit of more than two years investigating in national and foreign archives, documents the entry into Spain of fifty former Nazis and collaborationists from different countries and offers until now unpublished data on the reception offered by the Spanish authorities.

Orensanz also mentions the “factual list of Nazis protected by Spain” at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

SOURCE: Google Books [summary Irujo], Casa del Libro [summary Juárez]


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