“Library doctor power Arizmendi secured. Stop”. It is August 1940, a year after the Civil War ended, the Nazis have just invaded France and a handful of officials of the Republic in exile have managed to put Juan Negrín’s archive out of reach of the Gestapo (and Franco). ; a brief mention in a telegram confirms it.
Nine years after the republican leader’s archive was transferred from Paris to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Negrín family recounts how the thousands of documents that complete a fundamental part of the history of Spain during the Second Republic and the War were saved, and that numerous historians chased for decades, when its existence was just a rumor that no one confirmed.
Although they had already referred on occasion to individual episodes of how the archive survived two wars (the Spanish and the world), for the first time the family reveals the complete journey that they followed from when they crossed the Pyrenees border in 1939 until they one day Carmen Negrín allowed the American historian Gabriel Jackson (1921-2019) to go down to the Paris basement where it was kept and open the boxes that no one had touched in almost half a century.
The politician’s granddaughter now recounts all the details of the archive’s intrahistory and the family’s reasons for keeping it hidden in a magazine from the Complutense University, Documentation of Information Sciencesin an article that he signs together with the historian José Medina, president of the foundation that guards the personal legacy of Juan Negrín.
Carmen Negrín and José Medina explain that, in the last months of the war, the Negrín archive followed in the footsteps of the Government: first it went to Valencia, then to Barcelona and, finally, to La Vayol (Girona), to a talc mine call Sings in the Alto Ampurdán conditioned to protect the goods of the Republic.
With the evacuation of Barcelona (January 1939), the Negrín archive traveled to Toulouse, at the service of the Government in exile in the last months of the Civil War. In September of that same year, France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany for the invasion of Poland, but the Gallic Army soon capitulated and Negrín and his collaborators prepared to flee from Paris to London.
“We left Paris at dawn on June 12 (1940), Paris-Tours, Tours-Bordeaux, the same stops as the French Government… it took us four days… everything I tell you is pale compared to reality , our departure from Spain has become small ”, writes in a letter Feli López, Negrín’s partner.
The Negríns arrive in London, but the archive remains behind, in Toulouse, in occupied France, and nobody knows what has become of it… until the Republican Minister of Finance in exile, Francisco Méndez Aspe, receives in August of 1940 this telegram in the British capital: “We continue well (…) Stop Irala carries out the indicated steps, you will communicate the result Stop. Library doctor power Arizmendi secured Stop (…) Regards Pilar”.
It is Pilar Lubián, an official from the Ministry of Finance, responsible for managing the economic resources of the Spanish Refugee Evacuation Service (SERE), who informs her superiors that Juan Negrín’s library (and archive) are safe with an official from the Police Corps, José de Arizmendi, who is in Marseille, in what is still “free France”.
There, Arizmendi makes a decision that, in the end, will save the file: he asks for help from Gilberto Bosques, the Mexican consul in Vichy France, a character who is compared in his country to Óskar Schindler, because his visas saved his life. to more than 400 Jews (in addition to countless Spanish exiles). Arizmendi tells him that the boxes he entrusts to him contain only “books”, so as not to compromise him, and together they keep them in a warehouse in Marseille.
Arizmendi manages to escape to Mexico, but Lubián is arrested as a member of the French Resistance and ends up in a Ravensbrück concentration camp (which she survived) and Bosques is also arrested and transferred by the Nazis to a prison in Germany. And the thread of the archive is lost, until the end of the World War.
Already in November 1945, Negrín wrote from Mexico City to the Secretary of Relations of the Aztec country, Francisco Castillo Nájera, to tell him about “his personal library”, about the adventures he had gone through, about the help of Consul Bosques, the deposit of Marseille… And he asks him to help him recover his books, again avoiding any mention that commits Mexico to a custody of documents that would have contravened international law.
In the draft of that letter, which is kept at the Foundation’s headquarters in Gran Canaria, Negrín himself explains the reason for fleeing the archive from Toulouse to Marseille: to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Gestapo, the German secret police , and the Franco government, which at that time was still persecuting the exiled Spaniards.
The library and the archive eventually end up in Negrín’s house in Paris, in a basement, where his partner, Feli López, first, and his granddaughter Carmen Negrín, later, kept them.
Historians such as Juan Marichal, Ricardo Miralles or Manuel Tuñón de Lara searched for the archive, without success, and Gabriel Jackson and Ángel Viñas tried to convince Juan Negrín Jr. to allow them to consult it, but they met with a strong refusal.
Carmen Negrín explains in this article the reason: the family had already handed over to the Franco Government, fulfilling Juan Negrín’s wish, the documents on the gold from the Bank of Spain sent to Moscow to pay for the Republic’s war material and left scalded . “The misrepresentation of the gold papers made a dent in the family and explains the prolonged silence; they wanted to safeguard the memory of Juan Negrín,” she writes.