Thursday, September 02, 2004

On Sunday La Vanguardia published an interview with Carles Fontserè, an old Spanish leftist (now 88) from Civil War days who designed propaganda posters. He fled to France after the war was over, where he complains about being mistreated by the French, who weren't sure what to do with the horde of leftist refugees (some of them very dangerous people) and so locked them up in camps. That's where we start, in France in 1939 before the outbreak of World War II. I quote:

"INTERVIEWER: ...How did you feel when you saw yourself so mistreated?

CARLES FONTSERE: First, discombobulated. We arrived there thinking we were a collective, part of an army. Soon I saw that I had to fight for myself, take care of myself. I decided my obligation was to escape from that concentration camp. Other comrades, on the other hand, enlisted in the Foreign Legion or in work brigades for France, a job for slaves! Then, when those comrades were captured by the Nazis, they sent them to the camps as prisoners of war of an enemy army, which they were.

INT: Did you escape?

CF: I refused to be a slave for France. I put all my intelligence and all the strength of my 23 years into escaping from there. I studied the wire fence and the routine of the guards, and I discovered a possibility. And, crawling like a snake under the wires, I escaped.

INT: Bravo!

CF: When I did so, I deserted from the honorable ranks of the antifascist martyrs. I gave them all the finger: the guards and the prisoners! I rebelled against that fate of martyrdom.

INT: You say that as if the rest decided to be martyrs.

CF: I think that's true, many of them accepted that fate. Not me. And today it seems that you are only one of the good guys if you have suffered a lot. Well, although many "good guys" may become indignant, I will say that I had fun in exile, I had a good time.

INT: Did you make it to Paris?

CF: Yes, with no money or papers. At the beginning, I was hungry, but when I got some pencils and paintbrushes I earned a good living drawing for various publications.

INT: Was there a cultural life in Nazi-occupied Paris?

CF: A great deal. Jean-Paul Sartre began to be known during those years, and Albert Camus expressly left Algeria for that Paris in order to present his works successfully. There was a lot of intellectual, artistic, and cultural life in Paris under the occupation!

INT: Clandestine?

CF: No! The Nazis organized free concerts in the streets of Paris. I came from a lousy concentration camp and I found music in the streets: marvelous!

INT: But they were Nazis!

CF: Look, the German soldiers entered Paris hand in hand with the French soldiers, and they loved Paris, and they protected it. The economic activity in France didn't change: there was electricity, telephones, everything. The head of the German General Staff in Paris, Hans Speidel, met with French artists and intellectuals like Cocteau, Guitry, Gallimard...In the streets, the German officers stepped off the sidewalks to let you pass. In the five years I was in Paris I never saw an armed German soldier in the streets. They didn't need to (carry arms)! They gave chocolate to the people in the streets.

INT: Wasn't there any resistance?

CF: Of course not. That's a myth, invented later by Gaullists and Communists. There was agreement, there was collaboration. According to what I saw, there were 40 million Petainist Frenchmen! The Germans respected the French army, and Petain, with that agreement, saved Paris and the French from destruction. It was intelligent and sensible. Remember that Germany had the most powerful army in Europe...The Nazis respected the Spanish Republican fighters more than Franco. They admired the way we had formed a Popular Army, the way we resisted for three years. Hitler, who was a Socialist, respected the Spanish Reds.

INT: But the Germans turned over Lluís Companys (the leftist, Catalanist president of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War) to Franco.

CF: Companys made a mistake. Instead of presenting himself proudly to the Germans as president of the Generalitat, he walked around Paris like everybody else. I tried to free him when he was held prisoner a few days in La Santé in Paris: along with other Catalans, we wrote a letter to the German commander. It didn't work. But the Germans didn't like the way Franco had him shot, and after that they never permitted a single Spaniard to be turned over to him.

INT: You always excuse the Nazis.

CF: No, I just say what I know, and the truth is that Germany represented at that time the most avant-garde and advanced of Europe. Their rulers were young, while the French were ancient.

INT: Young and perfidious.

CF: Look, Goebbels was wrong: while the Americans made dozens of movies about perfidious Nazis played by the leading Hollywood stars, the Germans didn't make even one about the Americans! What a lack of propaganda! Also, the Nuremberg trials were more propaganda than justice.

INT: Come on...

CF: They executed four of them who they didn't need, but they accepted in the United States scientists who had made Nazi bombs, like Von Braun! Thanks to him the Americans made it to the moon. And where do you think senator McArthy (sic) got those lists of Reds?

INT: Where?

CF: From the Gestapo archives that they bought from Colonel Muller, a Nazi who had them in Switzerland and went over to the United States with his dollars.

INT: Meanwhile, you stayed in Paris.

CF: I was there from 1939 to 1948, yes. (Later he went to the United States, where he lived until his return to Spain in 1973.)"

My only comment is that Carles Fontserè is the most amoral person I have ever heard of, and he dares to boast about his amorality. I wish the so-called Free French had shot the son-of-a-bitch back in '44.

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