Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sorry I haven't been here for so long. I spent the last week in Madrid visiting the folks at the Spain Herald, which of course you ought to be reading religiously every day for the skinny on Spain, talking to Robert Duncan, who is starting a new project called Spero News that I am doing some editing for, and hanging out with my friend Richard. We saw the Durer exhibit at the Prado and went to the Thyssen museum, as well as taking trips to El Escorial and Segovia. We hung out one night with my contact Carlos, who is a real nice guy, and we found a bar run by some Bulgarians called La Bruja on Calle Lope de Vega, near Calle Huertas and Plaza Santa Ana, that we highly recommend. Inexpensive and very friendly with tasty Bulgarian food, which is basically standard Mediterranean fare, good stuff. Try the quichelike substance, which is called baritza or something like that. Richard had a good time here in Spain; he thoroughly enjoyed everything. I really do recommend that you guys come and visit in case you haven't already. Don't boycott us just because Zapatero's an idiot. You'll like the sights, the cities, the landscape, the weather (most of the time), most of the food, and most of the people. You won't like tourist hell places like Lloret or Salou, so just stay away from them. That way you can avoid all the--if I may put it euphemistically--working-class Europeans of low socioeconomic status whose alcohol consumption so much of the Spanish economy is dependent on. Also, of course, avoid unattractive suburbs such as Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Vallecas, where the local working class of lower socioeconomic status whose alcohol consumption the rest of the Spanish economy is dependent on hangs out.

The hilarious yet pathetic news is this guy named Enric Marcó, who had gone around ever since 1978 claiming he was a Spanish Republican survivor of the Nazi concentration camp in Flossenburg, was unmasked this week as an impostor. He had actually volunteered in 1941 to work in Germany with one of the transports of volunteers Franco sent. Nobody really knows how many Spanish Republicans were killed by the Nazis. Several thousand, probably. What happened is tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, of these guys, some of whom were basically innocent and some of whom had been guilty of participating in the revolutionary violence in Republican Spain, fled to France after the collapse of the Republic at the beginning of 1939 so that Franco wouldn't get his hands on them. Many of those who Franco did catch he had shot. Some of them probably had it coming and some didn't. Those who fled to France were interned in unpleasant detention camps. Some signed up for the French Army or for French labor batallions and some didn't and some died. After a couple of years the Francoist terror had pretty much burned out and some went back to Spain. The Nazis grabbed some of them and put them in concentration camps for political reasons, since they were mostly leftists. A few, such as former Catalan prime minister Lluís Companys, were deported by the Gestapo and turned over to Franco's tender mercies. Most of those who were imprisoned by the Nazis were in Mauthausen, and many died there. The survivors formed an association which is known for its left-wing activism.

Here one must point out that there is a difference between these guys and the Jewish and Gypsy victims of the Holocaust. The Spanish Republicans were persecuted by the Nazis because of what they had done and what their political ideas were. The Jews and Gypsies were persecuted because of who they were ethnically, not politically. The Jewish and Gypsy victims of the Holocaust were of all political stripes, and most had no political ideas at all. All Spanish Republican victims were, of course, radical leftists. The Spanish Republicans had in their time persecuted other people of different political or religious ideas. The Jews and Gypsies had persecuted nobody. This is not an excuse for the Nazi treatment of the Spanish Republicans, but their suffering, tragic as it was, and what happened to the Jews and Gypsies were two very different things.

Enric Marcó, anyway, was a liar and a fraud. He had been going around for almost three decades as a professional victim. There have been several articles in the Spanish press wondering why Marcó did what he did. The answer is simple. He wanted to feel good about himself. He wanted to have others sympathize with him. He enjoyed being the center of attention. He liked being a hero, lionized by those leftists who naively believe that the Left is Good and the Right is Bad; he got Socialist cabinet minister Carme Chacón to cry on the floor of Parliament with his heart-wringing story, which was of course all made up. The guy volunteered to work for the Nazis, for God's sake. He's not only a fraud, he was a collaborator.

Enric Marcó's imposture brings back memories of such famous exposed phonies, all heroes of the Left, as Anita Hill, who lied about alleged sexual harassment by right-wing judge Clarence Thomas; Rigoberta Menchú, who lied about her family's history in Guatemala; Lillian Hellman, who lied about her own history and her ties with the Stalinists; Jesse Jackson, who lied about his relationship with Martin Luther King; Edward Said, who lied about his family's alleged persecution by the Israelis; Ward Churchill, who lied about his American Indian ancestry; François Mitterand, who lied about his Vichy collaborationist past; and Bill Clinton, of course, who lied about everything to everyone, including the United States Congress.

What do they all have in common? They all basked in the attention of the correct-thinking folks of the Left. It's fun when everybody feels sorry for you and thinks you're a big hero. When their credentials were checked, though, they turned out to be fakes. One wonders how many other stories of victimization are made up. One also despairs at the undeserved discredit that will be cast upon the histories of true innocent victims of persecution by these frauds.

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