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SPAIN: Casa de Velazquez and the Civil War



I am grateful to those who have sent me information about the Casa de Velazquez during and since the Civil War. Vittorio Scotti Douglas of Milan says: "The Casa de Velazquez stands exactly where it stood since it was built and opened on November 20 1928. During the Civil War was practically destroyed and its library totally burnt after a struggle continued for many days between the 1st company of the 3 Tabor of the Moroccan forces (Tetuan n.1) and the 3rd Company of the Dombrowski Battalion. The fight raged from November 15 1936 on, and was particularly fierce the 19th and 20th. The Casa was temporarily re-opened in Morocco, and then, in 1942, back in Madrid, Calle Serrano. In 1958 it was reconstructed and opened again on May 25, 1959.

Many other details can be found in Jean-Marc Delaunay, Des palais en Espagne. L'École des hautes études hispaniques et la Casa de Velázquez au coeur des relations franco-espagnoles du XX siècle (1898-1979), Madrdi, Casa de Velázquez, 1994. La Casa has a (new) splendid library, over 100.000 volumes rich, operated on the open shelf system, and it is a real heaven for the scholar. The rooms are confortable and cheap!"

My question: I am grateful to Jean-Pierre Dedieu of Bordeaux iii for calling my attention to the web page of the Casa, but it seems to avoid the sensitive question of French relations with Franco. I was a good friend of Paul Guinard, who was director of the Institut Français in Madrid before the Civil War. When I was evacuated from Madrid he had already returned to his home in a small town in southern France with a name ending in -ac, like so many in southern France. I visited him there. He was, like many Frenchmen, an avid collector of wild mushrooms, and we went collecting them together. We talked about the Civil War, and I thought that he was, like me, simply dismayed by the whole thing.

However, he was really very pro-Franco, and I understand that he was appointed French cultural representative in Madrid. He apparently lived in the Casa Velazquez and was killed by a car driven by a German tourist when he crossed the street in front of the Casa. The street is now named after him. The French were bitterly divided about Franco, and most of my French friends were opposed to him. The home page of the Casa seems to avoid this issue. Perhaps the Delauney book goes into ii.

I was very happy to receive a message from David Wingeate Pike, an expert on France and Spain during that period. He writes: "I have been working on SS gold shipments from Mauthausen to Berlin. Painstaking, but no one has done it before. This is for my new edition for Eds Privat in Toulouse. It is virtually a new book, not a French translation of the Routledge edition". One of David's books deals with the concentration camp in Mauthausen, Austria, where many Spanish republicans were "guests". When I visited it some years ago, a Spanish survivor served as my guide. I am sure that the Casa Velazquez got caught up in the debate about the relations of France with Franco and the Axis. Perhaps David or some one else can clarify this.

One detail. The Casa is in the Ciudad Universitaria, now the Universidad Complutense. Then why id it co-sponsoring the announced seminar with the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, which is some distance away? Is it just that that university sought its cooperation?

Ronald Hilton - 1/12/02


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