The extreme right scene in Spain. Part I: Neo-Nazis in Valencia
By Demetrio Gomez, CIDH Pro Igual
This article is part of the series of blogs investigating the connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.
As discussed in some of the previous articles, see here, many former Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution after the WWII had settled in Spain. Their principal destination was the Mediterranean Coast. In particular, Valencia has come to be one of the most prominent safe havens for the Nazi fugitives where they could not only continue living undisturbed, but also established strong connections and exerted an enormous influence on the extreme right ideology and organizations in Spain.
The Nazi footprint
Following a trial and conviction in absentia of Dr. Death (Aribert Heim) by the court of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Stuttgart police unit travelled to Spain where Heim was reportedly sighted. The investigators visited a small town of Denia, in Valencia. It is there that the whole German enclave was discovered, effectively sheltering dozens of former SS officials. (A detailed account of the Nazis settled in Spain is provided in Joan Cantarero´s book “La Huella de la Bota,” “The Bootprint.”)
Picture a sunny Valencian town along the coast, a habitual vacation spot during the summer months. A scenic house surrounded by gardens and known, for as long as the residents could remember it, as “the German House.” In the garden, there was a stone barbecue grill ending in a vault and adorned with a swastika in a circle, poking macabre fun at the victims of the crematorium ovens. Presently, the house has been converted into a hotel; the barbecue is still there, although the swastika was removed.
That house, also nicknamed “Fine House,” to honor its owner´s spouse Josefa Gallego, belonged to a former Nazi official Josef Janitscha. Along with the “Bremer’s Bungalows” and Gestapo quarters situated in the upper part of the town and overlooking the sea (often serving as a lighthouse to guide the boats and an interrogation and torture place for dissenting Nazis), the “Fine House” was part of the protection network for fugitive Nazi officials. Upon arrival, the Nazis usually spent some time at the Bungalows before relocating somewhere else.
The Bremer´s apartments made up the most modern, the best illuminated and the best maintained area of the town, with stunning views of the sea. Its naturally sheltered location permitted the owners to carry out Nazi smuggling in total privacy. Bremer in turn had fully integrated himself into the life of the community, providing jobs for the local residents and even financing the municipal orchestra, so that every July 25 – on Bremer´s birthday – they played in his honor. According to one of the musicians invited to play at a private party held at the “Fine House” in 1979, all guests were dressed in the Nazi uniforms and the whole place was decorated with the same paraphernalia (as documented in the Cantarero´s book).
And this all was taking place in the late 1970s, that is, already after the end of the Franco´s dictatorship and the adoption of the Spanish Constitution. Not only was there never any retribution for the Nazi criminals, but the Spanish authorities consistently rejected extradition requests by other countries governments. Moreover, owing to rather close connections between the former Nazis and the Spanish police forces at that time, the search for Nazi criminals had to be conducted with the uttermost discretion due to risk that someone at the police could tip off the Nazis about the direction of the search. Probably, this is what had happened during the international hunt for Heim, and despite the “imminent arrest” of “Dr. Gaussmann,” a Heim´s alias at that time, he managed to escape and never to be found again.
The current landscape
Judging by a cozy life of the ex-Nazis on the Levantine coast, it is hardly surprising that precisely there, in Valencia of all places, the extreme right organizations have proliferated the most, and the largest number of neo-Nazi attacks and aggressions have been reported. For the neo-Nazi brutes, these old criminals are epic heroes inspiring fanatical admiration and blind following.
Thanks to important work of Spanish civil society organizations, some of the neo-Nazi extremists´ activities in had been documented and exposed. Thus, the Anti-Fascist Intelligence Group (Grupo de Inteligencia Antifascista or “GIA”) regularly published in the Valencia Weekly reports about right-wing attacks and helped obtain evidence and identify the perpetrators. These materials provide an important insight into quotidian workings of neo-Nazi leaders.
For example, the GIA exposed the leader of the extreme right wing España 2000 party as a person planting a bomb at the Levante UD Stadium in 1976 on the eve of one of the first mass gatherings of the left. Jose Luis Roberto chaired the party at the same time as he served as the secretary General of the National Association of Local Entrepreneurs of Alterne (in Spanish “ANELA”). He is also the owner of a security firm Levantina de Seguridad notorious for its violent character and previously sued for forcing its workers to join the pro-fascist Falange Española party.
During the term of Eduardo Zaplana as the President of the Autonomous Community of Valencia and subsequently as the Labor Minister, the firm reached its highest point. It was contracted to oversee security of public buildings and got cash injection of at least 3mln euro. The firm, that by the way sells Nazi souvenirs on its website, was highly praised by the Valencian police chief, Antonio Moreno Piquer, who does not make a secret of his sympathy for España 2000 and who also was behind the latest acts of police brutality against minors during the 2012 student demonstrations in Valencia.
In addition to these legal and visible organizations, there are also numerous “dark horses” camouflaging under other political orientations and imparting their ideology of hatred in a less conspicuous manner. Environmentalism is one of the most common covers. For example, the Environmental Thought and Action (in Spanish “Pensamiento y Acción Ecologista” or “PAE”) was formed by militants of the ultra-right organization National Alliance. Meetings and conferences of the infamous Library Europa, banished from convening at any of the nearby hotels and conference centers, regularly take place at the PAE headquarters.
The extreme right elements have managed to infiltrate even some of the workers´ organizations and labor unions, attempting to inculcate the rejection of foreigners and immigration because allegedly “migrants steal jobs from the Spanish.” In 2010, there was a major conflict in the General Labor Confederation (Confederación General del Trabajo or CGT) leading to the expulsion of the right-wing elements and a statement from the organization that the CGT rejects xenophobic ideology.
There are also ongoing attempts from the pro-fascist/neo-Nazi forces to take political office and have a greater influence on the political life in Spain. For example, Pedro José Cuevas Silvestre, aka “El Ventosa,” was convicted of the brutal murder of anti-fascist activist Guillem Agulló. Cuevas merely served 4 out of 14 years of his prison term. Leaving jail without a trace of remorse, this convicted criminal had no difficulties whatsoever in pursuing a career in politics. His name appeared on the list of the Chiva municipal elections in 2007 (in Segovia) as a candidate of the ultra-right National Alliance.
Last but not least major neo-Nazi organization in Valencia, uncovered as a result of the Operation Panzer in 2005, is the Front Against the System (Frente Antisistema or FAS). It is a for-profit organization implicated in numerous cases of robbery, violent assaults on immigrants, arms trafficking (in conspiracy with the members of the Spanish military), and other illicit activities. The organization is headed by a known Valencian businessman, Juan Manuel Soria, who by the way also is the head of the aforementioned PAE and a member of the National Alliance.
In conclusion, the large influx of the fugitive Nazi criminals after the WWII has certainly helped turn Valencia into one of the major bastions of the extreme right movement in Spain. If not for civil society initiatives, such as the Platform Against Impunity (Plataforma Contra la Impunidad) among others, the extreme right/neo-Nazi activism most likely would have been left without repercussions in Valencia, as happened in so many other Spanish localities. The more detailed account of the civil society initiatives to counter the neo-Nazi threat will be offered in the subsequent articles.