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Postre: Paracuellos, Andreu Nin and Repression in Republican Spain (Paul Preston, UK) (John Eipper, USA, 02/14/10 5:19 am)
Paul Preston writes: Nigel Jones (13 February) writes it it is not correct, as I claimed, "that atrocities in the Republican zone had effectively been ended by the Republic by the end of 1936, nor that the authorities 'tried to put a stop to them.' Just the opposite--the Communists who filled the power vacuum in Madrid after the Largo Caballero Government fled to Valencia in November 1936 actually organised such killings." I have spent the last eight years working on a book on the repression behind the lines in both zones. It has been, and still is, a pretty gruesome and distasteful task, but I think I do know what I am talking about. So I stand by my statement. It is widely accepted by the latest research that 95% of the violence in the Republican zone took place before mid-December 1936. The execution of the prisoners before that time--collectively labelled "Paracuellos" is rightly condemned and there can be no doubting that it was organised by the Communists and carried out by their own and anarchist militiamen. The bulk of those executed were army officers who had been given the opportunity to fulfil their oath of loyalty to the Republic and fight on its behalf. They refused knowing that this was mutiny and put them at risk of execution. Those in charge of the defence of Madrid knew that two thousand army officers desperate to join their rebel comrades would constitute a massive military advantage for Franco. This not to justify the massacre but rather to explain it and perhaps to suggest that comparisons with Katyn are not apt. Regarding what happened to the POUM, Orwell is not the best witness. The POUM leader, Andreu Nin, was murdered in June 1937 by NKVD personnel on Stalin's orders because he had been Trotsky's secretary and because several foreign Trotskyists were prominent in the POUM. This was an issue that had little to do with the Republican government, which had no control over the NKVD operatives. Indeed, much to the fury of the Russians, under Juan Negrin's government, his appointee as Minister of Justice, Manuel Irujo, opened investigations into both the murder of Nin and the events at Paracuellos. The leadership of the POUM was tried for treason with full judicial guarantees, and every one of those tried survived the Spanish Civil War and made it into exile.