An approach to the participation of female Spanish anarchists in the fight against the Occupation and Nazism in France
Hello again, readers. I could not quite decide what entry to settle on this month, but (…) I have eventually decided on one that has been hovering over me for some time. About three years ago I wrote about how Spanish women had been involved in the escape lines in France. What I want to do today is to add some information about female involvement in France. Since the members of the escape lines were mostly mentioned in that earlier article, my topic today will be the activity of libertarian women in the French Resistance.
Lest this text become overly long, I shall concentrate on the anarchist women and leave the socialist, communist, republican, nationalist women and so on for another day.
As you know, this blog/project attempts, insofar as it can, not just to rescue libertarian memories but to dig a little deeper and disclose the much hushed-up contributions of women anarchists. As a rule, sad to say, it is much harder to unearth and collate information about them.
So today’s entry will be following the fighting females and focusing on the libertarian women who took part in the anti-Nazi resistance. Saddle up, because this is an interesting story.
I shall spare you another rehearsal of the departure into exile, the camps, the labour companies and so forth. To all of the straits endured by the menfolk, the women had to add sheer survival with the girls and boys in their care, plus the relentless male sexual abuse. They never gave in, even though at times it was their own partners who belittled them and they kept their heads high when the repression struck and things took an uglier turn and of course they joined in with the fight.
Now let me offer you a brief look at the lives of those exemplary women. I have a short list of the ones I have managed to identify. Which is not to say that there were not others. Many others. Luckily, details of most of them can be gleaned from the web or printed materials. Here goes:
Ascensión Alguacil Pascual was born in Zaragoza, but moved early on to Barcelona. There she worked in a textile plant and joined the Libertarian Youth. While in exile she served as a resistance courier in the Dordogne. She died in France in 1986.
Sara Berenguer Laosa was born in Barcelona in 1919. A worker from the age of 12, she found that the menfolk tried to impress it upon her that they were the ones in charge; she disputed that and joined the Libertarian Youth, the Mujeres Libres and the SIA [Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista]. She took part in the resistance in the Aude department. She died in exile in 2010.
Juliana Berrocal Martín was from Salamanca, having been born there in 1925. Like her partner, she was actively involved in the resistance in the city of Bordeaux.
Ana Camello García aka Ana Delso, was born in Andújar (Jaén) in 1922. She was active in the CNT, the Mujeres Libres, the FIJL [Libertarian Youth] and later the SIA. In 1944 she joined the resistance in the Isère department, She died in Montreal (Canada) in 2020.
Braulia Cánovas Mulero aka Monique was a native of Alhama de Murcia where she was born in 1920. She joined the resistance in 1942/43 and was arrested in Perpignan on 9 May 1943. In February 1944 she was deported to Germany and spent time in the Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, which she survived. She died in 1993 in Barcelona.
Eva Cascante aka Dolores; the only thing we know about her is that she was a friend of Ada Martí and was part of the resistance in the Bordeaux area.
Engracia Ciprés was born in Aguaviva (Teruel). During the civil war she served as a nurse and took part in the fight against the Nazis in the Ariège department in the Pyrenees. She died in exile in France in 1984.
Soledad Cortés Cubeles was born in Mazaleón (Teruel) in 1916. She was a CNT member and a collectivist during the civil war. She joined the resistance in 1943 in the Oise department. She was arrested the same year and deported to Germany in 1944. She survived Ravensbrück only to die in Paris in 1966.
Josefa Estruch Pons aka Pepita Carnicer was from Copons (Barcelona) having been born there in 1920. She belonged to the CNT and was active in the Libertarian Youth and Mujeres Libres. She was involved with the resistance from 1942 to 1944 in the Chartres region. She died in Paris in 2011.
Julia Hermosilla Sagredo was born in 1916 in Sestao (Vazcaya). She was a member of the CNT from the age of 14 and shortly after that joined the Libertarian Youth. She served as a militian on the northern front during the civil war. In France she was active in the resistance in L’Aveyron. She worked with the anti-Francoist guerrillas and was involved in two plans to assassinate Franco. She died in Hendaye in 2009.
Lola Iturbe Arizcuren was born in Barcelona in 1902. She worked as a seamstress from the age of 9 and joined the CNT at age 15. A writer and publisher, she was active in the Mujeres Libres. She was involved in the resistance in the Montpelier area. She died in Gijon in 1990.
Dolores Jiménez Álvarez aka Blanca was born in Abejuela (Teruel) in 1918. By the age of 11 she was working in Barcelona and shortly after that embraced anarchism. She served in the Durruti Column as a militian. She was involved in the maquis around Cordes in the Tarn department. She was very active alongside her partner Teófilo Navarro, as well as in the fight against Franco, working with Sabaté’s and Facerías’s groups. She died in Toulouse on a date unknown.
Concha Liaño Gil was born in Epinay-sur-Seine (France) in 1915. Having relocated to Barcelona, she joined the Libertarian Youth at the age of 15. She was a feminist activist and member of Mujeres Libres. She took part in the resistance in Bordeaux city. She died in Caracas (Venezuela) in 2014.
María Lozano Molina (b. Zaragoza, 1914) from a libertarian family was already, by the age of 15, active in pursuit of “the Idea”. She fought against the rebels on the streets of Zaragoza and later joined the Durruti Column. Once in exile, she was to join the maquis in Grenada near Toulouse. Her home was a safe house for any comrades and those who passed through included Quico Sabaté and Salvador Puig Antich. She died in France in 2000.
Teresa Margalef Beltrán was born in Benifallet (Tarragona) in 1904. From a libertarian family, she was on very friendly terms with Durruti’s partner, Emilienne Morin. She fought in the resistance, albeit that I am not aware of where and with which group.
Dolors Molist Colom aka Lola de cal vetes was born in Manresa (Barcelona) in 1917. She worked in the textile industry from the age of 12 and joined the CNT in 1935. She fought alongside her partner in the French resistance in the Ariège department and died in Manresa in 2017.
Rosa Riba is a perfect example of the unknown women we occasionally stumble upon. Her partner (Casto Ballesta) was a militant who made a name for himself as a fighter and as his reputation grew, hers retreated into the shadows. When it comes to her, we have no second surname, no date or place of birth or death and hardly any data about her. What we do know is that she was very active in a range of maquis groups in Limoges and thereabouts between the start of 1942 and the Liberation.
Ester Rodríguez was born in 1918 in Barcelona into an anarcho-syndicalist family. During the civil war she was a militian, a public speaker and a lecturer. After breaking out of the Barcarès concentration camp she joined the resistance as a saboteur. Arrested by the Gestapo, she was then deported to Germany and murdered in Mauthausen in 1945.
Montserrat Ruiz Ortiz aka Montse is another unknown. All we know of her is that she was involved with the resistance groups from the L’Aigle dam scheme (Cantal department) and later joined the Didier Battalion, as did a heap of Spanish libertarians. Thanks to Alain Aubignac, we know that Montserrat was born in Cartagena in 1909.
Juana Sánchez Martínez was born in Lorca (Murcia). I know little of her background although I do know that her family moved away to Lyon. She joined the ‘La Barraca’ arts group, some of the members of which were active in the resistance in the city. What I do not know is whether she followed in the footsteps of her brother Juan aka el Pelao, who later joined Cerrada’s group, the northern Paris regional resistance.
Inés Seguí is another unknown quantity. We learned of her name thanks to a meeting I had with Elsa Osaba in Madrid. All that I can say is that she was involved with the resistance in Lyon-Villeurbanne and may well have been a member of the ‘La Barraca’ group too.
And let us bring this initial list to a close with Mercedes Valdaura; again we are short on facts. All we know about Mercedes is that she was delegate from the Tarn-et-Garonne departmental Unión Nacional CNT Grouping (ACUN) to the Unión Nacional plenum held in Toulouse in September 1944.
This is just a first trawl through the women in the resistance. I imagine that, in time, more names will crop up. Any information or amendment can be forwarded to nicautivosnidesarmados [at] gmail.com
From El Salto, 29 March 2023 https://www.elsaltodiario.com/ni-cautivos-ni-desarmados/participacion-libertarias-espanolas-resistencia-francesa Photo: Ana Delso carrying out liaison work, 1944. Source: Imanol.
Translated by: Paul Sharkey.