55 Years Ago in Madrid
55 years ago this week 18-year-old Stuart Christie from Partick was arrested while carrying explosives to assassinate General Franco. He was later alleged to be a member of the Angry Brigade, but was acquitted of related charges. He went on to found the Cienfuegos Press publishing house and in 2008 the online Anarchist Film Channel which hosts films and documentaries with anarchist and libertarian themes. Here he remembers his arrest:
I’ve just been reminded it was 55 years ago this week that I was arrested in Madrid by the Gestapo-trained* Brigada Político-Social (BPS). Around this time of night, 11-12 p.m., I was still being interrogated on the second floor of the Dirección General de Seguridad in the Puerta del Sol (El Ministerio de la Gobernación).
I remained in their direct custody for three days before being transferred downstairs to the infamous subterranean cells, los sótanos, under the jurisdiction of the Jefatura Superior de Policia de Madrid, the policia armada (the grises). Subsequently we were brought back up to the BPS offices for further interrogation, as and when required.
Being a UK citizen, just turned 18, and with the regime sensitive to the negative media and diplomatic impact my trial would have in the wake of the international outcry that followed the previous year’s judicial murders of Julian Grimau, Joaquin Delgado and Francisco Granado, my treatment was relatively benign.
I was pushed around a bit and had my face slapped and hair pulled, but it was nothing compared with that dished out to my Spanish-born comrade, Fernando Carballo Blanco, whose torture I was forced to witness through a two-way mirror.
They pistol-whipped his wrists while he was tied to a chair and subjected him to relentless kidney punches. His wrists and midriff were still massively bruised when we met up after our release from solitary confinement two weeks later in the patio of Carabanchel prison.
Also, for the record, although it’s a good canard, I wasn’t wearing my kilt when arrested — or indeed at any time during my travels; it was folded, neatly, under the flap of my Bergen. Also, although arrested on the 11th of August the DGS sat on the news for five days until August 16.
* Paul Winzer, the head of the Gestapo in Spain, was based there throughout the Civil War. Seconded by Heinrich Himmler to the Madrid Embassy in the mid-1930s to monitor German leftist activists during the Popular Olympics of 1936 he was in Barcelona on 18 July when the rising took place. Appointed adviser to Franco’s general staff, Winzer later organised and supervised the notorious concentration camp at Miranda del Ebro (Burgos) through which over 65,000 Republican prisoners passed. The BPS was established by decree on 24 June 1938 and overseen by Winzer who was appointed to the Nazi Embassy in Madrid in 1939. Although he was known to be in Madrid in the early part of 1945, by April he had disappeared from view and never faced justice for his crimes against humanity. Surprise, surprise!