“WHEN I LOOK TO THE YEARS AHEAD OF ME AND BACK TO THE YEARS I’VE LIVED, I FEEL I STILL LOVE LIFE AND THAT THE ONLY DEATH I FEAR IS THE DEATH OF HISTORICAL MEMORY.”
As a farmer’s daughter, my mother was committed to social matters and women’s rights early on in her life. She was a communist, became a nurse during the Spanish Civil War, and, in February 1939, she organised for 182 children that had lost their parents to cross the border into France.
Her commitment to the French Résistance was the logical continuation of her struggle against fascism in Spain.
As a liaison agent, she carried news and transported arms. Her house served as a meeting point for resistance groups of the Maquis and deserters of the STO (Service du travail obligatoire), a compulsory labour service forced upon the French by the German occupying force.
She was denounced, imprisoned and deported to Ravensbrück in February 1944. After her liberation from Holleischen subcamp, she returned home and was received by her comrades from the Résistance and the authorities in Périgueux.
Despite all the suffering, her life was full of enriching encounters and experiences. My mother always said that she wouldn’t swap it for any other. Despite some sad moments, she was a very cheerful woman.
Neus fought all her life and supported numerous organisations: against the Franco dictatorship, for peace, freedom, social justice and women’s rights.
In 1983, she published the book “De la resistència i la deportació: 50 testimonis de dones espanyoles” [“In Ravensbrück ging meine Jugend zu Ende”, Berlin 1994], containing reports of 50 contemporary witnesses, as an appreciation of all those Spanish Republican women in exile who were active in the French Résistance and forgotten by historians.
My mother always said that Dante, when writing his “Inferno”, had not known Ravensbrück. He could not picture the unthinkable. Ravensbrück was a place of unimaginable horror, but also a place of solidarity and connectedness. There, she learned that “someone who doesn’t think like you can be better than you”. Her comrades offered resistance “for a high ideal that gives meaning to people and thanks to which they feel infinitely superior to the executioners.”
Margarita Català van Amsterdam
Neus Català Pallejà’s daughter