Activism and underground resistance in France – Germinal Gracia
Tomás Gracia Ibars (1919-1991), known to friends and comrades as Germinal, and to a wider audience by the pseudonym Víctor García, was a Spanish anarchist who participated in the revolution and civil war. After crossing the border into France in 1939 he was interned in a succession of refugee camps. This autobiographical passage, which relates his activity towards the end of the Second World War, was first published in French in 1985, as ‘Militantisme, resistance et clandestinité en France et en Espagne’, in René Bianco (coord.), CIRA Marseille 23-25, Les anarchistes dans la Résistance vol. 2 - Témoignages, 1939-1945, a work I was first made aware of by the excellent biographical study of Germinal Gracia and Los Quijotes del Ideal by Javier Alcalde. The present translation is taken from the extracts in Spanish published in Ricard de Vargas Golarons and Roger Costa Puyal (coord.), Josep Lluís Facerías y sus grupos de acción (Barcelona: Descontrol, 2020), pp. 235-36. Other writing by Germinal has been translated on this substack here and here.
Although brief, I thought it worth translating for the drama of the testimony, and as a tribute to Germinal, and to the ‘comrades who remained on board’.
I was CNT delegate in the area [Isére, Southeast France], and combined these activities with that of the Maquis – in Corps and in that general region of the Alps. After the CNT plenum in Mauriac on 6 June 1943, the organisation was able to extend its operations further and so I had to do a lot of travelling between the departments of Isére, Jura, Drôme, both Savoy regions, the Rhone, and the Upper Alps. I also had to make regular trips to Montpellier to see Juan Manuel Molina – ‘Juanel’ – the general ‘secretary’ of the CNT in France. Presumably it was this continuous travel that aroused the suspicions of the Vichy authorities, and in March 1944, Pétain’s Militia burst into my room at dawn, pistols in hand, and took me to Lyon…
We were told that we were considered ‘a threat to public order and to national security’ and as such we were interned in the camp at Vernet. A few months later, the Germans decided to evacuate the camp and organised convoys of railway wagons to take us to Dachau in Germany…
From the start of the journey, a few of us decided to do everything we could to try and escape. Using the handles of forks and spoons – the only ‘tools’ at our disposal – we attempted to lift the planks that formed the floor of the wagon… Eventually, when we were approaching Nancy – the border, in other words – we managed it. At night, while the train was moving very slowly due to the multiple acts of sabotage on the lines, we slid out of the hole we’d opened in the floor. Supporting our bodyweight with our arms, and helped by the comrades who remained on board, we lowered ourselves feet first and lay between the tracks until the train had passed over us. We contacted the Resistance who took care of us and brought us to Lyon. There, thanks to infiltrators in the local authority, we were issued with a pass that allowed us to travel to Paris. At the same time, Allied troops, recently landed at Normandy, were advancing towards the capital.
 ‘Secretario’ appears in quotation marks in the original.