Republican refugees in Algeria
Repository: Fundación Pablo Iglesias, Madrid, Spain.
Fond or Collection
Repository and Location
Fundación Pablo Iglesias, Madrid, Spain.
Date Created: 1941
Type: War photography
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Bouarfa, Algeria
The vast majority of the Republicans who fled the country at the end of the war crossed the land border into France, where they were interned. Between 10,000 and 12,000 others escaped by ship from Mediterranean ports to Algeria and French Morocco. Among them were almost 3,000 who crammed aboard the last ship to sail from a Republican port, the British freighter Stanbrook, which departed Alicante for Orán on 28 April 1939. The thousands of others who were stranded on the docks waiting for ships that never arrived wound up in a Francoist concentration camp on the outskirts of the city.
On arrival in North Africa, the women and children were put in detention centres while the men were sent to what the French called reception centres. Until the start of World War II, an internee could leave if he were sponsored by a family member, found a job with a local employer, or had the support of an international aid organization, or competing Republican organizations like the Spanish Refugee Aid Service (SERE) or the Spanish Republicans Aid Committee (JARE).
Things got worse after the creation of the Vichy regime. Some Republicans were sent to special punishment camps that also housed members of the International Brigades and Jews. Writer Max Aub, who had fled to France, was deported to the notorious Djelfa camp. Many more were enrolled in the Foreign Worker Companies (CTE) where they did agricultural labour and worked in mines, quarries, roads and fortifications. Approximately 2,500 were forced to work on the Trans-Saharan Railroad where, overseen by French colonial soldiers, they laboured in temperatures that often surpassed 50 degrees centigrade. Some of them are shown in the photograph. Among them were many sailors from the Republican navy who took refuge in Bizerta, Tunisia at the end of the war and refused to return to Spain. Many of those who did return were executed.
The Allies closed the camps after liberating North Africa in 1943. A number of the Republican internees joined the Allied forces. Fifty or so were recruited by the United States Office of Strategic Services, predecessor of the CIA, as irregular soldiers to be used to invade Spain and Spanish Morocco should Franco decide to enter the war. Some 250 joined the British Pioneer Corps. Another 250 joined the Second Armoured Division of the Free French Army. Of these, 150 became part of the 9th Company of the division commanded by General Philippe Leclerc. La Nueve, as it came to be known, were among the first Allied troops to enter Paris in August 1944.