Mauthausen and Franscec Boix

When Nazi Germany invaded France almost 10,000 Spanish Republicans were captured and deported to SS camps, above all Mauthausen In Austria. Of the some 7,200 Spaniards who entered Mauthausen, barely 2,200 were alive by their liberation in 1945. Another 2,000 probably died in other camps, such as Dachau and Buchenwald. Many were at the limits of their resistance and half were dead within a year of liberation. Most of the survivors could not return to Franco’s Spain, and many were given asylum in France.

One of the most dramatic stories connecting Spanish Republicans and WW2 is that of the young Barcelonan photographer Francesc Boix

Boix went into exile in 1939 at the end of the civil war but was captured by the Nazis in northern France and deported in January 1941 to the concentration camp of Mauthausen, in Austria. In that hell, he managed to get a relatively good job – working as a slave technician in the SS photo lab, developing the thousands of photos the Nazis obsessively took to document the camp and its inmates. But secretly with two other prisoners he made copies of the negatives, which the camp resistance then smuggled out to a very brave Austrian woman who hid them in her garden wall. These photos became – by far – the largest photographic record of the Holocaust and Nazi barbarity taken while it was still ongoing, as the Nazis destroyed almost all the images before the camps were liberated. Boix himself survived and became the only Spaniard called to testify at the Nuremberg Trials against the Nazi leadership.