On October 15, eighty years ago, Lluís Companys i Jover, the president of Catalonia’s Generalitat government, was executed by a firing squad at Montjuïc castle in Barcelona. He was 58 years old.
He had been arrested in the town of La Baule-Les-Pins in Britanny on August 13, 1940 and taken to La Santé prison in Paris. He was later handed over by the Gestapo to the Franco regime in Irún, on the Spanish border on August 29.
Tortured in Madrid, he was then transferred to Barcelona on October 3, where he was tried by a military kangaroo court-martial without any procedural guarantees and summarily sentenced to death, being the only democratically elected European head of government to be executed in the twentieth century.
All the crimes of the Franco regime are execrable, but by executing Companys they meant to execute a people, though they didn’t succeed: 80 years on and the Catalan people are still standing strong.
Lluís Companys was born in 1882 in the little village of El Tarròs, in the county of Urgell in western Catalonia. In the first third of the 20th century, he worked as a trade union lawyer. A founding leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a promoter of the Rabassaires wine-growing workers’ union, a friend of labour leaders, a councillor in Barcelona and a tireless fighter against the Spanish dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, on April 14, 1931, heeding the mandate of the ballot, he proclaimed the Republic from the balcony of Barcelona City Hall.
Shortly afterwards, upon the death of President Francesc Macià, he assumed the presidency of the Generalitat during the Second Republic.
Companys was to govern in turbulent times, with social and political upheavals aplenty, first confronting the authoritarian course of the Spanish Republic on October 6, 1934, which led to imprisonment, his own and that of the Catalan government. Then, once free and re-elected President in the elections of February 1936, he had to combat General Franco’s fascist coup d’etat in July 1936.
We must call attention to the character of the President, as a person, as a politician, as a statesman, and always with a great sense of responsibility.
His personal career has made Companys a symbol, a figure of reference, one who always fought for the republican values of equality, fraternity and liberty. In short, a man committed to the people, committed to his country.
Companys is a very significant figure in our history and as such we must persist in his remembrance.
80 years after his assassination, the crime remains unpunished. France and Germany have formally apologized for their part, but Spain is yet to do so, and clearly does not understand the meaning of the words Truth, Justice and Reparation.
Companys remains in our hearts, a part of our Republican ideals. Companys, the man who will never die.