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martes, 10 de diciembre de 2013

Centenary of Joaquim Amat-Piniella

"I have met many former Catalan deportees, I have seen different attitudes and reactions in the face of Nazi deportation and their remnants, but the terribly tired eyes of Amat-Piniella were what told me most about what had meant the Nazi hell."

Els catalans als camps nazis
Montserrat Roig

This year marks the centenary of the birth of writer Joaquim Amat-Piniella (1913-1974), staunch defender of Catalan nation and culture and victim of the Holocaust in World War II. Coinciding with this ephemeris Barcelona hosts a temporary exhibition on the life and work of the author at the Museu d’Història de Catalunya until January 6, 2014.

Early years

Joaquim Amat-Piniella was born in Manresa on November 22, 2013 into a wealthy family of progressive ideology.

With the advent of the Second Republic he joined Esquerra Republicana and went into politics, becoming secretary of Francesc Marcet, third Republican mayor of Manresa.

During this time he also developed many cultural and literary activities, which will lead to a large number of published stories and articles in publications such as El Dia newspaper or the Assaigs magazine. At this stage of his life he will also publish the book Ombres al Calidoscopi (a biographical collection of various figures from Manresa) and will create the avant-garde magazine Ara with the help of other intellectuals and artists in the city.

In addition to his literary concerns he was also passionate about cinema and jazz, which he will help to introduce in Manresa with the foundation of the organization Hot Club Manresa.

The Spanish Civil War, exile and Nazi extermination camps

With the outbreak of the Civil War Joaquim Amat-Piniella left Law career and enlisted as a volunteer in the army of the Republic, eventually reaching the rank of lieutenant in the artillery branch and going to fronts of Andalusia, Aragon and Valencia and especially Granada (localities of Mancha Real, Campillo de Arenas, Torredonjimeno, Martos, Frailes and Alcaudete).

The end of the war and the defeat of the Republic will force Amat-Piniella, like many others, to flee to France shortly after marrying Maria Llaveríes, niece of Joan Llaveríes and teacher at the Grup Escolar Renaixença of Manresa during the year 1935-1936.

All republican refugees will be sent by French authorities to internment camps where many times living conditions(housing, health, food...) are not appropriate, this will cause many deaths, especially among weakest people (children, sick and wounded, elderly ones... ).

Amat-Piniella, after crossing the border on July 14th, will to Perpignan and camps of Argelès, Saint Cyprian and Barcarès. It is in this moment that he will meet with Ferran Planes, Josep Hernández, Pere Vives and Josep Arnal, together they enlisted in one of the companies of foreign workers of the French army and sent to the German border, where in May 1940 will be surprised by the beginning of World War II. Fleeing eastwards in a train Amat and his colleagues tried to enter Switzerland twice, but will be thrown into occupied France where they will be captured by the German army.

The fate that awaited them after being captured was none other than to be transferred to the Austrian camp of Mathausen, arriving in a railway convoy in January 27, 1941. Inside the camp thousands of deportees incarcerated there, in addition to suffering a grueling regime of work and insufficient food intake, are subjected to all kinds of moral and physical abuse by the SS guards and prisoners being part of the repressive structure.

In the camp also medical experimentation and implement other methods to execute the prisoners are practiced, such as gasoline or phenol injections to the heart, such as the one that ended Pere Vives life on October 31, 1941.

Amat-Piniella was soon to be assigned to work in the Wiener Graben quarry, economically exploited by the SS and meaning a certain death for prisoners. However his friend Arnal, who was a cartoonist (in 1948 he will create the famous character of the dog Pif) and had reached a somewhat more fair treatment by the Nazis eager for cartoon porn , managed to find him a place in the civilian clothing warehouse, which allowed him to remain indoors and enjoy a little more favourable living conditions.

This refuge lasted very little as authorities in the camp soon discovered that the head of the warehouse, which was also part of the SS, was involved in a corruption case. The resulting punishment the interned working there received meant severe beatings and get them arrested as well returning to the barracks discipline and work in the quarry.

For Amat-Piniella this situation lasted until 1943, this year he was transferred to other subordinated camps within the structure of the Mauthausen complex until reaching Ebensee, which would be liberated on May 6, 1945 by troops of the 80th U.S. Infantry Division.

The interior exile and writing of K.L. Reich


The end of World War II brought a new de facto exile by the Republicans who decided to return to Spain because, leaving aside the Franco regime did not recognize the existence of Spanish citizens in Nazi camps until early 1960s people who returned were unable to resume his previous life before the Civil War in any personal or professional areas.

In the case of Amat-Piniella it meant that, after his stay in Andorra to recover from his experience in the camps, returning in 1946 he had to abandon Law career and, after a number of businesses that did not have much success, ended up working as an accountant. He also had to give up residence in Manresa for fear of reprisals (in fact, the only time he was returned on January 2 1960 when he was invited to an exhibition of books in Catalan held in Sant Domènec square, there he was rebuked by one of the Falangists of the city , which forced him to return to Barcelona on the same day as Josep Tomàs Cabot tells in at this link and this other one).

In addition to these political and social events he also had suffered the 1949 death of Maria Llaveríes, his wife, and had to raise alone Marcel, their son who was then three years old.

During his stay in Andorra Amat-Piniella wrote K.L. Reich, the book that can be considered his masterpiece and in the novelised account of lived experiences that derived of his stay and that of many other Spaniards in Nazi death camps. This work is a shocking testimony which reflects the hunger, misery, humiliation, torture and death that affected all those people, but it is also a tribute to the resilience and dignity of the human being facing the most adverse circumstances.

The work is dedicated to two people: to his friend Pere Vives and to General Omar Bradley, commnader in chief of U.S. forces the 80th Infantry Division was part of (people going to the exhibition may see the thank you letter the general sent to Amat-Piniella for dedicating him K.L. Reich, this can also be seen in

Like any work that to be published in Franco's Spain, it had to go through the review of the regime's censorship and the censorship by the author himself, this latter fact clearly due to the inability of having among other fragments the initial written introduction: a clear and forceful denunciation of fascism (you can read this introduction in this link and the comparison between 1963 and 2011 introductions regarding the not published one in this other one, both links are from

K.L. Reich was able to be finally released in the spring of 1963 first in Spanish by Seix Barral and in October of the same year in Catalan by Club Editor (to see a complete list of the existing editions you may visit and won the Fastenrath Award in 1965 as part of Jocs Florals en Llengua Catalana held in the exile (in fact that year event was held in Paris).

As for editions in other languages next year English and French editions are expected.

Last years: Amical de Mauthausen and Montserrat Roig

The last years of Joaquim Amat-Piniella saw a gradual decline in terms of its literary activity (ceased altogether in 1966). But his commitment to the struggle against fascism and the memory of the deportees remained firm and proof of this was his participation in the clandestine founding of the association Amical de Mauthausen (not legalized until years later) and the contribution of his testimony for the book Els catalans als camps nazis, written by Montserrat Roig (1946-1991) (one of the first persons to take an interest in this issue from a journalistic and historiographical point of view) and published in Spain in 1977 shortly after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

The fate of this first edition was quite bumpy because a bomb attack carried out by an extreme right group against the distributor burned largely of it as the author explains in the video below, corresponding to Identitats program by Televisió de Catalunya originally aired on April 9, 1988 (after minute 38 they start talking about the book and from minute onwards 41:10 one of the half-burned copies is shown).

Joaquim Amat-Piniella died on August 3 1974.


The text of this post is available under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license.

Interesting links

Although in each language version (Spanish, Catalan and English) of this post had been tried to put links corresponding to the language used you might want to use the Google automatic translator in some cases.

For more information about the topics covered please see the following links:

Web of Joaquim Amat-Piniella in / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

Temporal exhibition Joaquim Amat-Piniella: escriure contra el silenci at Museu d’Història de Catalunya and the accompanying teaching dossier (in Catalan).

Contents of LletrA portal by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya:

About Joaquim Amat-Piniella:
Literary news about Joaquim Amat-Piniella in lletrA, the UOC's virtual space devoted to Catalan literature

About Montserrat Roig:
Literary news about Montserrat Roig in Lletra, Catalan literature online at the Open University of Catalonia.

For any matter related to the photographic legacy of Fons Joaquim Amat i Piniella you have to contact Arxiu Comarcal del Bages.

This entry it's also available in the following languages:
Castellano Català

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