Lluís Companys

Lluís Companys

123th President of the Generalitat de Catalunya [1]
In office
December 25, 1933  October 15, 1940
(Acting until January 1, 1934
In exile from January 23, 1939 to October 15, 1940)
Preceded by Francesc Macià
Succeeded by Josep Irla
4th Acting President of the Catalan Republic
In office
October 6, 1934  October 7, 1934
Preceded by Francesc Macià
In 1931
Succeeded by Himself, as President of the Generalitat de Catalunya
1st President of the Parliament of Catalonia
In office
December 14, 1932  June 20, 1933
Preceded by New title
Succeeded by Joan Casanovas i Maristany
Minister of the Marine of Spain
In office
June 20, 1933  September 12, 1933
Preceded by José Giral
Succeeded by Vicente Iranzo Enguita
Personal details
Born (1882-06-21)June 21, 1882
El Tarròs, Urgell
Died October 15, 1940(1940-10-15) (aged 58)
Montjuïc, Barcelona
Nationality Spanish
Political party ERC
Spouse(s) Mercè Micó (div.)
Carme Ballester
Children Lluís (1911–1956)

Lluís Companys i Jover (Catalan pronunciation: [ʎuˈis kumˈpaɲs]) (El Tarròs, Spain, June 21, 1882 – Montjuïc Castle in Barcelona, Spain, October 15, 1940) was the President of Catalonia (Spain), from 1934 and during the Spanish Civil War.

He was a lawyer and leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) political party. Exiled after the war, he was captured and handed over by the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, to the Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who had him executed by firing squad in 1940. Companys is the only incumbent democratically elected president in European history to have been executed,[2][3] and seventy-five years later the council of war which sentenced him is still in force.[4]

Early life

Born in El Tarròs, on June 21, 1882 into a peasant family with aristocratic roots, he was the second child of ten. His parents were Josep Companys and Maria Lluïsa de Jover.[5] His parents sent him to Barcelona in order to study at the boarding school of Liceu Poliglot. Later, after obtaining his degree in law from the University of Barcelona, where he met Francesc Layret, Companys participated in the political life of Catalonia from a young age. In 1906, as a result of the military attack of the offices of Catalan newspapers Cu-Cut! and La Veu de Catalunya, and after the passing of the Ley de Jurisdicciones ("Law of Jurisdictions"), which made speech against Spain and its symbols a criminal offence, he participated in the creation of Solidaritat Catalana.

Later, he became affiliated with the ephemeral Unió Federal Nacionalista Republicana, where he was president of the youth section. He was investigated for his intense youth activities and was jailed fifteen times, being classified after the Tragic Week of Barcelona as a "dangerous individual" in police records.

With Francesc Layret, Companys represented the left-wing labour faction of the Partit Republicà Català (Catalan Republican Party), for which he was elected local councilor of Barcelona in 1916. In November 1920, he was arrested together with Salvador Seguí (known as El Noi del Sucre), Martí Barrera and other trade unionists and he was deported to the Castell de la Mola in Mahón, Menorca. Shortly afterward, Layret was assassinated while preparing his defence.

Despite having been deported, Companys was elected member of parliament for Sabadell in the 1920 Spanish legislative elections, taking the place of Layret, who would have taken that seat han he not been assassinated. This gave him parliamentary immunity, which secured his release from prison.

Companys was one of the founders of the Unió de Rabassaires in 1922, where he worked as lawyer and director of the La Terra magazine during the years of the Primo de Rivera regime in the 1920s .

Detained again, he was unable to attend the Conferència d'Esquerres (Conference of Leftists) held from March 12 to March 19, 1931 that produced the political party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia); however, he was elected as an executive member of that party, representing the Partit Republicà Català. Thanks to the bonds between the Spanish labour movement and the Spanish trade union movement, the election of Companys to this position gave the ERC great prestige amongst left-wing public opinion as it would otherwise have been regarded as a party of the progressive petty bourgeoisie.

Proclamation of the Republic

In the 1931 Spanish Local elections ERC won a surprise victory in Barcelona. After knowing the results, Companys, who was elected a city representative, and other ERC candidates together with the Party's leader Francesc Macià, decided to take over by surprise the office of Mayor and assaulted the City Hall. At gunpoint, the transitional Mayor was deposed and Companys was proclaimed new Mayor. Subsequently, he hung a tricolour Spanish Republican Flag from the City Hall's balcony and proclaimed the Republic. Shortly after, Francesc Macià proclaimed the Catalan Republic within the "Federation of Iberian Republics", a project that was later abandoned after gaining the promise of regional devolution and the restitution of the Catalan Generalitat (as an autonomous government) from the new Republican government.

After controlling the Barcelona City Hall, Macià ordered Companys to take the office of "Gobernador Civil" of the Barcelona province (provincial political authority, which at that time held considerable powers, policing included), which had been controlled by radicals during the process of the Republic proclamation. Macià probably wanted a less public office for Companys, whom he thought of as a political rival. Compays run as a Barcelona provincial candidate in the December 1931 Spanish Legislative Elections. After gaining a seat he led the ERC representation and the Catalan minority group in the new Republican Parliament. He described his political objectives in Madrid as: "We, the Catalan members of the Parliament, have come here not only to defend our law of autonomy "Estatut, Catalan original", and the fraternal and democratic understanding of the members of Parliament; but, also to participate in matters that affect the greatness of Spain: the Constitution, the agrarian reforms and social legislation."[6] In 1932 Companys was elected Speaker of the Parliament of Catalonia.

Proclamation of the Catalan State

After the death of Francesc Macià in 1933, at that time presiding over the Catalan government (Generalitat), Companys was elected the successor President of the Generalitat by the Catalan Parliament. In October 6, 1934, Companys led a Catalan Nationalist uprising not supported by the center and conservatives Catalan representatives, against the center and right-wing republican government, and proclaimed the Catalan State (Estat Català) within the "Spanish Federal Republic",[7] an action by which he was arrested and sentenced to thirty years in prison.[8] This action was seen as an attempt at a Coup d'État as Companys revolted against the newly democratically elected center-right republican government and joined the Asturias miners revolution. Companys asked Manuel Azaña, who happened to be in Barcelona during the events, to lead a newly proclaimed Spanish Republican government, a proposition that Azaña rejected. After the 1936 election and the victory of the left-wing coalition Frente Popular, he was set free by the new government and the Catalan government was restored.

Civil War

Bank note from the Generalitat de Catalunya, 1936.

When the Spanish Civil War began shortly after, in July 1936, Companys sided with the Second Spanish Republic against the Nacionales rebels and was instrumental in organizing a collaboration between the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, which was sponsored by his Catalan government, and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), a revolutionary anti-Stalinist communist party, and Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), an anarchist syndicalist trade union.[9] During the events, Companys opened the police and gendarmery armories to the anarchist and POUM groups, who after defeating the coupists, created havoc and carnage in the city rounding up and shooting hundreds of civilians deemed "bourgeoisie" or "rightist", religious orders members and priests, as well as burning all the churches, monasteries and convents of the city. De facto, Companys lost the control of the city and Catalonia until the May Days of 1937 when the anarchists and POUM were suppressed. After the coup, the CNT had 30,000 armed men in Barcelona, while the government had only 5000.[10] Antony Beevor estimates the total number of people killed in Catalonia in the summer and autumn of 1936 at 8,352.[11]

Exile and execution

Death sentence of Lluís Companys

Exiled to France in 1939 after the Civil War, Companys had passed up various chances to leave France because his son Lluís was seriously ill in a clinic in Paris.[12] He was arrested in La Baule-les-Pins near Nantes on 13 August 1940, and detained in La Santé Prison. He was then extradited by Nazi German authorities to the Spanish government in Madrid in early September 1940 and imprisoned in the cellars of the headquarters of the Dirección General de Seguridad (State Security) at the Real Casa de Correos in Puerta del Sol. He was held there for five weeks, kept in solitary confinement, tortured and beaten, while senior figures of the Franco regime visited his cell, insulted him and threw coins or crusts of bread at him.[12][13] After a military trial which lasted less than one hour, lacking legal guarantees[14] where he was accused of military rebellion. During the trial Companys was defended by Ramon de Colubi, a young soldier who had fought the war on the side of Franco. Surprisingly Colubí defended with courage Companys to the point of receiving threats and risking his own life. Colubí asked pardon to Franco and was ignored. As a consequence of his role as defendant Colubí was forced to go into exile. Víctor Gay Zaragoza, a Catalan writer found that Companys and Colubí were relatives. All this efforts were useless and Companys was executed at Montjuïc Castle[15] in Barcelona at 6:30 a.m. on October 15, 1940. Refusing to wear a blindfold, he was taken before a firing squad of Civil Guards and, as they fired, he cried 'Per Catalunya!' (For Catalonia!).[16] He is buried at the Montjuïc Cemetery, near the castle. The cause of death was given as 'traumatic internal haemorrhage'.[17]

The main stadium used for the 1992 Summer Olympics, located on Montjuïc, is officially named in his memory. In 1998 a monument to Companys was installed near Arc de Triomf, on Passeig de Lluís Companys in Barcelona. A friend of Companys, Conxita Julià, is portrayed next to Companys' image in the monument. Several streets and squares in many cities and villages of Catalonia are named "Lluís Companys" after him.

See also


  1. Generalitat de Catalunya. "Presidències i presidents de la Generalitat de Catalunya" (PDF). Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  2. (Catalan) "La befa al president Companys continua" Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  3. Eaude, Michael (December 6, 2007). Catalonia: A Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780199886883. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  4. Europa Press (15 October 2010). "Artur Mas reclama anular el juicio de Companys para su completa restitución". La Vanguardia. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  5. Finestres, Jordi (October 2012). "Lluís Companys. El president màrtir" (in Catalan) (121). Barcelona: Sàpiens: 46–49. Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  6. González i Vilalta, Arnau (2009). Lluís Companys. Un home de Govern. Barcelona. p. 127. ISBN 978-84-92437-26-9.
  7. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p.78
  8. Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.30
  9. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. pp.253–254
  10. Hugh, Thomas (2001). The Spanish Civil War. London: Penguin. pp. 237–238.
  11. Beevor, Antony (2006). The Battle for Spain, the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. London: Penguin. p. 87.
  12. 1 2 Preston, Paul. (2012). The Spanish Holocaust. Harper Press. London p. 493
  13. Juliá, Santos; Casanova, Julián; Solé i Sabaté, Josep Maria; Villarroya; Moreno, Francisco. Victimas de la guerra civil. Ediciones Temas de Hoy. 1999. Madrid. p. 331
  14. The drumhead court-martials carried out were based on the application of the Military Code for rebellion against all those who oppose the revolt. This meant that the real rebels against the legal authority condemned for the crime of rebellion, accession or aid the rebellion who had been loyal to the legitimate government. Even Ramón Serrano Suñer, Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time, recognized it years later, when he affirmed that the entire legal basis of the facts of Civil War were based on a "justice backwards" and concluded: it was therefore an error configuring the offenses of rebellion and sedition in order to attribute this offenses to the defenders of republican government, because these - legally and even metaphysically - were not able to commit them. (Solé, 1999)
  15. Gary McDonogh, Gary (2009) Iberian Worlds. Taylor & Francis At Google Books. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  16. Burns, Jimmy (2000). Barca: a people's passion. Bloomsbury. p. 126.
  17. Preston, Paul. (2012). The Spanish Holocaust. Harper Press. London p.493
Political offices
Preceded by
Francesc Macià
President of the Generalitat de Catalunya
Acting until January 1, 1934
in exile from January 23, 1939 to October 15, 1940

Succeeded by
Josep Irla
In exile
Preceded by
New title
President of the Parliament of Catalonia
Succeeded by
Joan Casanovas i Maristany
Preceded by
Francesc Macià,
in 1931
Acting President of the Catalan Republic
Succeeded by
Himself, as President of the Generalitat de Catalunya
Preceded by
José Giral
Minister of Marine of Spain
Succeeded by
Vicente Iranzo Enguita
Party political offices
Preceded by
Francesc Macià
President of ERC
Succeeded by
Carles Pi i Sunyer
Preceded by
Carles Pi i Sunyer
President of ERC
Succeeded by
next in 1993, Heribert Barrera
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