Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives #PotLuck – Family Stories. My cousin, Joan Molet, and his efforts to not allow the memories to disappear by Olga Nunez Miret


Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

I am delighted to share a series of four posts from the blogs of Olga Nunez Miret, author and translator who I can highly recommend. For her second post I have selected one from her WordPress blog from 2015 which is the story of two of her mother’s uncles who died during World War II and her cousin Joan who had made it his mission to research there story to uncover the events and the truth. Very poignant…

Family Stories. My cousin, Joan Molet, and his efforts to not allow the memories to disappear.

Those of you who have been following my blog longer might remember that I have dedicated posts with the title ‘Family Stories’ to two of my mother’s uncles, Josep and Conrado Miret, who died during WWII, one in Mauthausen (in one of the satellite camps, Floridsdorf), and the other one who had disappeared in France and they suspected had been killed there whilst fighting for the French resistance.

Josep Miret who was Conseller of the Generalitat (the equivalent to a Minister of the Autonomic Government of Catalonia) has a street in Barcelona named after him and some of the letters he had sent to his relatives (in particular those he had sent to his younger sister, Magdalena) appeared in the book Els Catalans als camps de concentració nazis (Catalans in the Nazi concentration camps) by Montserrat Roig. But…

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My cousin, Joan Molet, has been researching the story of these two men for the last few years, and has offered me the opportunity of keeping you up to date with events and new findings he made. When I was preparing a new post on the subject, I thought that you could be interested in the process he had followed and how he had become involved in what is now his mission. I surely find it fascinating. And that was how I went to visit Joan and took many notes. Here I bring you my take on it.

Joan Molet dando una charla en una escuela. Al fondo, una foto de Conrado Miret

Joan Molet talking at a school. Projected we can see a picture of Conrado Miret

Joan told me that he began researching the history of these two relatives because his grandmother (Francisca Miret, Paquita) had told him some things about her two brothers, there were some (few) objects and items from their period before they left Spain during the Civil War, but there was a void of information about what had happened afterwards, both during their stay in France and in the concentration camp (in the case of Josep) with few details and paucity of documentation. And, Conrado was still classed a missing since the 1940s. Joan decided to investigate and try to fill this void. He started his search in early 2012, three years ago.

To achieve that he tried a variety of approaches.

1) He visited his relatives. That was how we came into contact with each other, as although my grandmother, Juana, had died years ago, Joan went to visit my mother (another Magdalena, it’s a very popular name in the family, although she prefers to be called Magda) to ask her if she had any documentation of the era, but apart from some photographs, we didn’t have much else. When we talked I suggested I could share some posts about his work and his findings in my blog, and he has kindly kept me informed. Thanks Joan! Not all our relatives have taken part or are interested in the matter (as we know, family stories are very personal)

2) He requested information from official sources and archives. Among others:

  • Archivos Generales de Ávila (General Archives of Ávila): where the military papers are kept. Officially they have no documentation. (Considering Josep Miret was head of supplies of the Republican Army in the Ebro Front, it’s a bit weird, but…)
  • Archivo de Salamanca (Archive of Salamanca). They sent him a few documents.
    The Pabillion of the Republic in la Vall d’Hebrón de Barcelona. He obtained some information about the PSUC (Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya, a communist nationalist Catalan party) and his relationship with the party.
  • Central Archives of Catalonia (St. Cugat). It contains several personal collections of researchers and authors interested in the topic (Eduard Pons Prades, Montserrat Roig… including a postcard Josep sent from the camp.)
  • The International Red Cross (who sent him a copy of the death certificate for Josep Miret in Floridsdorf, where he was injured during an allied attack and killed off by one of the guards).
    He also researched the family tree, including visiting the archive of the Archbishopry of Tarragone and others, and he managed to recover information up to the end of the XVIII c. (when the French troops burned what they found on their way).
  • As both brothers were exiled in France (Josep left before they closed the border with his own paper, whilst Conrado escaped using a false identity and was for a while at Saint Cyprien) my cousin imagined there must be documentation in France, but he didn’t know how it might be organised or where to go. But at this point he got very useful help. He got into contact with:

3)La Amical de Mauthausen. This organisation that has been functioning since 1962 and at the beginning helped the survivors of the camp to obtain help and subventions, has widened its activities, and it is now part of the red ‘Never Again’ to ensure the memory of what happened is never forgotten and to carry on fighting against fascism, and they organise/facilitate informative sessions in schools, organisations… They also do research work and send proposals to organise official homages and commemorative events, and help relatives locate information about their loved ones, be it giving by them any data they possess or assisting them with their personal searches. Here I leave you a link for you to check their activities in more detail. (The information is available in several languages, including Spanish, English and French).

With their help and his effort, Joan found out plenty of information that was very useful, like the fact that the archives and information about the activities or the résistance are organised according to areas (Josep had been in the French Bretagne, in Caen).

His enquiries made him cross paths with L’Amical des Anciens Guérrilleros Espagnols en France (AGEEF-FFI) (the Amical of the old Spanish guerrilleros in France), who as a reply to his questions about Josep, asked him in turn if he was not interested in finding information about Conrado. Thanks to this contact and to the interest he showed, Joan has atended several commemorative events in France (in Prayols there is a monument to the guerrilleros) and even recently in Spain, for example, the 22 November 2014, in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the last retreat of the republican forces during the Battle of the Ebro. (Here a link to a video about the event.)

4) Thanks to his activities, his interest and effort, Joan has become a member of the Junta (Board) of the Amical in Barcelona (since 2013), he represents the Miret family in acts related to the Republican fighters and the Spanish guerrilleros, and recently has become the representative of the Amical at CIIMER (Centre for the Interpretation and Research of the Memory of Republican Spain, Centro de la Interpretación y la Investigación de la Memoria de la España Republicana). As it sometimes happens, in searching for our roots we might discover an interest and a new dedication to a cause.

Joan gave me many details of his journey (tortuous and hard), he showed me documents, some of interest to everybody (official documents, transcripts of the trials), others much more personal (like the envelop of a letter Josep had sent to Joan’s grandmother, addressed to a house Joan still remembered), and I hope I’ll be able to share some more with you and carry on brining you news. (Some, like the commemorative plaque to honour Conrado, that I felt was particularly emotional, I’ve already shared). But for me, there were two moments that felt particularly representative of the experience.

In 2012 Joan joined a number of internet chats about WWII as possible sources of information. Through them he was contacted by Claude Midon, a Frenchman who has now lived in Australia for a long time. His wife, Madeleine (another Magdalena), is the daughter of Josep Miret and Lili Brumerhurst, and they have not only been in contact since, but Madeleine visited Barcelona and met Joan last year, and she was able to join in the ceremony of inauguration of the plaque to Conrado in June 2014.

Madeleine Midon, Joan Molet i foto de Conrado Miret

Madeleine Midon, Joan Molet and photo of Conrado Miret

In May 2012, Joan visited for the first time the camp Mauthausen-Gusen. (At Floridsdorf, of the camp there is only a commemorative plaque left. Joan was sent a picture of it by the president of the Association of the descendants of the Spanish combatants in Austria, whilst completing his research.). As part of their activities, the Amical also organises annual visits to Mauthausen (including a visit to the Castle of Hartheim, that they used for “active euthanasia”, and where they experimented the most effective way to exterminate parts of the populations, Jews in particular). This May (2015), is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp that will be celebrated with a number of acts and I hope to be able to bring you Joan’s impressions of the events. I also hope to visit the camp myself in the future and tell you what I felt.El Castillo de Hartheim

Castle of Hartheim

What impressed him or touched him most of the visit? The truth is everything. More than anything, how easy it was to imagine being there, being one of those men and thinking of their experiences.

Mauthausen

Mauthausen

Also, the historical incongruences (like the fact that the main building of the Gusen camp is now used by a business company, without any external changes other than very limited cosmetic changes). The fact that one can enjoy a piece of cake at a cafeteria in Mauthausen…Dins del camp

Climbing the steps to the quarry and thinking of the prisoners the guards made jump to their deaths still carrying their load, just for the fun of it.

Dins del camp

Climb to the quarry

Camino a la pedrera

The human spirit, that’s never defeated.

And his pride for being related to these men who fought to ensure that the world didn’t become a much worse place. I share some of the pictures he sent me of that trip. Not many words are needed.

crematori

crematorium

Placa

Memoriam

Many thanks to Joan for offering me so generously his time, telling me his experiences and being so generous in sharing his documentation, thanks to all of you for reading, and I would love to have your feedback.

©Images Olga Nunez Miret 2015

I think you would agree that this is an amazing story of courage and tragedy and so important that Joan and others share their research and bring closure to families who might never know the what happened to the lost during this appalling time in history. My thanks to Olga for permitting me access to her archives.

A selection of books in Spanish or English by Olga Nunez Miret

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One of the recent reviews for Deadly Quotes

This is Book 3 in the captivating Mary Miller series where Mary gets involved with fellow doctor and pathologist Leah Deakin to solve the mysterious new serial killings case of Deadly Quotes.The author Nunez-Miret uses her expert knowledge as a real life psychiatrist to bring to life in her investigative characters and pulls it off perfectly – like watching a real-life crime drama.

We are engrossed in this tale of murder where the suspect is already in jail. This is an intriguing start to the story which progresses with the discoveries of some new dead bodies and only quotes left behind on the corpses’ computers, taken from a book written by a serial killer still in jail. The investigation keeps us glued to wanting to know the facts as much as the investigators do and keeps us wondering if the killer in jail is responsible for these killings or could it possibly be a copycat killer.

I’m not about to give out spoilers here, but if you love a good mystery with well written investigative story, you will love this book as well as the others in this series. These Mary Miller mysteries are all standalone reads, so don’t feel like you have to have read the others, although well worth the reads, to keep up with the mysteries.

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/author/olganm

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Olga-Núñez-Miret/e/B009UC58G0

Read more reviews and follow Olga on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6562510.Olga_N_ez_Miret

Audio books http://authortranslatorolga.com/my-audiobooks/

About Olga Nunez Miret

Olga Núñez Miret is a doctor, a psychiatrist, a student (of American Literature, with a Doctorate and all to prove the point, of Criminology, and of books and people in general), she writes, translates (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and although born in Barcelona, Spain, has lived in the UK for many years. She’s always loved books and is thrilled at the prospect of helping good stories reach more readers all around the world. She publishes a bilingual blog (http://www.authortranslatorolga.com ) where she shares book reviews, advice, talks about books (hers and others) and about things she discovers and enjoys.

Olga has translated her own books into Spanish of course and she has also translated some excellent Spanish books into English and you can find out more here. http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/translationstraducciones/

Follow Olga onSocial Media

Website –http://www.olganm.com/
Blog- http://authortranslatorolga.com/
Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/OlgaNunezMiret
Twitter- https://twitter.com/OlgaNM7

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will head over and enjoy other posts in Olga’s archives. Thanks Sally

 

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – Whose story is it anyway by Norah Colvin


This is the second post from the archives of  educator and storyteller Norah Colvin and this week Norah shares her own experiences of telling real stories about family to young children, not just their immediate family but passing on living history about those relatives we have met but the younger generation may not have.

Whose story is it anyway by Norah Colvin

Nor and Bec reading
Children love stories. They love being read stories and beg for them to be read, over and over again.

Equally as much, if not more, they love being told stories, especially stories of their own lives. They beg for them to be told over and over, listening attentively and with wonder as their own stories (her story and his story) are being revealed. They commit these tales to memory so that eventually it is difficult to distinguish the genuine experiential memory from the telling. Even as adults they seem to not tire of hearing tales of the cute things they did when they were little, or of shared experiences.

They also love being told stories of their parents’ lives. These are the stories that help define them and their existence: how they came to be. The stories tell of times gone by, and of how things used to be. They marvel that their parents were once children and try to imagine how that might have been.

My daughter would often ask for stories about herself, her brother, myself or other family members. One day when she was about six, she asked again, ‘Tell me a story about when you were a little girl.’ Before I could respond she jumped in with, ‘What were the dinosaurs like?’ She was teasing, of course, and her comedic timing was perfect. A story was created, one that has been shared many times.

History is a story, though at school I never saw it as such. Had it been a story of lives, as its name implies, I may have been interested. But history at school was a list of wars and dates, and kings and queens to be memorised and regurgitated for a test at the end of the term. There was no story, no human emotion, no semblance to any narrative that may have lured me in.

I hope that today’s students of history are not required to commit sterile lists of facts to memory without the stories that would give them meaning and significance, some human element to help the information stick.

History, as a subject, had always been relegated to high school. It was not a discrete part of the primary school curriculum, though aspects were explored in other subject areas such as ‘Social Studies’ when I was at school, or more recently ‘Studies of Society and Environment’. With the introduction of the new Australian Curriculum,  History is now a stand-alone subject.

As an early childhood teacher I was a bit terrified that young children would be required to memorise lists of seemingly random facts and dates. I’m pleased to say that, for the early years anyway, this is not so. Children in the early years start by exploring their own history and the history of their family, considering similarities and differences between their lives, the lives of their parents, and of their friends.

I applaud this as an excellent starting point. I believe, when working with children, connections must always be made with their lives and what they know. What better starting point than investigating the traditions of their own family and culture.

In Australia, as I am sure it is in many other places, a great diversity of cultures is represented in each classroom. Encouraging children to share similarities and differences of traditions with their classmates helps to develop understanding of each other’s traditions and beliefs, which in turn fosters respect and empathy. For this purpose, I developed some materials to make it easy for children to share their traditions. These are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

 

 

Mem Fox has written a beautiful picture book Whoever you are that I love to share with children when discussing their cultures and traditions. It explains in a simple and beautiful way that although children around the world may live in different houses, wear different clothes, eat different foods, for example ‘inside, their hearts are just like yours.’ Mem Fox explains the story on her website.

I also like to sing I am Freedom’s Child by Bill Martin Jr.; and in Australia we have a great song that tells about our different beginnings, I am, you are, we are Australian by Bruce Woodley.

What got me thinking about history in particular for this post is the flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications. Charli’s challenge is to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far.

This is my contribution

washing 1949

Washing day

Her freckled, calloused hands were red and chaffed as they gripped the wooden stick and stirred Monday’s sheets in the large copper pot heating over burning blocks of wood.

The children played in the dirt nearby, scratching like chickens, hopeful of an interesting find.

The dirt embedded under her torn and splitting fingernails began to ease away in the warm sudsy water as she heaved the sodden sheets and plopped them onto the wooden mangles.

The children fought to turn the handle, smearing dirty handprints on the sheets.

She sighed, and hung them over the line. One chore done.
©Norah Colvin

About Norah Colvin

I am an experienced and passionate educator. I teach. I write. I create.

I have spent almost all my life thinking and learning about thinking and learning.

I have been involved in many educational roles, both in and out of formal schooling situations, always combining my love of teaching and writing by creating original materials to support children’s learning.

Now as I step away from the classroom again, I embark upon my latest iteration: sharing my thoughts about education by challenging what exists while asking what could be; and inviting early childhood educators to support children’s learning through use of my original teaching materials which are now available on my website http://www.readilearn.com.au

Connect to Norah via her websites

Website: www.NorahColvin.com
Website: www.readilearn.com.au

And social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NorahColvin
Twitter 2:  https://twitter.com/readilearn
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008724879054
Readilearn:  https://www.facebook.com/readilearnteachingresources/
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/norah-colvin-14578777

My thanks to Norah for reminding us how important it is to pass on this living history from generation to generation. I know she would be delighted to hear your experiences about learning family history and comments. Thanks Sally.