From the Axarquía into a Nazi extermination camp

Relatives and authorities at the unveiling of the sculpture.
Relatives and authorities at the unveiling of the sculpture. / E. C.
  • A statue has been unveiled in Canillas de Albaida in memory of Celedonio Gallardo, a local who died in 1941 under the Nazi regime

Delia Gallardo, 86, has few memories of her father, Celedonio. Before she turned five, just after the Spanish Civil War, he left for France “because he was told that he would earn a lot of money; he was a poor coalman who worked in Rincón de la Victoria,” she recalled in Canillas de Albaida, his place of birth. Gallardo was one of the more than 140 people from Malaga who died in the Nazi concentration camps.

“Officially, they told us in the documentation that he died of a heart attack, but who knows? They probably shot him when he tried to escape that hell,” said one of his three granddaughters, 47-year-old Delia.

Celedonio’s descendants gathered on Friday 7 May for the unveiling of a statue, created upon request of the council by local artist Rafael Bravo, in memory of his countryman and of all war victims.

Mass grave in Austria

Celedonio was 36 when he died. His remains lie in a communal grave in Bretstein, a village in Austria that functioned as a subcamp close to Mauthausen.

“Preserve his memory and shudder at the horrors that human beings are capable of inflicting on their fellow man. Plant the seed of a better future in the hearts of your children,” reads the placard located below the bust of Celedonio, an image that does not look exactly like him, but represents “the horror”, said the sculptor.

Celedonio’s granddaughters explained that it was not until scarcely a decade ago that they learnt of the whereabouts of their grandfather, thanks to a call from the researcher Sandra Checa.

“It was a surprise, and at the same time, a form of solace and relief, because throughout our whole lives we had grown up with our mother telling us that her father had died in the Second World War, but we knew nothing more,” said Delia, who added that she would like to travel to Austria to visit the resting place of her grandfather.

"Living in peace"

Patricia Navarro, the Junta de Andalucía's delegate in Malaga, attended the event and highlighted that the role of the ceremony and the statue must be "to make sure that coming generations learn not to go down the same road”. “The line that separates barbarity and horror from harmony is very fine,” said Navarro, who defended the importance of “the democratic values of harmony and living together in peace.”

For his part, the mayor of Canillas de Albaida, Jorge Martín (PP), said the aim of placing the statue at the viewpoint by the chapel of Santa Ana was “not to forget our history, so that we do not repeat it.”