Lluís Companys - The Last President of Catalonia
Lluís Companys (1882-1940) was a lawyer and leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC). Exiled after the war, he was captured and handed over by 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.
Companys was a long-standing adherent of the Catalan cause. He was proclaimed the mayor of Barcelona in the 1931 local elections. Companys ordered the authorities to fly the Spanish Republican flag from the City Hall. The Catalan Republic was subsequently proclaimed as part of the Federation of Iberian Republics. When Madrid promised regional devolution, the Republic was dissolved. Companys led the ERC bloc to the Spanish Legislature in December 1931. They said, 'We, the Catalan members of the Parliament, have come here not only to defend our law of autonomy.....but also to participate in matters that affect the greatness of Spain: the Constitution, the agrarian reforms and the social legislation'. Companys was elected the speaker of the Parliament of Catalan. In 1933, Companys was elected President of the Catalonia. The next year, he joined the Asturias miners' rebellion and attempted an armed struggle to establish democratic rule. Companys was arrested and imprisoned. When the left-wing government of the Frente Popular won the 1936 election, Companys was freed and restored the Catalan government.
When the Spanish Civil War began, Companys sided with the Second Spanish Republic 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) and the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), an anarchist syndicalist trade union. During the events, Companys opened the police and gendarmery armories to the anarchist and POUM groups.
After the defeat of the Republicans, Companys migrated to France. He was arrested by the Nazis in La Baule-les-Pins near Nantes on 13 August 1940 and then extradited by Nazi German authorities to the Spanish government in Madrid in early September 1940 and imprisoned in the cellars.
Companys was held there for five weeks, kept in solitary confinement, tortured and beaten. Senior figures of the Franco regime visited his cell, insulted him and threw coins or crusts of bread at him. After a military trial which lasted less than one hour, without any legal protection, Companys was accused of military rebellion. He was found guilty.
Companys was executed at Montjuic Castle 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 barefoot and, as they fired, he cried Per Catalunya! (For Catalonia!)